MSC to consider constitutionality of pension tax law?

Who wants to wait for a proper case to matriculate through the court system? Not Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Senate They want the Supreme Court to opine on the constitutionality of the pension tax, which exempts people born before 1946 [Saginaw News/Mlive]:

With no debate and a quick voice vote, the Senate this morning approved a resolution formally asking the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the tax bill it approved last month. Specifically: taxing public pensions, taxing retirement differently according to age and eliminating the personal deduction for those above a certain income.

Expecting lawsuits from public employee groups, particularly over whether taxing public pensions violates a Michigan Constitution provision barring the impairment of a pension benefit, Gov. Rick Snyder filed a similar request last week.

Eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and replacing the revenue with a host of income tax changes will cost certain pensioners born after 1945 some $340 million in new taxes. About a quarter of that is estimated to come from the pensions of public employees.

Of course, if the court does agree to hear the issue and strikes the new tax, one would find it highly unlikely that the Legislature could replace the tax before it is supposed to go into effect on January 1 of a major election year.

State const. amendment would bar felons from public office for 20 years

[I can’t think of a single instance where this would apply…]

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers are advancing a proposal that would bar politicians from holding public office for 20 years after certain felony convictions related to previous terms in office.

The state Senate passed a proposed amendment to the state constitution by a 35-0 vote Thursday. If approved by at least two-thirds of the members in the state House, the proposal would go on the November ballot for voters to decide.

The measure comes as former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is in prison for violating probation stemming from his conviction for lying under oath about an affair with his chief of staff.

But the bill’s backers say the measure is not designed to single out any one person and is instead aimed at setting standards for public officeholders at all levels.

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Sorry, you still can’t order ‘Pistols at dawn!’

In a blow for those who yearn for the long-fabled methods of settling a score or snagging a wife, The Associated Press reports:

[T]he Michigan Senate approved a bill that would eliminate classifying dueling as a crime in the state.

Other bills would get rid of crime classifications for prizefighting and taking a woman against her will and forcing her to marry.

Lawmakers say those laws aren’t needed anymore. Newer laws continue to make it a crime to kidnap, kill or hurt someone.

Somewhere, two obsessive fans of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were mentally polishing up their pistols after reading the lead on this story — then giving a dejected sigh as they made their way to the end of it. Same goes for those who, for years, hoped the Snidely Whiplash School of Matrimony could open its doors again.

Michigan Senate passes fix for homeless sex offender registry

In February, the Michigan Court of Appeals’ said homeless people couldn’t register under the Sex Offender Registry Act (see People v Dowdy, analysis here). The Michigan Senate has passed a bill to rectify the situation:

LANSING (AP) — Homeless sex offenders would be required to notify police when they change where they are staying under legislation approved by the Michigan Senate.

The legislation unanimously approved Thursday next goes to the House. It would establish registry reporting and notification requirements for homeless people who are convicted sex offenders. They would have to report their address as a homeless shelter or the nearest intersection where they regularly sleep.

The bills come in response to a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that a homeless sex offender shouldn’t be punished for not registering an address or giving his whereabouts to law enforcement. The court’s reasoning was that a homeless person doesn’t have what is considered a residence.

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Texting-while-driving ban passes Mich Senate

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The state Senate on Thursday passed a new, tougher version of legislation that would make it illegal to send text messages from cell phones while driving in Michigan.

The main bill in the package passed the Republican-led chamber by a 28-10 vote, with only Republicans in opposition. It now advances to the Democrat-led House, which isn’t expected to take up the new measure until returning from a scheduled two-week break that ends in mid-April.

The new Senate version would make texting while driving a primary offense starting July 1, meaning police could pull over and cite motorists just for texting. Fines would be $100 for a first offense and $200 for each offense after that.

Previous versions of the bill had made texting a secondary offense. That meant police would need some other reason to stop a vehicle.

Police have told lawmakers that making the violation a secondary offense would hinder their ability to cite motorists in time to prevent accidents. But some lawmakers doubt a tougher policy making texting a primary offense will pass the Legislature.

The texting ban has picked up momentum in Michigan recently because of publicity surrounding accidents caused by distracted driving. Police say a teenage driver killed in a January traffic accident in Ottawa County was exchanging text messages with his girlfriend, got distracted and crashed.

"People are becoming more aware about this issue," said Rep. Lee Gonzales, a Democrat from Flint and a supporter of a texting ban. "There’s a lot of attention placed on it."

The federal government has sought to crack down on distracted driving, urging states to adopt stringent laws against sending text messages from behind the wheel. More than half the states already have adopted measures that ban at least some drivers from texting. Several more are in the process of passing new laws addressing it.

Texting while driving is classified as a primary offense in at least 15 states.

According to the U.S. Transportation Department’s Web site, using a cell phone has the same affect on a driver’s reaction time as a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent.

Obviously, texting while driving is a problem and needs to be curbed. But I think making it a primary violation instead of a secondary violation is bad policy for two reasons:

  • 1) Unless a person is dumb enough to hold his phone high enough so that the police can see that he is texting, police are going to be pulling over people for the act of peeking down, which could be for any number of reasons. Let’s face it, when you get a ticket, the real burden of proof won’t be on the officer to prove you were texting, but rather on you to prove you weren’t.  At least with speeding tickets, you had to actually, you know, speed. It will essentially become another way for municipalities to raise money, and without any real proof of a violation.
  • 2) If police can pull people over for peeking down, I can see TWD becoming the new “broken taillight” for pretextual traffic stops, sometimes referred to as “driving while black.” 

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

State senators postpone vote on text ban

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The effort to ban the practice of texting while driving in Michigan might be hitting at least a temporary roadblock.

The Republican-led state Senate on Thursday postponed a scheduled vote on legislation that would have prohibited the use of cell phones to read or write texts or e-mails while driving. Republicans who run the chamber are still debating the legislation.

A key question is whether texting while driving would be considered a primary or secondary offense.

The Democrat-run House already has passed legislation that would make texting a secondary offense. That means police would need some other reason to pull motorists over before they could be cited for texting.

More than half the states have banned at least some drivers from texting while driving.

Marlinga will run for state Senate

Former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga has announced his candidacy for the Michigan Senate.

The 62-year-old Sterling Heights Democrat filed for office yesterday morning. Marlinga is seeking to fill the District 10 seat currently held by term-limited Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville.

Marlinga was Macomb County’s prosecutor for 20 years. He resigned shortly after an April 2004 federal indictment charged him with corruption. A jury acquitted him in September 2006 of accusations that he intervened in two criminal cases in exchange for campaign contributions for his unsuccessful 2002 congressional campaign.

In announcing his candidacy, Marlinga said he will create a Web site that will detail the facts about his acquittal.

What about his chances of striking political come-back gold? From The Detroit News

Joe Munem, a Macomb County political consultant who formerly worked in Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh’s administration, said Marlinga is a “good guy” with name recognition, but his work as a defense attorney and former allegations of corruption could hurt his chances.

“I’ve never seen a politician who was charged with a crime and acquitted who has ever come back and been able to win an election,” said Munem. “He might prove me wrong and be the exception to what really has been the rule.”

Marlinga has been in private practice for the last few years.