Since entering the majority in January, the Democratic trifecta in charge of Michigan’s government — both legislative chambers and the governorship — was not shy about its legislative goals.
And before the Michigan Legislature adjourned for the year on Nov. 14, many of those policies — including abortion rights, gun control and LGBTQ rights — were cemented into state law. Due to the Democrats’ slim majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, most of the legislation was unable to receive the two-thirds of votes needed to go into effect when this session adjourned. Instead, they will go into effect 90 days after adjournment.
If you need a refresher, here’s a look at some of the most significant bills Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law this year:
Increasing access for abortion care
A majority of Michigan voters approved Proposal 3 in the 2022 midterm election, which enshrined a person’s right to an abortion into the Michigan Constitution. In turn, there were many laws, like the state’s 1931 abortion ban, that were rendered invalid under Prop 3’s provisions.
Three bills to repeal the abortion ban and create safeguard measures that would curb any future attempts to overturn or limit Prop 3 were among the first introduced the term. Specifically, the bill package eliminates a section of state law which criminalizes medical or surgical abortions and the advertisement or sale of abortion drugs. It would also remove a ban on publications or sale of publications that contain recipes that prevent conception or induce a miscarriage.
Whitmer, who has been a vocal supporter of abortion rights, signed the legislation in April.
Most recently though, Whitmer signed eight of the nine bills included in the Reproductive Health Act, which removes laws from the books that weaken abortion access in Michigan.
The bill package repeals stringent rules placed on abortion clinics for things unrelated to their ability to provide care, such as hallway width, ceiling height or specifications for janitor’s closets. Abortion rights groups say these Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers, commonly known as TRAP laws, jeopardize a clinic’s license as a freestanding surgical outpatient facility and increases costs.
The Reproductive Health Act also ends the law that makes patients buy a separate insurance rider for an abortion and pay out of pocket for the procedure. Lastly, it would allow Michigan’s public universities to provide students with abortion referrals. The final bill in the package, which would grant every Michigander “a fundamental right to reproductive freedom,” is expected to be signed at a later date after passing out of the Legislature earlier this month, according to the governor’s office.
One other bill signed in May amends the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit an employer from discriminating against any employee who received an abortion. Previously, the civil rights law only protected individuals against employer discrimination if the abortion was “to save the life of the mother.”
Universal background checks, safe storage, red flag laws and more
In her January State of the State address, Whitmer called for the legislature to pass three gun reform policies: universal background checks, safe storage laws and extreme risk protection orders. Michigan has had to grapple with two mass shootings in recent years — first at Oxford High School in 2021 and at Michigan State University this past February.
Whitmer signed the safe storage and universal background check bills into law in April.
The safe storage legislation is meant to protect children by requiring a person to store their guns unloaded inside a lockbox, and creates a range of penalties for those who fail to do so. Universal background checks would expand mandatory background checks for people purchasing a pistol to include any firearm.
Whitmer signed a bill package to create extreme risk protection orders, otherwise known as red flag laws, one month after the safe storage and universal background checks laws. Extreme risk protection orders enable a family member or loved one to petition a court in order to temporarily remove guns from the possession of someone who may be a danger to themselves or others. Under the new law, a person who is subjected to an extreme risk protection order may not qualify for a pistol license.
Democrats in the Legislature introduced another round of gun reform bills in September, and Whitmer signed them into law in November. These laws prohibit anyone convicted of domestic violence from buying or owning a gun for eight years after sentencing and create separate misdemeanor penalties for crimes like breaking and entering.
Expanded protections for LGBTQ Michiganders
After decades of advocacy, members of Michigan’s LGBTQ communities finally saw changes this year to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that could protect them from prejudice.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission issued an interpretative statement in 2018 declaring that sexual orientation and gender identity fall under definition of “sex” as a protected class in the civil rights law. After court disputes, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the commission’s interpretation in 2022.
A new law to codify sexual orientation and gender identity into the civil rights law gave LGBTQ individuals access to legal resources if they’re discriminated against when obtaining housing, employment or education.
Additionally, a pair of bills introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives to end conversion therapy for LGBTQ minors in Michigan also made its way into law. Whitmer had already previously signed an executive order banning the use of government funds for conversion therapy on minors in 2021. The legislation defines conversion therapy as any method used to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity and includes penalties for mental health professionals who engage in the practice with someone under the age of 18.
And as a part of a wide-ranging package to ensure provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, remain accessible in the state, Whitmer signed a bill that prohibits insurance providers from denying coverage based on someone’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.