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Legislative leaders share priorities for last few weeks of the year

The Lansing capitol dome with a blue sky behind it and trees in front of it
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Battles over the next state budget are heating up.

Lawmakers return to Lansing next week. There are three scheduled weeks of session before the end of the year, and legislative leaders are hoping to make the best of it.

Bills that have been introduced this year won’t “die” on December 31st. But all the seats in the House will be up for election in 2020, which means getting things done in Lansing will likely give way, at least a little bit, to election season.

A priority for Republicans and Democrats is legislation involving gambling. The package of bills would legalize sports betting and online gaming – among other things.              

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) had initial reservations about the bills, but now he’s interested in moving them.

“I’ve moved my position a little bit on it, but there’s still some details that need to be worked out,” he said.

A Senate committee is scheduled to discuss the package of bills the first week lawmakers return.

The state Legislature has spent a good portion of 2019 working on changes to Michigan’s criminal justice system. Now, some lawmakers are hoping they will keep the trend going – and finish up some of the work they’ve started before the end of the year.

Representative Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) is the leader of the Democrats in the state House. She hopes bills that would allow for more people to get certain crimes taken off of their records will be sent to the governor’s desk before New Year's.

“It just says that you believe in people and that you believe in second chances,” Greig said. “And you believe that people can redeem themselves and be productive members of society.”

The bills would add new types of crimes to what can be eligible for expungement, and they would increase the number of certain crimes that can be expunged. Certain crimes would also be automatically expunged after ten years for a felony and seven years for a misdemeanor.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) has his eye on passing a bill that hits close to home. He would like to pass one of his bills related to the Flint water crisis. The bill would extend the amount of time the government has to file a case for the crime of misconduct of a public official. Ananich said he’s been talking to Whitmer and other leaders about getting it passed before the end of the year.

“Just so I can give the residents of Flint, and really the taxpayers of the state, some assurances that people are going to be held accountable,” he said.

Session starts up again on Tuesday, December 3.

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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