The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by the Michigan state legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the past two weeks.
On the second and fourth Fridays of each month, The Michigan Daily will publish a compilation of bills being floated around in the Michigan state legislature for students at the University of Michigan to know about. This is the second installment in this series.
1. A 10-bill package reforming the Freedom Of Information Act
Status: Passed in the MI House, headed to MI Senate
This Freedom Of Information Act reform package aims to bolster public access to information by changing which government offices are subject to the law and the specific process through which requests are evaluated. FOIA laws allow the public to file requests for the disclosure of information and documents, though what is specifically available varies by situation.
Michigan’s government is infamous for its lack of transparency, ranking among the worst states in the country for state government accountability. Michigan received an “F” grade from the Center for Public Integrity — a nonprofit investigative journalism organization that focuses on abuse of power — in a 2015 state integrity investigation.
The package — specifically H.B. 4392 and H.B. 4386 — would make the offices of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and the state legislature subject to FOIA laws, whereas they have previously been exempt.
H.B. 4383 and H.B. 4384 would create the Legislative Open Records Act, further increasing public access to information from the state legislature. Newly established LORA coordinators would be granted the ability to receive and process requests.
H.B. 4391 and H.B. 4389 establish exceptions to these laws. Certain communications, including those between the Office of the Governor and the legislature, would remain exempt. Communication between constituents and lawmakers, unless the constituent is a registered lobbyist or state employee, or any documents regarding ongoing internal investigations would be exempt, as well.
H.B. 4385, H.B. 4387 and H.B. 4388 each address the associated fees and procedures regarding requesting and responding to FOIA records. They also create fees and denials of requests to the Legislative Council Administrator who helps oversee FOIA-associated fees and decisions.
Each bill passed unanimously, including with a yea vote from state Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor.
2. Legislation improving Michigan residents’ access to insulin
Status: Introduced in the MI Senate
In Michigan, one in every 10 adults has diabetes. It is estimated that more than 200,000 Michiganders require insulin to survive.
S.B. 155 allows pharmacists to supply insulin for up to a month to patients without health insurance and with no refills on file.
S.B. 156 covers similar emergency refills for patients with health insurance through their existing coverage.
3. Bill allowing bars to expand their hours
Status: Passed in MI House, headed to MI Senate
H.B. 4115 proposes an amendment to the Michigan Liquor Control Code permitting cities, villages or townships to adopt resolutions allowing businesses with liquor licenses to sell alcohol until 4 a.m.
Currently, businesses with on-premises liquor licenses can sell alcohol until 2 a.m.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, who said he hopes the law change would offset sales losses during the pandemic and help businesses that may be struggling.
Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, voted yea.
4. Bill allowing out-of-state physicians to provide telehealth services
Status: Introduced in the MI House
H.B. 4355 allows for Michigan residents to receive telehealth services from out-of-state physicians even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill expands on and makes permanent Whitmer’s June executive order supporting the use of telehealth services and temporarily allowing for out-of-state telehealth services to occur. Telehealth services have surged in popularity following the beginnings of the pandemic in the U.S.
The bill, if passed, would only apply to out-of-state medical services licensed and regulated in Michigan.
5. Bill allowing dogs to dine with owners in outdoor spaces
Status: Introduced in the House
Introduced by Rep. Pamala Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, H.B. 4514 aims to allow dogs, accompanied by their owners, to be allowed in outdoor dining areas.
The bill specifies the dog cannot be left unattended, must be on a leash and the owner must be 18 years or age or older. Dogs are also not allowed in areas where food is prepared or would result in a safety hazard.
The bill also outlines specific cleaning measures for restaurants. According to the bill, restaurants must keep outdoor dining areas free of dog hair and other dog-related debris. All materials used to clean surfaces with dog-related debris must be stored separately from other cleaning equipment. Furthermore, employees must wash their hands after interacting with dog substances before handling food, tableware or other restaurant items.
Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.