State lawmakers are back at the Capitol for what will likely be the final week of the "lame duck" session. Legislators are expected to meet just three days until they wrap up their work for 2010, and there are more issues for lawmakers to deal with than time to get them done.
Items include: selling off future tobacco settlement payments to create a fund for struggling schools, building a new Detroit-to-Windsor international bridge, requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatments, and enacting a statewide anti-bullying policy for schools. There's also a final drive underway to try and create a shipping and logistics economic development zone around Detroit metro airport.
"The chances of getting all of it done are slim," says Bill Ballenger, a former legislator and the editor of the "Inside Michigan Politics" newsletter. "The chances for getting maybe one thing done, if they can concentrate on it, is possible."
But whatever that one thing might be, that means one group of legislators would have to convince a critical mass of their colleagues to get on board.
A big push is on to fund Michigan's highly successful tourism campaign, Pure Michigan. The tourism industry effort includes billboards on the major highways leading to Lansing, as well as trying to get people who work in the travel industry to flood legislative offices with calls and e-mails.
"We're not the only group in this state calling for funding and we recognize that," says Steve Yencich with the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association. He says the days when hotels and resorts could count on in-state travel to generate economic activity are past.
"That's why it's become so pivotally important to reach out and into those states that have stronger economies, more diversified economies, and use Michigan tourism as a means to jump start our state's economic future," he says.
Yencich says the ads also promote Michigan as a pleasant place for businesses to locate.
He says Michigan's already lost out on the winter holidays, and a new Legislature might not reach a Pure Michigan deal in time to rescue the ad campaign targeting summer travelers.
For some legislators, this week may be their last chance to get something done for their district. State Representative Dan Scripps lost his reelection bid in November. He wants the state to adopt rules to govern setting up offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes. Scripps says the state's been developing draft rules for nearly two years now. He says that work could be wasted if the Legislature does not finish the job before it wraps up for the year.
"A lot of other states are also looking to develop offshore wind," he says. "Michigan's big plus is, we've had this work and we've developed this framework. And if we don't have that in place, if we take another two years to get it or longer, I think that we'll lose the advantage we have and we'll see the investment and those jobs go to states that take quicker action."
Scripps says it will take a long time for new lawmakers to learn the complexities of developing an offshore wind industry, and to understand issues such as how far windmills should be located from the shoreline.
Term limits, resignations, deaths and the pursuit of other offices mean nearly two-thirds of the faces next year in the House and the Senate will be new.
Scripps also wants the Legislature to approve a permanent source of funding for the Pure Michigan campaign, which has been dark because it's run out of money. There are several funding options proposed, but no majority has coalesced in the state Senate behind any of them.
"And until that changes, it's going to be one of those things where everyone's pushing for it, but it doesn't to get through, and that's what frustrates a lot of people," he says.
But the winds of change threaten to blow away many bills. Everything starts anew next year, with a new governor, and a new Legislature where new faces will far outnumber the veterans.