What happens to bills the Michigan Legislature doesn't pass?

Bills may die, but the ideas often come back, sometimes with a few changes.

The Michigan Legislature typically introduces between 3,000 and 4,000 bills in each two-year session. Sessions begin in January of odd numbered years, following the November general election in even numbered years when new representatives are elected. All 110 Michigan representatives are up for election every two years, while the 38 senators have four-year terms. Senators are elected the same year as the governor and serve concurrent four-year terms. Michigan’s term limits law restricts representatives to three two-year terms, and senators to two four-year terms.

The 2015-2016 legislative session saw the introduction of more than 4,000 bills and resolutions. Resolutions often recognize the contributions of individuals or encourage the U.S. Congress to take certain actions, but do not have the force of law.

Of those nearly 4,000 bills introduced, 832 became Public Acts during the 2015-2016 session. This means they passed both houses, and were signed into law by the governor.

So, what about the other 3,000 or so bills that were introduced? Some never even received much attention in committee. Others passed committees and stalled on the floor of either the House or Senate. Still others were passed by one house, and never voted on or were rejected by the other house.

A few, like HB 4182, passed the House, passed the Senate with amendments and then the amended version was never passed by the House. This could have been due to political considerations, House members not liking the amended bill, or may have simply been victim of too many other bills which were deemed to be higher priorities.

HB 4182 of the 2015-2016 session was an amendment to the Michigan Open Meetings Act which dealt with requiring local elected officials to be present to vote, with a few specific exceptions. Many people feel that voting over the phone from a distant location exhibits a lack of true government transparency.

The idea expressed in HB 4182 did not go away. It was introduced in the new 2017-2018 legislature as HB 4184 by Rep. Lana Theis, a Republican whose district is in the Brighton area, and co-sponsored by Reps. Marino and Cox, both Republicans, and Rep. Moss, a Democrat.

HB 4184 is very similar to the old HB 4182 with two primary differences. It allows the local government body to vote to require all members to be present to vote with no exceptions, thereby being more open that the state law requires. The old bill applied only to those government officials that are elected, while the new bill clarifies that it also includes those that have been appointed to fill a vacancy in an elected position.

The new bill, HB 4184, has passed the House and been sent to the Senate Committee on Elections and Government Reform.

Since other Michigan State University Extension colleagues and I teach workshops on the Open Meetings Act, I’ll be watching to see what happens with HB 4184, and you’ll see another article about what is contained in the final version when, and if, it passes.

Michigan State University Extension provides, through the Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy, educational programs for local government officials and citizens regarding the Michigan Open Meetings Act and many other aspects of local government operations. Please contact us at the Center at 517-355-2160 or on the web at thrivelocal.msue.msu.edu for more information.

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