A lame-duck session of the Michigan Legislature occurs whenever one of the chambers meets after its legislative successors are elected, but before their terms begin. This is the last opportunity for representatives to get priority legislation passed, which usually makes for a hectic, short period of time where anything can happen.
This year, the Michigan House of Representatives is in lame-duck (Nov. 7th-Dec 31st), with 28 new representatives on their way to Lansing for the new term. Stay tuned for a profile of each new member in a future Capitol Watchdog post.
But for now, here's some lame-duck legislation that we're watching that you should know about:
Women's Health & Reproductive Choice
This is the big one we've been talking about: an omnibus anti-choice bill that would seriously impair access to even the most basic health care for tens of thousands women and families in Michigan.
Why is it important? The War on Women Megabill (HB 5711) is a piece of legislation that takes every legislative attack on women's health in Michigan and combines them into the greatest assault on reproductive rights in Michigan history.
It would endanger nearly all aspects of reproductive health care by targeting doctors and creating expensive regulations in the hopes of shutting down health centers that provide a range of services from blood pressure screening to birth control and abortion services.
What you can do: Let the governor know: we cannot let extremist politicians succeed.
Read more about the War On Women Megabill.
It's Not Sci-Fi: DNA Search & Seizure
You've been to court and been found innocent. So you've cleared your name right? Well... Take a look at SB 1345 and 1346, which seek to expand the collection of DNA to anyone arrested for a felony. These samples would be permanently stored and cataloged by law enforcement.
Why is it important? Michigan already collects DNA for those arrested for violent felonies and the ACLU has been fighting to include a provision that the DNA sample is destroyed and the information removed from the database if there is no subsequent conviction.
Read more about DNA collection.
Reforming the Public Defense System
The long-awaited legislation (HB 5804) to set standards and requirements to fix Michigan’s broken system of indigent defense was overwhelmingly approved by the House and now awaits approval in the Senate. Governor Snyder has indicated that signing the legislation, introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin (R - Auburn Hills), is a priority for his administration.
Why is it important? In Michigan, much of the indigent defense system relies on attorneys assigned to cases by judges and funded by the counties. This system is rife with stories of poor defendants afforded shockingly minimal legal representation, some of whom end up wrongly convicted of crimes they did not commit.
Cruel & Unusual Punishment: Juvenile Life Without Parole
Michigan lawmakers are in the process of amending State statutes to comply with the recent US Supreme Court decision that sentencing children to mandatory life without the possibility of parole is cruel, unusual and unconstitutional. These bills (HB 6013-6016) would deal with how to treat the 360 individuals currently serving life sentences for crimes they committed while under the age of 18.
Why is it important? For the people currently in jail, these bills fall short of providing a realistic opportunity or path to parole. We think this is wrong, and obviously not what the U.S. Supreme Court intended so we are working closely with legislators to correct this and let these cases be heard.
Read more about juvenile life without parole.
On the Horizon: Democracy in our Communities
Voters repealed the controversial Emergency Financial Manager law (Public Act 4) this past November 6th, but there is still the previous emergency manager law to contend with, passed 12 years ago (Public Act 72).
Why is it important? Legislators who disagree with voters and think repealing the law was a mistake will likely attempt to strengthen the older law. Whether you believe this endangers democracy or you believe it keeps cities and school districts from going into bankruptcy, it's a crucial decision that will impact our local government.
Read more about the Emergency Financial Manager law.