Michigan’s legislature has been busy this week wrapping things up prior to their summer break scheduled to start at the end of the month. Much like the Friday news dump, various bits of legislation slip through the media cracks amidst reporting on the budget tug-of-war. Democracy Tree is keeping an eye on it all for you.
Among this week’s offerings out of Lansing we find a bill sponsored by Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-95) intended to criminalize the only form of voter fraud that actually is a plague on the democratic process. No, it’s not another voter I.D. law — Michigan already has that. Nor is it another burdensome restriction for absentee voters — those laws exist aplenty.
Oakes, our hero of democracy, served-up the following common sense solution to halt the kinds of dirty tricks that occasionally turn-up where white officials exercise control over communities of color. Although, it is not always a matter of race, it always is a political party issue. Income disparity plays a role here too.
Oakes is a busy lawmaker. She also proposed an amendment to Michigan’s Revised School Code to allow the Superintendent of Education the option of considering a requirement for underperforming schools to limit class size to 17 students in lower grades, and to cap it at 25 at the high school level. This proposal, although well-intentioned, is a bit dicey — as it’s an unfunded mandate. But then, almost all education legislation falls into that illegal category these days.
One Independent Democrat, who does not caucus with the party, is channeling his inner-Republican. Rep. John Olumba (D-3) offered a bill to challenge any remnant left of the fact-based curriculum of charter schools with some rather conservative ephemera:
Yet, Olumba has apparently chosen to run headlong into the wall with another mean-spirited piece of lawmaking with HB-5627, a proposal meant to screw poor people in grand Republican-style. This bill deserves a full Tea Party trumpet fanfare. The faux Democrat wants to amend the Social Welfare Act to require persons applying for assistance to prove their children are not truant, and additionally, as parents they must demonstrate they have attended parent-teacher conferences. Like all other legislative attempts to tie assistance to behavior, it will end-up punishing the siblings of the wayward teen whose actions trigger the law. Children growing-up in poverty, a demographic Michigan is simply teeming with, are more likely to fall into bad behaviors. Withholding assistance from an entire household over one child’s difficulties is Republican mother’s-milk.
In other legislative news, the Senate passed HB-5400. This is the law that would allow certain toxic substances to be re-purposed for various “beneficial uses”, including coal fly ash, a known carcinogen, to be used as road bed material and a soil stabilizer up to 4 feet thick, or more in certain circumstances. It may be placed within as few as 4 feet from a ground water source. Coal ash frequently contains high levels of mercury, lead, vanadium, selenium, and arsenic. The law simply states it may not “come into contact with a surface water body”.
Michigan’s coal-fired energy plants produce 1.7 million tons of this lethal by-product every year. Lawmakers are in the homestretch of the budgetary process, hammering-out a $50 billion plan which, as of the writing, does not include roads funding. But, rest assured they remain poised to pass legislation to fund road improvements — to not do so is political suicide. Drivers will soon be driving over toxic landfills.
In the are you f-ing kidding me category, Rep. Robert Kosowski (D-16) introduced legislation similar to that of Sen. Tom McMillan (R-38) to prohibit hunting with drones. Kosowski’s proposed law has one key difference though — it does not make the silly leap to assume drones will be used to harass hunters, as the McMillan bill does. It is safe to say, Republicans will find Kosowski’s legislation insufficiently paranoid for their liking.
However, Michigan’s Black Bears are now in the cross-hairs of lawmakers. Rep. Ed McBroom’s (R-108) bill to allow the Department of Natural Resources to issue off-season hunting permits on bears due to suspected crop damage is working its way into law. HB- 5226 passed today and moves on to the Senate. Michigan’s bear population ain’t got nothing on Yogi and BooBoo, yet this bill enjoys the support of the DNR and multiple organizations, including Michigan Bear Hunters, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, The UP Bear Houndsmen Alliance, and the Michigan Commercial Beekeepers. As written, the bill would not increase the number of animals taken, but would extend the season on a case-by-case basis.
Oh, the laws they make!