LANSING — The last day of the lame-duck legislative session went into the wee hours of Friday morning as legislators finished up work for the year.
A pair of bills expanding access to medical marijuana gained a great deal of attention throughout the year and passed the House with bipartisan support, but they couldn’t get enough support to get a vote in the Senate on the last day of session.
The bills would have made it easier for medical marijuana users to purchase their pot and use different forms of marijuana. One bill would have allowed communities to decide if they would let medical marijuana dispensaries in their towns and regulate those facilities. Another would have legalized marijuana-infused products, such as brownies and oils, for use by people who have a hard time smoking the product.
The dispensaries were a key for medical marijuana supporters and caregivers, who after a state Supreme Court ruling last year are left with one option: growing their own marijuana or buying it from a licensed caregiver, who is limited in the amount he or she can grow.
Hearings on the bills this year attracted standing-room-only crowds of people, mostly supporting the legislation. But law enforcement and some health professionals put on a full-court press against the legislation last week, and the Senate decided not to take up the bills.
They could be reintroduced next year.
Dozens of bills received final passage on the last day of the 2014 legislative year.
Easing the process of getting a nonviolent criminal record expunged passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote and is on its way to the governor. Under the bill, people with one felony and two misdemeanor convictions can apply to get either the felony or the misdemeanors expunged from their record. The final decision on whether to clear the record will be made by a judge.
A bill makes it more expensive to get a recount of election results. Currently, a candidate requesting a recount must pay $10 per precinct to get a recount underway. Under the bill that received final passage in the Senate on a 28-10 vote, that amount would increase to $25 per precinct. And for candidates who lost by more than 50 votes, it would cost them $125 per precinct if they asked for a recount.
A bill finalized the transfer of 126 acres and 15 buildings that used to be the Detroit House of Corrections and the Western Wayne County Correctional Facility in Plymouth to the Land Bank Fast Track Authority, which hopes to sell the land quickly. The property has been vacant since 2005 and may be a tough sell for the land bank. It also used to be an open dump for the city of Detroit for 30 years, from the 1920s to 1950s. Cleanup costs have been estimated between $4 million to $20 million.
Three bills make it easier for homeowners to restructure their property tax debt to avoid foreclosure. One bill would reduce interest rates from 18 percent to 6 percent, allow homeowners to enter into a payment plan for up to five years and set up a debt-forgiveness component to make sure any homeowner’s tax bill is no more than 25 percent of the home’s market value. Officials in Detroit, which has embarked on an aggressive campaign to keep people in their homes and sell abandoned property to buyers willing to rehab the homes, praised the bills’ passage as another sign of the city’s resurgence.
“State lawmakers today passed three important pieces of legislation that will significantly improve the quality of life for the residents of our city,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “Individually, these bills help Detroiters avoid tax foreclosure, allow the city to more quickly remove blight and help attract thousands of new jobs to Detroit.”
A bill creates protocols for law enforcement to carry Narcan, a drug that can successfully reverse the deadly effects of a heroin overdose, when answering overdose calls. The bill also provides for training for law enforcement and other first responders. More than two dozen states have passed laws expanding access to Narcan.
People who circulate petitions for candidates or ballot issues would not have to be registered voters or residents of the district where a candidate is running under a bill that received final passage in the House on Thursday night. The bill was brought up to address a federal court ruling this year in a case dealing with petitions submitted by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit. He was initially kicked off the ballot, not because he lacked sufficient valid signatures, but because the circulators weren’t properly registered to vote. A federal judge said the requirement was unconstitutional and put Conyers back on the ballot.
A package of bills to set up a commission to review the state’s sentencing guidelines and tweak the state’s Community Corrections Act passed unanimously in the Senate. But separate bills that would have reformed parole and probation policies in the state faced fierce resistance from law enforcement and Attorney General Bill Schuette. Those two bills failed on mostly party-line votes.
The bills are headed to Gov. Rick Snyder to review and possibly sign into law.