State lawmakers end voting for 2009-10 session

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

LANSING (AP) -- Michigan lawmakers have reached a deal to boost the state's Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign, but are leaving some other business unfinished as they wrap up their 2009-10 legislative session.

The Legislature finished approving a $10 million boost for the campaign advertising Michigan's tourist attractions to residents of other states before adjourning early last Friday after an all-night session. The money will come from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund.

The final passage came with an 88-6 vote in the Democratic-led House, a few hours after the Republican-led Senate -- which already had approved the bill -- had adjourned and stopped voting for the two-year cycle. The bill now goes to Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Lawmakers also approved a plan to distribute $246 million in federal money awarded earlier this year to Michigan schools. Districts will get between $111 and $222 more per student, with schools on the low end of Michigan's funding scale getting the most cash.

But other measures remained undone as the Legislature ended its scheduled voting for the 2009-10 session. Sessions are scheduled for later in December but no votes are planned.

The Senate adjourned without approving a plan that would have cleared the way for a second bridge between Detroit and Canada. Senate Republicans also did not allow a vote on a plan calling for insurers to cover certain treatments for autism.

Bills that aren't approved before the session adjourns will die and have to be reintroduced next year, when a new Legislature and Gov.-elect Rick Snyder take office.

Among the highlights of the Legislature's final hours for 2009-10:

--The Senate did not move on legislation that would require school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies, continuing a stalemate that has lasted the better part of a decade. The Democrat-run House had passed anti-bullying legislation.

"I regret that we couldn't protect all of our children from those that would pick on them," Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, said during his farewell speech on the Senate floor. "No person should be subjected to criticism or physical abuse from another person in a free, under God, democratic society -- not for any reason."

The anti-bullying legislation has been tangled in a web of competing interests -- including both sides of the gay rights debate and politicians with both liberal and conservative leanings.

--Despite a late plea from Republican Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley and other lawmakers, the Senate did not vote on a proposal that would require insurance coverage for certain autism treatments. More than 20 other states have similar laws, but the Michigan measure is opposed by business and insurance groups that say mandating coverage would raise the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance.

"This legislation is the right thing to do and the time to do it is now," said Rep. Kathy Angerer, D-Dundee, before joining Calley and others to lobby senators for passage.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Mike Bishop said the time was not right to vote on the measure during the Legislature's lame duck session and some members weren't comfortable with the legislation.

--Senate Democrats failed in an effort to force a last-minute vote on legislation that could have cleared the way for Michigan to enter a partnership that would allow the building of a second bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Senate Republicans and owners of the nearby Ambassador Bridge opposed the plan, and Bishop had said weeks ago the proposal was dead. A motion to discharge the proposal failed Thursday.

"It's clear this bill isn't ready to go," said Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac. "It's too big to rush."

Supporters of the so-called Detroit River International Crossing, which include several business and labor groups, were disappointed and vowed to try again next year.

Granholm, who supports the project, said Senate Republicans "have bowed to special interests" and thrown away an opportunity to add jobs to the struggling Michigan economy.

--The Legislature approved a plan that would allow more bond debt to help cover the cost of construction projects at numerous Michigan community colleges and universities, plus other projects such as a Detroit crime lab. It passed despite the opposition of some lawmakers who noted paying off the debt could cost the state more than $30 million a year. The bill likely will soon be headed to Granholm, despite the possibility opponents may try to force the House to reconsider the vote.

--The House did not vote on a measure aimed at tying teacher evaluations and tenure decisions more strongly to student academic achievement. The bill passed the Senate.

The Michigan Legislature did pass several school reforms earlier in its 2009-10 session. The legislation will allow for the academic takeover of poor-performing schools and ease restrictions on charter school expansion. The laws were passed as part of Michigan's unsuccessful effort to win money from the federal government's Race to the Top competition.

A smoking ban for most Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, took effect in May. Lawmakers also passed several bills aimed at diversifying Michigan's struggling economy, creating new tax credits for companies dealing in advanced battery technology and alternative energy.


The Pure Michigan funding bill is House Bill 4817. The university and college construction bill is House Bill 5858. The school funding bill is House Bill 5887.

Published: Mon, Dec 6, 2010