What’s alive — and what just died — in lame-duck Michigan Legislature

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
The Michigan House worked overnight Wednesday, and the Senate kept at it late Thursday as legislators raced to finish off lame-duck legislation and keep bills alive, advancing a combined 144 measures this week while sending 66 others to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for possible signature.

Lansing — The Michigan House worked overnight Wednesday, and the Senate kept at it late Thursday to finish off lame-duck legislation and keep bills alive, advancing a combined 144 measures this week while sending 66 others to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk for possible signature.

Under the state Constitution, no bill can become law without spending at least five days in both the House and Senate. With just one week left in the session, the five-day rule appears to have killed some measures that did not advance out of the chamber in which they were first proposed.

There is one major caveat in lame-duck, though: Nothing is truly dead until the year ends. Legislative leaders can use “vehicle” bills to bypass the five-day rule by substituting language into any somewhat-related measure that has already advanced out of one chamber.

Lame-duck sessions are often busy as term-limited legislators try to wrap up bills they spent the past two years working on. But 2018 has proven especially active as Lansing braces for political upheaval. While Republicans will return majorities to the House and Senate next year, Democrats are poised to take over top statewide offices after dominating the top of the ticket in the Nov. 6 election. 

Here's a look at some of the most notable legislation that remains alive — and what has likely died — as lawmakers prepare to reconvene Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for what are the final scheduled session days of the year. 

Alive: Legislative legal intervention — The controversial proposal would guarantee that Michigan’s GOP-led Legislature could intervene in any state legal cases challenging approved laws, a power that would otherwise be reserved for Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel. The measure is awaiting action in the full Senate after committee approval Tuesday. The House approved an earlier version but would have to sign off on Senate changes. Read more >>

Dead: Union recertification — Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Grand Haven Township, acknowledged he does not have the votes for his plan to require unions to hold a “re-certification” vote every two years to ensure members want to continue their representation. Union officials had blasted the measure, suggesting it would cause “chaos” in the workplace and strain worker-management relationships in schools, police and fire departments by requiring a potentially combative election every two years. Read more >>

Alive: Campaign finance oversight shift — The Republican power play legislation would shift campaign finance oversight away from Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat. Instead, enforcement issues would be decided by a bipartisan committee of appointees recommended by the major political parties, which critics argue would be a recipe for routine deadlocks. The Senate approved the measure, which is up for consideration in the House Elections Committee before any possible floor action. Read more >>

Dead: Marijuana law overhaul — Meekhof acknowledged Thursday night he was unable to secure votes for his plan to overhaul the recreational marijuana law approved by voters on Nov. 6. His plan would have banned home growing and changed the tax structure, among other things. It was always going to be a “heavy lift” because amending a voter-approved law requires two-thirds majorities in both chambers, but Meekhof said he still was disappointed by the failure. Read more >>

Alive: Nonprofit donor shield — The proposal would make it a misdemeanor crime for a public official to require nonprofit charities and politically active groups to disclose their donors for government review. Supporters say it would protect donors from retaliation by elected officials, but critics argue it would restrict the government from investigating fraudulent nonprofits and further shield money used to influence elections. The Senate approved the plan, which now awaits consideration in the House Competitiveness Committee. Read more >>

Alive: A-F school grades — The proposal would assign grades to schools across the state, which supporters say would empower parents to make decisions about where to send their children and do more to hold schools accountable for student performance. Critics say it would stigmatize schools and ultimately benefit charters over traditional public schools. The House approved the proposal at 3 a.m. Thursday in a narrow 56-53 vote, and the Senate is expected to consider it next week. Read more >>

Alive: Tougher petition drive rules — The proposal backed by business groups would make it harder for petition groups to advance citizen-initiated legislation or get measures on the ballot. Among the changes, petition groups could collect no more than 15 percent of their signatures from any congressional district. The House approved the controversial measure Wednesday, sending it to the Senate for consideration. Read more >>

Dead: "Raise the age" reform — The full House is not expected to vote on a plan that would have "raised the age" by no longer automatically treating criminal defendants younger than the age of 18 as adults in certain types of cases. The criminal justice reform had advanced out of a House committee last month. Read more >>

Alive: Environmental clean-up funding — Snyder’s push for to raise trash dumping fees to replace depleted bond funding for environmental clean-up efforts remains a long shot in the GOP-led Legislature. But lawmakers are instead considering a plan to dedicate new revenue from online sales tax collections projected to rise in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Any final deal could be part of a supplemental spending bill that Snyder wants to also include more road funding money and extra dollars to fight contamination by PFAS “forever chemicals.” Read more >>

Alive: Water fees — Snyder is pushing a plan to help fund water infrastructure upgrades across the state by forcing local water departments to assess a customer fee. Republicans have been hesitant to impose new fees, but the House this week approved a “vehicle” bill to keep the debate alive. If the Snyder administration negotiates a deal with legislators, it could be written into a substitute version of the bill and still pass both chambers next week. Read more >>

Alive: Abortion pill restrictions — The Republican-led House this week approved a bill that would permanently prohibit doctors from using an Internet web camera to prescribe medication to induce an abortion. The Senate approved an earlier version but must still concur on minor changes. The measure is on a likely course for Snyder’s desk. He signed a temporary ban six years ago, but critics say telemedicine is now standard practice, especially in rural areas without many obstetrician-gynecologists nearby. Read more >>

Dead: Ballot selfies — It’s currently illegal to take a picture of yourself with your ballot or in a polling place under a long-standing law designed to discourage vote-buying and intimidation. In an unexpected vote, the House Elections Committee on Wednesday advanced legislation that would legalize “ballot selfies” amid an ongoing federal lawsuit over the constitutionality of the ban. The full House did not vote on the measure this week, however, likely dooming it for the session. Read more >

Alive: State rule restrictions — The measure would prohibit state agencies from adopting rules that are stricter than federal versions without documenting a “clear and convincing” need. Both chambers have approved the measure, but the House must still enroll it to send to Snyder, who vetoed similar legislation in 2011. Democrats argue the bill cedes power to the federal government and would curb the authority of Democratic administration of Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer. Read more >>

Alive: Environmental overrides — Controversial bills approved by the state Senate would limit state regulations on wetlands and limit the ability of local governments to establish tree preservation rules. Both measures remain in House committees, and their fate remains unclear.  Another measure approved by the House and Senate would prohibit local pet shop regulations amid a debate over puppy mills. Read more >>

Alive: Recreation fee passports — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would automatically sign motorists up for a “recreation passport” — which currently costs $11 — when they register their vehicles each year, unless they choose to opt out. That would reverse the standard arrangement, where motorists currently have the choice to “opt in” and get the passport, which provides access to state parks, trails and other recreational areas. The measure is on its way to the House for consideration. Read more >>

Alive: Historic preservation tax credits — This long-stalled proposal would reinstate a Historic Preservation Tax Credit the state axed in 2011, much to the chagrin of advocates who say it could spur local redevelopment projects and help put blighted or unused buildings back on the tax rolls. The Senate overwhelmingly approved the plan more than a year ago, but the bill has not seen action in the House since committee approval in June. Read more >>