The new legislature is still getting organized, with House committee assignments announced just this week. Rather than votes this report contains some interesting or noteworthy new bill introductions.
Senate Bill 1: Assert intention to lower auto insurance rates
Introduced by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R), to establish as the intent of the legislature that the legislature enact reforms to Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system and that rates come down. The bill lists the components of this issue that appear ripe for reform but does not prescribe any specific reforms. See House Bill 4024 below.
Senate Bill 11: Mandate auto insurers distribute injury claims reserve money to customers
Introduced by Sen. Paul Wojno (D), to require the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to return $1.2 billion from its insurance claims reserve fund to auto insurers, who would return the money to customers on a pro-rated basis. The bill makes an assumption that the reserve fund holds $1.2 billion more than the amount that actuaries estimate is needed to cover the acute and ongoing care needs of past and future crash victims. Senate Bill 4 requires the MCCA to disclose the actuarial computations used to determine the required reserve fund amount.
Senate Bill 13: Exempt certain pension income from state income tax
Introduced by Sen. Paul Wojno (D) to repeal the age-based limitations and restrictions on income tax deductions for retirement and pension benefits that were enacted as part of a 2011 tax reform and business tax cut. This would mostly affect retired public employees. A similar or identical proposal is contained in House Bill 4006 and Senate Bill 17.
Senate Bill 14: Establish PFAs water standard
Introduced by Sen. Winnie Brinks (D), to establish a limit in public drinking water supplies of 5 parts per billion of the chemicals called PFAs.
Senate Bill 16: Add "claw back" provisions to future state subsidies to corporations and developers
Introduced by Sen. Jim Ananich (D), to add “claw back” provisions to selective subsidy deals that state officials give to particular corporations and developers, which in theory (such efforts usually end up in court) permits the state to reclaim money it has given to firms that later leave the state, The bill would only apply prospectively, so companies that already have been granted several billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies in agreements lasting as long as 20 years would not be affected.
Senate Bill 24: Authorize prison for “porch pirates”
Introduced by Sen. Jim Runestad (R), to authorize up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for stealing mail or packages left in or near a person’s mailbox. The penalties would double and then triple for second and subsequent offenses.
House Bill 4001: Require conviction for property forfeiture
Introduced by Rep. Jason Wentworth (R), to establish that property seized from a person because it may be associated with a suspected drug-related crime is not subject to “civil asset forfeiture” unless the individual is actually convicted or accepts a plea bargain. This would not apply to police seizures of property worth $50,000 or more. Under current law property may be forfeited even if an individual is never arrested or prosecuted.
House Bill 4024: Allow less than unlimited auto injury insurance policies
Introduced by Rep. Beau LaFave (R), to allow auto insurance companies to offer policies with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage below the currently mandated unlimited coverage. A customer could keep the unlimited PIP or choose policies with $250,000 or $500,000 limits. Also, to cap the amounts charged by hospitals and health care professionals that treat or provide rehab for injuries sustained in vehicle crashes at a percentage of the amount allowed for workers compensation cases under a different law. Insurers would have to adjust rates downward by a specified amount to reflect their lower costs, or else explain in detail why not.
House Bill 4033: Compel public employees to pay union fees
Introduced by Rep. John Chirkun (D), to allow public employee unions that organize employees at government and public school workplaces, and those workers' employers, to enter labor contracts that impose a union “service fee” on all employees, even if an individual does not wish to financially support the union. The bill appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which held that compelling public employees to pay dues or fees violates their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. House Bill 4034 would authorize compulsory union fees for private sector employees in unionized workplaces, essentially repealing Michigan’s right-to-work law, a change that would not challenge the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling.
House Bill 4039: Ban selling tobacco to adults under 21
Introduced by Rep. Tommy Brann (R), to ban selling or giving a person under the age of 21 tobacco, electronic cigarettes or “tobacco paraphernalia,” subject to a civil fine of up to $2,500, and $5,000 for second or subsequent violations. The bill defines “tobacco product” as “cigarettes, noncigarette smoking tobacco, or smokeless tobacco, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, shisha, snuff, or an electronic device,” and “tobacco paraphernalia” as an “item designed or marketed for the consumption, use, or preparation of a tobacco product.” Under current law there is a $50 fine for selling tobacco to a person less than 18 years old.
House Bill 4042: Authorize interstate nurse licensure compact
Introduced by Rep. Mary Whiteford (R), to authorize Michigan’s participation in an interstate nurses licensure compact that would allow registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/VNs) to get a multi-state license that is good in all states that join the compact.