The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by the Michigan state legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the past two weeks.
On the second and fourth Fridays of each month, The Michigan Daily will publish a compilation of bills being floated around in the Michigan state legislature for students at the University of Michigan to know about. This is the first installment in this series.
1. Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Plan
Status: Signed into law by Whitmer with a line-item veto of two sections
Whitmer signed this package of bills into law on March 9. The package allocates more than $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief and is a key part in Whitmer’s pandemic recovery plan. The legislation contains a $2.25 per hour wage increase for direct care workers through September, $223 million in emergency rental assistance and roughly $665 million in funds for vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing efforts.
Gov. Whitmer vetoed certain parts of the bill that aimed to strip the state health department director’s powers and limit her executive powers in handling the pandemic. As a result of her vetoes, close to $1 billion in funding will be lost from the bill, as Michigan Republican lawmakers tied limiting executive powers to this funding. This lost funding includes $100 million for non-public schools and summer school programs, $405 million in property and tax relief for businesses and $150 for unemployment insurance all being vetoed. The vetoes leave about $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money delegated to Michigan up for grabs.
In a letter to Michigan lawmakers, Whitmer critiqued Republican lawmakers for trying to strip her of executive rights to handle the pandemic, saying it was “a reckless idea, poorly executed and poorly timed.”
“I note that this legislation leaves more than $2 billion in federal money unappropriated,” Whitmer said. “As Michigan goes all-out to finally beat back this awful pandemic and turn the page to recovery, we need every last dollar going to work for us before the Legislature takes its Spring Break.”
Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, said in a statement that he believes the legislation will have a negative impact on small businesses and those who are unemployed.
“Federal money was set aside to help shuttered businesses and devastated families through the worst crisis of their lives,” Rendon said. “Instead, the governor has chosen to play partisan politics, choosing winners and losers, rather than extending hope to all Michiganders. This failure is just the latest in her continuing claims that the administration is doing everything possible to save lives.”
2. Election Reform Package: Addressing Findings From Auditor General Report
Status: Passed by MI House, headed to state Senate.
This election reform package aims to improve the absentee ballot process to accommodate the greater demand for absentee voting, and helps sift through existing Michigan voter files to remove people who have not been voting or do not have their birthdate on their registration.
Before cancelling people’s voter registration, H.B. 4127 requires the Secretary of State — currently Jocelyn Benson — to send voters a postcard notifying them a placeholder birth date is on their voter file and they have to change it to the correct birth date. If a postcard is not returned or able to be delivered and if the individual does not engage in voting-related activity by the second general election after the notice was sent, their voter registration is canceled.
The bill passed 61-48.
Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, voted nay.
H.B. 4128 would cancel a voter’s registration if they have not voted since the 2000 general election — which would affect over 300,000 Michigan voters. To prohibit the cancellation, voters would have to fill out a card they receive by mail and send it back to the election clerk’s office. Their voter registration would still be canceled if they do not participate in a voting-related activity — such as casting a ballot or updating their voter registration — within the next two general elections.
The bill passed 66-43.
Again, Ann Arbor’s state Rep. Rabhi voted nay.
H.B. 4129 requires a list of the names of county and local clerks who are not up to date on their election training to be published on the Secretary of State’s website.
The bill passed 87-22.
Rabhi voted in favor.
H.B. 4130 and H.B. 4131 both work to ensure clerks consolidate precincts by increasing the number of voters assigned to one precinct and to keep an up-to-date list of absentee voters. The bills also require cities and townships with two or more precincts to create absentee ballot counting boards to process and count absent voter ballots.
H.B. 4130 passed 79-30 and H.B. 4131 passed 104-5.
Rabhi voted in favor of both bills.
3. Bill Aiming to Divide High Schools Sports by Biological Sex
Status: Introduced in the Senate
Introduced by state Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, and sponsored by 12 other GOP lawmakers, this bill was introduced with the intent of requiring high school students to compete on high school sports teams solely based on their biological sex. The legislation defines biological sex as ‘the physical condition of being male of female’ as said on the individual’s birth certificate.
Theis said in a statement that she thinks the bill is a way to uphold the legacy of Title IX, a federal law that protects students from gender discrimination in educational programs.
“Something must be done to preserve the legacy of Title IX — a staple of American society,” Theis said. “So, very simply, my bill will ensure that, in school sports in Michigan, student athletes will compete against one another according to their biological sex — females against females, and males against males.”
The bill also comes as Republicans across the country set out to prevent transgender women from competing on female sports teams. Democrats have strongly opposed such legislation on the basis that it is a strong attack on transgender students and transgender rights.
4. Drunken Driving Expungement for First-time Offenders
Status: Passed by the House
Sponsored by state Reps. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, these two bills would expunge first-time drunk driving offenses from individual’s records.
H.B. 4219 allows drivers who were convicted of driving while intoxicated to remove their first offense from their record, granted the offense did not cause death or serious injury to another individual. The erasure of offenses applies to violations of local, state and federal laws, as well as violations that occurred on Native American territory.
H.B. 4220 gives first-time offenders the opportunity to apply for expungement from a judge.
The MI House passed the piece of legislation 93-17.
Rabhi voted in favor of both bills.
5. A Resolution to Keep Daylight Saving Time All Year
This bill, introduced by state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, aims to keep Michigan on the same time system all year round, eliminating daylight savings time. The bill does not specify if Michigan would be on daylight saving time or standard time. This coming weekend, Michigan will “spring forward” and lose an hour of the day starting 2 a.m. Sunday, March 14. Clocks will revert back an hour on Sunday, Nov. 7 at 2 a.m.
Irwin said he has been a long-time supporter of the removal of daylight saving time and released a statement saying daylight saving time causes heart attacks, strokes and general crankiness.
“Twice a year, we volunteer Michiganians for more car accidents and injuries at work,” Irwin said. “We see lower productivity and an increased number of heart attacks and strokes, as well as a noticeable uptick in general crankiness. The twice a year time change has no benefits for our state, and we should stop doing it immediately.”
The bill was introduced on March 11.
Daily Staff Reporter Julia Forrest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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