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Flint aid, Detroit schools bailout among top 10 laws of 2016

Posted at 12:44 PM, Dec 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-26 12:44:57-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — It was an expensive year for Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to address Flint's water emergency and to rescue Detroit's school district from massive debt.

About $287 million, the equivalent of nearly $3,000 for each resident of beleaguered Flint, was allocated toward addressing the man-made crisis in which drinking water was tainted with lead and people died from Legionnaires’ disease.

The state will spend $617 million over 8½ years as part of a bailout and restructuring of Detroit’s debt-ridden, state-managed public schools that will gradually be overseen again by local officials. Snyder said bankruptcy would have been the worst possible outcome for students.

Legislators also authorized higher speed limits and allowed the testing of self-driving cars on public roads without a driver or steering wheel. Other top laws include new medical marijuana regulations—imposing a new tax on dispensary shops and establishing a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana, while allowing non-smokable forms—and the authorization of higher speed limits on rural highways.

Anyone can report drug overdoses without fear of being prosecuted for illegal possession or use. The law, an expansion of the state's Good Samaritan Act, passed at a time that deaths from heroin and painkiller overdoses are on the rise, is a bid to encourage people to call 911 and get help rather than be afraid.

The Republican governor signed 340 laws through mid-December, with many more awaiting his signature after a final flurry of voting at the end of the two-year term.

He plans to sign new energy policies and legislation that would require school officials to consider certain factors before expelling or suspending a student — a softening of "zero-tolerance" policies.