Design by Tamara Turner.

The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by Michigan Legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer throughout the past month.

Twice a month, The Michigan Daily publishes a compilation of bills in the Michigan Legislature for students at the University of Michigan to be aware of.

1. Requiring all public bodies to provide audio recordings of meetings

Status: Passed by both chambers

First introduced in April 2021 by state Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, House Bill 4705 requires state public bodies to record audio for all meetings, excluding closed-session meetings, and to make them available to the general public. The bill amends Michigan’s 1976 Open Meetings Act, which requires legislative and governing bodies to make certain meetings open to the public in a place that is accessible to everyone.

The bill requires all public bodies, such as state licensing boards, commission panels and other governing boards — including the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents — to provide either a sound-only capture or audio and video recordings of their meetings. The bill also requires these recordings to be available for at least one year following the date of the meeting in a format that would comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. FOIA provides citizens with the ability to request and access public agency records and information.

The Board of Regents has previously been under scrutiny for possible violations of the Open Meetings Act. In 2014, the Detroit Free Press sued the University for violating the act, alleging the regents made the majority of their decisions in private rather than during their public meetings.

The bill passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with bipartisan support and has been sent to Whitmer’s desk for approval.

2. Extending the statute of limitations for sexual assault crimes

Status: Introduced in the House

H.B. 5962, 5963 and 5964 seek to give more opportunities to survivors of sexual assault to report and file civil claims against their abusers. State Reps. Julie Brixie, D-Meridian Township, Kelly Breen, D-Novi, and John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs introduced the three-bill package in late March.

The legislation would allow victims of sexual assault to take legal action at any time up to 10 years after the crime occurred, by their 48th birthday or within seven years of the survivor discovering they were assaulted — whichever of the three is latest. The package would also instate a two-year window for survivors to file claims if the statute of limitations has expired.

Current Michigan law allows child survivors to file claims until age 28. Brixie called the current law “archaic” and emphasized the need for this legislation in a series of tweets

“Michigan is the ONLY (sic) state 2 (sic) pass laws restricting access to justice based on the identity of the abuser,” Brixie wrote. “It’s not about who committed the abuse: It’s about who survived it. #(Michigan Legislature) should not b (sic) dictating which survivors have access to justice. Our bills allow justice for all survivors.”

A Michigan House Democrats press release cited a study conducted by the non-profit Child USA which found that, on average, childhood survivors don’t report their abuse until age 52, long after the statute of limitations has expired. The press release included a comment tfrom Isabelle Brourman, a sexual assault survivor of former University of Michigan lecturer Bruce Conforth.

“It is time that the law reflects the reality of a sexual assault survivor’s journey towards getting justice,” Brourman said. “This means respecting the science surrounding trauma response, as well as the external factors that influence the ability of a survivor to safely come forward. By extending the statute of limitations for survivors and ending governmental immunity for criminal sexual conduct, we will be closer to a culture of accountability instead of a culture of silence and of victim-blaming.” 

After being read in front of the House, the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

3. Removing inactive voters from state’s eligible voter list

Status: Vetoed by Whitmer

H.B. 4127, introduced by state Rep. Matt Hall, R-Battle Creek, outlines a procedure for registered voters without a date of birth on file to be removed from the eligible voter list. The procedure would include mailing a notice to the individual and giving them the opportunity to provide and verify their date of birth before undergoing the process of removing them.

Whitmer vetoed the bill on April 12 after it was passed by the House and Senate, both of which have a Republican majority. The GOP outnumbers Democrats 38-22 in the Senate and 55-51 in the House.

Hall criticized Whitmer’s veto in an April 1 press release and said he believes she is undermining the integrity of Michigan elections.

“Rather than work with the Legislature to address an obvious concern, the governor has inexplicably decided to leave the door open to potential problems with the state’s official voter list,” Hall said. “Her position just doesn’t make sense.”

The press release also discusses a March 2022 report from the non-partisan Michigan Auditor General Bureau of Elections evaluating the performance of election officials across eight elections in 2019 and 2020, including the 2020 presidential election. The report found that out of nearly 12 million votes cast over that time period, 2,775 had been cast by voters who were dead by Election Day.

“This legislation was introduced as a direct result of an issue identified by the Auditor General,” Hall said. “These changes were needed to ensure our voter rolls are accurate and to restore confidence in Michigan elections moving forward. People who have died or moved away from Michigan decades ago should not be on official voter rolls. This plan provided a chance to clean up voter lists and improve our elections process, and the governor is throwing it away.”

Following Whitmer’s veto, the bill was referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics.

4. Universal health care for all Michiganders

Status: Introduced in the House

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, introduced a bill that would establish a universal single-payer health plan for all Michigan residents. Dubbed MiCare, the plan would guarantee health care for all Michiganders under a single public system, as opposed to the current system of health insurance under the control of private companies such as Kaiser Permanente and UnitedHealth. If passed by Congress, the legislation would only go into effect after being approved by Michigan voters.

In a Mar. 23 press release, Rabhi criticized the current private health care system and emphasized the need for universal access to medical care.

“Everyone has the right to get the care they need without the constant threat of medical bankruptcy,” Rabhi said. “Our current system has failed, leaving too many Michiganders destitute, sick or dead. It is immoral to continue to prioritize corporate profits over people. MiCare will redirect the vast resources that are currently enriching insurance companies to comprehensive care for every Michigander.”

The press release also included a quote from U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., who expressed her support for the bill.

“COVID has shone a light on the deep fractures in our current system,” Dingell said. “This important legislation will create a universal single-payer health care system at the state level and finally guarantee coverage to every hardworking Michigander — saving lives, reining in growing healthcare costs, making our state more competitive and strengthening our economy.”

Universal health care has become a hot-button issue over the past few years in the United States, with acts like Medicare For All being championed by progressive lawmakers, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. The United States is the only developed country without a universal health care system, with 28 million Americans going without health insurance in 2020.

After being read in front of the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Health Policy.

5. Ban on unsolicited sexually explicit messages

Status: Introduced in the House

Rep. William Sowerby, D-Clinton Township, introduced H.B. 5986 on April 12. The bill would amend the Michigan Penal Code to prohibit the electronic transmission of unsolicited sexually explicit material. A pattern of such conduct would be classified as a misdemeanor and punishable by imprisonment of up to 90 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000. 

Receiving unsolicited explicit photos, videos and messages has become increasingly common in recent years, with a 2017 Pew Research study finding that 53% of women aged 18 to 29 had received unwanted explicit messages online.

The Michigan Penal Code currently only considers in-person instances of indecent exposure to be crimes. In a March 29 press release, Sowerby noted the need to establish a process that allows prosecutors to punish digital indecent exposure as well.

“For better or for worse, technology has become an essential part of our society, but our laws haven’t kept up with this change,” Sowerby said. “Receiving unwanted, sexually explicit pictures is a violation that often goes unchecked. If lewd messages continue after an individual has made it clear that such behavior is unwelcome, prosecutors should have the tools they need to effectively punish the offender.”

After being read in front of the House, the bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Summer News Editor Irena Li can be reached at