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Top Michigan laws of 2015 led by road funding plan

Posted at 10:27 AM, Dec 27, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers have enacted nearly 270 new laws this year, and other bills are pending.

Outside of the budget work, legislators' attention was dominated by road-funding legislation, so the Legislature adjourned until 2016 without resolving the Republican's other priorities such as overhauling Detroit's school district, updating energy laws and changing parole policies.

At the last minute, majority Republicans sent Snyder bills to remove the straight-ticket voting option from ballots and prevent schools and municipalities from spending money to inform the public about local ballot issues within two months of an election. He is still considering those measures.

The top laws of 2015, so far:


Voters soundly defeated a proposed sales tax increase that would have triggered more spending to improve deteriorating transportation infrastructure, so Snyder signed the Republican-passed fuel tax and vehicle registration fee hikes that will begin in 2017. Future legislators will decide whether to stick with the plan's other major funding piece — permanently redirecting general funds to roads starting in 2018.


The $53.6 billion budget includes additional money for transportation, an initiative to get kids reading proficiently by the end of third grade and dental coverage for more low-income children. Economic development spending was cut, and a state juvenile justice facility was closed. The redemptions of lucrative business tax credits led to unexpected cuts in the middle of the 2015 fiscal year.


Private adoption agencies with $20 million in annual state contracts can decline to participate in referrals to families that go against their religious beliefs, a law criticized as government-sanctioned discrimination against gay couples. Supporters said the law, which codified an existing state practice before the U.S. Supreme Court declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional in June, ensures the viability of private agencies.


State incentives to encourage the filming of movies and TV shows are no longer allowed. The state had budgeted up to $50 million a year, which was criticized as unjustified and not creating full-time jobs. Defenders said the incentives had a positive economic impact and were needed to compete with other states.


With the Snyder administration facing scrutiny for elevated lead levels in children after the city of Flint switched to a cheaper, more corrosive water supply while under emergency management, the state committed $10.6 million to reconnect Flint to Detroit's water system and to buy filters, conduct testing and provide health services. The bill could rise.


Gun boards consisting of law enforcement officialsno longer exist to issue or deny concealed handgun licenses for nearly 500,000 people with concealed carry permits. County clerks have assumed the issuing responsibilities, and the state police conduct background checks. Gun control advocates warned that the law removes important safeguards, while gun rights groups said it eliminates licensing delays and arbitrary denials.


Municipalities are prohibited from requiring businesses to pay wages, benefits or provide sick days exceeding state or federal requirements. The law also prevents measures under which construction workers on municipal projects are paid more. Michigan's law mandating prevailing wages on state projects remains intact, though conservative groups are organizing a petition drive against it.


Certain school districts and charter schools are subject to special financial reporting requirements designed to catch fiscal problems before they end up under state oversight. Caps on loan funds for financially troubled districts and municipalities were raised.


The expansion of Nevada-based data center developer Switch into western Michigan was ensured through tax breaks that exempt data centers and their clients from sales and use taxes on equipment if the industry adds 1,000 jobs. Backers said Michigan must compete with other states for a booming sector, while opponents said the government should not play favorites with industries.


People under age 21 can call 911 to report a prescription drug overdose without having to worry about facing criminal charges. The "Good Samaritan" measure is similar to a law for minors helping someone in danger from alcohol intoxication.


Law enforcement will have to adhere to new reporting requirements and meet a higher standard of evidence for taking ownership of people's property. The laws address concerns about seizing assets from people who have not been convicted of crimes.


More criminals are eligible for a diversion program for younger offenders after the age limit was raised from 20 to 23. Judges can issue a sentence that does not result in a conviction or criminal record if the offender completes probation, jail or prison without incident after pleading guilty.