Michigan Democrats are showing what’s possible when Democrats win control of a government. After the party got a trifecta in Michigan for the first time in decades, lawmakers have not wasted time. On Wednesday, the Michigan House voted to expand the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The state Senate passed those bills last week, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she plans to sign them. The state Supreme Court had ruled that the existing law covers sexual orientation and gender identity, but as we know, putting things in law is more permanent than relying on the courts.
So that’s one big win. Also on Wednesday, the House Labor Committee advanced bills repealing the anti-union “right to work” law put into place by Republicans in the 2012 lame duck session and restoring a prevailing wage law that would guarantee union-level wages for workers on state projects. Those bills were expected to come to a vote as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
But those were just the latest moves by Michigan Democratic lawmakers.
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On Tuesday, Whitmer signed a tax relief law benefiting low-income workers and retirees. The Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) will now be 30% of the federal level, up from 4%, which means that the credits will go from a current average of $150 to an average of $750. In 2019, 738,000 people in Michigan qualified for the EITC, Bridge Michigan reports.
Like repealing right to work, this move was a direct rollback of what Republicans did in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, when Whitmer was a state legislator, Republicans reduced the state’s EITC and started taxing retiree pensions. The new law fixes that, expanding the EITC and repealing the tax on pensions.
"It was wrong then, and today we are making it right," Whitmer said at a press conference. "People have been fighting to get this done for more than a decade."
Where the state Senate moved before the House to codify civil rights for LGBTQ people, the House moved first on repealing the state’s 1931 abortion ban. While voters nullified that ban in November by passing Proposal 3, as with LGBTQ rights, you can never put the right thing into law, or strike the wrong thing out of law, in too many ways. That House vote also happened last week.
Michigan Democrats are also working to strengthen the state’s gun laws. They’ve proposed enhanced background checks, a red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people deemed a risk to themselves or others, and a safe storage law that would penalize people who don’t safely lock up their guns or who allow minors access to guns. Each of these proposals has more than 70% support, with enhanced background checks drawing more than 85% support.
None of this—or at absolute best enhanced background checks—would be happening if Republicans still controlled even one chamber of the legislature. And Democrats would not have won the legislature if Republican gerrymandering had been allowed to stay in place. This is the story in so many places, with Republicans gaining power by writing the rules to favor themselves rather than by appealing to a broad range of voters. They’ve been enabled in that by Republican judges all the way to the Supreme Court, more of the Republican theory of power in operation.
We always say elections matter. Michigan Democrats are really showing what that means.
We live in a democracy: the candidate who receives the most votes should win, and every vote should matter the same. Michigan can become the 16th state to join National Popular Vote compact—so we can elect the President by popular vote. Call your state legislators at 833-924-0446 and tell them to VOTE YES on HB 4156 in House and YES on SB 126 in Senate. Michigan must join the National Popular Vote compact.
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