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The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by the Michigan legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer throughout the past month.

Each month, The Michigan Daily publishes a compilation of bills in the Michigan legislature for students at the University of Michigan to be aware of.

1. Requiring certain hospitals to provide opioid use disorder treatment 

Status: Passed by both chambers

Senate Bill 0579, first introduced by state Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, at the end of June would require hospitals treating 50 or more emergency patients per year for opioid overdoses to implement a medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. MAT programs include the use of medication along with other therapies to treat substance abuse. Opioid deaths in Michigan have increased ten-fold since 2000, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). 

The act would also leave it to the discretion of MDHHS to select additional hospitals caring for fewer than 50 patients who experienced overdoses to implement a MAT program. Under this act, hospitals can receive grant funding from MDHHS to implement these programs, but receiving this funding is conditional on the hospitals adhering to the treatment and personnel guidelines set by the legislation.

In a press release from MDHHS, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II explained the urgency of increasing access to opioid use disorder treatment. 

“This epidemic touches every area of our state, and we are losing nearly five Michiganders every single day to opioid overdoses,” Gilchrist said. “This legislation will help bring us closer to ending this epidemic by expanding access to treatment and to life-saving medications, which can increase their chances of a successful recovery and prevent additional tragedies among our families.” 

In the same press release, VanderWall said this bill package will have tangible benefits for health outcomes in the state. 

“Thousands of Michigan families in nearly every community in our state have seen the devastating effects of opioid addiction and abuse,” VanderWall said. “It’s a national and statewide fight that needs a comprehensive effort to win. This reform will ensure that our state and our health care providers are doing everything possible to save lives and also connect patients to effective treatment.”

After being passed by the House, the bill was returned to the Senate for further review. 

2. Allowing community organizations to distribute Naloxone

Status: Signed by Whitmer

House Bill 5166, introduced by state Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco, would expand access to naloxone and other similar drugs by allowing non-profits and other social service providers to distribute the medications to their communities. Naloxone is a life-saving emergency medicine that is primarily used in the event of an overdose. According to a University of Michigan study, only 54% of Michigan pharmacies provide naloxone unprescribed, even though Michigan has a standing order requiring all licensed pharmacies to do so. 

The bill was a policy recommendation made by the Opioids Task Force, an advisory body within MDHHS created by Whitmer in 2019. The role of the task force is to identify and address the root causes of the opioid crisis, implementing MAT and harm-reduction programs and addressing the needs of vulnerable populations, such as pregnant people. 

In a press release from Whitmer’s office, Whiteford said this bill is uniquely important in addressing opioid overdoses because while it is possible to reverse the effects of an opiate overdose, few people have access to the medication to do so. 

Overdosing from opiates is different from all other addictions in that it leads to immediate death,” Whiteford said. “H.B. 5166 allows our local community organizations to provide this life-saving medication and is crucial to giving people with opiate addiction a second chance at recovery.”

Whitmer signed the bill into law on July 21. 

3. Permitting alcohol sales in Michigan college stadiums 

Status: Introduced in the House 

Introduced by state Rep. Graham Filler, R-Clinton, and state Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, H.B. 6289 and S.B. 1125, respectively, would permit the sale of alcohol at college stadiums in the state. 

According to a press release from Michigan House Republicans, eight of 14 schools in the Big 10 Conference sell alcohol in their stadiums. Presently, the University of Michigan does not allow alcohol to be sold in the Big House. State Rep. Graham Filler, R-Clinton, said this policy would not only align Michigan colleges with these institutions but would also benefit the safety and well-being of the campus community. 

“This is a fairness and freedom issue that will allow for a modern, more enjoyable college game-day experience – but it’s also a public health and safety issue,” Filler said. “Data from universities in other states clearly shows that the number of alcohol-related incidents inside stadiums declines when alcohol sales are allowed. Instead of binge drinking in the parking lot or sneaking alcohol into the stadium, fans can simply purchase a beer in the concourse.”

According to the press release, campus police at Ohio State University reported a 65% decrease in alcohol-related incidents in stadiums after the school implemented a similar policy in 2016. 

After being introduced, the bills were referred to the House and Senate Regulatory Review committees on June 30. 

4. Creation of the Maritime and Port Assistance Grant Program

Status: Signed by Whitmer 

S.B. 0744 and H.B. 5291, introduced by state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and state Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, respectively, create a grant program for Michigan ports and other maritime facilities. The funding will be administered through the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office within the Michigan Department of Transportation.

In a press release from Whitmer’s office, Chang said this act is an important step in bolstering Michigan’s maritime economy and improving state infrastructure. 

“Our bipartisan bills present a historic opportunity for Michigan to become more competitive with other states by investing in the maritime industry,” Chang said. “I serve much of the Detroit Riverfront and know that Michigan’s location near the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway System is a competitive advantage we need to take care of. These bills signed into law by Governor (Whitmer) will provide maritime improvement grants to allow ports to make necessary infrastructure upgrades, while also incentivizing port terminals to protect local communities, our water and our air.”

Whitmer signed the bill into law on July 19.

5. Requiring a racial impact statement when introducing new legislation 

Status: Introduced in the House

First introduced by state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield, H.B. 6340 would require anyone introducing new legislation to provide a statement on whether this legislation will have a “disproportionate or unique impact” on a certain racial or ethnic group. According to the bill, the Senate and House fiscal agencies would be responsible for performing this analysis. 

In May of this year, four Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation that would require racial and ethnic impact analysis for any proposed legislation relating specifically to criminal procedures. 

In a May press release from Michigan House Democrats, state Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, said the requirement in the earlier legislation is analogous to the fiscal analysis performed for every bill. 

“As we all know, our House and Senate Fiscal Agencies prepare a fiscal analysis of every bill that receives a committee hearing,” LaGrand said. “We can use a similar mechanism to prepare an analysis of bills that implicate our criminal laws to summarize the expected impact of proposed bills viewed through a racial impact and an income impact lens. As we work to build and maintain a state with equal treatment in our justice system, this tool will be invaluable to helping us make good policy.”

Brabec’s proposal expands this requirement into any legislation involving “criminal justice, economic stability, education, employment, healthcare, housing or transportation.” Since its first reading in the House, the bill has been referred to the House Committee on Appropriations. 

Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu.