Progress Continues in Michigan: Checks Mailed to 700,000 Michiganders

Bills from 2023 session become effective, Right-to-Work repeal official, gun safety laws take effect, checks go out to 700,000 Michiganders

LANSING — After Republican moves to block bills from becoming law sooner, the effective date of laws passed without immediate effect is today. To that end, Right-to-Work, a law written by corporations to force union members to pay for non-union member representation is officially repealed, abortion rights are expanded, gun safety laws that will keep children safe have the full force of law and the Republican-passed Retirement Tax is repealed.

In addition, Governor Whitmer announced that her administration will mail checks to nearly 700,000 Michiganders who qualify for the Working Families Tax Credit. That check could not be sent out earlier due to the minority Republicans blocking relief from working families from Detroit all the way to the western end of the Upper Peninsula.

“Last year, the majority of the Michigan Legislature and I quintupled the Working Families Tax Credit, which will put hundreds more dollars back in the pockets of 700,000 working families,” Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “These checks that are starting to be mailed out this week will lift tens of thousands of people out of working poverty and directly benefit half the children in Michigan by helping their moms and dads pay the bills, put food on the table and buy school supplies.”

After 40 years of Republican control, Tuesday marks the first time in four decades that a Democratic-controlled Michigan government has the full effect of a year of laws passed. Michigan Advance did a round up of the 2023 session:

Right to Work and prevailing wage repeal

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation in March repealing Michigan’s Right to Work laws, it was the first state to do so since Indiana repealed its laws in 1965.

Reproductive rights laws

Abortion had been legal in Michigan for nearly 50 years due to Roe v. Wade. But when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it in June 2022, Michigan was left with a state law from 1931 which banned abortions.

However, that law was not enforced due to Planned Parenthood and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer both filing lawsuits prior to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision and an injunction was granted.

Democratic officials and reproductive health care stakeholders mobilized to solidify access to abortions in several ways in the last two years, starting with a ballot initiative that voters passed in the November 2022 election by a 13-point margin to enshrine the rights to an abortion and reproductive health care into the state constitution.

Whitmer also signed in April a bill repealing the 1931 ban on abortions.

Sexual violence laws, a.k.a. ‘Nassar bills’

Dozens of bills aimed at improving the state’s response to sexual violence in schools, sports and churches via the court system, have been introduced every legislative session since 2017. That was in response to the state learning the breadth of the decades of sexual abuse perpetrated by former Michigan State University and Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.

This year, Whitmer signed into law several pieces of legislation commonly known as “Nassar bills,” including mandating the state education department to create of materials to educate middle and high school students on what sexual violence can look like — and specifically noting that if they are ever a victim, it is not their fault. The materials are meant to reduce stigma and inform students on what to do if they or a friend are ever a victim, providing age-appropriate information and resources.

Clean energy reforms

In April, Senate Democrats announced their Clean Energy Future Plan to bring Michigan’s energy policies in line with the goals laid out in Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate plan.

In addition to establishing a clean energy standard for energy generators, the package includes bills increasing the state’s energy waste reduction standards; codifying a state policy that allows farmers to rent their farmland for solar energy generation while retaining its status in the farmland and open space preservation program; and instructing state energy regulators to weigh factors like environmental justice, equity, affordability, public health and others when reviewing plans for operation proposed by energy companies.

Energy companies would also be required to work with localities whose permitting process mirrors the state’s giving parties 120 days to reach an agreement with the option for a 120-day extension.

Codifying Obamacare protections

With continued Republican attempts at the national level to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known more popularly as Obamacare, Michigan Democrats took the opportunity of their legislative majority to protect Michiganders’ access to health care, bringing protections from the Affordable Care Act into state law.

Under these new laws, signed by Whitmer in October, insurance providers are prohibited from denying someone coverage based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, denying coverage based on preexisting conditions and from rescinding someone’s coverage.

