Michigan Republicans are going for broke this week, as the lame-duck session winds down in the state legislature. No sooner had state lawmakers successfully pushed through a new right-to-work bill when they advanced a grab bag of anti-abortion measures that has been called the “greatest assault on reproductive rights” in the state’s history.
On Wednesday, the state Senate approved what has been called an “abortion mega-bill.” HR 5711 includes measures requiring anyone providing more than 120 abortions per year to do so in facilities that meet the same standards as “ambulatory surgical centers”—a provision often referred to as “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (or TRAP), because they single out abortion providers for standards far stricter than other medical facilities. The building codes alone could shut down many abortion providers in the state.
Other provisions of the bill would require a doctor to be physically present to dispense the drugs used for a medication abortion, which would make it illegal to provide telemedicine abortions. It also implements new rules for the disposal of fetal remains that would require them to be treated like the body of a dead person, rather than treating them like other forms of medical waste.
Green vs. Green: Seattle would have more environmentally friendly buildings if environmentalists got out of the way.
As a bastion of liberal values, Seattle is proud to be the capital of what some call Ecotopia. But local advocates of sustainable cities—densely packed urban landscapes with a mix of residential, commercial, industrial, and retail uses—are battling with Seattle’s neighborhood activists who, ironically, are using environmental regulations to stop construction of green-friendly buildings that would dramatically reduce energy use. Filing appeals based on the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Growth Management Act (GMA), the activists have worked against the construction of two buildings, the Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill and the Stone34 project in Fremont. Both projects are part of the city’s Living Building Pilot Program, which offers various exemptions from land-use and building codes to new buildings that meet a set of rigorous standards—most notably, that they use just one-quarter of the energy and water of typical buildings.
When a developer proposed some modest additional exemptions under the LBPP, the city council caved to pressure from opponents and opened an extended debate about the developer’s motives. As local writer and urbanist Dan Bertolet wrote with exasperation, “Why is there a debate at all? It’s just plain embarrassing that in a city that talks so loud and proud about sustainability, once again we have such hand wringing over a modest piece of legislation that is so obviously the right thing to do.” Meanwhile, just this week, with almost no debate, the council passed emergency legislation banning some small-lot development, because three-story houses are “too big.”