House OKs Sentencing Commission

Rep. Luke Meerman withdrew his name as the sponsor of a bill to create a Michigan sentencing commission after is passed the House on party-line vote Wednesday.

Meerman (R-Coopersville) was the original sponsor of HB 4384 , which outlines the duties of the Michigan sentencing commission, which would be established by HB 4173 , sponsored by Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck).

Both bills passed the House along party lines in a 56-53 vote.

HB 4173 would create the Michigan Sentencing Commission in the Legislative Council to analyze corrections-related data and develop modifications to the sentencing guidelines. The bill outlines the composition of the commission, and a floor substitute was adopted that changed how commission members would be appointed, which Republicans said made the commission partisan.

HB 4384 outlines the responsibilities of the commission, which include collecting, preparing, analyzing and sharing information about corrections-related data and developing modifications to the sentencing guidelines.

“It will be folks who are appointed by Democrat officials,” Rep. Graham Filler (R-Duplain Township) said. “We sit in this partisan world, and this will be Democrat appointed, and I can just tell you, judging from the last month about where a lot of those (criminal justice) bills are going…I have a bad feeling about the recommendations that will come from this commission.”

House Republican Spokesperson Jerry Ward said that Meerman sponsored the bill in the hope of working in a bipartisan fashion on criminal justice reform, but he pulled his name when it became clear to him that bipartisanship wasn’t the goal.

“This is just another partisan attempt by the Democrats…to let violent criminals out of jail,” Ward said.

Rep. Mike Harris (R-Waterford Township) said the legislation could negatively affect public safety and crime victims.

“I think this is a complete smack in the face and opens up the potential for a lot of bad things to happen in the criminal justice system,” he said. “We’ve been huge advocates for strengthening the criminal justice system, not putting it in a more vulnerable position.”

Harris went on to say that experts weren’t being consulted in the current bills regarding resentencing, so he didn’t have much faith that they would be for the commission.

Filler also said he felt the commission was unnecessary bureaucracy.

“I don’t see the need to create this big bureaucratic framework to then send back bills, which inevitably will say we need to let individuals out of prison earlier,” he said.

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