Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

`Baby boom’ of bills in wake of budget?

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By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
Oct. 2, 2009

LANSING – Struggles with the state’s enormous budget deficit and a threatened shutdown of government have drawn the headlines in recent weeks.

But gloom-and-doom worries haven’t prevented lawmakers from addressing other pressing issues – such as making it easier for temporarily disabled hunters to get crossbow permits, requiring that members of local planning commissions be at least 18 years old and changing license requirements for dealers in gems and precious metals.

With the budget clock ticking, the Senate passed a resolution by Sen. Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, asking Congress not to meddle with the state’s sovereignty under the U.S. Constitution. The resolution, which is merely an expression of legislative opinion, “serves as notice and demand to the federal government, as Michigan’s agent, to cease and desist immediately all mandates that are beyond the scope of the federal government’s constitutionally delegated powers.”
Both chambers found time to recognize Pollution Prevention Week.

“The benefits of pollution prevention are achieved through reducing, reusing and recycling, which can improve environmental conditions, protect the health and safety of workers, strengthen our communities and provide an assurance for our future,” says a resolution by Rep. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor. The Senate version from Raymond Basham, D-Taylor, notes, “Pollution prevention can increase industrial efficiency, competitiveness, and help Michigan develop a `bio-economy’ and green business practices to increase the adoption of clean and pollution-free technology that can save businesses money.”

A bevy of other bills and resolutions unrelated to the budget crisis found their way into the legislative hopper in recent weeks.
Most will never get out of committee, let alone get a hearing, noted Bill Ballenger, a former legislator who is now editor of Inside Michigan Politics newsletter.

A bill from Sen. Tony Stamas, R-Midland, would add fishing to the list of activities covered by the state’s tourism promotion program. Hunting, culture and motor sports already are included.

Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, proposed eliminating the need for minors to get work permits from their schools to volunteer at nonprofit organizations. A measure from Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, would prohibit universities, colleges and community colleges from imposing their own requirements on pistol ownership or possession on campus.

East Lansing Democratic Rep. Mark Meadows wants to eliminate the property tax exemption for home water conditioning systems

Both Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, and Rep. George Cushingberry Jr., D-Detroit, want to let the Treasury Department release a public “tax shame” list of delinquent taxpayers who owe the state more than $100,000.

Another freshly introduced bill from Switalski would authorize a pilot program for Internet or mail voting in school elections.
And Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, proposed making it illegal to use aborted fetuses for scientific research.

Ballenger, the political editor, pointed out that most newly introduced proposals have actually been in the drafting and discussion stages for a couple of months.

It’s not like “a light bulb comes on” one night and a bill is introduced the next day, he said.

Ballenger predicted there may be a bevy of new proposals in a few months from the many rank-and-file legislators who were not immersed in the latest budget negotiations and thus had plenty of time to think about other things while Senate and House leaders tried to hammer out a deal.

He compared the situation to an electrical blackout that’s followed nine months later by a baby boom, saying, “We might find a big spike in bill introductions in two months.”

© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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