News

The Latest: Singh elected to lead House Democrats

LANSING, Mich. – The Latest on the Michigan Legislature’s return to voting after the election (all times local):

5:55 p.m.

Rep. Sam Singh of East Lansing has been elected to lead Democrats in the Michigan House in the next two-year legislative session.

Democrats chose him Thursday after Minority Leader Tim Greimel decided against running again after Democrats fared poorly in their effort to bolster their ranks in Tuesday’s election.

Republicans will continue to have a 63-47 majority in January.

Singh says as leader he will focus on education, job creation and “making sure we have an economy that’s working for all citizens.” He says majority Republicans have “left a lot of people behind.”

5:25 p.m.

The Michigan Senate has approved long-debated bills to update state energy laws that were enacted in 2008.

The legislation, which goes to the House for consideration, would increase renewable energy requirements to 15 per cent by the end of 2021. Supporters say it also maintains a provision allowing competition in 10 per cent of the electricity market, though critics complain there are “poison pills” that kill choice.

The bills approved Thursday would create a long-term planning process and require power providers to ensure they have enough capacity in the state.

The energy package is a priority for Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders, who want to enact it before year’s end. Otherwise, the legislation will die when a new two-year term starts in January.

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4:50 p.m.

The newly elected leader of the Michigan House of Representatives says he will focus on mental health reforms, skilled trades and addressing a “broken” teacher retirement system.

Rep. Tom Leonard, who was chosen as the next speaker Thursday, told reporters a priority is transitioning newly hired school employees to 401(k) accounts instead of also giving them a pension in retirement. Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration has been concerned with such proposals, citing large up-front costs.

Leonard says his chief of staff will be Dan Pero, who was chief of staff and campaign manager for John Engler when he was governor.

Leonard says too many trades job remain unfilled because the workforce isn’t being adequately trained, and the state should help the mentally ill get treatment.

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3:20 p.m.

Michigan lawmakers have voted to no longer require that someone be inside a self-driving car while it is tested on public roads.

The legislation won overwhelming approval in the state House and Senate on Thursday. Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign it.

Supporters tout the bills as necessary to keep the U.S. auto industry’s home state ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology.

The measures would make Michigan a rare state to explicitly end a requirement that a researcher be present inside an autonomous test vehicle.

Other provisions would allow for public operation of driverless vehicles when they are sold and ease the “platooning” of autonomous commercial trucks travelling closely together at electronically co-ordinated speeds.

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2:50 p.m.

Rep. Tom Leonard has been elected by Republicans to be the next speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

The 35-year-old second-term lawmaker lives in DeWitt north of Lansing and chairs the House Insurance Committee. Before becoming a legislator, he was an assistant state attorney general and a prosecutor in Genesee County.

Speaker Kevin Cotter of Mt. Pleasant is leaving the House under term limits.

Leonard said in a statement Thursday that he looks forward to building on the success Michigan “has already enjoyed” under Republican leadership. The GOP will have a 63-47 majority starting in January.

Key members of Leonard’s leadership team include Reps. Dan Lauwers of Brockway Township, Rob VerHeulen of Walker, Lee Chatfield of Levering and Eric Leutheuser of Hillsdale.

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2 p.m.

Michigan lawmakers have voted to no longer require that someone be inside a self-driving car while it is tested on public roads.

The legislation won overwhelming approval in the state House Thursday. The Senate is expected to send the bills to Gov. Rick Snyder later in the day.

Supporters tout the measures as necessary to keep the U.S. auto industry’s home state ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology.

The bills would make Michigan a rare state to explicitly end a requirement that a researcher be present inside an autonomous test vehicle.

Other provisions would allow for public operation of driverless vehicles when they are sold and ease the “platooning” of autonomous commercial trucks travelling closely together at electronically co-ordinated speeds.

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12:05 p.m.

The Michigan Legislature’s “lame-duck” session is kicking into gear.

Lawmakers are taking up long-debated energy legislation Thursday and also bills governing driverless cars. House Republicans will also elect a new speaker because Kevin Cotter is leaving the Legislature under term limits.

Two days after the election, the Republican-led Senate is expected to vote on an update to 2008 energy laws. The business community is at odds over provisions related to a law that lets some companies and schools buy power from competitors to utilities DTE and Consumers Energy.

The House plans to pass bills no longer requiring that someone be inside a self-driving car while testing it on public roads. Backers say the measures would keep the U.S. auto industry’s home state ahead of the curve on rapidly advancing technology.