MDTC Legislative Report

By: Graham K. Crabtree, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, PC
gcrabtree@fraserlawfirm.com

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In the first months of this new session, our legislators have proceeded at a moderate pace with the usual work on the next fiscal year’s budget and selected items from the Republican wish list. Although substantial progress has been made on the budget, their work on that project has now become considerably more challenging and complex in the wake of the widely anticipated but still stunningly spectacular failure of Proposal 1, which will now require them to quickly come up with a new “Plan B” for fixing Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges.

A variety of possible explanations have been offered for the failure of the road funding proposal at the polls, but the post-mortem analysts are in general agreement that the voters were angry with the legislators of both parties for their failure to resolve the issue on their own. I’ve been watching the front lawn of the Capitol from my vantage point across the street, and have not yet seen any assembly of electors with torches and pitchforks, but there has been a sheepish acknowledgement that our legislators had better plan on doing some additional work over the summer, in lieu of the traditional summer recess, to get the road funding issue resolved. A number of alternatives have been discussed, with most legislators expressing a preference for raising most of the necessary funding by means of additional budget cuts. How all of this will be resolved, if indeed it can be resolved this time around, remains to be seen.

2014 Public Acts

When the dust finally settled from last year’s session, there were 572 Public Acts of 2014. Many of these were the product of last fall’s lame duck session, and thus, although the Legislature got off to its customarily deliberate start in the first days of the new session, the Governor was busy; 95 of the new Public Acts of 2014 were approved after my last report in January, and 20 of the bills passed in the lame duck session were vetoed. The new 2014 Public Acts of interest include:

2014 PA 478 – Senate Bill 74 (Anderson – D), which has amended the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1310b, to include “cyberbullying” within the statutory definition of “bullying” and requires school districts, intermediate school districts and public school academies to amend their anti-bullying policies required by that provision to include cyberbullying as a form of prohibited school bullying.

2014 PA 489 – Senate Bill 1140 (Smith – D), which has amended the Insurance Code, MCL 500.3113, to clarify the list of persons who are not entitled to receive PIP benefits. As amended, the statute excludes a person who willingly operates or uses a motor vehicle or motorcycle that was taken unlawfully if the person knew, or should have known, that the motor vehicle or motorcycle was taken unlawfully. Also excluded is any person who, at the time of an accident, was operating a motor vehicle or motorcycle for which he or she was named as an excluded driver.

2014 PA 542 – Senate Bill 891 (Casperson – R), which has amended several provisions of Part 201 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, governing remediation of releases of hazardous substances.

2014 PA Nos. 553 and 554 – Senate Bills 658 and 659 (Ananich – D). Effective October 1, 2015, this legislation, sometimes referred to as the “Mainstreet Fairness Package,” will amend the General Sales Tax Act and the Use Tax Act to establish statutory presumptions to facilitate collection of sales and use tax on internet purchases and other remote sales.

2015 Public Acts

As of this writing on May 13th, there are 20 Public Acts of 2015. The 2015 Public Acts of interest include:

2015 PA 3 – Senate Bill 34 (Green – R), which has effected numerous amendments to the Concealed Weapons Licensing Act, 1927 PA 372. Among the most notable changes are the elimination of the county gun boards and reassignment of their responsibility for processing and approval of concealed weapon licensing applications. Under the law as amended, applications will be filed with the county clerks, who will now have the responsibility for processing applications and issuance of licenses, but will have no discretion to deny issuance of a license to an applicant who satisfies the statutory criteria. Necessary investigation required to determine eligibility will be conducted by the Michigan State Police. The prompt enactment of this legislation was a response to Governor Snyder’s veto of similar legislation passed in last fall’s lame duck session for its failure to provide adequate protection against issuance of concealed weapon licenses to individuals subject to personal protection orders for prevention of domestic abuse.

2015 PA 12 – Senate Bill 54 (Casperson – R) and 2015 PA 13 – Senate Bill 55 (Pavlov – R), which have amended provisions of Part 401 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act to prohibit the use of drones or other unmanned vehicles or devices in the air, or on or under the water, for the taking of fish or game, and to prohibit the use of any such devices to hinder or harass hunters or fishermen in their lawful pursuit of hunting or fishing activity. These amendatory Acts will take effect on July 13, 2015.

2015 PA 14 – House Bill 4119 (¬¬Garcia – R), which has amended the Revised Judicature Act, MCL 600.4012, to provide that a garnishment of periodic payments shall remain in effect until the balance of the judgment is satisfied (as opposed to the 182-day limit specified in MCR 3.101) and establish new statutory procedures for processing and enforcement of such garnishments.

New Initiatives

The legislation now under consideration is a mixture of new initiatives and old business. The bills and resolutions of interest include:

Senate Bill 289 (O’Brien – R), which would 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 which often feel compelled to acquiesce rather than bear the considerable cost of defending threatened infringement litigation. This bill was introduced on April 22, 2015, and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is expected to receive prompt consideration.

Senate Bill 248 (Hune – R), which proposes numerous amendments of the no-fault automobile insurance provisions of the Insurance Code. The main purpose of this legislation, which remains a priority for Governor Snyder, is to achieve a reduction in the cost of no-fault insurance by adoption of provisions designed to save costs. It carries forward some of the reforms proposed in the last session by House Bill 4612 (Lund – R), without the controversial cap on medical benefits which was largely responsible for the inability to garner the support required for final passage. Like last session’s legislation, SB 248 proposes new cost containment measures, including limitations on provider reimbursements and payments for attendant care services; creation of a new non-profit corporate entity to replace the existing Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association; and creation of a new Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority.

This legislation was introduced on March 26, 2015, and referred to the Senate Committee on Insurance. In a move reminiscent of the lightning-swift passage of the Court of Claims legislation in October of 2013, the bill was added to the agenda of the Insurance Committee meeting of April 15th with virtually no notice to the public, and a Bill Substitute (S-2) was reported to the full Senate on that date with minimal testimony and discussion. The next day, before opposition could be effectively mobilized, the Senate suspended its rules to vote on final passage, and the bill was passed on a party-line vote. The bill was referred on the same day to the House Committee on Insurance, which reported the bill with a Bill Substitute (H-3) on April 23rd. The bill now awaits consideration by the full House on the Second Reading Calendar, but the momentum for quick passage appears to have stalled as parties in opposition have succeeded in peeling away some of the necessary Republican votes.

Senate Bill 3 (Robertson – R), which would repeal the prevailing wage law, 1965 PA 166, which requires payment of the prevailing wages and benefits – the wages and benefits prevailing in the area – to construction workers employed for work on state projects. Although Governor Snyder has stated that this legislation is not a part of his agenda, there has been renewed interest in the concept in the wake of the recent rejection of Proposal 1. The bill was reported with Bill Substitute (S-1) by the Committee on Michigan Competitiveness on May 13, 2015, and now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 4 (Shirkey – R), which proposes the creation of a new “Michigan religious freedom restoration act.” Governor Snyder has indicated that this is another bill that is not on his agenda, and in the wake of the recent uproar in Indiana over the passage of similar legislation there, he has elaborated on that position to say that he will veto this bill unless it comes to him with a companion bill extending the scope of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protection against discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity. This bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on the day that the challenges to the state constitutional ban of gay marriage was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, but no vote was taken, and further consideration of the bill has not been scheduled to date.

Senate Joint Resolution J (Bieda – D), which proposes an amendment of Const 1963, art 6, § 19, to eliminate the constitutional provision prohibiting election or appointment of a person to judicial office after age 70.

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 may be submitted to the Board through any Officer, Board Member, Regional Chairperson or Committee Chair.

Categories: Volume 5 #4

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