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 month of June. Both the Michigan House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, while Whitmer is a Democrat.
During the academic year, on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, The Michigan Daily publishes a compilation of bills being floated in the Michigan state legislature for students at the University of Michigan to know about.
During the summer, this series is being continued monthly.
1. Requiring high school athletes to play on teams consistent with their biological sex at birth.
Status: Introduced in Michigan Senate on March 10, referred to committee
Thirteen Republican senators are backing legislation introduced by state Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, in March that would require high school student-athletes to join the team consistent with their biological sex at birth: male or female. The bill’s sponsors said they are concerned about female athletes losing races, records, or scholarships to transgender women who may have biological advantages. They said this bill would rectify concerns about unfairness in athletics.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed in Connecticut involving two transgender female runners who broke several state track records and beat cisgender women in various races. Supporters of the Michigan bill cite this lawsuit as evidence that allowing transgender women to compete alongside cisgender women can lead to controversy.
Ryan Fisher, LSA senior and chairman of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, spoke on behalf of the organization in support of the bill.
“(U-M College Republicans) wholeheartedly support the student athletes bill which ensures that men and women will each compete under fair circumstances,” Fisher said. “There are biological differences between men and women that should be respected and considered in interscholastic programs.”
The bill’s critics — The Michigan High School Athletic Association among them — have argued that the bill might cause more problems than it solves. According to the MHSAA, the Association only receives two transgender-athlete-related inquiries per year on average, and this bill could further stigmatize transgender identities in high schools. Adolescents who identify as transgender already face mental health issues at higher rates than cisgender youth and are six times more likely to suffer from mood or anxiety disorders.
The bill was hotly debated in the Michigan Senate throughout June, with hearings being held about the bill within the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee.
2. Bill package: People with disabilities or positive HIV tests cannot be discriminated against in the organ transplant process.
Status: One bill introduced in Michigan Senate and referred to committee, one passed unanimously in Michigan House
If passed, a bill recently discussed in the Michigan Senate would make it illegal to deny anyone an organ transplant or set them back on the transplant waiting list on account of a physical or mental disability.
The first in a two-bill package, HB-6324, was first introduced in November 2020 and is intended to reinforce the federal Americans with Disabilities Act at a state level. Since 1990, the ADA has banned discrimination throughout the organ transplant process for people with a physical or mental disability. However, in the state of Michigan, individuals seeking organ donations who also have certain disabilities are often still lower on transplant lists, according to the National Down Syndrome Society and other organizations.
Fisher said College Republicans supports this bill as well, and hopes it will help save lives.
“We support the bill prohibiting discrimination against those with mental or physical disabilities in transplants,” Fisher said. “One’s right to life should not be based on uncontrollable characteristics, but rather on one’s intrinsic value as a human being.”
In 2013, the federal HIV Organ Policy Equity Act made it possible for an HIV-positive individual to give any organ to other HIV-positive patients in transplant procedures. However, in Michigan, state law still stipulates that patients — including those who are HIV-positive — seeking organ transplants cannot receive organs from those who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Organs from HIV-positive donors are currently shipped out of the state.
The second of the two bills in the package would allow Michiganders with a positive HIV test to donate their organs to other HIV-positive patients in the state.
One of the bill’s sponsors, state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield, supports the bill because it would expand donor eligibility to more individuals and would make it possible for more patients to receive life-saving organ donations quickly.
“Allowing these transplants will also increase the total pool of available organs for all transplant recipients, regardless of their HIV status,” Brabec said to the Michigan House right before the bill passed on June 17. “That means that this legislation would be saving the lives of both HIV-positive and HIV-negative patients right here in Michigan.”
The disability anti-discrimination bill was most recently referred to the Committee on Health Policy. The bill concerning organ transplants between HIV-positive individuals was passed unanimously by the House on June 17 and is now headed to the state Senate for further consideration.
3. Bill Package: Ban on chokeholds and “no-knock” warrants.
Status: Package announced by Michigan House Democrats
The “Justice for All” plan was introduced by state Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods; state Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing; and state Rep. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield, on June 8.
