Legislative Update: Highlighting bills signed over the holiday break

Protecting Michigan small businesses
Local franchise owners risk their own money to offer job opportunities for people in our communities and to achieve the American Dream of owning their own business. The franchise business model has been a tremendous success in Michigan — with more than 260,000 people working at more than 24,000 franchises in our state.

Unfortunately, federal officials in Washington last year upended decades of established law concerning the relationship between franchise owners and their employees.

Over the break, the governor signed Senate Bills 492 and 493 to protect that long-standing relationship in Michigan.

The new state laws clarify that an employee at a local franchise is only an employee of that franchise owner and not an employee of the parent company, such as McDonald’s.

The measures were about protecting our economy from a federal overreach that would consider parent franchise companies to be an employer of a worker — regardless of whether they share the ability to hire, fire or supervise that worker.

They’re also about supporting our Michigan small business owners, who often help local nonprofit organizations, sponsor youth sports teams and give young people their first jobs.

Eliminating straight-ticket voting in Michigan
People should be elected to public office based on their individual merits for that office — not simply based on what political party they are in.

With Senate Bill 13, now Public Act 268 of 2015, Michigan joined the vast majority of states that have banned the old-fashioned practice of voting for all the nominees of a political party by making a single choice on the ballot.

Michigan was previously one of only ten states that still had this tool of the party bosses and political machines.

Under the new laws, people can still vote for all Democrats or all Republicans or all Independents. Voters will now simply have to individually choose the candidate they support — which should take less than a minute of extra time.

This reform has made Michigan’s election process more about people and less about political parties.

Creating an e-filing system for Michigan courts
The Senate Republicans led the way to enacting new laws to move Michigan courts into the 21st century.

Senate Bills 531, 532 and 533 were part of six measures signed during the break to help develop and implement a statewide electronic filing system that will make Michigan’s courts more cost efficient and easier for residents.

Public Acts 230-235 recommend to the Michigan Supreme Court an e-filing system that gives users the option of filing court papers online. The acts also create the Judicial Electronic Filing Fund to support the implementation, operation an maintenance of a statewide system.

An e-filing system will give the public convenient and hassle-free access to our courts and save our courts and filers both money and time.

This initiative will help streamline court interactions with the public and eventually give residents the flexibility to file anytime and anywhere.

It’s part of an effort to create a modern court that serves Michigan residents faster, better and at a reduced cost.