House Votes To Send Distracted Driving Bills To Governor’s Desk
The House voted to concur with the Senate amendments to HB 4250 , HB 4251 and HB 4252 . The changes mean the law will be enacted June 30, rather than at the end of May, as the House originally intended. The Senate voted on the legislation Wednesday.
HB 4250, sponsored by Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), which creates penalties for operating a vehicle while sending or receiving a message on an electronic device, passed 71-36. HB 4251, sponsored by Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), provides sentencing guidelines and passed 69-38. HB 4252, sponsored by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), requires a record or report of violations of the new law to be sent to the secretary of state and passed 70-37.
Each of the bills passed the House concurrence vote with more support than they did originally.
"The House took an immense step toward making our roads and highways safer for all Michiganders, and I am elated that this bill passed with bipartisan support from my colleagues," Mr. Koleszar said in a statement issued following the bill’s passage. "The passed legislation was necessary, as distracted driving accounts for about 25 percent of all fatal crashes in Michigan. That isn’t just a statistic, but it represents real lives lost. Something needs to be done to protect Michiganders while they are driving on the roads, and this bill does just that."
Governor Gretchen Whitmer signaled she will sign the legislation.
"Distracted driving kills. The bills passed today will update our laws to reduce crashes and save lives," Ms. Whitmer said. "I first called for this commonsense legislation in my first State of the State address in 2019. The bills would only allow hands-free calls and texting and increase penalties for drivers who text or post on social media while behind the wheel."
In 2021, there were 16,543 crashes in Michigan that involved a distracted driver, according to the most recent state data. Those crashes led to thousands of injuries, and 59 resulted in a fatality. In Michigan, fatal distracted driving-related crashes where the driver was using a cell phone increased 88 percent between 2016 and 2020. Messaging or using social media while driving has become especially problematic among younger drivers, as they accounted for 18.1 percent of distracted driving crashes, but account for only 6.7 percent of drivers.
"As we enter another record-breaking construction season, we need everyone to keep their eyes on the road so they can protect themselves, other drivers, and the hardworking men and women fixing our damn roads," Ms. Whitmer said. "Let’s get this done so we can make our streets safer for every Michigander and ensure law enforcement have the tools they need to protect motorists."
New Payday Lending Study Taken Up By Panel
The DIFS director would be required to submit the report by March 31 for each of the next seven years, including the number of licenses, customers, transactions and persons engaged in the business of providing payday loans for the previous year, statewide statistics about transaction amounts, the loan drawers’ usage of repayment plans and statistics reported by county or zip code concerning provider locations.
Michigan was the last state to legalize payday lending with the passage of Public Act 224 in 2005, which required a one-time reporting requirement in 2007 with no comprehensive information reported since, said Jessica AcMoody, policy director at Community Economic Development Association of Michigan, at the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee.
Accurate information is missing due to the one-time reporting requirement that would be necessary to know the “true scope of harm perpetuated against Michigan’s communities,” AcMoody said.
The information required to be reported by HB 4343 is already being collected in a statewide database, but AcMoody said it’s not being aggregated and put into a report on DIFS’ website.
Anecdotal evidence is missing accurate data to “track the exact extent to which this industry is harming its own customers,” AcMoody said.
Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), chair of the committee, said her district is one of those that is “riddled with payday lenders” and the impact of not being able to pay back loans with triple-digit interest rates has been devastating, particularly near communities of color.
The problem disproportionately impacts communities of color, especially where people might have a bank account but rely on alternative financial services such as payday lenders, said Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit).
“They’ll always tell you, for the people, ‘it’s their choice’, but do they actually understand that 300% interest rate?” Young said.
Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park) said payday lenders tend to open up near military bases, but AcMoody said the federal Military Lending Act prohibits lending over 36% APR to active-duty military members.
“That just blows my mind. That’s crazy,” McFall said.
Conlin said she had been in touch with the attorney general’s office to see that the information reported as a requirement of the bill would enhance her efforts by providing a better indication of how many people are affected by the industry.
The reporting requirements add no cost to DIFS, said Ross Yednock from the department that supports the bill.
