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Anti-abortion license plate bill still hasn’t been sent to Gov. Snyder for his signature. Why?

It’s been almost two weeks since the Legislature approved a state license plate in order for an anti-abortion group to fundraise off it, but the legislation still hasn’t been put in front of Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

The Michigan Constitution says a governor has two weeks to sign or veto a bill once it’s adopted by the Legislature and placed before him. But there is no timeline for when the Legislature, once it’s approved a bill, has to actually send it to the governor.

Which brings is to the “choose life” license plate. The plate would raise money for the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan. Specialty license plates aren’t unusual in Michigan. We’ve got them right now for public universities, the Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, and other charitable organizations. But, because we are talking about abortion, it is controversial.

Earlier efforts to create a “choose life” plate have collapsed because of the controversy. It was just considered to be too much for what’s supposed to be a non-controversial service offered by the state. 

And if you’re for abortion rights, you don’t get the same opportunity to display your views and send a share of your license plate fee to your side of the argument.

The official word for why the bill hasn’t been sent to the Governor is that it’s being carefully proofread. But, this is not a long bill: 440 words. Normally, it would be filed with the Governor's office within a day or two.

So, there is something else going on here.

And it all hinges on the fact that this bill is likely headed for a veto.

Governor Rick Snyder ran as a “pro-life” Republican, but the reality is the anti-abortion movement has never considered him reliable.

In fact, in the 2010 Republican primary, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce came together in an unusual last-ditch effort to block Snyder’s nomination because they just didn’t trust him.

Snyder has signed some new abortion restrictions, but he has also vetoed anti-abortion bills. Bills that would have made legal abortions unavailable to victims of rape or incest, for example.

This license plate bill seems to be headed toward the same fate.

So, what’s going on is either Senate Republicans are sitting on the bill in hopes of finding a way to make a bargain on the “choose life” license plate. Or they’re sitting on it to avoid the controversy blowing up before wrapping up work on the state budget and a controversial teacher pension overhaul this week.

But, let’s not forget Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is expected to make a play for the Republican nomination for governor because Snyder is term-limited. Which will be determined by a GOP base that is decidedly anti-abortion.

If Snyder vetoes this bill, look for Calley (and likely Republican rival Attorney General Bill Schuette) to publicly break with the governor and announce they would have signed it.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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