A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system is on its way to the state Senate. Lawmakers in the House passed the bill today with bipartisan support.
Michigan’s current system for appointing attorneys to those who can’t afford one is ranked one of the worst in the country.
Republican Representative Tom McMillin, who sponsored the bill, says he hopes conservatives will be on board in the Senate.
“We’re not talking about pot holes, we’re not talking about speed limits, we’re not talking about, even, third grade math. What we’re talking about is taking somebody’s liberty away. It’s a big deal,” he says.
The bill would create a panel to set standards for how counties appoint attorneys to the poor. It would also set a minimum level of public defense funding for counties that do not meet those requirements.
Most of the “no” votes in the House were cast by Republicans, including Representative Ken Horn.
“If you’re going to lock this part into law, and say that you must pay this amount if you don’t meet these standards – that we have no idea what they are yet, this commission hasn’t ruled – in my opinion, that’s precisely putting the cart in front of the horse,” he says.