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 month of October.
Every other Friday, 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. Removal of racial stereotyping from school curriculum
Status: Passed by the House, sent to the Senate
State Rep. Andrew Beeler, R-Fort Gratiot, introduced House Bill 5097 in June to propose an educational curriculum that removes assumptions based on race or gender stereotypes. If passed, the bill would significantly constrain teachers’ ability to discuss racial issues in classrooms.
According to the legislation, the bill specifically prohibits teaching that all members of a group “have the same qualities and beliefs,” that these are “caused by racial or gender identity” or that the practices of a particular group are “inherent or flawed.”
Opponents of the bill believe this legislation is an effort to “white wash” American history and not acknowledge the history of racism in the country. When opponents of the bill wanted to speak on the floor, the Republican chair cut off debate.
Michigan is one of many states to introduce a bill focusing on this topic, which is often referred to as Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is not explicitly named in the legislation and is not taught in Michigan public schools.
In a press release from Michigan House Republicans, Beeler explained his reasoning for introducing the bill, saying he wanted to foster patriotism amongst students of all backgrounds.
“Students go to school to learn, and our curriculum should not be teaching students to stereotype each other based on race or gender or to view themselves or their country poorly as a result,” said Beeler. “My plan will promote respect among Michigan students and patriotism for the United States and the opportunity it provides to all, regardless of one’s background.”
The bill passed the House 55-0 with no Democrats voting. The bill will be sent to the Senate. If passed, Gov. Grechen Whitmer would be expected to veto.
2. The end of the tampon tax
Status: Signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
House bills 4270 and 5267, which were introduced by State Reps. Tenisha Yancey, D-Detroit, and Bryan Posthumus, R-Cannon Township, respectively, both create a sales tax exemption for feminine hygiene products, including but not limited to tampons, panty liners and menstrual cups.
Every Democrat supported the bill, including State Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, who said in her committee testimony that access to menstrual hygiene products should not be a challenge anyone has to experience.
“Menstrual sanitary products are an essential medical item and should have never been taxed in the first place,” Kuppa said. “I am so glad to see bipartisan action begin being taken to help menstruating people who are struggling with period poverty. Making these sanitary items tax-free is just one way we can begin to eliminate this economic disparity for good.”
The bill was supported in a largely bipartisan effort with only two Republican senators and 15 house members voting against it.
“This is not a partisan issue, this is not even a gender issue, this is about cutting taxes for families throughout this state,” Posthumus said.
Whitmer signed the bill into law on Nov. 4.Michigan joins 23 other states in creating a tax exemption for feminine hygiene products.
3. Whitmer vetoes legislation on voter ID requirements
Status: Vetoed by the Governor, returned to the Senate
The bills, if passed, would have required voters to show identification to get absentee and provisional ballots before it can be counted. The bill also prohibited sending unsolicited ballots to voters. In May 2020, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson sent 7.7 million registered Michigan voters applications to vote by mail for the 2020 presidential election.
“Every citizen of Michigan has the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote and deserves to exercise that right in safe and secure elections,” Whitmer said in a statement. “There is no evidence that use of affidavit ballots is related to voter fraud.”
State Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, said he also does not support this bill because it includes measures that would be overly restrictive and divisive in a press release from Michigan House Democrats.
“These bills are a solution in search of a problem and are intended to cause confusion among voters,” Koleszar said. “Republicans refuse to let this manufactured, divisive issue die despite mountains of evidence putting it to rest. Voting is the most fundamental freedom in a democracy and as the leading democracy in the world, we have a proud history of free and fair elections.”
State Rep. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, criticized the Governor’s veto as going against public opinion.
“By vetoing these measures, the governor is rejecting nearly 80% of Michigan voters who support requiring every voter coming to the polls to present a government-issued ID to cast their ballot, including over 58% of voters in her own party,” Johnson said.
S.B. 304 passed 20-16 in the Senate and 56-51 in the House, both of which are short of the 2/3 majority required for a veto override. S.B. 303 passed with similar numbers and is also not expected to be overridden.
4. Providing private school scholarships through resident funing
Status: Passed by both chambers
Michigan residents who contribute to the program would receive a tax credit of 100% the value of their contribution.
Whitmer has been vocal about closing the gap in K-12 education between private and public institutions, saying she believes it is important to rebuild the public school systems. Her office released a statement regarding this legislation, specifically criticizing the tax deductions portion of the bill.
“This legislation undermines that constitutional guarantee, permitting the diversion of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually to private institutions,” Whitmer Press Secretary Bobby Leddy said. “Michiganders are tired of the attempts to force a Betsy DeVos-style voucher program that drain resources from our public schools. This legislation is a non-starter.
Under this bill, students without a disability can earn up to $500, and those with a disability can earn up to $1100.
MI GOP lawmakers have said they hope the legislation would allow families to have more choice in their education.
All four bills passed the House and Senate and were sent to Whitmer, who is expected to veto them.
5. Electric car charger expansion
Status: Introduced in the House
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, introduced House Bill 5391, which would create more electric car charging infrastructure across the state.
If passed, the bill would require any non-residential parking lots with 25-100 spots to have one charger per 25 cars. Under this bill, lots above 100 spots would be required to have a number of chargers equal to 3% of the number of spaces in the lot.
The state is already working on creating a DC fast-charging network by 2030. This network would be created in addition to the FordPass and the Tesla supercharger networks that have already been launched across the state.
The bill also builds on Whitmer’s September announcement declaring Michigan as the first state to have a road that charges vehicles while they drive on it.
“We’re rebuilding infrastructure in Michigan. Orange barrels are everywhere,” Whitmer said. “It’s important that we’re rebuilding, but we’re doing it in a resilient way that supports advanced technology.”
The bill was read before the House and referred to the Committee on Energy.
Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at email@example.com.