LANSING, MI – Dozens of new Michigan laws go into effect over the next several days, ranging from right-to-work provisions to a ban on cellphones for teen drivers to medical marijuana changes.
Most of the laws were signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year, but were not granted immediate effect by the Legislature or were otherwise timed to begin to take effect early in the spring.
Here’s a quick look at some of the upcoming changes. It’s not a complete list, but it notes some of the more significant or interesting changes:
Laws that begin to take effect Thursday
Right-to-work: The measures signed late last year are among the most controversial of Snyder’s tenure as governor. Unions and Democrats began efforts to try and overturn the law well before it took effect. Some Republican lawmakers want to dock a portion of state aid from some universities, schools and municipalities that adopted long-term union contracts in the few months between the law’s passage and effective date.
Cell phones and teen drivers: Kelsey’s Law will ban cellphone use by new drivers. It’s named in memory of Kelsey Raffaele, a teen who died when she crashed her car while talking on her cell phone. The law makes it a civil infraction for new drivers on their probationary licenses to talk on a phone behind the wheel. Some worry there could be enforcement issues related to the new law.
Emergency managers: The newest version of Michigan’s laws related to emergency managers for financially troubled schools and cities were signed late last year by Snyder. Like its predecessor, the new law allows the state to intervene in financially struggling municipalities and school districts. But unlike Public Act 4 of 2011, the new law allows local officials to choose between four different forms of intervention: A consent agreement, chapter 9 bankruptcy, mediation or emergency manager.
Cyber schools: The law aimed at providing students with more opportunities to attend “cyber” or online charter schools officially takes effect Thursday, but the expansion won’t begin to roll out until the next academic year begins in the fall. It ties into one of Snyder’s education themes – to make learning available “any time, any place, any way and any pace.” At the time of the bill’s approval, Michigan had two virtual charter schools with enrollment capped at 1,000 for each. The new law includes a gradual lifting of the cap, allowing up to five schools by 2014, 10 by 2015 and 15 schools afterward.
Credit scoring: These new laws prohibit an insurer from using credit information or an insurance score as part of a decision to deny, cancel, or not renew a personal insurance policy. The laws allow an insurer to use credit information or a credit-based insurance score to determine premium installment payment options, according to the House and Senate fiscal agencies.
Flags in schools: The law requires that every public school classroom have a United States flag. It’s a companion to a law that requires an opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance be offered each school day.
Concussions: Laws that begin to take effect this week will require all youth sports coaches, employees and volunteers in Michigan to participate in a concussion awareness program and to give educational materials to the athletes. Coaches also have to remove any youth athlete suspected of having a concussion. They could not return to competition without written clearance from a health care professional.
Prescription medication: The law is aimed at making it easier to allow voluntary collection and redistribution of prescription medication. The measures allow medical facilities to donate unused drugs for distribution to needy patients.
Personal property tax: The legislation would phase out tax collections on industrial machinery and some other business equipment, which supporters say will make Michigan a more attractive place in which to do business. A statewide vote on the tax plan will be held in August 2014 because lost business tax revenue is to be replaced in part with a portion of the state’s 6 percent “use” tax on out-of-state purchases. If the vote fails, the entire tax cut plan will be halted.
Suspect interrogations: A new law requires police agencies to make video and audio recordings of statements of those arrested for major crimes. Many law enforcement agencies in the state already follow this practice.
Baldwin prison: A law that formally takes effect Thursday allows the former Baldwin youth prison in Lake County to house adult offenders. The bill allows the prison system to accept bids to potentially privatize operations and services as long as the contract results in an annual savings of at least 10 percent to the state.
Laws that take effect March 31
Organized retail crime: The new laws are aimed at cracking down on retail fraud. Some of the measures make it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison if a person is found guilty of knowingly committing organized retail crime. That includes the theft of retail merchandise with the intent of reselling it, including through the mail or on the Internet.
Abortion: A broad bill signed by Snyder late last year begins to phase in. The law will add regulatory requirements for some facilities that perform abortions. It also adds some screening requirements aimed at making sure women aren’t forced into having abortions. The law also deals with provisions for disposing of fetal remains and prohibits the use of “telemedicine” related to abortion.
Laws that take effect April 1
Medical marijuana: Changes are coming in relation to the voter-approved law from 2008 that allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes. One measure tightens the definition of what will now be considered a “bona fide” physician-patient relationship in cases where medical marijuana is prescribed. There will be changes related to the issuing of medical marijuana registry identification cards, and penalties for patients and caregivers who sell marijuana to people not legally allowed to have medical marijuana.
Driver responsibility fees. A new law related to the fees technically took effect last summer, but it has a change that kicks in April 1. It relates to when a license is suspended due to non-payment of fees. Under current law the Secretary of State may reinstate a person’s license under these provisions only once. But starting April 1, the Secretary of State may reinstate a license up to three times. In effect, it gives people up to three opportunities to keep the payment plan on schedule instead of the current one.