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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of November 19, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

The Legislature is on recess this week, but meetings and decisions are still being made.  Supporters of enabling more refugees from Syria in Michigan sharply criticized Governor Rick Snyder's decision to suspend state efforts on that front in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Lebanon, while several Republicans praised the move, saying bringing the refugees was a horrible idea from the beginning.

Governor Snyder has made a big point during his nearly five years in office of labeling himself the most pro-immigrant governor in the country.  And in the wake of the Syrian civil war, now raging for four years, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country as refugees, some 200,000 to Europe and another 4 million in other Middle Wast countries, according to the United Nations.

The Governor's administration had been working with Lutheran Social Services of Michigan to intensify the state's efforts to place Syrian refugees, but those will now be put on hold. Snyder said he is asking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to review its procedure on vetting refugees to enter the country to determine whether strengthening is needed. 

Next month the House Appropriations Committee will take up bills that would allow prisoners deemed medically frail a chance at parole, stated House Appropriations Committee Chair Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville.  Pscholka ad two other legislators ar the primary sponsors of the four bill package, which they say is a way to reduce state costs while not increasing public safety risk.

One bill allows the Parole Board to grant parole for prisoners determined to be medically frail if the prisoners agree to be placed in an appropriate medical facility.  One bill allows for medical parole ad would allow victims to address the Parole Board on such instances of when parole is being considered. The finally bill makes it a misdemeanor crime for someone to help a medically frail parole leave a facility where the parole had agreed to be placed.  The plan is to address the package before the end of this year.

Progress Michigan announced this week it would launch a new website as part of a broader "Sunshine Squad" campaign seeking to make the Legislature more accountable on the heels of a report that indicated Michigan ranked last nationally when it comes to ethics and transparency laws. The website features every member of the Legislature, not including the seats yet to be filled by special elections, broken down by committee assignment and House and Senate district.  Each legislators' specific page currently features committee assignments and searchable financial contributions so residents can find where their legislator's financial support is coming from, the group said in a statement.

"Our elected officials in the legislature have gotten away with shielding themselves from public scrutiny for too long.This campaign will shine some light on their action and who is putting money into their campaign coffers."  Executive Director Lonnie Scott said.  The Sunshine Squad is intended to promote transparency, increase public disclosures and to hold our lawmakers accountable.

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