LANSING, Michigan — Michigan lawmakers ended their lame-duck session last week bleary-eyed, leaving the Capitol not long before dawn after passing legislation that had been caught up in bartering over a road funding package.
In 13 voting days after the November election, the Legislature sent 224 bills to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature — fewer than the 287 put on his desk in the much more contentious 2012 lame-duck period. He vetoed eight of those bills two years ago, and still must review most of the legislation that still will land on his desk in the coming weeks.
Policies this time around were as diverse as gasoline taxes, the unionization of college athletes and the drug testing of welfare recipients. But unlike in 2012, when majority Republicans enacted right-to-work and abortion measures, they held off on enacting some bills that had drawn the most heated debate.
Those included attempts to divide Michigan's electoral votes in presidential elections and to give people stronger religious protections in discrimination cases.
Wrangling over a tax increase to improve roads — an issue that lawmakers decided should go to a statewide vote and that gave Democrats the leverage to kill unrelated bills — overshadowed the remainder of a lengthy agenda that included an agreement to see that sales taxes are collected on Internet purchases.
Here's a look at some of the bills:
The centerpiece of a proposed $1.3 billion annual increase in transportation spending is a constitutional amendment to bump the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and remove the sales tax from fuel purchases. If voters approve the measure in May, then related bills will also take effect — including the conversion of Michigan's 19-cents-a-gallon gas tax to one based on price. It would start at 41.7 cents per gallon and could rise annually by no more than inflation plus 5 cents.
Major online stores such as Amazon, eBay and Overstock will have to collect Michigan's sales tax from customers starting in October unless they eliminate affiliate partners or relocate warehouses to other states. Brick-and-mortar businesses say their online competitors have an unfair advantage. The policy won't affect Internet retailers without a "nexus" to the state, but the policy could generate $50 million more in the first year.
An incentives program used to entice filmmakers to make movies in the state will see changes and be extended by four years. Funding for the Michigan Film Office, which had been scheduled to end in 2017, will continue until late 2021. Legislators could still bolster or scale back the $50 million-a-year program in the annual budget process. Changes include calling for moviemakers to have higher ratios of Michigan workers and letting successful TV shows receive subsidies for longer.
WELFARE DRUG TESTS
Michigan will begin giving drug tests to welfare recipients suspected of substance abuse. The one-year pilot project will occur in at least three counties. Recipients who test positive the first time will be offered treatment and still receive cash aid. Repeat offenders will be ineligible but can reapply if they later test negative.
Athletes will be blocked from unionizing at public universities under a measure that says the athletes aren't public employees. Michigan is the second state to respond after Northwestern University football players were allowed to vote this year on union representation.
School districts will have to add cyberbullying to their anti-bullying policies and report bullying data yearly to the state. The law is designed to address the harassment of students through social media, text messages or emails.
Michigan will loosen licensing restrictions on air guns and limit local governments' ability to set their own regulations except when BB, pellet and paintball guns are used by those under age 16. The National Rifle Association says Michigan is one of just four states to classify most pellet and air guns as firearms.
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