Relatively few new laws approved for Mich. in 2009

AP News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2009 1:09 PM

A flurry of legislation passed just before adjourning for 2009 saved the Michigan Legislature from its lowest total of new laws enacted in any year this decade.

Michigan likely will wind up with roughly 240 new public acts from 2009, higher only than the 221 recorded in 2007 for this decade.

The 2009 total includes more than 50 measures passed in mid-December. Some of those bills aren't yet officially enrolled and won't be eligible for signing by Gov. Jennifer Granholm until January.

While vetoes are possible, Granholm is likely to sign most of the measures.

Lawmakers didn't pass some of their most significant measures of the year until December.

A smoking ban for most Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, has already been signed into law by Granholm and takes effect May 1.

The Democratic governor also is expected to sign several education reform bills passed in an effort to win up to $400 million in money for schools through the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition. The legislation will allow for the academic takeover of poor-performing schools, ease restrictions on charter school expansion and raise Michigan's dropout age from 16 to 18 years.

Michigan's two-year legislative cycles begin in odd-numbered years, and the first year is typically taken up with introducing and debating bills. A much higher number of bills can therefore be expected to be passed in 2010.

Nevertheless, the relatively low volume of new laws this year could provide ammunition for those who say Michigan doesn't need a full-time Legislature.

"There's no doubt we could get everything done in three months, and be available to be called back if there are any emergencies," said Rep. Tom McMillin, a Republican from Rochester Hills and one of the lawmakers who has introduced proposals that would make the Legislature part-time.

McMillin is among those, however, who say the number of bills passed isn't necessarily an accurate measure of how busy lawmakers have been or how good a job they have done.

Leaders in the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led House each sometimes wish the other chamber would leave some issues alone. And mandated bills related to the state's sagging budget have become increasingly difficult to pass in recent years because of fights over where to cut spending or whether to raise taxes. Those debates suck a lot of time and attention away from legislation not connected to the state's budget problems.

Lawmakers this year also tackled several bills aimed at diversifying Michigan's struggling economy, creating new tax credits for companies dealing in advanced battery technology and alternative energy.

"The first thing you have to look at is the complexity of the legislation," said Sen. Jason Allen, a Republican from Traverse City. "Some of those issues took a lot of discussion."