Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says it’s time for Michigan to pass paid family and medical leave

Gretchen Whitmer

In a speech outlining her policy priorities for the remainder of the year, Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday said that it’s time for the Legislature to pass a paid family and medical leave bill before the session ends in December. 

“No one should have to choose between being there for their family and a paycheck,” Whitmer said in a speech in downtown Lansing. “Paid family and medical leave is a pro-family, pro-small business policy that will grow our state and its economy.” 

While she did not give specifics on how much leave she wants workers to receive or how the program would be funded, Whitmer said in her speech that 77% of Michigan workers currently don’t have access to paid family or medical leave. An earlier proposal by state Sen. Erika Geiss would give workers 15 weeks of partial pay to care for a baby or a sick family member or if a worker had their own health problems.

“It helps workers be there for their families,” Whitmer said. “It gives you breathing room to get better when you’re sick, to bond with your baby or care for a family member.”

Whitmer said she also wants the Democratic-controlled Legislature to codify some parts of the Affordable Care Act into state law in case former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement is struck down by the conservative U.S. Supreme Court at the federal level in the future. She said she wants to require insurers in Michigan to cover preexisting conditions and essential services, to ban caps on insurance coverage, and to allow people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until they’re 26.

“This fall, let’s codify the commonsense cost-saving measures of the ACA,” Whitmer said, adding that people shouldn’t be charged more “for having cancer, diabetes, or being pregnant.”

Whitmer called on the Legislature to repeal state laws that put restrictions on abortion.

“Slaying our zombie laws was great,” Whitmer said, referring to the Legislature’s repeal of a state law from 1931 that banned abortion in Michigan and passage of a law prohibiting companies from retaliating against workers who obtain abortions. “But there are still other bad laws that put politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion. This forces patients to drive hundreds of miles for care or mandate that they receive biased, inaccurate information on their health. With the U.S. Supreme Court stripping away basic rights, we must be proactive about repealing these antiquated state laws.”

In Michigan, those seeking abortions must wait 24 hours after being counseled before having the procedure, and only physicians, not other qualified health professionals, can provide abortions, a restriction that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, is “designed to shutter abortion clinics without basis in medical standards.”

It’s unclear whether Whitmer’s proposals will become law.

However, Democrats control the Michigan Legislature for the first time in 40 years. Already, it has passed a slew of progressive laws since Democrats took control of both chambers, including codifying protections for LGBTQ Michiganders; requiring universal background checks for gun purchases in the state; and repealing anti-union “right-to-work” legislation, which allows workers to opt out of paying union dues even when they are receiving the benefits of union-negotiated contracts.

“Today, we’ve celebrated the progress we have made together and started an essential conversation about ‘what’s next,’” Whitmer said in her speech. “Our plans are ambitious, but they are achievable. Let’s get them done so we can build a bright future for Michigan.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.