Michigan Advance

By Laina G. Stebbins
October 29, 2019

Here’s this week’s Michigan Advance roundup of noteworthy recent legislation that has mostly gone under the radar.

Wrongful imprisonment claims

Bipartisan legislation to resolve conflicting timelines for filing wrongful imprisonment claims was introduced earlier this month by state Reps. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield) and Julie Calley (R-Portland). House Bills 5117 and 5118 are reintroductions of Senate Bills 895 and 896 of the 2017-18 legislative session.

HB 5117, sponsored by Bolden, would make the current 6-month filing deadline with the Court of Claims no longer applicable to claims under the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA). The amendments would be applied retroactively to March 29, 2017 – the date that WICA first took effect.

“My colleagues and I believe that after a wrongful conviction, those who are exonerated have a right to be compensated for the harm done to them. I’m proud there was bipartisan agreement on the need to fix a simple error that has a major impact,” Bolden said in a statement.

With HB 5118, sponsored by Calley, the filing deadline for individuals exonerated before WICA became law would be extended to another 18 months. In other words, those exonerated before March 29, 2017, would have an additional 18 months to file a claim for compensation.

Calley’s bill would not change the current three-year window that newly exonerated individuals have to take action for compensation.

Both bills were referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Oct. 16.

Taxing for mosquito spraying

House Bills 5024 and 5025, introduced last month by state Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton), would authorize townships to levy a tax to finance mosquito spraying.

HB 5024 would allow townships to impose a tax of up to 1 mill on all taxable property in the township, for up to six years, for the purpose of mosquito abatement. HB 5025 would authorize townships to establish a special assessment district for mosquito abatement and authorize the appropriation and expenditure of money for mosquito abatement.

Essentially, a township would be allowed to come up with a procedure to finance mosquito spraying done by private contractors.

A proposal for the tax would need to be adopted through a resolution by the township board, then voted on and passed as a ballot proposal before going into effect.

Sneller’s bills were referred to the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance on Sept. 25.

Better job accommodations for disabilities

Just in time for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, bipartisan legislation was introduced last week that would provide greater job opportunities to Michiganders with disabilities.

State Reps. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) and Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.) are sponsors of House Bills 5150 and 5151, respectively. Hoadley and Marino hope that by allowing employers to request state funding for the purpose of supporting new employees with disabilities, their legislation will break down barriers for differently abled people seeking employment opportunities.

HB 5150, sponsored by Hoadley, would establish the “Centralized Reasonable Accommodations Act.” Through this grant program, an employer would be able to request funding from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in order to provide “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities. LARA would be empowered to manage these employer requests and decide whether to provide the funding within 30 days of receiving them.

In order to be eligible to receive funding, the employer would have to agree under penalty of perjury that the funding would be used solely for its intended purpose. Employers would also not be permitted to disclose confidential information about their employees in their requests.

Marino’s bill, HB 5151, would secure state funding for the program through the state Workmen’s Compensation Second Injury Fund. Employers would be able to apply for up to $1,000 per employee, per calendar year.

In a statement, Hoadley said the idea for the legislation was proposed by advocacy interns at Disability Network Southwest Michigan. Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services also supports the package.

Both bills have about two dozen bipartisan co-sponsors. They have been referred to the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism since being introduced on Thursday.