LANSING, MI – State lawmakers grapple with the state budget and public policy, but on issues like marijuana regulation, non-discrimination ordinances and road funding some local units are taking matters into their own hands.
In fact, municipalities are leading the state on many issues that the Legislature hasn’t been successful in resolving or has chosen not to tackle.
Here are a few key issues where municipalities have dared to tread:
Counties, Townships get a move on road funding
Policymakers in Lansing haven’t made movement on road funding since a potentially $1 billion dollar package stalled in the Senate this spring. But at the local level, five counties are asking residents to pony up new funding.
“There’s always been a need for locally raised revenue, but now they’re taking it into their own hands to try to fix the problems as much as they can because the roads have deteriorated to a point where state funding won’t get them back,” said Monica Ware of the County Road Association of Michigan (CRAM).
A handful of local road proposals up in August saw a 92 percent success rate, Ware said. This time around Eaton, Lapeer, Midland, Otsego and Ottawa counties are asking residents to approve millages for new road money in November.
Ware said there is a fear at the county level that the state won’t go far enough to get roads fixed.
“This is not the first year we’ve gone to the legislature looking for increased funding. We’ve been in a road funding campaign for nearly a decade and they need to do something to stop the bleeding,” Ware said.
Smaller units of government such as townships will be putting some road funding proposals before voters as well.
Marijuana ordinances up in 11 communities
Communities including Saginaw, Mt. Pleasant and Huntington Woods are considering ordinances that change how marijuana is regulated within their boundaries.
Chuck Lindsey, the Marijuana Policy Project’s legislative analyst for Michigan, said all the proposals would decriminalize the drug under certain circumstances, such as adults possessing a small amount of marijuana on private property.
“Cities have their own laws and this is an opportunity for voters in those communities to say what they think is the best way for their communities to handle this issue,” Lindsey said.
He said also that there’s a sense that changing the local approach is a good way to send a message to state lawmakers about what communities want when it comes to marijuana regulation.
Lindsey said in the past, Michigan voters in local cities have chosen to approve these types of marijuana ordinances every time they were presented with the option.
Locals recognize LGBT rights
There may not be any on the ballot this November, but cities across the state have taken action to stop discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in their communities.
Equality Michigan, an LGBT advocacy group, lists the cities with LGBT protections here.
On the state level the Michigan Competitive Workforce Coalition is looking for an amendment to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that would include LGBT people in groups that couldn’t be discriminated against for employment or housing purposes. However, a proponent’s primary defeat may have slowed efforts and Republican leadership is looking to tie it to a bill on religious freedom.
Emily Lawler is a Capital/Lansing business reporter for MLive. You can reach her at [email protected], subscribe to her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @emilyjanelawler.
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