Legislative Update

August 31, 2011

Negotiating this newly configured legislature is tricky.

The 2010 elections ushered a class of new, remarkably conservative freshman into the state house. Both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion are in Republican control, with the state House in particular taking a notably conservative turn.

While some of the new legislators are unknowns, many unfortunately fall into the “hostile” category on many progressive issues—choice, LGBT equality, and collective bargaining to name a few.

We'll keep a close eye on how your legislators are protecting your civil liberties. The legislature is currently considering a number of issues of interest to the ACLU-MI.

Sex Offender Registry ReformSB 188, 189, 206 (now PA 17, 18 & 19 of 2011)

For months, we’ve been working to revise the Sex Offender Registry with the Michigan State Police, CDAM, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan and victims’ rights representatives to get the best possible result for all concerned.

Overall, this legislation will create more hurdles and hardships for the bulk of currently registered sex offenders. Many will be required to be registered on the Sex Offender Registry for a lifetime, disclosing additional information for the public registry such as address of employment and school, car license number and email address.

There is change for the better for those who were juveniles when they were charged. All registrants who were under 14 at the time of their crime will be removed from the registry. Those who were 14 and 15 will go on a private registry available only to law enforcement. So-called Romeo and Juliet offenders, registrants charged with age-only consensual will no longer have to register. Existing age-only consensual registrants will have the opportunity to be removed. 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 9

In a victory for equality and justice, the Michigan House rejected a resolution viewed by many as an illegal move to deny benefits to same –sex couples in Michigan.

This resolution would have overturned the decision by the constitutionally mandated Civil Service Commission to provide health care benefits to the unmarried partners of state employees, a provision negotiated through collective bargaining back in 2004.

If successful, it would for the first time in Michigan’s history reverse a decision made by the Civil Service Commission, disrupting the separation of powers that are a central tenant of our system of Government.  

Rep. McMillin holds hearing of Oversight, Reform & Ethics Committee

Rep. Tom McMillin, R – Auburn Hills, asked Michigan State Police to come before his committee to discuss policies and practices surrounding their use of CelleBrite devices that are portable and can extract data from cell phones and smart phones.

The ACLU of Michigan filed a FOIA request in 2008 due to concerns about the possible constitutional implications of using these devices to conduct suspicionless searches without consent or a search warrant. Documents provided in response confirmed the existence of these devices, but MSP claimed that the cost of retrieving and assembling the documents that disclose how five of the devices are being used is $544,680.  

Anti-gay boiler plate language added to the Higher Education Appropriations Budget

In what appears to be a simply mean-spirited move, the House added language to the Higher Education Appropriation bill that would punish public universities for offering health care coverage for unmarried couples by taking away 5% of their state funding.

Universities have already suffered deep cuts this year.  If this policy is passed by legislators, most will likely abandon equal health coverage because they are unwilling to take another 5% cut in state aid.

The Governor has the power to veto this language. Give him a call and let him know that Michigan legislators should not be using the budget process and tax-payer money to promote anti-gay hostility. 

The ACLU of Michigan has no political affiliations. Members and staff of the ACLU may be Republicans, Democrats, Communists, Federalists, Libertarians, or members of any other political party or no party at all as long as they share our passion for defending civil liberties and the Constitution.

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