A Michigan State Police officer directs a protester during a rally against the right-to-work bills Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, at the George W. Romney State Office Building where Gov. Rick Snyder works, right across from the Capitol. Not only were policemen on foot, but also on horseback. Katie Stiefel/ The State News
While many students lazed immobile on living room couches eating long-awaited homemade food, Michigan lawmakers spent their break hashing out controversial bills that could affect college-aged students.
On Dec. 13, Michigan legislators held a lame-duck session, or a chance for lawmakers to wrap up any business before the new year.
These sessions include members of Congress who did not win elections or will not be a part of the next Congress. The term “lame duck” was coined in the late 1700s and refers to a duck who can’t keep up with its flock.
MSU political science assistant professor Matt Grossman said it’s an opportunity for lawmakers to make decisions that might have upset voters.
“They’re trying to get through things they think might have cost them in the election,” he said.
To catch up on what happened during break, here’s a list of bills Gov. Rick Snyder signed while students were gone.
1. Protecting abortion rights, fetal remains
Under the provisions of this bill, women now will be interviewed prior to abortions to ensure they are not being forced to have the procedure.
Snyder said this bill is meant to protect both women’s rights and safety.
“Society should work to stop coercion in any form, whether it’s bullying a classmate or forcing someone to get, or not get, an abortion,” he said.
Interim Director of the Women’s Resource Center Jayne Schuiteman said although she understands the bill is meant to help women, abortion is a private matter and shouldn’t be discussed in legislation at all.
“The less the government intrudes into people’s personal lives the better,” she said. “I don’t think anyone should govern what women do with their bodies.”
The bill also details how physicians must respectfully dispose of fetuses.
2. Keeping passwords private
Employers and educational institutions now will not be permitted to ask applicants, students or employees to release passwords for private accounts. This includes email and social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
“Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private, online activity,” Snyder said.
The bill ensures educational institutions that expel or do not admit students who do not hand over social media passwords will face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of $1,000 or less.
However, this bill does not prohibit schools, such as MSU, from requiring passwords from students on Internet services provided by the university, such as MSU email.
Construction management sophomore Jacob Bennett said although giving employers passwords could help employees stay on their best behavior, he doesn’t favor the idea.
“Certain pictures can be on Facebook that you don’t intend to be on there,” he said, adding he does not want employers to be able to find inappropriate messages or pictures before he does.
3. The Wings’ new home
Michael Ilitch was granted permission to begin a $650 million project in downtown Detroit to construct the Red Wings a new home. Olympia Entertainment’s plan also will bring new retail, office and residential space, as well as $1 billion in revenue to the state, according to Snyder.
“This is an exciting project that will create thousands of short and long-term jobs and will help further revitalize downtown Detroit,” Snyder said.
Avid Red Wings fan and secondary education junior Mary Burson said she’s more than excited about the new arena and hopes it will benefit Detroit’s economy.
“With this new arena, they may be able to accommodate more people and have (a bigger) revenue stream,” she said, adding she definitely plans on visiting the new arena once it’s built.
In 1973, when only six wolves roamed the mitten, wolves were declared endangered in Michigan, according to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.
As of last year, the wolf population is about 700, and Michigan residents have reported wolves terrorizing their livestock.
Under the bill, the gray wolf now is classified as a game animal, but it’s up to the Natural Resources Commission to decide whether or not to establish an annual wolf-hunting season.
According to the bill, hunting must be used as a tool “to minimize negative human and wolf encounters,” which could put livestock, humans and pets in danger.
Bennett said as a hunter, he understands that hunting is used to control issues with animals, but feels Michigan should wait until wolf population numbers are a little higher.
“We (also) still have an overpopulated deer (issue), and wolves kind of help to control that,” he said.
Gaining access to medical marijuana will be a little harder thanks to a new bill implementing qualifications for registry cards and sellers of the drug.
Those hoping to buy medical marijuana must present a state ID card or driver’s license to receive a registration card, which now will be valid for two years.
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs officials also can determine whether a registry card is fake or valid.
Michigan medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to enlist help from private companies to ensure there is no backlog of card applications.
This bill gave employees the choice to refuse to join employee unions.
John Beck, associate professor at the school of human resources and labor relations, said prior to the new law, most employees were required to join unions after working for a certain time period.
Many union workers feared giving employees the option not to join would weaken unions’ power when bargaining with employers for benefits, such as better wages or vacation times. Employees who chose not to join and do not pay union dues still will receive the benefits of bargaining.
The passage was met with uproar in early December as crowds gathered outside the Capitol in protest.
During President Barack Obama’s visit to Michigan on Dec. 10, he expressed his disagreement with right-to-work legislation.
“These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” he said. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
Obama said unions were responsible for the revival of Michigan’s auto industry.