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Bills continue to fly through lame-duck session in its final week

Michigan State Capitol
David Marvin
Michigan State Legislature

The state Legislature is in its final week of the lame duck session before the holiday break, and the bills are not slowing down.

Bills covering everything from shielding donor identities in campaigns to legislation on cleanup of toxic sites advanced in the Legislature Tuesday.

Here's a roundup of the major bills:

Dark money bill moves in state House

Legislation that would shield the identities of non-profit donors, including those to political advocacy groups, is a procedural vote away from the governor’s desk.

The bill was passed by the state House Tuesday. It would make it a misdemeanor for a public official to require non-profits to disclose their donor list for government review.

Craig Mauger is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. He suspects business interests were behind the legislation.

“That’s one possible answer, that there are a bunch of businesses who are trying to influence elections who don’t want people to know that they’re influencing elections because they want you to keep shopping at their store. And they don’t want you to send them an angry letter that says 'I’m upset that you’re doing this,'” he says.

The bill’s Senate sponsor says it favors the constitutional right of freedom of speech and the legal right of association over questions of transparency.

Legislation to limit state wetlands regulations passes House committee

Michigan could soon change the way it manages potential development in wetland areas.

A state House committee has approved a bill that would bring the state of Michigan more in line with federal wetland regulations. Those federal regulations could be weakened soon, under a proposal by the Trump administration.

Matt Smego is with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says balance is needed.

“Making sure we have a regulatory program in Michigan that acknowledges protection of those valuable resources, but at the same time allows for development and work within them,” he says.

But environmentalists worry the regulatory changes could open the door to development of tens of thousands of acres of delicate wetlands, particularly in suburban parts of Michigan.

School safety bills head to governor’s desk

Bills aimed at increasing school safety are on their way to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

The state Senate gave final votes to bills that would require schools to work with law enforcement to develop safety plans, and schools would need to conduct biannual school safety assessments, also with help from law enforcement.

If signed, school districts and public school academies would also be required to talk to local law enforcement before making new building plans. Then, schools would need to adopt the plans at a public meeting before major renovations or construction.

The idea is to ensure schools are secure. The bills were introduced months after a major school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Industrial cleanup bill procedural action away from Snyder’s desk

Governor Rick Snyder will soon have a controversial bill before him. It would change Michigan’s system for addressing industrial cleanup sites. The bill passed the state House Tuesday – and just needs one final procedural action before Snyder can decide.

Sean McBrearty is with the group Clean Water Action. He says the legislation locks in outdated toxicity criteria when assessing contamination.

“A strengthened system is a good thing. But what this provides is a weakened system,” he says.

Supporters say updating the rules will encourage redevelopment of contaminated brownfields.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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
Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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