Lansing – Changes in retirement benefits for public-sector workers and tighter regulation of opioids are among the laws taking effect in Michigan in 2018.
During 2017, Gov. Rick Snyder and state lawmakers also approved measures designed to fix a troubled unemployment benefits system and to encourage new teachers to forgo traditional pensions in favor of 401(k)s.
Here are some of the most significant laws that will take effect in the New Year:
■Teacher pensions: Starting in February, newly hired school employees will be enrolled in a 401(k)-only retirement plan, unless they opt out within 75 days and choose a pension that will cost more than it does for current workers. Republican lawmakers, who failed in their quest to end pensions for new hires but made other changes and remain concerned about unfunded liabilities, hope more school employees are coaxed into 401(k) plans.
■Unemployment fraud: High penalties for improperly collecting unemployment benefits will drop under laws passed in the wake of more than 40,000 people being wrongly accused of fraud over a two-year period. Employers and past employees will be able to better flag claims filed by identity thieves. And claimants accused of fraud will qualify for help from an advocacy program. Snyder and the Legislature will next consider compensating victims beyond restitution.
■Municipal retirement plans: Municipalities will have to prefund new hires’ retiree health care costs beginning in July. They also will have to file financial reports annually with the state about their pension and retiree health plans — a bid to get a handle on underfunded systems — and some will have to propose corrective actions. Republicans backed away from a proposal to let the state impose changes in recalcitrant communities due to opposition from police, firefighters and others concerned about benefit cuts.
■Opioid epidemic: Starting in June, doctors will be required to check a prescription database before prescribing painkillers and other powerful drugs under legislation Snyder plans to sign soon. Other bills will limit the amount of opioids that can be prescribed and require a “bona fide” physician-patient relationship to dispense drugs. From 1999 to 2016, the number of opioid overdose deaths rose more than 17 times, from 99 to 1,689.
■Police personnel records: Beginning in January, law enforcement agencies will have to keep records about the circumstances surrounding any officer’s employment separation. The law is designed to prevent police misconduct from being kept secret when officers leave for a new job at another department.
■Beer kegs: A law requiring beer kegs to be sold with tags that can identify who bought them vanishes as of February. The law was enacted in 2010 to curtail “keggers” that attract underage drinkers, but critics say the requirement is burdensome and has not curbed underage or binge drinking.
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