Berman: Show me a hero to save Michigan’s roads

Laura Berman
The Detroit News
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What do you do when you’re not doing the one thing you’re supposed to?

Even as the roads crumble like Roman ruins, the Legislature is in a big stall.

“We need to get this monkey off our back,” state Sen. Marty Knollenberg told me last week. He is as frustrated as any of the legislators. “I’ve been on record that they need to be fixed; I voted for the Senate version of the road bill. I’m optimistic that ultimately the House will get something through.”

And the House did pass a plan, although not one that has not yet been acted upon by the Senate. Despite many warm press notices promising delivery from two years of legislative roadlock, an agreement has not been reached on the one bill most constituents want to see resolved. “I know that’s true in my district,” says Knollenberg.

In the meantime, he and other legislators find other tasks, search out problems we haven’t solved — or even, in some cases, thought about. Many of them, emanating from each side of the aisle seem, well, unnecessary.

Case in point: Senate Bill 566, introduced Oct. 15 by Knollenberg, and intended to close a gap in Michigan law you may never have noticed: While Michigan has a good Samaritan law that protects doctors, nurses and other medical personnel from liability if they intervene in an emergency, the state offers no protection to you or me, should we find ourselves in the midst of an emergency and cannot immediately summon law enforcement or an ambulance.

In such a situation in Michigan, you smash windows at your peril. Sure, you’re trying to save Max, the gasping Golden Retriever, as you break through his owner’s BMW passenger window. The car’s owner, who ran to the mailbox, may not see this situation as the act of mercy you intended.

Has this ever happened in Michigan? Well, if so, not so anyone remembers.

“There was such a case in Tennessee,” Knollenberg says. But Tennessee recently passed a law that protects would-be heroes from lawsuits in such situations. That was after two dogs in Greenville, Tennessee, were discovered in an over-heated car two years ago, and one died, and nobody acted heroically to save either one of them, according to an account in the Guardian.

Will passing a law that enables you to smash car windows, ostensibly to save hot Maltipoos or Malamutes from asphyxiation, indeed save the lives of dogs? Or will it offer an easy out for an excitable animal lover with a savior complex?

If Knollenberg’s bill passes — and it will be easier to pass than any bill designed to replace aging, deteriorating roads — we should find out the answer, although probably not immediately. Michigan would become only the second state in the U.S. to protect would-be animal rescuers from liability, although a dozen other states have similar laws for those protecting children.

But as a taxpayer who loves animals and, especially, dogs, I would be willing to forgo the good Samaritan law, along with other well-intended, mostly unnecessary, laws. Show me a lawmaker willing to smash through windows to get a roads bill passed.

That’s my idea of a hero.

(313) 222-2032

Laura Berman is the News metro columnist.

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