Tax break for veterans faces resistance from local governments

By CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING- A bill to increase the number of disabled veterans receiving property tax exemptions faces cautious resistance from local governments that would lose revenue if it passes . And representatives of some veterans groups sympathize with their position. The bill would broaden the exemption to include unmarried surviving spouses of veterans and residential or agricultural real property used as a homestead by the veteran or the surviving spouse. As it stands, even wealthy individuals qualify. Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, co-sponsor of the bill, said it shows veterans respect.

Good Samaritan bill expected to be signed into law

By RAY WILBUR
Capital News Service
LANSING — Two pills and a night in December of 2014 changed the lives of one Michigan family and in turn spawned an effort to help families affected by drug overdose deaths across the state. Mason Mizwicki, 16, of Watervliet, died of a methadone overdose on New Year’s Day of 2015 after a party with friends. Mizwicki took two methadone pills that had been provided by a woman hosting the party. Methadone is an opioid medication administered to reduce withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin. When he began having a seizure, his friends did nothing.

Bills would add time to driver's ed

BY ALEXANDER SMITH
Capital News Service
LANSING — Bicyclists may be safer when riding on Michigan roads if new driver’s education bills are passed by the Legislature. The proposals would require vehicles to be at least 5 feet away when passing a cyclist and create harsher penalties for injuring or killing a rider. They would also require three hours of instruction on bicycle and motorcycle awareness as part of driver’s education. According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning, crashes between motorists and bicyclists rose 57 percent from 2014 to 2015. Between Jan.

Bill to reduce zero-tolerance policies in schools has bipartisan support

BY CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — A bill aimed at reducing the number of suspensions and expulsions of students in Michigan schools could move to the Senate floor soon. In Michigan, a zero-tolerance policy covers a plethora of situations in schools, including physical violence, possession of any weapon, tobacco, alcohol and bomb or similar threats. That means that a student who commits any of those behaviors must be suspended or expelled for at least a year. The mandatory punishment leaves the schools’ hands tied. The bill would remove mandatory suspensions or expulsions for some of these misbehaviors.

Bill reducing penalties for underage drinking one step closer to becoming reality

By CAITLIN DeLUCA
Capital News Service
LANSING — A bill to lessen penalties on minors caught with alcohol will get a hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee next Tuesday. . The bill, which passed almost unanimously in the Senate this March, states that a Minor in Possession (MIP) charge would be reduced from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction on the first offense. Currently, people under 21 who are caught drinking are charged with a misdemeanor that can sometimes be expunged from their record if they complete probation. Probation includes random testing, substance abuse counseling, monthly reporting, a $100 fine, court and probation costs and costs for testing and treatment.

Lawmakers pass sex trafficking bill; would increase penalties, make crime gender neutral

By NICK STANEK
Capital News Service
LANSING – House lawmakers recently approved a bill that would enhance penalties against sex traffickers, raising fines for brothel keepers from $2,500 to $5,000. The law also extends a 20-year jail sentence to anyone caught trying to recruit prostitutes into the sex trade. The bill was unopposed and is part of a series of bills to change how victims of sex trafficking are treated, said Rep. Joseph Graves, R-Argentine Township. Human rights organizations across the state are pushing to shift the focus of sex crimes from victims.

“There needs to be a paradigm shift in the way prostitution cases are treated,” said Bridgette Carr, the director of the Human Trafficking Law Clinic in Ann Arbor. “The law treats [prostitutes] as criminals but the reality is, they are victims of sexual abuse.”
Carr said law enforcement lacks the resources that victims of sex crimes need to treat them as victims instead of criminals.

Legislature approves trampoline safety rules and liability protection

By DANIELLE WOODWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING — Jumpers bouncing around indoor trampoline parks have new rules to follow under a bill narrowly approved by state lawmakers. The new law says park owners have to post rules and users must follow them. If jumpers accept certain risks, it protects trampoline court owners from injury-related lawsuits. “The goal is to create certainty and understanding of the responsibilities between the customers and the owners,” said bill sponsor state Sen. David Hildenbrand, R-Oakland County. “There wasn’t a clearly defined law of customer and owner responsibility, and we found that people would not follow the rules and get injured, resulting in lawsuits.”

The bill, which still must be signed by the governor before it’s law, requires owners to comply with safety standards published in 2013 by the American Society for Testing and Material.

Plan would add rules for mobile dental care

By MATTHEW HALL
Capital News Service
LANSING – A new bill would add more regulations for “mobile dental facilities” that bring dental services to disadvantaged children. The bill aims to provide better documentation of services and to prevent incompetent practitioners from harming patients, supporters say. “It isn’t meant to stop access because it’s a wonderful service, but to make sure bad apples don’t spoil it by having minimal standards of care,” said Rep. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, the lead sponsor. Organizations like Smiles on Wheels and Michigan Dental Outreach work sort of like blood drives, MacGregor said. They use vans to transport much of the equipment found in a dentist’s office to facilities like schools and senior centers.

Want to keep roadkill? Bill would make it easier

By BECKY McKENDRY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, wants you to keep your roadkill – please. A bill by Booher and Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, would relax the rules for claiming roadkill. Booher said he drafted the bill after constituents asked for simpler, quicker protocol than current Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requirements. “Some people said they’d see animals lying on the side of the road that they could use in their compost piles instead of stinking up the side of the road,” he said. “Why not make it easier?”
The bill would give first dibs to the driver who hits the animal.

Anti-squatting bill prompts debate

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Squatters who move into single-family homes or duplexes could next be moving into prison cells under a proposal by a suburban Detroit legislator. Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, wants to make it a felony to occupy single-family homes worth roughly $100,000 or more or duplexes worth about $200,000 or more without permission. Such homes are generally abandoned or were seized by banks and other lenders through foreclosure. His bill would set a maximum punishment of five years behind bars and a $10,000 fine. It excludes illegally occupied condominiums and apartments because landlords and condo associations can handle squatters through normal contract procedures, Heise said.