Dozens of new laws take effect in Michigan

By Alanna Durkin
Associated Press

EAST LANSING (AP) — A law that prohibits teen drivers from using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel is among dozens of new laws that took effect last week, three months after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a flurry of bills in lame duck session.

“Kelsey’s Law” is among the 282 bills passed by the Legislature in the final weeks of that session.

The law prohibits hand-held cellphones while driving for holders of Level 1 licenses, who must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or another driver at least 21 years old.

It also covers Level 2 licenses, which allow driving alone with limits on hours and carrying of young passengers. Those drivers, who are usually between the ages of 15 and 17, still can use hands-free devices. The law is named in honor of 17-year-old Kelsey Raffaele, from the Upper Peninsula town of Sault St. Marie, who was killed in a car accident in the winter of 2010 while talking on her cellphone. Supporters say the law will save lives by removing distractions for new drivers.

“There is no phone conversation, no text, no Facebook, no Twitter no email message, nothing that is worth the risk of being killed or killing someone else,” said Bonnie Raffaele, Kelsey’s mother, who spoke at the Traffic Safety Summit at Michigan State University Wednesday to raise awareness about the new law.

Teens caught texting or using their phone while behind the wheel will face fines up to $100 plus possible additional costs.

Other new laws that went into effect Thursday include:

• Right-to-Work:

Workers will not be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, under the contentious legislation signed into law last December. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who calls it “freedom-to-work,” says workers should have the right to decide if union membership benefits them.
Democrats and unions say it will undermine unions’ collective bargaining power.

• Credit Score Insurance Regulations:

Insurers will no longer be able to use someone’s credit information to deny, cancel or refuse to renew their personal insurance policy, like car or home insurance.

The information can still be used to determine payment options for premiums. Insurers will also be required to notify a person if they increase their charges, or reduce coverage based on their credit report.

Former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm tried to ban the use of credit information by insurers to determine rates, but in 2010 the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the practice was not discriminatory.

• Concussion Awareness:

Coaches of youth athletes will be required to immediately take out any players who may have suffered a concussion during a game.
That player will have to be cleared by a health professional before returning to play.

The Department of Community Health also must create a concussion awareness education program that all youth sport coaches, employees and volunteers will be required to use to educate youth athletes on the dangers of concussions.

• Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations for kidnapping, attempted murder and manslaughter will be extended to 10 years after the individual who committed the offense has been identified.

Currently, the statute of limitations for these crimes is 10 years after the offense is committed. The law will apply to crimes that are reported to police within one year of the act being committed. The new law is intended to prevent the statute of limitations for serious crimes from expiring before a suspect can be found and tried.

• Cyber Schools: More online charter schools will be allowed in Michigan, although the effects likely won’t be seen in the classroom until the beginning of next school year.

The cap on cyber charter schools will be raised from two to 15 by 2014, and the total number of cyber students will be capped at 2 percent of the state’s student population, potentially boosting the number to 30,000 students.

Snyder and other supporters say they will provide more choices for Michigan students, though critics believe the changes are premature and lack quality control.


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