Legislature left many issues unresolved

and Gary Heinlein

Lansing — The all-consuming effort to secure $1.2 billion more per year in road funding knocked off an array of contentious legislative proposals lawmakers feared would upset their delicate negotiations.

As usual, time ran out on other bills as the two-year session ended early Friday morning after a marathon 20-hour session.

These are some key the issues that didn’t get resolved and may resurface during the next legislative session that starts Jan. 14:

■A state version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act: It would have shielded people from being forced by the government to do something that violated their religious conscience, said House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. Opponents said the legislation would have created a license to discriminate by invoking deeply held religious beliefs.

■Elliott Larsen: The House failed to pass out of committee a bill expanding Michigan’s civil rights law to include gays and lesbians. Democrats opposed a Republican-authored bill because it did not include a specific ban on gender identity discrimination against transgender individuals.

■Early warning system for deficit-plagued school districts: Lawmakers tried to move a late set of bills that would have created financial reporting requirements for school districts. But the bills also contained controversial provisions, such as new expanded powers for the state treasurer to install an emergency manager in a school district that failed to follow budget plans forged with state officials.

Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, said there was “not enough horsepower” to get the bills through the House. “We’ll give it another try next year,” Poleski said.

■State teacher evaluation system: Legislation creating a system for evaluating public school teachers faltered in the wanning hours of the session. It will likely return next year.

■Changing Oakland County executive election: It would have required county elections to be held in non-presidential, midterm election years. Democrats saw it as a ploy to keep Republicans in control of the county executive’s office because GOP voters recently have turned out better in mid-term elections.

■Lengthening term limits: Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, got no traction for his plan to allow senators to seek one more term and representatives to run for two more terms by turning in an extra-high number of nominating petition signatures. Currently, lawmakers can serve three House terms and two Senate terms.

■Shifting how Michigan allocates presidential electoral votes: A plan from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, would have ended Michigan’s winner-take-all system of awarding presidential electoral votes. The popular vote winner still would have gotten the majority, but the other candidate would have gotten some of the 16 votes, too. Lund said it would make Michigan more relevant, opponents called it election rigging.

■Sentencing reform: Bills were passed setting up a review commission for state sentencing guidelines and putting into law existing practices used to prepare inmates for the return to society at the end of their sentences. But Senate majority Republicans rejected two bills intended to reduce the inmate population through parole reforms — after Attorney General Bill Schuette urged them to do so.

■Medical marijuana: Bills legalizing cannabis-infused products for registered medical marijuana users and allowing dispensaries that would buy from and sell to them passed the House but not the Senate. Last-minute opposition from two law enforcement organizations appeared to have tipped the balance against the proposals.



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