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State Senate passes more overnight legislation during marathon lame-duck session

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Members of the Michigan Senate were busy Thursday passing more bills during the legislature's lame-duck session. Here’s what you need to know.

New Line 5 authority board

The state Senate has approved the three members of the new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority.

This board was created to oversee the construction and use of a new section of Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipeline. Enbridge is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

The plan is for the pipeline to be housed in a tunnel and carry crude oil and natural gas liquids under the Straits.

Democratic Senator Steve Bieda voted against the appointments.

“I don’t think any of us had a hearing and know who these people were,” he said. “Certainly it is nothing against them in person, but I do think this body should have had some form of warning that this was coming up for a vote, and have an opportunity to look at these people.”

The bill creating the authority was signed earlier this week.

The Senate is acting quickly because otherwise incoming governor Gretchen Whitmer could get a chance to make the appointments.

The Senate also confirmed a new member to the Mackinac Bridge Authority.

Recreation Passport

The state Senate also passed legislation yesterday that supporters say could put millions of dollars toward Michigan state parks.

The bills would change the recreation passport fee to get into the parks.

Instead of the current ability to opt-in to the passport when renewing your car’s registration, you would automatically pay for the passport unless you opt-out.

Environmentalists are behind the move. Sean Hammond is with the Michigan Environmental Council.

“We like to think of it as that this gives Michiganders default access to our state parks unless they choose not to,” he says.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says in states with similar programs, more people choose to opt-in.

That means more money for the state’s parks and recreation areas.

Opponents say people might not think to opt out and they shouldn’t be charged for parks they don’t use.

Hazardous waste

Two bills that would make changes to rules about how Michigan disposes of radioactive waste passed in the state Senate Thursday night. They will now go to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

One bill modifies rules around how much of a type of low-level radioactive waste called Tenorm can be dumped at a landfill and what concentrations are allowed. Tenorm is a common byproduct of fracking for oil and natural gas.

Under the proposed changes, if a landfill wants to store waste with higher radioactivity, it could after filing a request and creating a monitoring program.

Landfills would be able to store up to ten times the concentration currently allowed under law.

The other bill would require the landfill operator to pay five dollars per ton of radioactive waste. That money would go into a pollution prevention fund.

More authority to pet stores

Animal welfare groups are concerned about measures that are headed to Governor Snyder.

Two bills would only let breeders and pet stores considered qualified by the state to sell animals.

Critics say these bills would allow stores to buy from large-scale breeders they consider puppy mills. And they would bar local governments from banning them.

The bills also include provisions that keep pet stores from buying dogs and cats younger than eight weeks old and those without a microchip.  

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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