Michigan legislature considering bills on foster care, minimum wage, immunity for reporting drug overdoses

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By: Associated Press

(Source: https://goo.gl/sLm1Mf License: https://goo.gl/sZ7V7x)

 

Michigan lawmakers are considering several bills that could eventually make their way to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.

Here’s a look at five bills that were either recently approved or will likely be passed in the coming weeks.

KEEPING SIBLINGS TOGETHER IN FOSTER CARE

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Bills requiring child-placing agencies to make reasonable efforts to keep siblings together in the foster care and adoption systems have advanced in Michigan’s Legislature.

The Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to send the legislation to the House for its consideration. The bills say if siblings could not be placed together due to safety or other concerns, agencies should prioritize sibling visitation and interaction.

State agencies already place siblings together when feasible under provisions of federal court oversight of Michigan’s child welfare system. The legislation would codify requirements in state law and extend them to local agencies run by community mental health agencies, circuit courts and counties.

Another bill approved Tuesday would require frequent visitations between foster children and their biological parents unless a judge determines it would be harmful.

HEALTH INSURANCE TAX

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s 0.75 percent tax on health insurance would be continued until 2025 under legislation advancing in the Legislature.

The House voted 83-23 Tuesday to extend the health insurance claims assessment, which helps pay for Medicaid services for low-income residents. The tax will go away in two years if the bill is not enacted.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce calls the vote a “giant tax hike” to pay for “social welfare programs.” But Republican House Appropriations Chairman Al Pscholka says his bill sent to the Senate gives certainty to businesses and limits the yearly amount collected.

If the tax is not extended, Medicaid spending could be cut by roughly $1 billion annually starting in the 2017-18 budget year unless another source of funding is used, according to the House Fiscal Agency.

ELIMINATING DEADLINE FOR DNA TESTING

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislature is eliminating a deadline for people convicted of felonies to petition a judge for new DNA testing and a new trial.

Michigan in 2001 began allowing post-conviction requests for DNA testing, which has resulted in innocent inmates being set free. There was a deadline to file, which has been delayed several times.

Legislation approved unanimously by the House on Tuesday eliminates a Jan. 1, 2016 deadline and sets no new deadline. It has cleared both chambers and likely will be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday for his expected signature.

Supporters say the post-conviction DNA testing process does not burden the courts. The Cooley Innocence Project says it has screened more than 5,000 cases since 2001 but filed just 27 DNA testing petitions as of March.

LOWER MINIMUM WAGE FOR YOUNG WORKERS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate is poised to approve a bill that would lower the minimum wage that can be paid to 18- and 19-year-old workers.

The legislation up for a vote on Wednesday would also raise a smaller minimum wage that employers can pay teens in their first 90 days of training.

Supporters say fewer minors are looking for work before age 18 and letting employers pay older teens less would incentivize them to give inexperienced workers a job. Opponents say 18- and 19-year-olds are adults and preventing them from earning the regular minimum wage would hurt college students.

Michigan’s minimum wage is $8.15 an hour and will increase to $8.50 in January.

Current law sets the minimum wage for teens 17 and younger at 85 percent of the minimum wage.

IMMUNITY FOR REPORTING DRUG OVERDOSES

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — People under age 21 could avoid criminal charges when reporting a prescription drug overdose under a bill nearing final passage in Michigan’s Legislature.

The Senate on Wednesday is expected to approve the legislation, which previously advanced out of the House.

The bill exempts people age 20 and younger from prosecution for the illegal use of painkillers and other prescription drugs if a health emergency is reported to authorities.

Republican Rep. Al Pscholka introduced the legislation after a teen died when party goers reportedly didn’t get him help because they feared getting in trouble. Some feel the criminal immunity should apply to all ages along with emergencies stemming from heroin and cocaine use.

Michigan already has a “Good Samaritan” exemption for minors assisting someone in danger from alcohol intoxication.