Summer Legislative Update

August 31, 2011

The Michigan Legislature has had a long vacation, but as the summer winds down it's time to review upcoming legislation. During July and August, committee hearings and other discussions have been going on but no legislation has been voted on.

What follows is a list of the bills currently on the House and Senate calendars that the ACLU is watching.

This is not an exhaustive list of legislation we are concerned with, only that which has made it through the committee process and is set for a full chamber vote. Click the bill number to see summaries on the Michigan Legislature's website.

Oppose: Reducing Medical Marijuana Patients Privacy (SB 377)

The medical marijuana registry is an important tool for the Michigan State Police, allowing them to separate out legal marijuana users and prevent mistaken raids on patients and caregivers.

However, one of the bills we are watching allows complete, unfettered law enforcement access to the list. While we understand the need for some degree of access, we think that the privacy of the patients and the needs of police can both be accommodated. We hope that this bill is amended to require some proof that the records are part of a valid investigation of illegal drug use.

Oppose: Fighting for Unions and Teachers (HB 4625 HB 4626 HB 4466)

Teachers and unions all over the country have been dealt some heavy blows by extreme politicians. Here in Michigan, we're opposing three bills that threaten the protections our teachers have worked so hard to get.

The first two bills have already been passed into law, changing how teachers are awarded tenure and the process for dismissing teachers. Both weaken teacher's due process rights and allow administrators broad and vague authority to fire teachers.

Even more troubling, the third bill would create harsher sanctions for striking teachers. This bill would essentially create a no-strike laws, preventing teachers from using walk-outs and strikes. We hope that this bill is rejected, as passing such a bill would undermine the little due process available to teachers and unions under our current law.

Here at the ACLU, we believe that collective rights are necessary to protect individual rights. By their very nature, unions enhance and encourage the exercise of core civil rights, such as the right of association, speech, and petition.

Oppose: Banning Domestic Partnership Benefits (HB 4770)

Earlier this year, the Michigan legislature attempted to cancel an agreement between Michigan unions and the Michigan Civil Service Commission that would allow some state employees to add one non-related adult to their health coverage.

Happily, the House of Representatives rejected this abuse of power, arguing that interfering with an agreement negotiated in good faith disturbs the separation of powers essential to democracy.

However, now legislation has been introduced that would prohibit partnership benefits for public school teachers, professors at universities that receive state funding, and other state workers. Not only that, but this legislation would go further: it would make parntership benefits a prohibited subject in collective bargaining, barring any future discussion of the subject.

This is yet another unconstitutional assault on the LGBT community.

Support: Free Speech Rights at Funerals (HB 4284, HB 4745)

We’ve been working to change Michigan’s law banning protests at funerals for quite a while. While we support current legislation that would improve the law, it’s a bit too little, too late. We simply want the law gone.

Months ago, we filed a lawsuit challenging the very constitutionality of the underlying law. We expect an opinion very soon and the judge has already indicated that she will find the law unconstitutional.

Oppose: Playing Politics with Women's Rights (HB 4109 and 4110)

The House Families, Children and Seniors Committee is hearing testimony on a bill prohibiting a rarely used, yet medically necessary abortion method.

This is the legislature’s fifth attempt to ban an abortion method already prohibited under federal law. Not only is this bill redundant, it does not provide an exception to protect a woman’s health.

This attempt to play politics with women's health is totally unnecessary and runs counter to the strong message from voters to focus on jobs and the economy.

Support: Keeping Kids With Their Families (SB 320)

A few months ago, you might remember that we filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down a state law that allows law enforcement officials to remove children from their parents’ custody without proving that the child is in immediate danger.

We were representing a father whose young son was placed in foster care for several days after he drank alcoholic lemonade at a ballgame.

A bill currently in the legislature would address the problem, clarifying the circumstances in which a child might be placed in an emergency foster care facility until a court hearing takes place.

The bill stresses that in order for a situation to call for immediate removal by Child Protective Services, there must be reasonable cause to believe that the child was at risk of imminent harm.

By Shelli Weisberg, Legislative Director

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