Senate to approve airport security bills


Published September 30, 2001

LANSING (AP) Just as President Bush and Gov. John Engler move to strengthen airport security, the Michigan Senate is poised this week to approve bills to make it harder to carry a weapon into airports.

"We have really circled the wagons here," said Sen. Philip Hoffman, the Horton Republican who sponsored the bills that would prohibit guns between an airport"s metal detector and the plane itself.

Hoffman said last week"s action by Bush and Engler doesn"t affect his legislation, which would prohibit guns, knives and other dangerous weapons from certain areas at airports.

"The bills are more pertinent now," Hoffman said. "They"re crucial to have a statutory structure in place to enforce the law."

The bills, approved by a Senate committee last week, would make it illegal to carry firearms, explosives, knives, razors or box cutters in an airport"s "sterile zone." Terrorists reportedly used knives and box cutters during the Sept. 11 hijackings of three airplanes.

Offenders would face a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of $1,000. A person who carried a dangerous weapon on a plane would face a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The bills exempt police, the armed forces, airport security officials and others licensed to carry weapons.

Other than opposition from the pro-gun organization Brass Roots, which wants fewer gun-free zones, there"s been wide support for the bills.

Also this week, the Senate is expected to make quick work of a bill that would make Michigan part of a coalition to levy state sales taxes on Internet and catalog sales. The bill narrowly passed the House last week, over opposition from a few Republicans who called it a new tax at a bad time for consumers.

Engler, an outspoken advocate of the national Streamlined Sales Tax Project, is expected to sign the bill.

The Michigan Department of Treasury expects to lose $240 million next year in unpaid taxes on Internet buys. That will grow by more than 10 percent a year if nothing is done, the department said.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up legislation that would repeal the Michigan Tuition Tax Credit.

The bill would give universities and community colleges the funding previously set aside for the tax credit. The credit is available to students attending a school that has kept its tuition and fee increases at or below the rate of inflation.

The bill easily passed the Senate on the first day of its return from a two-month summer recess. But a number of House members don"t want to repeal a tax credit because it"s used by hundreds of community college students.

The airport security legislation is Senate Bills 502, 505 the Internet tax bill is House bill 5080 the tuition tax credit bill is Senate Bill 371.