Snyder signs bills regarding asset forfeiture, protecting use of service animals in Michigan

Michigan residents who use service animals will have better access to public spaces, such as restaurants, retail stores and health care facilities after Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill package Tuesday to modernize state law and advance the use of these animals. The bills were spurred in part by recent incidents of people being turned away from businesses because they were accompanied by service animals.

"This small change in state law will have a widespread, positive impact on the lives of those assisted by service animals," Snyder said.

Senate Bill 298, sponsored by state Sen. David Knezek, makes it a crime to refuse entry to a person using a service animal or to assault a service animal. SB 299, sponsored by state Sen. Margaret O'Brien, exempts dogs from licensing fees if they are a service animal to someone with a disability or a veteran with a service-related disability. They bills are now PA 144 and 145, respectively. All four bills were approved with unanimous support in both chambers.

House Bill 4521, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Barrett, requires the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to offer voluntary identification for service animals. It also requires the department to receive reports of problems encountered by a person with a disability while using a service animal. HB 4527, sponsored by state Rep. David Rutledge, makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent a service animal, and brings state law more in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to the definitions of "person with a disability" and "service animal." It also specifically permits veterans to possess a service animal for post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury, or other service-related disability. The bills are now Public Act 146 and 147 of 2015, respectively.

"The use of service animals is increasingly giving veterans and Michiganders with disabilities better opportunities to live self-determined independent lives," Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said. "While these new laws help highlight the importance of service animals, we should also work to promote awareness of the need for and use of service dogs, as many people simply are unaware they are allowed in nearly every establishment in Michigan."

On Tuesday, Gov. Snyder also signed a bill package that seeks to address the incidence of civil asset forfeiture by creating new reporting requirements and a higher standard of evidence for seized property.

"Michigan residents deserve transparency from government, and these new reporting requirements will raise the bar so that a fair balance is struck between private property rights and law enforcement's effective ability to do their job in pursuing criminal activity," Snyder said.

HB 4504, sponsored by state Rep. Klint Kesto, requires government entities to report all property seizures and forfeitures to the Michigan State Police. The department will compile the information and issue an annual report to the Legislature, as well as make it available on their website. The bill is now PA 148.

Accompanying bills 4500, 4503 and 4506-07, sponsored by state Reps. Jim Runestad, Triston Cole, Jason Sheppard, and Brandt Iden, respectively, amend various statutes to subject forfeitures to PA 148, including those that are identity theft and drug related as well as nuisance abatement actions. They are now PAs 149 through 152.

HB 4499, sponsored by state Rep. Gary Glenn, raises the threshold for forfeiture of property in a nuisance abatement action to "clear and convincing evidence." It is now PA 153.

HB 4505, sponsored by state Rep. Pete Lucido, specifies that in forfeiture of controlled substances, the plaintiff has the burden of proving a violation by "clear and convincing evidence." It is now PA 154.

SBs 64 through 67, sponsored by state Sen. Goeff Hansen, modernize compliance procedures for nursing homes and allow employment of or contracts with health care professionals regardless of the business classification of the nursing home. The bills are now PAs 155 through 158.

SB 358, also sponsored by Hansen, removes the fee cap on teacher certification testing and allows the state to update rates, when needed, to increase the quality of the examination. It is now PA 159.

For additional information on this and other legislation, visit www.legislature.mi.gov.

Published: Thu, Oct 22, 2015

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