- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The abbreviated lame duck session that occurs every two years in the state Capitol has produced some of Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers’ most significant laws.

After the 2012 election, they quickly made Michigan a “right-to-work” state that prohibits unions from collecting fees from non-members, as well as passed manufacturing tax cuts and a revised law allowing appointment of emergency managers for cities in financial peril.

In 2014, the GOP-controlled Legislature put a sales tax increase tied to additional road spending on the statewide ballot; it was defeated by voters but led to another tax plan that will soon take effect. Legislators also moved to ensure that Amazon and other online retailers collect sales taxes.

This year may not have the same intensity as the right-to-work clash, which drew thousands of protesters to Lansing. But lawmakers are pushing substantial bills that may or may not gain traction in the final three weeks of the two-year term, starting Tuesday. Here’s a look at some of the initiatives, which - if not enacted - can be revived in January:

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ENERGY REWRITE

A priority is updating 2008 energy laws that govern competition in the power industry, require minimum amounts of renewable sources of electricity and set energy-efficiency targets. Big utilities are pushing for changes as coal-fired plants are retired; a nonprofit tied to DTE Energy and Consumers Energy spent $7.4 million in 2015, mostly on ads advocating for legislative action.

Smaller electric providers have 10 percent of the market but warn that Senate-approved provisions would “kill” choice and hike already high electricity prices. Environmental groups say the legislation doesn’t do enough to expand the use of cleaner energy.

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MUNICIPAL RETIREEES

No legislation has been introduced, but Snyder wants to address unfunded liabilities in municipalities that provide health care to their retired workers, perhaps stipends to buy their own insurance, similar to what happened with Detroit retirees when the city filed for bankruptcy protection. Private talks have been underway for “some time,” he said, and the House has signaled an interest. But it’s not an immediate priority for the Senate.

“We’re really waiting to see how the Legislature would like to handle it, given it’s their schedule,” Snyder said.

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TEACHER BENEFITS

Republican legislators want to switch newly hired school employees into 401(k) accounts instead of the combination of a traditional pension and a 401(k) that’s been around since 2010. Snyder said he is open to new ideas, but noted the hybrid system - which is seeing employees shoulder more of the pension burden - has “been working and I don’t have any intention to really talk about changing it at this point.” Speaker-elect Tom Leonard, who will lead the House for the 2017-18 term, says it’s one of his three top priorities.

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SPEED LIMITS

Under bills pending in the Senate, Michigan would raise the 70 mph speed limit to 75 on at least 600 miles of interstates if engineering and safety studies show faster speeds - likely in rural areas - are OK. The 55 mph limit could go to 65 on at least 900 miles of state highways.

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CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Various measures regarding the $2 billion-a-year prison system have cleared either chamber, but their fates are uncertain. Among the proposals are ones that would give the parole board less leeway to keep inmates locked up past their earliest release date, raise the age for adult offenders from 17 to 18 and try to reduce recidivism. Advocates hope legislators don’t forget a proposal to pay exonerated inmates $50,000 for each year of their wrongful incarceration.

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Senate could vote soon on legislation pushed by Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert and others to allow developers to keep new sales and income tax money generated from redeveloping contaminated “brownfield” sites. Snyder, who generally is opposed to targeted tax incentives, appears open to what backers say is needed for large-scale “transformational” projects.

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert

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