MDTC Legislative Report

MDTC Legislative Section

By: Graham K. Crabtree, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, PC

gcrabtree@fraserlawfirm.com

MDTC Legislative Report

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As is often the case, there is not much to report at this time of the year when things are still getting off to a slow start in Lansing for the new year, and this is especially true in this odd-numbered year when our Legislature is beginning a new two-year term with a whole new group of Representatives. The cast of characters in the Senate will be the same, and the Republicans will retain their control of the House with a comfortable majority since the Democrats didn’t pick up any seats in the last election. All of the bills and resolutions that did not receive final approval at the end of last year’s session are now dead, and the new session is starting off with a new set of bills. Many of the bills introduced in this new session are reintroductions of bills that died at the end of the last session, but there hasn’t been a lot said so far as to which of them are likely to be taken up this year.

As usual, much of the focus in the first part of the year will be on passage of the budget for the next fiscal year. But it does seem safe to predict that the Republicans in charge will also find time to take up a few of their favorite issues, although some of them may choose to proceed cautiously until they have reached some solid conclusions about what happened last fall and what it will really mean for both parties in the next election. An example of this was seen recently when a proposal to phase out the state income tax was defeated in the House after the Governor and a few Republican Representatives questioned the wisdom of doing so without a better idea of how the lost revenue would be replaced. This was a considerable embarrassment for the Republican leadership in the House, but it did provide fascinating entertainment for political junkies like myself (although it admittedly paled by comparison to the show unfolding each day in Washington).

New Public Acts

As of this writing on March 8, 2017, there are no Public Acts of 2017, but there is now a total of 563 Public Acts of 2016. Those of interest approved by Governor Snyder since my last report include:

2016 PA 556 – Senate Bill 1104 (Shirkey – R) , whichwill amend the Revised Judicature Act to add a new section MCL 600.1482, providing that, in actions alleging medical malpractice, the damages recoverable for past medical expenses or rehabilitation service expenses shall not exceed the actual damages for medical care arising from the alleged malpractice, and that the court may not allow presentation of evidence of past medical expenses or rehabilitation service expenses in excess of the actual damages for medical care. The new section defines “actual damages for medical care” as the dollar amount actually paid for past medical expenses or rehabilitation services by or on behalf of the individual whose medical care is at issue including payments made by insurers, but excluding any contractual discounts, price reductions or write-offs and any remaining dollar amount that the plaintiff is liable to pay for the medical care. This act will take effect on April 10, 2017.

2016 PA 552 – Senate Bill 982 (Schuitmaker – R), which will rename the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, MCL 566.31, et seq., as the “Uniform Voidable Transactions Act” and establish new procedures and standards to govern actions for avoidance of voidable transactions and preservation of assets involved in such transactions. This act will also take effect on April 10, 2017.

2016 PA 550 – Senate Bill 289 (O’Brien – R) , which will create a new “bad-faith patent infringement claims act” to provide new protections against “patent trolls” individuals or entities that assert unfounded claims of patent infringement in bad faith to extort payments of royalties from businesses that often feel compelled to acquiesce rather than bear the considerable cost of defending threatened infringement litigation. This new act will take effect on October 1, 2017.

2016 PA 519 – Senate Bill 1045 (Jones – R), whichhas amended the Revised Judicature Act, MCL 600.1987, to extend the authorization for courts and court funding units to collect additional e-filing fees authorized by Supreme Court order before September 30, 2015 ($2.50 for filing or service or $5.00 for filing and service) from December 31, 2016 until December 31, 2017.

2016 PA 445 – 448 – House Bills 4423 and 4424 (Jacobsen – R), 4425 (Outman – R) and 4426 (Kivela – D), which have amended several sections of the Vehicle Code addressing establishment of speed limits and speeding violations. The amendments include new provisions which will require MDOT and the State Police to increase the speed limit to 75 miles per hour on at least 600 miles of limited access highways and 65 miles per hour on 900 miles of trunk line highways within a year after the effective date of the legislation (January 5, 2017) if engineering and safety studies determine that the speed limits may be raised to those levels.

