Legislation that would require one year of residency in Michigan to qualify for welfare assistance from the state has been introduced in the Senate.
The measure, Senate Bill 70, is sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton.
Under current law, a person has to prove only his or her residency to qualify to receive welfare. The length of time they've been a resident doesn't matter.
"Actually, I got the idea for this bill from a local judge who believes we should be promoting a culture of independence, not a culture of dependence," Schuitmaker said. "We've just introduced the bill. It's in the preliminary investigating stage."
The key language in the bill states that someone is not considered a resident of this state "unless he or she has lived voluntarily in the state for not less than one (1) year before the date of the application for benefits."
Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Families, Seniors & Human Services Committee, said he didn't need to analyze the bill much because he thinks it has already been ruled unconstitutional.
"I'm not sure this bill will even be brought up in committee," Gregory said. "The point is that some other states have already tried to do this. It has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has already ruled that it is unconstitutional, based on the Fifth and 14th Amendments.
"Under the Fifth Amendment the bill would violate due process," Gregory said. "Under the 14th Amendment it would violate equal protection."
Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said he is familiar with the issue from reading court decisions that pertain to it.
"There are probably too many legal obstacles to this bill," Wright said. "A better plan for reducing dependence on government assistance might be to continue working to improve the economy so there would be more jobs and less people relying on welfare."