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 month. 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. Proposed funding increase for Michigan police
Status: Passed in the MI House, sent to the MI Senate
As part of a supplemental budget bill, Michigan Republican lawmakers proposed an $80 million spending increase in funding for law enforcement across the state on May 13. According to the Associated Press, one Republican lawmaker said the increase was meant to help a “beaten down” profession.
In a press conference last week, state Rep. and Michigan House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, explained the MI GOP plans to continue similar support in the future.
“This profession has been beaten down in the media and by politicians,” Wentworth said. “We’re going to support your retention, recruitment, mental health. … It’s a big investment. It’s our initial investment.”
Within the proposal, $47 million is specified as being used to retain current employees and aid in recruitment efforts. Maximum $2,000 signing bonuses, $4,000 training stipends, tuition assistance and mental health support are all included in the proposal, in part to incentivize community-building activities and the use of body cameras and other safety practices.
Amendments introduced by Democratic lawmakers, such as enforcement of the use of body cameras, were not ultimately approved.
The bill was passed by the Michigan House and sent to the Michigan Senate for approval.
2. Measure prohibiting vaccine passports and fines for unvaccinated Michiganders
Status: Passed in committee, sent to Michigan House
The Michigan House Oversight Committee recently approved a measure prohibiting any government entity from requiring, producing or distributing vaccine passports or from fining someone for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
There has been no indication of plans from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer or state health officials to require vaccine passports or make the vaccine mandatory. They have also confirmed the state will not be instituting such measures.
The University announced on April 23 it would require students living on campus during the 2021-2022 academic year to be vaccinated, a decision separate from Whitmer and state health officials.
In reference to these efforts by the Michigan legislature, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily this legislation would likely impact the University’s ability to require vaccinations.
“While we oppose such a measure, we must respect the legislative process as it plays out,” Fitzgerald wrote.
The approval of this measure comes after a May 6 committee hearing where witnesses touted COVID-19 conspiracy theories, as well as the possibility of vaccine passports.
The measure was approved 6-3 on party lines. Bills with similar intentions are currently being pursued in separate legislation in the Michigan House and within budget proposals.
3. Proposal to repeal the state’s ban on affirmative action
Status: Introduced in Michigan Senate, referred to committee
State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the Michigan state constitution that would repeal the state’s ban on affirmative action.
The ban was initially approved in a statewide ballot initiative, Proposal 2, in 2006.
Following that change, the state constitution states that any public institution, including the University, “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”
In a press release, Irwin explained his motivation for introducing the measure and said he hopes the amendment would make students more comfortable in academic settings.
“We, as representatives of the state of Michigan, cannot ignore the fact that race and sex inequality exists in our society,” Irwin said. “As a state with several top schools, colleges and universities, it should be our priority to make sure students feel safe on campus and have an increased ability to succeed academically without facing hostility due to their racial or gender identity. It is up to us to confront and combat these systems and allow everyone a chance for the success they want and deserve.”
The resolution was referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
4. Passing of two higher education budgets
Status: Passed in the Michigan House, in committee with the Senate-passed budget
This proposed higher education budget for the next fiscal year was approved by the Michigan House on May 13. The total budget for Michigan’s public universities — approximately $1.5 billion — would remain stable overall, though the distribution among schools would change. The proposed distribution would be based on operational funding increases rather than the six performance metrics.
U-M Ann Arbor would lose approximately $40 million in funding under the House’s plan.
The Michigan Senate approved an alternative bill allowing for an increase in each university’s state funding, requested by Whitmer. After a committee creates a final fiscal bill using those passed by the state House and Senate respectively, the proposal will be sent to Whitmer.
5. Ban on government severance pay and confidentiality agreements
Status: Passed by the Michigan House, sent to the Michigan Senate
House Bill 4591, which passed unanimously in the Michigan House, would ban state officials from receiving severance pay or entering into confidentiality agreements when leaving their position.
This bill comes following controversy surrounding Whitmer and the exit of various former state officials, most notably former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) director Robert Gordon, who received such a deal and resigned in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in unclear circumstances.
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, voted for the bill, which will now be sent to the state Senate.
Daily News Editor Emma Ruberg can be reached at email@example.com.