Lame Duck Legislature Slowed by COVID-19

The coronavirus has stymied much of the lame duck legislation that Republican leaders might have hoped to pass before a new state Legislature is seated in January, as positive tests for COVID-19 among lawmakers and staffers forced the state House to cancel several planned meetings.

The cancellation of session days in the House last week effectively prevents some proposed legislation from moving forward because of required “layover” days between when a bill passes one chamber and can be taken up by the other.

One piece of legislation that MEA opposes is moving this week: Senate Bill 657, sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton). The bill to allow for an alternative teaching certification process for special education has already passed through the Senate and was in the House Ways and Means Committee this morning.

This week was expected to be the last week of the lame duck session, but now the House may opt to extend it. However, the current Legislature only has until Dec. 30 to conduct business before newly elected lawmakers are sworn in for the next session in January.

That spells both good and bad news for education-related measures.

The good news is that HB 4342, sponsored by Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles), does not have time this year to pass both the House and Senate. This bill would allow anyone who works for a school or even just works at a school to be a substitute teacher.

The bad news is bills that MEA lobbyists had hoped would pass also fall victim to the time crunch, including SB 1176, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), which would eliminate the student growth portion of teacher evaluations.

Other bills we support that will likely have to wait for next session would have improved the teacher evaluation process, suspended student testing for this year, and extended hazard pay to pre-K and adult education employees, among other priorities.

Stay tuned for updates.

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