Lead protections for children

As the Flint water crisis crystallized the need for water safety, lawmakers took steps to protect Michigan children from lead-contaminated drinking water, passing a bipartisan set of bills requiring schools and childcare facilities to install filtered faucets.

Additionally, the “filter first” bills — House Bills 4341 and 4342 — require schools and childcare facilities to create a drinking water management plan and conduct routine sampling and testing to ensure access to safe drinking water.

“Flint has paid an unimaginable price for water contamination. This is why I continue to push legislation that focuses on clean water and why this filter first bill package has been a priority for me. We must take steps to protect Michiganders from harmful contaminants — especially our kids,” state Rep. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint) said in a statement after the bills were signed. Neeley is one of the lead sponsors of the bills.

In addition to the “filter first” bills, Whitmer also signed another set of bipartisan bills to guarantee lead screenings for all children between the ages of one and two years old, with an option for parents to opt their child out of the screening.

LGBTQ+ rights and protections

In July, Michigan also became the 22nd state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Whitmer noted that as the mother of a gay daughter, she was grateful to have the opportunity to make the state a more welcoming place to live for everyone’s children.

Gov. Whitmer put her signature to Senate Bill 4 — which amended the 1976 Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to add protections against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation; she did so alongside LGBTQ+ leaders, officials and lawmakers and one of the two original cosponsors of ELCRA.

Financial disclosure for elected officials

The bills require state officials, including the governor and state legislators, as well as those running for elected office, to submit annual financial disclosure reports outlining all income and  assets valued at $1,000 or more and liabilities valued at $10,000 or more.

The report would also have to include the name and occupation of the person’s spouse, as well as the name of their employer.

Banning child marriage

This year, Michigan went from being one of only a handful of states with no legal minimum age required for marriage to the 10th state to ban child marriage.

Now people must be at least 18 to get married in Michigan under a package led by state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt). However, a handful of Republicans voted against legislation, arguing that it was government overreach.

Juvenile justice reforms

A bipartisan package aimed to prevent recidivism and improve outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system was signed into law by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist in mid-December in Detroit.

“Every young person deserves the chance to be successful,” Gilchrist said on the day of the signing. “This historic legislation will hold our youth accountable while changing how they experience the justice system, expanding the available tools to create better outcomes, lower costs for families by eliminating fees, and ensure our juvenile justice system uses consistent research-based practices.”

Voting and elections bills

Among the election reforms signed into law this year were a package of voting rights bills implementing provisions of Proposal 2 that Michigan voters passed in November 2022.

The new laws, signed by Whitmer in July, include Senate Bills 339373370 and 367 and House Bills 469646974699 and 4702. Together, the measures extended early in-person voting to a nine-day period before Election Day, expanded absentee voting and community ballot drop boxes and created a web-based tracking system for absentee ballots.

Gun reforms

Senate Bills 798081 and 82, and House Bills 4138 and 4142 instituted universal background checks for all gun sales in Michigan and required safe storage of firearms and ammunition.

Moving up the presidential primary

Among the first bills signed by Whitmer in 2023, Senate Bill 13 moved Michigan’s presidential primary election date to the fourth Tuesday in February rather than the second Tuesday in March — something backed by President Joe Biden.

For the 2024 election cycle, that date would be Feb. 27.

Education reforms

Senate Bills 395 and 396, introduced by state Sens. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) and Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), change the criteria for teacher evaluations, with teachers being rated effective, developing or needing support beginning on July 1, 2024.

Tax reforms

House Bill 4001 boosted a tax credit for low-wage workers and rolled back the state’s retirement tax, amounting to a billion dollars in tax cuts.

The legislation, coined the “Lowering MI Costs” plan by Democratic lawmakers, was touted by Whitmer as being expected to benefit hundreds of thousands of Michiganders, including seniors and those who are struggling in the face of inflation.

The new law increased the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) — which lawmakers have interchangeably called the Working Families Tax Credit — from 6% to 30% of the federal level, retroactive to 2022. This means qualifying Michiganders could claim a credit worth 30% of the federal amount on their taxes.



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