LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Senate approved legislation Tuesday needed to help Detroit Mayor Dave Bing move forward on a plan to provide the most basic of functions to the struggling city: lighting.
Fewer than half of the city's 88,000 streetlights work, posing a risk to pedestrians and motorists. Bing has called for spending up to $160 million on repairs and improvements. A package of bills needed to get the initiative started had been stalled for months, at one point leading Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville to declare it "dead."
But extensive negotiations finally broke the logjam. One of the bills would allow Detroit and some other cities to establish public authorities to run their lighting systems. Others would allow part of a utility users' tax to fund public lighting while rolling back the income tax rate after bonded costs of upgrading the lights are paid off.
"After more than a half-century of our failing lighting infrastructure, we have finally agreed on a proposal to usher it into the modern era without stripping the city of its autonomy and oversight," said Sen. Virgil Smith, a Detroit Democrat.
Democrats had objected to a version passed by the House under which GOP legislative leaders would have appointed some members of the Detroit lighting agency. There also was infighting between Detroit lawmakers and Bing over details of the legislation.
The compromise version gives the mayor and City Council a greater role. It also says if ownership of any city assets is transferred to the lighting authority, the property cannot be sold off if the authority is dissolved.
Richardville, a Monroe Republican, said the lighting package and legislation approved by the Senate last week to establish a transit authority for southeastern Michigan were crucial for patching up Detroit's infrastructure.
"If we can get rid of some of the internal politics of the city, we'll be able to make Detroit a great city again, and these are two major steps toward making that happen," he said.
The bills now return to the House.