The 16-bill package aims to require that law enforcement report any uses of force, misconduct complaints and the results of any subsequent investigations to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. Any results or data from investigations would also have to be made available to the public. Bills in the package would also prohibit chokeholds and no-knock warrants — which allow law enforcement to enter a residency without notifying the residents beforehand — and would eliminate immunity for officers who use unreasonable force.
Police officers have been given “qualified immunity” in the past to protect them from being held personally accountable for constitutional violations when in the field.
Breonna Taylor’s mother and cousin are among those who have asked that Michigan legislators pass the police reforms outlined in the “Justice for All” plan. Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police officers who used a battering ram to enter her home in Louisville, Kentucky on March 13, 2020. The officers had a “no-knock” warrant to search the residence for evidence relating to a narcotics investigation involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend.
This June, the Metro Council in Louisville voted to pass “Breonna’s Law,” banning “no-knock” warrants in the city.
In regards to the possibility of making “no-knock” warrants illegal in Michigan and enacting the other police reforms outlined in the package, Yancey said passing the bills would help advance justice and equity within the state.
“Each and every person who lost their life at the hands of the police was a human being who deserved to be respected and protected,” Yancey said. “While it is both clear and unfortunate that we as a society failed to protect them, my colleagues and I will continue to fight to ensure that they receive justice. We stand for each and every one of them.”
4. ID required for in-person voting, provisional ballots used for voting without an ID.
Status: Passed by state House
As part of a Republican-led package aiming to amend state election procedures, a bill first introduced to the tate Senate in March would mandate identification for in-person voting. This includes any state or federally issued ID. Those voting without an ID would be required to use a provisional ballot.
Under this new bill, if a voter initially submits a provisional ballot, they must show proof of voter registration and an ID in order for their vote to be counted.
Voter identification laws can decrease overall voter participation because some voters face challenges trying to obtain a state-issued ID. Often, individuals with lower incomes cannot afford to obtain the documents necessary to receive an ID if they do not have them already.
Fisher said he hopes the new voter identification bill will pass because it may help limit voter fraud and improve the authenticity of elections held in the state.
“We support the new mandate for identification in Michigan elections,” Fisher said. “We must ensure that everyone voting is indeed legitimate; this should help restore faith in elections and minimize instances of election fraud.”
A Republican-led state Senate committee report released last month found “no evidence of widespread or systematic fraud” in Michigan’s 2020 election.
5. Prohibit Michigan schools from teaching critical race theory.
Status: Introduced in Michigan Senate
Theis, who is the chair of the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, introduced legislation that would prohibit public K-12 schools in the state from teaching critical race theory or suggesting that the United States was — or still is — a racist country. If passed, the bill would also ban schools from teaching content derived from the New York Times’ “The 1619 Project,” a journalistic initiative highlighting the impact of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans throughout U.S. history.
Dating back to at least the 1980s, critical race theory teaches that racism is socially constructed and ingrained within national political systems rather than stemming from individually conceived biases. CRT suggests that systemic racism exists within the framework of the United States and continues to impact the lived experiences of people of color on a daily basis.
In a statement about the bill, Theis said CRT is inherently a political concept and therefore should not be presented to K-12 students as fact-based, educational material in an academic setting.
“Critical race theory is an invention of the extremist political left that has manipulated academia for decades and is now targeting private businesses, public institutions and, sadly, our K-12 classrooms,” Theis said.
Fisher said College Republicans also supports the bill and keeping CRT out of classrooms, but believes this particular bill is worded too broadly and could pose a threat to the education system.
“While we support the bill prohibiting Critical Race Theory, we have some concerns with the breadth of this bill, such as a provision banning the instruction of unconscious bias by virtue of one’s race,” Fisher said. “This bill may likely do more good than harm, but it would need to be upheld and administered in a very limited fashion to minimize potential ramifications.”
The U-M College Democrats did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article.
Daily Staff Reporter Kate Weiland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org