Supporters of the bill not wishing to speak included Todd Tennis, representing the Center for Civil Justice; Ruth Johnson, representing Community Development Advocates of Detroit; Robert Grieser, representing the Regulated Lenders Association of Michigan; Rebecca O’Connell, representing Lake Trust Credit Union; Rachel Richards, representing the Michigan League for Public Policy; Lorray Brown, representing the Michigan Poverty Law Program; Haleigh Krombeen, representing the Michigan Credit Union League and Alex Morris, representing the Michigan Bankers Association.
Deer Hunting Opening Day, Big Buck Brouhaha Stirs Up
Also on the table is dropping a controversial bait ban in an Upper Peninsula disease zone and a polarizing restriction on the number of antler points on a buck in the name of maintaining a sustainable deer population.
“There is really no gray area with antler point restrictions. There are people who want them applied and there are people who don’t want their license dictated by a group or someone else’s values,” said Chad Stewart, a deer specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Wildlife Division.
To emphasize the point, many deer hunters attended this week’s commission meeting and expressed approval or disapproval of the antler point restrictions. Neither side held a numerical advantage.
An Antler Point Restriction research project presented to the NRC concluded that the antler point restrictions had no conclusive impact on population numbers. The research earned the scorn of several groups wishing to put those restrictions in place.
Commissioner John Walters added several amendments to the recommendations, including changing the traditional opening day of firearm deer season on Nov. 15 to the third Saturday in November. The only hunt that wouldn’t start on a Saturday would be the Upper Peninsula muzzleloading season.
The change to Opening Day was brought up during the NRC meeting in April, and the DNR said they would not recommend any changes to opening day because there is massive support for people maintaining that tradition.
Walters said bow season would start the first Saturday in October. The special hunts, like the Liberty hunt and Independence Hunt, would start the first Saturday in September. Muzzleloader season in the U.P. would start the Monday after firearm season, and in the Lower Peninsula the second Saturday in December.
Commissioner Carol Rose reminded Walters that DNR wildlife experts told the commission that if there was any recommendation for changing the season it would be to run for three complete weekends after opening day on Nov. 15.
Walters said starting a season on Saturday would give new hunters a better chance to participate. The idea is that this would bring down a growing population of deer.
Stewart said he would need to look at the amendments Walters introduced, and there would be a discussion of the amendments during the June meeting in Roscommon.
“I think what it ultimately amounts to is that there is a strong desire for change and improvement in the management of our deer herd. I think everybody recognizes that things are trending in a certain direction,” Stewart said.
That direction is unsustainable, he continued. The number of deer is increasing, and the number of hunters is decreasing.
He said everyone needed to be involved in the discussion, and out-of-the-box thinking would be needed to solve the problem.
“Not only how can we make a change, but how can we make a change that is impactful?” Stewart said.
Along with the antler point restrictions, dropping the bait ban in the U.P. and changes to opening days, there were other recommendations from Stewart and Walters.
Stewart recommended dropping the chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance area in the Menominee and Iron Mountain areas of the U.P., because there had been no disease detected. This would also remove the bait ban for the entire U.P. hunting area, which was put into place in 2018 because of CWD.
Since 2018, there have been no detections in the area.
Stewart recommended restricting the number of antler-point buckshot in the CWD surveillance zone in the lower peninsula, to help the harvesting of more doe in the area.
The U.P. would also be allowed to use crossbows later in archery season, which has been a prohibition since they became legal in 2009.
Walter added amendments that would make all special hunts, including the Liberty and Independence Hunt, doe-only seasons.
An antler point restriction of four points on one side would be extended to all Lower Peninsula where there was no CWD or tuberculosis.
He also proposed changes to licenses, with a single license being able to kill a doe or buck, but a combo license being able to harvest one buck and one doe, or two doe, but not two bucks.
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In the spirit of promoting Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Senator Mat Dunaskiss and Jake German were happy to host US Congresswoman Lisa McClain and her District Director Eva Vrana on a Q&A Tour of Oakland County’s own Common Ground Resource & Crisis Center. Rep. McClain and Common Ground CEO, Heather Rae, had a great discussion. Congresswoman McClain is a Co-Chair of the bipartisan Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder Task Force.
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