The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by the Michigan State Legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer throughout the past few weeks.
On the second and fourth Fridays of each month, The Michigan Daily publishes a compilation of bills being floated around in the Michigan State Legislature for students at the University of Michigan to know about.
1. Good time credit for inmates
Status: Introduced in the Michigan Senate
State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, introduced Senate Bills 649-652 on Sept. 22, restoring Michigan’s good time credit system. Good time credit refers to the ability of an inmate to reduce their sentence for good behavior shown in prison. These four bills aim to improve safety inside prisons and save millions of dollars by allowing incarcerated individuals to earn credit toward their release through good behavior.
Michigan had a good time credit system until 1978 that allowed inmates up to 15 days of credit per month for good behavior. In 1982, the state implemented an earned time system in response to a rapidly increasing prison population. This system was eliminated by the 1998 Truth in Sentencing Act, requiring inmates to serve their entire minimum sentence.
Michigan is one of just six states without an earned credit system and has 38,000 incarcerated individuals. This bill aims to limit spending, decrease the prison population and improve the behavior of former inmates upon release.
2. Parental approval for juvenile informants
Senate Bill 669
Status: Introduced in the Michigan Senate
Sen. Irwin, along with Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, introduced Senate Bill 669 Sept. 30 aiming to prohibit police agencies from using minors as informants without parental or guardian permission. The goal of this legislation is to protect children from dangerous situations while giving parents and guardians the right to damages and legal fees if permission is not obtained.
The bill would require law enforcement officials to receive written consent from parents of minors before using a minor as a law enforcement participant. If law enforcement officials use a minor as an informant without complying with this requirement, a parent or legal guardian can take the case to their district’s circuit court to obtain an order.
Senator Irwin first introduced a similar bill in January of 2014, where it was met with concerns from the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan. This bill was never brought to a vote.
3. The “women in the workforce” package
Status: Introduced in the Michigan House and Senate
Members of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus introduced this package of bills in the House and Senate on Sept. 29. The package addresses a number of women’s healthcare and employment issues aimed at helping them re-enter the workforce following the COVID-19 pandemic.
House Bill 5344 creates the Family Leave Policy Disclosure Act, requiring employers to provide prospective and current employees with any changes in their family leave policies.
Similarly, House Bill 5345 creates the Reproductive Health Coverage Information Act, which would require employers to provide prospective employees information about their reproductive healthcare coverage. It would also require them to inform current employees of any changes to their coverage at least 90 days in advance of any change.
House Bill 5349 and Senate Bill 662 also seek to ensure women are paid equally to men for similar work done. A study by Business.org in March found that women in Michigan make 22% less money than their male counterparts. It also found that Michigan has the 13th largest gender pay gap in the country.
These bills have been introduced and referred to their appropriate committees.
4. Bills regarding election security
Status: Passed by both chambers
Representatives Sarah Lightner, R-Jackson County, and Phil Green, R-Millington, introduced these bills regarding election security in Michigan.
House Bill 4837 will require the Secretary of State to “supervise the establishment and maintenance of a statewide qualified voter file.” It would also significantly limit who could access the qualified voter file.
House Bill 4838 will require the electronic poll book, a software used in the polling place to process voters and create precinct reports, not to be connected to the internet until after the voting is over and results have been tabulated.
These bills were supported by the large majority of Republicans opposed by all but one Senate Democrat, Paul Wojno, D-Warren. Senate Democrats said the bills were unnecessary and would only perpetuate lies about election fraud in 2020.
After the 2020 election, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan to challenge the results of the general election by discarding millions of ‘fraudulent’ votes. No major evidence was found in Michigan or any of the other states the lawsuit claimed, and the lawsuit was eventually withdrawn.
5. Bills to help teachers spot mental illness in students
Senate Bill 321
Status: Passed by the Michigan Senate
State Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, sponsored a bill to require the Michigan Department of Education to develop professional development standards for teachers to recognize and address mental health needs in students. The Senate passed the bill Sept. 29.
The bill, which was first introduced in March, mandates that these standards must cover identifying potential risk factors and supporting students having mental health crises.
“It’s so our teachers can say, ‘See that little Johnny is having an issue today. Maybe he needs to go to see the social worker, go to the school counselor, or talk to someone,” Santana told Bridge Michigan. “It would be great for them to have these tools in their toolbox.”
Daily News Contributor Audrey Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.