Michigan Lame-Duck Session Produces Storm of Legislation

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Lansing, Michigan, right-to-work rally. (Photo courtesy of Albert Sachteleben.)

Michigan's 2012 lame-duck session is generating some controversy. Along with the hotly debated right-to-work legislation passed recently, Gov. Rick Snyder's pen has been busy signing other bills, too. As snow threatens, there's been a storm of legislative activity, especially over issues in Detroit, says WXYZ ABC Action News.

A piece of legislation of note to Detroiters is a bill to establish a Detroit Lighting Authority. Currently, says the Detroit Free Press, the city has 85,000 streetlights. Half of them aren't functioning properly.

Gov. Snyder passed a bill to permit Detroit's Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council to appoint a watchdog authority over Detroit's struggling public lighting department. The Detroit Lighting Authority will be empowered to issue bonds to start fixing the failing light system.

The governor's lighting bill will also allow the city to maintain income tax rates of 2.4 percent for city residents and 1.2 percent for nonresidents until bonds are repaid. As soon as bonds are paid off, the city will be required to dial down income tax to 2.2 percent for residents and 1.1 percent for nonresidents.

Of the inadequate city lighting, Mayor Bing said, "People keep asking me, 'When are you going to turn the lights on?' Well, I'm not God, I don't have that kind of power. I don't want people to think the lights are going to come on next week, there still is a lot of work to be done." He expects the relighting project to take about three years.

The lighting authority bill was one of many passed at the 11th hour by Michigan's 96th Legislature, says the Detroit News. Measures affecting Detroiters -- including Detroit Downtown Development Authority funding allocations, the creation of a transit authority, and a bill to fund loans to Eastern Market farmers -- were approved.

Statewide, the 2012 lame duck session passed bills on abortion clinic restrictions, recall reforms, a new emergency manager law, and tax cuts for businesses passed. Changes were made to the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Law. Last week, the controversial right-to-work legislation was passed.

Lawmakers put in an 18-hour day to complete the final session of 2012. Last week's Thursday session started at 10 a.m., broke at midnight to say the Pledge of Allegiance, resumed activity immediately, and adjourned at 4:29 a.m.

Republicans claim they were hurrying to finish their voter-mandated agenda. Democrats question the hasty turn-around of hundreds of measures in the last few weeks of the year. They say the speedy passage of so many bills, particularly the right-to-work legislation, was done to fly under the public radar, timing them to coincide with the holidays.

A lifelong Michigan resident, teacher and social activist, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about hot-button issues in her state, particularly in its most pivotal city of Detroit.

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