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Lame duck update: What’s moving through the legislature and what’s not

Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

Our conversation with Zach Gorchow, editor of Gongwer News Service

This week marks the final few days of the 2015-2016 session of the state Legislature. Soon it will be “curtains down” on lame duck.

AsZach Gorchow of Gongwer News Service puts it, it’s time to see which bills are dead, which are “extremely sleepy” and which are alive in these final days of lame duck.

Let’s start with what’s dead:

Things fizzled out on legislative Republicans’ push to go after pension benefits for teachers and municipal employees, like police and firefighters.

“It was just too much – in the case of municipal retiree stuff – too much, too late to try to accomplish a very complex piece of legislation and it was just kind of thrown in there late, and in the process provoked police officers and firefighters into a torrent of criticism,” Gorchow said. “And that just killed it.”

As for the proposed teacher pension changes, Gorchow said the big problem was Gov. Snyder didn’t support the legislation. That mixed with the high amount of public criticism made success unlikely.

“In the end, I think a lot of senators, Republican senators, said, ‘Why would we take all of this heat for something that the governor’s going to veto?’” Gorchow said.

Still, he said these issues will come back to life in 2017.

“Both issues will be back,” he said. “No question."

Now for "extremely sleepy:"

Gorchow pointed first to legislation that would allow communities to capture sales, use and income taxes for large development projects, and use that money to offset developers' costs on big projects. It's backed by Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert.

Supporters say they’re still trying to push the legislation through, but according to Gorchow, it’s not looking good.

Other legislation Gorchow labels as “extremely sleepy” is the massive package of bills aimed at reforming our criminal justice system.

“The big issue, as far as the one that’s attracted the most attention, is the so-called presumptive parole legislation that says, say you’re sentenced to 20-30 years in prison, you reach that 20 years, as long as the Michigan Department of Corrections judges that you’re likely to succeed upon release, that you will be released,” Gorchow said. “You cannot be kept in until you reach that 30 years.”

But this package of bills has faced several problems, he said.

“It wouldn’t shock me if all of those bills just kind of withered, because there’s just no agreement on moving the respective chambers’ legislation,” Gorchow said. “I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me.”

And finally, what's still alive:

Voter ID legislation is one bill Gorchow labels "alive and kicking."

“This is the bill that would say basically you have to show identification, photo identification, when you vote," he said. "And if you can’t, then you have to come back within ten days for your vote to count, unless you can really demonstrate that you are indigent and can’t afford that form of ID. So that would really tighten up the voter identification requirement.”

For more on lame duck legislation – whether it be alive, dead or “extremely sleepy” – in these last few days of the 2015-2016 session of the state Legislature, listen above.

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