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Following compromise over funding, "raise the age" bills head to Senate floor

A courtroom
Bill Ledbetter
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Bills that would raise the age of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction from 17 to 18-years-old are one step closer to the governor’s desk.

This means that 17-year-olds would no longer be automatically be tried as adults or placed with adults in the criminal justice system. But prosecutors would still have discretion to charge them as adults based on the offense.

The bills passed out of a committee chaired by Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) Thursday. He said he has been working on these changes for five years.

“I think we’re all doing a very good thing and it’s the best bill that we could possibly have come out of committee, go to the floor, and eventually get signed into law I hope,” he told reporters.

Getting the bills to this point came down to a compromise between state lawmakers and counties over the cost of adding more people to the juvenile system.

Meghann Keit is with the Michigan Association of Counties. She said the needs of juveniles in the system cost more money for things like rehabilitation programs.

“Without something in this package that would be able to provide the funding that we need and the mechanism for funding that we need, counties just could not bear the additional cost that this would have put on them,” Keit said in an interview.

For the first few years of the change, the state would pay for all 17-year-olds in the juvenile system. That’s to give counties a better idea of how much the change would cost. Then the funding would be reevaluated.

“We got there, and we were able to produce a good product to make sure that the funding was available and adequate and we could implement this policy as effectively as possible,” Keit said.

There are House and Senate versions of the "raise the age" bills, however, the House bills now have all the changes, with the compromise with the counties. Those bills are waiting for a full floor vote in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has said that these bills are a priority. If they pass in the Senate, they’d need a final procedural vote in the House before heading to the governor’s desk.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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