New Democratic majority kicks off session with bills axing Right to Work, 1931 abortion ban

First legislation includes measures for civil rights and economic justice

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click to enlarge House Speaker Pro Tem Laurie Pohutsky presides over the House on the first day of session, Jan. 11, 2023. - Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins
House Speaker Pro Tem Laurie Pohutsky presides over the House on the first day of session, Jan. 11, 2023.

Now wielding power in the Michigan House and Senate for the first time in decades, Democrats on Wednesday used the first day of the 102nd Legislature to announce a flurry of bills to advance labor, LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights.

Both chambers swore in new and returning members Wednesday morning, after which Democratic leaders announced six measures that will kick off the new term.

Those include legislation that would:

• Repeal Michigan’s so-called retirement tax, sponsored by state Reps. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.) and state Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores)

• Increased Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), sponsored by state Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) and state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City)

• Expand Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include anti-discrimination protections for sexual and gender identity, sponsored by state Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield) and state Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield)

• Restore the state’s prevailing wage law, sponsored by state Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac) and state Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe)

• Repeal the controversial “Right to Work” labor policy, sponsored by state Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) and state Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton)

• Repeal Michigan’s 1931 statute criminalizing abortion care, sponsored by state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) and state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor)

The bills will be formally introduced in the House and Senate record during session on Thursday.

“House Democrats are committed to supporting Michigan families, guaranteeing the rights of all Michiganders are protected and respected, ensuring workers know they are valued, protecting and investing in our future, and promoting safe and strong communities,” House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said in a statement. “Our commitment to make good on our promise to advance the priorities of the people is made clear with the introduction of these first bills of the session.

The new Democratic-led Legislature is expected to have a far more productive relationship with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was reelected last fall along with fellow Democrats Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

“These initial bills represent our collective commitment to expanding rights and opportunities for the people of Michigan,” said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). “Our first and only order of business is to tackle the real challenges that folks are facing by implementing an agenda that makes Michigan an even better place to call home. We know that the best policy is written at a table with many voices, and with these first bills we are setting a new standard of leadership that listens to the needs of the people.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) commended Democrats for advancing measures on LGBTQ+ and abortion rights on the first day of the new session.

“Thank you to Michigan lawmakers who recognize it is time that Michigan civil rights law explicitly protect[s] all people in Michigan from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression,” said Michigan ACLU’s Jay Kaplan.

Pohutsky and Geiss’ bills to remove Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban from the state Constitution follows a majority of Michigan voters deciding to enshrine abortion rights via a constitutional proposal in November.

“Affirming a person’s right to abortion and reproductive freedom was Democrats’ priority throughout the previous year and remains our priority today,” Pohutsky said. “The government does not belong in the exam room as people make private medical decisions. We must repeal old laws that no longer reflect the will of Michigan voters.

“The 1931 abortion ban criminalized medical providers for performing essential health care. House Bill 4006 guarantees that a pregnant person and their health care providers have the right to dictate their medical decisions without fear of prosecution.”

A similar bill that was introduced last session was denied a full House vote.

Originally published by Michigan Advance. It is republished with permission.

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