You're likely not a big fan of a full-time Michigan legislature passing more and more laws until nobody but the sharpest lawyer knows what the current law is. We should, however, make exceptions when the laws being considered are ones that conscientiously dial back abuses of all those other laws on the books.
So let's pat our state senators and representatives on the back when they do things like:
* Broadening property rights by amending the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to define short-term rentals as a residential use of a property, not a commercial use.
* Prohibit local governments from imposing an excise tax on food, pop or chewing gum.
* Prohibit local governments from imposing fees on or outright banning plastic bags.
And any other 'reform' measure that advances the rights of the people, diminishes the oppression of local governments and officials, and/or lowers the onerous fees and taxes extracted from our pockets. So when you learn of another legislative initiative that would protect otherwise law-abiding citizens from being stopped by overzealous law dogs, the back-patting hand should make a reappearance.
Currently the motor vehicle code of Michigan states "The [license] plate shall be maintained free from foreign materials that obscure or partially obscure the registration information and in a clearly legible condition" at MCL 257.225. If the plate is partially obscured for any reason, the law currently allows police to stop you and write you a citation. Police, of course, can use this as a reason for the stop and detention of you and your vehicle, and might find you afoul of other laws during the course.
This recently became an issue in a Muskegon-based case that made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court. In a surprising 7-0 ruling, the court overturned the appeals court ruling that suppressed evidence seized from a car after a man was stopped solely for having a tow ball partially obscure his plate.
The state's high court ruled that if a towing ball on your vehicle - or a bike rack or a trailer hitch or anything else - obstructs, even partially, a police officer's view of your license plate, the cop can pull you over. It's not enough, the court concluded in contradiction to the court of appeals, to keep the plate itself legible and free of material that obscures it.
Rep. Holly Hughes (R) of nearby Montague introduced the bill (HB 5100) last year, inspired by multiple cases of drivers being stopped and ticketed by law enforcement because "foreign materials" (like bike racks, tow balls, and trailer hitches) obscured their license plates from view.
"Our state provides an abundance of recreational opportunities for our citizens and those that come from other states including camping, cycling and boating," Hughes said. "We must make it clear that towing boats, bikes and campers, as well as work trailers and other devices is a lawful activity that is encouraged, and not discouraged, and that is what my bill does."
The bill as it currently stand simply appends the current law with: "THE ATTACHMENT TO THE REAR OF A VEHICLE OF A TOW BALL, BICYCLE RACK, REMOVABLE HITCH, OR ANY OTHER DEVICE DESIGNED TO CARRY AN OBJECT ON THE REAR OF A VEHICLE, INCLUDING THE OBJECT BEING CARRIED, DOES NOT VIOLATE THIS SUBSECTION." It resoundingly passed the house with a lop-sided vote of 104-2.
The bill now moves to the Michigan state Senate for consideration. It was referred to the state Senate's Committee on Transportation for review on Tuesday, Jan. 30. We look forward to decriminalizing innocent bicycle and trailer haulers in the future and finishing that back pat.
I wonder how many out of state fudgies were pulled over and cited for plate obstruction? Very few I would suppose.
Well look at all the city police vehicles that have bike racks mounted on the back bumper obscuring their plate. Oh that's right law enforcement is never held accountable. Everyone is presumed a drug addict a murderer a thug a thief or a cop hater if they have a ball hitch covering their plate or even worse are carrying a bicycle or a hover round.
Finally some common sense.