Claire Yang/Daily.

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

Each 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. Creation of the Opioid Healing & Recovery Fund

Status: Signed by Whitmer 

Introduced in March of this year by state Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb, and signed into law on May 19, Senate Bill 993 created a public fund dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis in Michigan. The act requires any money received by the state from settlements or other legal claims relating to opioid manufacturing and distribution to be deposited into the fund. This includes Michigan’s $776 million share of a $26 billion national settlement with four corporations: Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson

In a press release from Whitmer’s office, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said this fund will help guarantee that settlement money is delivered promptly and fairly to the families most affected by substance abuse. 

“The timely deployment of state settlement dollars is crucial in the fight against opioids in our communities,” Nessel said. “This puts us a step closer to getting the proper infrastructure in place to ensure settlement dollars can be used quickly and save as many lives as possible.” 

All funds will be directed to relevant social services and no money from the fund is allowed to replace other general funding; it must instead be used to create new programs or supplement funding for existing ones. Money may also be used to pay legal fees when pursuing opioid-related settlements. The law dictates that any money left in the fund at the end of the fiscal year must remain there for the following year, instead of being relocated to general funding. 

In the same press release, Whitmer highlighted the ways this fund will help communities and families impacted by the opioid epidemic. 

“The opioid crisis touches families across our state, which is why it’s so crucial to ensure that Michiganders facing substance use issues have the support and resources they need to get better,” Whitmer said. “The legislation I signed today will be instrumental in preventing more deaths and will provide Michigan families impacted by the devastating opioid epidemic with some semblance of relief.” 

2. Subsidize select social work training

Status: Passed by the Senate 

First introduced by state Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, in April of this year, S.B. 1012 calls for the creation of a Student Mental Health Apprenticeship Retention and Training (SMART) grant program. This program would pay graduate students training to be counselors, psychologists or social workers in schools $25 an hour for up to 20 hours per week for their fieldwork in public school settings. Students in this program must be working in a discipline experiencing a worker shortage or interning at a school where at least half of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Grant recipients must also promise to work at a public school for at least three years from the start of their payment. 

In a press release, VanderWall discussed how the SMART program will help address the shortage of mental health workers in Michigan. 

“Often, we see that mental health professionals will serve a particular school district in an apprenticeship or internship capacity as part of educational and training requirements and then go on to leave these schools after receiving their degree or certification,” VanderWall said. “The SMART plan will encourage these professionals to remain within these school systems, where they are critically needed, and to have ownership and grow vitally important mental health care programs in the school.”

This bill is supported by the School of Social Work’s Joint Task Force on Stipends and Payments for Placements (P4P), a student campaign for stipends for Social Work students while they complete often unpaid, degree-required field placements.

The bill is also supported by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). In an NASW press release, Kathy Weaver, president of the Michigan chapter of NASW, discussed the urgency of this legislation. 

“Teachers and administrators are asking now more than ever for mental health support for their students,” Weaver said. “Unfortunately there aren’t enough qualified, trained school social workers available to meet the demand. Paid internships and paid supervision will go a long way to attracting future workforce as well as retain established professionals.” 

The bill passed in the Senate by a margin of 37–0 and was referred to the House Committee on Health Policy after undergoing its first reading in the House on May 26.

3. Mandatory prescreening for dyslexia in public schools 

Status: Passed by the Senate 

Initially introduced in April 2021 by state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, S.B. 380 would require all students to undergo dyslexia screenings each year from kindergarten through third grade, as well as any other students who appear to be struggling academically as determined by their parent, guardian or teacher. If passed, this bill would take effect no later than the 2024–2025 school year. This bill is part of a package of four bills focused on improving dyslexia screening and support in Michigan schools. The other bills in the group address teacher training, improving classroom support structure and creating a dyslexia resource guide

In a press release, Irwin highlighted the need for such legislation in the state of Michigan, which he said is lacking in support for students with learning disabilities. 

“Reading and writing are the foundation of success in our society, but more than 50% of 3rd and 4th graders in Michigan are not proficient in these essential skills, which is why we need to address this issue,” Irwin said. “Michigan has no statewide strategy to screen and treat the most common language-based learning disability, dyslexia, which means we are failing our students.”

The bill requires that any student who is learning English as a second language have at least one year of English instruction before being screened. The bill also outlines curricular requirements for students identified to be struggling academically that encourage instruction based on the “science of reading,” a body of research that stresses the avoidance of practices such as skipping unknown words and over-using illustrations or graphics. The legislation requires all school personnel working in special education, literacy or curriculum decisions to have received professional training in the signs of dyslexia and how to implement instructional methods specific to students with dyslexia by the 2026–2027 school year. 

The bill passed 33–0 and was referred to the House Committee on Education after its first reading in the House on May 11.

4. Creation of a foster care improvement commission 

Status: Passed by the House 

House Bill 5801, first introduced in February by state Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, proposes the creation of a foster care improvement commission. Eleven members would sit on the commission, including members of the judicial branch of the Michigan government, the director of the Children’s Services Agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, and representatives involved in the foster care system, such as case workers and parents. 

In a press release from Michigan House Republicans, Kahle stressed the importance of improving the foster care system and supporting foster children. 

“Foster care in Michigan needs more stability, more transparency, and more accountability,” Kahle said. “Our state typically has more than 10,000 Michigan children in foster care and every one of these precious kids deserves a chance at a bright future. A coordinated action plan from a dedicated commission will help bridge unidentified gaps that currently exist in the system and provide continuity and accountability for years to come.” 

The commission’s responsibilities would include researching the best practices for child welfare outcomes in other states and making recommendations for improvement to the Michigan foster care system. These recommendations must work to accomplish the requirements outlined by the settlement agreement in the Dwayne B. v. Whitmer case. This class-action suit settled in 2008 called on the state to reform the child welfare system by introducing early behavioral health interventions, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, and supporting young adults who age out of the system, among other measures. The creation of this commission would be part of the state’s ongoing efforts to improve the child welfare system in the state of Michigan. 

The bill passed 79–28 in the House and has since been referred to the Senate Committee on Health Policy. 

5. Providing informational materials for high schoolers on post-secondary education

Status: Signed by Whitmer 

Introduced by state Rep. David Martin, R-Davison, in June 2021 and signed by Whitmer on May 26 of this year, H.B. 4953 requires all schools to provide informational materials on post-secondary education options. Under this act, the Michigan Department of Education must create informational packets each year to be distributed to all students in eighth to 12th grade. 

All packets must include information about Advanced Placement programs and other college preparatory courses, information about all public universities and community colleges in the state, and information on student loans and tuition assistance. 

In a press release, Whitmer discussed the importance of supporting public education and preparing students for their futures. 

“Every child in this state deserves a phenomenal public education and a path to a high-wage job,” Whitmer said. “We will continue finding ways to put our kids on track to graduate and pursue postsecondary education, skills training, or good-paying jobs.” 

Packets must also include a list of at least 10 vocational training opportunities, a list of the occupations in high demand in the state and information on public service opportunities in the military or in police and fire departments. Packets must be prepared and available to schools by Aug. 1 of each year and distributed to students no later than Oct. 1, beginning in 2023. 

In the same press release, Martin stressed the importance of making students aware of paths other than higher education. 

“As our students make important life choices about what to do after high school, it’s vital to ensure they are well-informed of their options,” Martin said. “Not all paths to success hinge on a four-year college degree. Many young people may prefer trade school or public service, and I’m glad this change will help present them with the diverse career opportunities in their communities and across Michigan.”

Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at