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Roads, pot, civil rights on agenda as state lawmakers return from summer break

The state Legislature returns Tuesday after a two month summer break.

Republican leaders still have some big priorities to accomplish before the end of the year. None is bigger than finding a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads.

But it looks like that and other major bills will have to wait until the Legislature’s “lame duck” session in December. Top lawmakers say they do not expect many major votes between now and the November election.

“We’re going to have a lot of action happening. I think it’ll be more at the committee level over the next few weeks. But that is very important so when we get back again we can continue to push forward,” said Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

“We’re still going to be looking at seeing what we can do to get some more funding towards roads, as well as anything we can do to help with jobs and the economy, whether that’s addressing overregulation or seeing what we can do to help keep Michigan more competitive.”

Adler says the House could approve some smaller bills related to road funding. But votes on a long-term transportation funding plan are not likely before the November election.

State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, is expected to introduce a bill that would add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen civil rights law.

Adler says it is not right that someone can be fired or denied housing in Michigan for being gay. But he says the legislation is not a done deal.

“The speaker is not prepared to commit to a vote on anything until he can see the full package of addressing any changes in Elliott-Larsen that also would protect people’s religious freedoms, not just personal liberties,” he said.

Arguably the most likely high-profile legislation to see movement in the next few weeks is a set of bills to ease restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan. They would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan and make it legal for patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of cannabis.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said earlier this summer he plans to hold votes on the bills in September. A spokesperson for Richardville confirmed on Monday he plans to stick to that schedule.