Mich. House, Senate come to close for year, several bills die
Both the state House and Senate worked late into the night Thursday, but likely will not meet again this month to vote on legislation.
Both houses can meet to vote on bills anytime until they decide to adjourn sine die — effectively ending the legislative session — on Dec. 30, said Gary Garbarino, a staff member for House Majority Floor Leader Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee.
But the Senate decided Thursday likely would be its last day of voting, and the House followed suit. All bills introduced but not passed into law by the end of the legislative session die, and need to be reintroduced and go through the legislative process again during the next session in order to become law. The next legislative session begins in January.
Hundreds of bills did not survive the scrutiny of legislators in either chamber, including some pertinent to MSU and East Lansing:
— One bill aimed to prevent the closure of the East Lansing Secretary of State office, 400 Albert Ave., in favor of a larger SUPER!Center, potentially in the Frandor area. Many other offices throughout the state face similar closures and mergers to meet a tight budget.
The legislation might have prevented — or at least slowed — the changes by introducing formal criteria for closures, including examining the branches’ proximity to public transportation and requiring a demonstration the move actually would improve efficiency. It also would have placed a moratorium on all closures until the criteria were met.
Moving the office out of East Lansing would disservice students, state Rep. Mark Meadows, a co-sponsor on the bill, said in September.
“It makes it very much more difficult for students to use the branch office and that will probably result in fewer students registering to vote locally,” Meadows said.
The House passed the bill in February, but it never received the attention of the Senate Local, Urban and State Affairs Committee.
— Another bill Meadows sponsored would have excused full-time university students from jury duty. High school students already are excused, but there is no statewide law excusing college students, Meadows said. The bill was passed unanimously by the House in April, but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
—Legislation granting medical amnesty to anyone under 21 who consumes alcohol and voluntarily seeks medical attention for his or her self or someone else also failed to be passed by the end of voting.
Students should not be afraid to dial 911 for themselves or friends who drink too much, and the bill would guarantee amnesty, said Susan Schmidt, chief of staff for Meadows, who introduced the bill.
“In our community, it’s unspoken that if it’s a matter of life or death, then (police officers) don’t go down that road of an MIP, but you can’t advertise that,” Schmidt said. “Even if it saved just one life on Michigan State’s campus, it’d be worth it.”
ASMSU lobbied in support of the legislation, but it was tied up in the Senate Judiciary Committee. It passed 98-7 in the House last fall.
— Women will have to continue to pay for contraception without insurance help after a bill introduced to the House in June 2009 failed to garner the attention of the floor.
A two-bill package would have required all insurance providers currently providing coverage for prescriptions to include prescribed contraception.
“It’s a matter of equity,” said Cia Segerlind, chief of staff for Speaker Pro Tempore and the legislation’s sponsor Pam Byrnes, D-Lyndon Twp., in September.
“Women should be able to have these prescriptions because they are considered just general health care.”
— Another bill would have required all school districts to develop, implement and submit to the state a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment. Known as “Matt’s Safe School Law,” the legislation stemmed from the 2002 suicide of Matt Epling, a 14-year-old East Lansing student, after he was bullied.
The House passed the legislation in May, but the Senate Education Committee failed to examine the bill.
Similar bills also failed to be passed in 2006 and 2008, said Kevin Epling, Matt’s father. The legislation would have taken only a few hours to discuss and pass, and letting it fail slows it down by years, Epling said.
“We should not have to go back to square one and educate a new crop of legislators,” Epling said.
“That just keeps the bill from being passed … (and) that’s just going to mean more kids getting hurt and more deaths.”