Bills continue to fly through lame-duck session in its final week

Originally published on December 20, 2018 9:39 am

The state Legislature is in its final week of the lame duck session before the holiday break, and the bills are not slowing down.

Bills covering everything from shielding donor identities in campaigns to legislation on cleanup of toxic sites advanced in the Legislature Tuesday.

Here's a roundup of the major bills:

Dark money bill moves in state House

Legislation that would shield the identities of non-profit donors, including those to political advocacy groups, is a procedural vote away from the governor’s desk.

The bill was passed by the state House Tuesday. It would make it a misdemeanor for a public official to require non-profits to disclose their donor list for government review.

Craig Mauger is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He suspects business interests were behind the legislation.

“That’s one possible answer, that there are a bunch of businesses who are trying to influence elections who don’t want people to know that they’re influencing elections because they want you to keep shopping at their store. And they don’t want you to send them an angry letter that says 'I’m upset that you’re doing this,'” he says.

The bill’s Senate sponsor says it favors the constitutional right of freedom of speech and the legal right of association over questions of transparency.

Legislation to limit state wetlands regulations passes House committee

Michigan could soon change the way it manages potential development in wetland areas.

A state House committee has approved a bill that would bring the state of Michigan more in line with federal wetland regulations. Those federal regulations could be weakened soon, under a proposal by the Trump administration.

Matt Smego is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says balance is needed.

“Making sure we have a regulatory program in Michigan that acknowledges protection of those valuable resources, but at the same time allows for development and work within them,” he says.

But environmentalists worry the regulatory changes could open the door to development of tens of thousands of acres of delicate wetlands, particularly in suburban parts of Michigan.

School safety bills head to governor’s desk

Bills aimed at increasing school safety are on their way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

The state Senate gave final votes to bills that would require schools to work with law enforcement to develop safety plans, and schools would need to conduct biannual school safety assessments, also with help from law enforcement.

If signed, school districts and public school academies would also be required to talk to local law enforcement before making new building plans. Then, schools would need to adopt the plans at a public meeting before major renovations or construction.

The idea is to ensure schools are secure. The bills were introduced months after a major school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Industrial cleanup bill procedural action away from Snyder’s desk

Governor Rick Snyder will soon have a controversial bill before him. It would change Michigan’s system for addressing industrial cleanup sites. The bill passed the state House Tuesday – and just needs one final procedural action before Snyder can decide.

Sean McBrearty is with the group Clean Water Action. He says the legislation locks in outdated toxicity criteria when assessing contamination.

“A strengthened system is a good thing. But what this provides is a weakened system,” he says.

Supporters say updating the rules will encourage redevelopment of contaminated brownfields.

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