Lame-duck Legislature unlikely to take up Flint water-inspired bills

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More than 30 pieces of legislation inspired by the Flint water crisis — including 20 based on recommendations made by a bipartisan task force set up by Gov. Rick Snyder — are unlikely to be passed before the Michigan Legislature’s lame-duck session comes to a close.

With just one day of session remaining on the Legislature’s schedule, none of the bills are included on tentative House or Senate agendas.

Rep. Phil Phelps (D-Flushing) urged his colleagues in the House to pass the bills in a statement.

“When we fought to pass the bipartisan commission’s recommendations two years ago, Republican leaders claimed we were out of time but promised we would get to these bills in the next term. But here we are, in yet another lame-duck session, and only one of these bills has been signed into law,” Phelps said. “If even one more life is lost that could have been saved with these proposals, it is a stain of failure on this body.”

But several of the bills also failed to clear a key hurdle last week: being passed by the chamber in which they originated with enough time to satisfy the Legislature’s five-day rule and be taken up by the opposite chamber.

Under the five-day rule, the chamber opposite that in which a bill was introduced cannot take up a piece of legislation until five days after its originating chamber voted to approve it.

Among the bills unlikely to reach Snyder’s desk are:

  • Senate Bill 154, which would restore the Water Resources Commission
  • House Bill 4201, which would give the newly-restored Water Resources Commission power to enforce the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act
  • House Bill 4124, which would mandate water testing for child care centers
  • House Bill 4120, which would require tests of public schools’ drinking water a minimum of once every three years
  • House Bill 4391, which would require all state agencies to establish water affordability criteria and give the Michigan Public Service Commission the power to regulate the cost of any water or sewer authority in the state
  • House Bill 6101, which would retroactively allow individuals to seek damages related to deaths or injuries caused by a water emergency
  • House Bill 6102, which would remove governmental immunity from state employees whose negligence resulted in a water emergency

Any bills not passed by the end of the month would have to be reintroduced by members of the 100th Legislature, who will take office in January — the same time at which Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer will be inaugurated. 

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement that while he is disappointed the Flint water-inspired legislation won’t make it to the governor this year, he remains optimistic about its prospects in the next Legislature and with a Democratic governor in office.

“Governor Snyder’s philosophy of governing to the bottom line instead of the needs of people led to the poisoning of an entire city. He and the Republican legislature had dozens of opportunities to make sure another water crisis never happened, but instead they chose to pass bills that take more rights away from more people,” Ananich said. “It’s a crime that this legislature has not acted on meaningful bills to safeguard our water, but I am looking to the future and I know that our next governor will have a people-first approach.”

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