2016 PA 419 – House Bill 4686 (Santana – D), which has amended the Governmental Liability Act, 1964 PA 170, MCL 691.1402a, regarding municipal liability for maintenance of sidewalks, to insert a new Subsection (5). The new provision will clarify that a municipal corporation having a duty to maintain a sidewalk under subsection (1) may assert, in addition to other available defenses, “any defense available under the common law with respect to a premises liability claim, including, but not limited to, a defense that the condition was open and obvious.”

New Initiatives

The bills and resolutions of interest introduced in the new session include:

SJR F (Bieda – D) This Senate Joint Resolution proposes an amendment of 1963 Const, art 6, § 19, to eliminate subsection (3), which currently provides that: “No person shall be elected or appointed to a judicial office after reaching the age of 70 years.” This joint resolution was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee without amendment on March 7, 2017, and now awaits consideration by the full Senate on the General Orders calendar. The proposed constitutional amendment will be presented to the voters for approval at the next general election if approved by both houses of the Legislature by the required two-thirds vote. The same resolution has been introduced in the House as HJR G (Vaupel – R).

Senate Bill 65 (Bieda – D), a reintroduction of the last session’s Senate Bill 1020, proposes the creation of a new Michigan False Claims Act, to establish procedures for pursuit of qui tam actions similar to those authorized under the Federal False Claims Act against those who present false or fraudulent claims to obtain money, property or services from the state or a local unit of government. This bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 26, 2017.

House Bill 4277 (LaFave – R), which would amend Chapter 66 of the Revised Statutes of 1846, MCL 554.131 et seq., to add a new section MCL 554.140. Subsection (1) of the new section would provide that: “A person that is in possession of land that is held open to the public for business or commercial purposes is not liable for personal injury to an individual who is on or near the land, or damage to the individual’s property, caused by another individual’s use of a firearm.” Interestingly, subsection (2) of this new provision would state that: “This section does not apply if the person in possession of land has posted the land with a sign prohibiting individuals from bringing a firearm onto the land.” This bill was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on February 28, 2017.

House Bills 4148 through 4157 (Republicans Chatfield, VanderWall, Allor, LaFave, Hauck, Iden and Bellino; and Democrats Moss, Lasinski and Guerra) This bipartisan package of bills proposes amendment of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to add a new Part 2, to be known as the “Legislative Open Records Act” (“LORA”). The new sections would add new provisions, modeled after existing sections of FOIA, requiring disclosure of records of legislators and legislative branch agencies and employees previously exempted from disclosure under FOIA, subject to specified exclusions and the privileges and immunities provided under Article IV, Section 11, of the State Constitution. The new sections provide for a limited review of decisions of the “LORA Coordinator” denying requests for production of documents by appeal to the Administrator of the Legislative Council. These bills also propose amendments to existing sections of FOIA to eliminate the existing exemptions of the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, their executive offices, and the employees thereof, from the act’s definition of “Public Body,” thereby extending the coverage of the act to their records, subject to specified exemptions. These bills, a reintroduction of a package (House Bills 5469 to 5478) passed by the House last September, were introduced and referred to the House Committee on Michigan Competitiveness on February 2, 2017.

Senate Bill 195 (Casperson – R), whichwould amend the Revised Judicature Act’s provisions addressing admission to the State Bar to allow attorneys licensed to practice in other states to be admitted to the Michigan Bar without satisfying the established educational requirements under specified circumstances. This bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 28, 2017. The same bill was introduced as House Bill 4312 (LaFave – R) and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on March 7, 2017.

What Do You Think?

Our members are again reminded that the MDTC Board regularly discusses pending legislation and positions to be taken on Bills and Resolutions of interest. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated, and and may be submitted to the board through any officer, board member, regional chairperson or committee chair.

Categories: Volume 7 #4

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