By Kathleen Gray

Two of the most vexing problems facing the state, the Flint water crisis and the financially struggling Detroit Public Schools, were the subjects of bills introduced by lawmakers in Lansing last week.

Three bills regarding what constitutes a teacher strike and penalties for teachers and school districts where strikes occur -- teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan -- were introduced by Senate Republicans. The bills are in response to teacher sick-outs in Detroit that have resulted in the closure of dozens of schools over the past three weeks.

One bill would simplify the procedure and shorten the time it takes to declare a teacher strike is occurring. The other two bills would suspend the teaching certificates of teachers engaged in a strike, and another would deduct 5% of school aid payments to districts where school officials don't deduct the pay of striking teachers.

Another bill, introduced by Senate Democrats, would require that the Legislature and the Governor's office be subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which requires public disclosure of documents. The issue has been hot this year in light of the Flint water crisis because both the Legislature and governor's office are exempt from FOIA laws. Michigan is one of only two states with such an exemption. The Free Press and other organizations have called for an end to the exemptions.

House bills

HB 5221: Repeal section of a new law that prohibits local officials from communicating about ballot proposals in the 60 days before an election. Sponsor: Rep. Andy Schor, D-Lansing.

HB 5222: Maintain 31 judges in 36th District Court in Detroit. Sponsor: Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit.

HB 5223: Return the schools in the Education Achievement Authority (all in Detroit) to the control of the original school district. Sponsor: Rep. Brian Banks, D-Detroit.

HB 5224-5226: Create fund-raising license plates for prostate cancer awareness and provide checkoff options for state income taxes for the prostate cancer foundation fund. Sponsor: Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City.

HB 5227-5229: Revise disclosure procedures for nonpublic credit unions, banks and savings bank's financial information to third parties. Sponsors: Reps. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield; Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, and Jim Runestad, R-White Lake.

HB 5230: Prohibit indemnity agreements in snowplow and deicing services contracts. Sponsor: Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Gaines Township.

Senate bills

SB 712: Eliminate distance exemptions for specially designated resort liquor license distributors. Sponsor: Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion.

SB 713-715: Provide for changes in provisions concerning designating what is a strike by teachers, and require suspension of teaching certificate for teachers engaging in strikes and deduct 5% in school aid payments from schools who don't dock pay of striking teachers. Sponsors: Sens. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair; David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, and Joe Hune, R-Whitmore Lake.

SB 716: Require the legislative branch and governor's office to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Sponsor: Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit.

SB 717: Provide for alternative means to protect against exposure to environmental hazards from leaking underground storage tanks. Sponsor: Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

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