June 11, 2023
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ELECTION BILLS ARE MOVING
A package of eight bills to implement Ballot Proposal 2022-2 was developed by a large task force of stakeholders led by the Secretary of State who worked with legislative leaders to develop them. The bills were introduced June 6 and had hearings the following two days in both chambers’ Election Committees. The expanded provisions under Proposal 2 must be in effect in 2024. The Secretary of State and municipal clerks are quite anxious to get the laws in place and State funding for the new requirements. Michigan SERA put in a card supporting the bills in both committee hearings. Michigan SERA endorsed Proposal 2 during the 2022 election cycle. The bills are:
Other Election Bills — SB 339 sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and HB 4594 sponsored by Rep. Dylan Wegela would create a more elaborate ballot and absentee ballot application tracking system that would notify voters of the status of their applications for an absentee ballot or voted ballot. SB 339-Substitute 2 passed the Senate 22-16 on June 7 and has been referred to the House Elections Committee where HB 4594 had a hearing on May 23.
The House has passed HB 4033 sponsored by Rep. Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods) which would require the State to reimburse local units of government for the cost of conducting a special election to fill a vacancy for a State legislative office if the election is called by the governor and is held on a date other than a regular election date. The bill was referred to the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact was the subject of a hearing on HB 4156 and HB 4440 sponsored by Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor). The bills would amend the Michigan Election Law to enter Michigan into the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote, also known as the National Popular Vote (NPV) Interstate Compact. Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia—together representing 205 electoral votes—have signed on to the Compact, pledging to allocate their electoral votes to whoever wins the nationwide, rather than statewide, popular vote. If enough states join to total 270 or more electoral votes of the 538 available, the presidential candidate receiving the most votes nationwide will receive all electoral votes from Compact member states and will thus be guaranteed enough votes to become president. The bills were reported out of the House Elections Committee on June 6 along party lines.
Advocates for the NPV Compact point out that the current Electoral College system allows a candidate to win the Presidency while losing the popular vote, an outcome seen as counter to the one person, one vote principle of democracy. This has happened in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.
RECENT BILLS SIGNED
Since May 8 after the last “Capitol News,” the Governor has signed 15 bills.
Cell Phone Use While Driving — Beware! Sending or receiving a message on an electronic wireless device like a cell phone or tablet while driving will be unlawful starting June 30 under new Public Acts 39, 40, and 41. Previously, the law only covered texting while driving and was hard to enforce.
Red Flag Bills — The Governor signed four bills, now Public Acts 35, 36, 37, and 38 enacting extreme risk protection orders, making Michigan the 21st state to allow concerned persons to petition a circuit court to remove a firearm or prevent the person from purchasing a firearm for fear an individual may harm themselves or others. The laws did not receive the necessary six Republican votes in the Senate to be given Immediate Effect so they will become law 91 days after sine die adjournment of the Legislature later this year.
LGBTQ+ Commission — At the Motor City Pride parade in Detroit on June 11, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order establishing a first-ever Michigan LGBTQ+ Commission. The commission will address issues facing Michigan’s LGTBQ+ community, including health, safety, and economic opportunity. The LGBTQ+ Commission will advise the governor and the director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity on policy matters impacting Michigan’s LGBTQ+ community.
HOUSE APPROVES VULNERABLE ADULT BILL
House Bill 4197 would add Article 5A (Financial Exploitation) to the Uniform Securities Act to authorize actions to protect individuals from financial exploitation and to allow certain actions to be taken, including placing a delayed authorization on the disbursement of funds, to protect a vulnerable adult from financial exploitation or covered financial exploitation.
Under the bill, if a broker-dealer or investment adviser suspects or detects covered financial exploitation of a client or customer, they could delay the related disbursement or transaction for further investigation for up to 15 days if they still suspect or detect covered financial exploitation after investigation.
Covered financial exploitation would mean financial exploitation of an individual through deception, manipulation, coercion, intimidation, or improper leveraging of a caregiver relationship.
Vulnerable adult would mean an adult who, because of mental or physical impairment or advanced age, is unable to protect themselves for covered financial exploitation.
According to committee testimony, the bill would strengthen current Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules by including transactions as subject to temporary holds, as is now industry best practice, and by allowing Michigan-only registered entities to place temporary holds. According to the testimony, more than 35 states have already enacted similar provisions. Testimony from supporters of the legislation said it is estimated that only 1 in 44 cases of financial abuse are reported. Exploitation is usually by relatives or caregivers of the vulnerable adult. They argue the bill would provide an important additional tool to prevent or catch unreported cases.
SENATE MOVES SEVERAL BILLS
Juneteenth — Following 2021 Federal Legislation, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist proclaimed June 19, 2022, as Juneteenth Celebration Day in Michigan. It is a holiday for State employees.
SB 50 sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) was passed by the Michigan Senate 37-1 on May 17 and would codify the public holiday into Michigan statute. Juneteenth commemorates the day when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 to take control of the State and read General Order No.3, which stated that all slaves were free under enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas was the last of the Confederate States of America in which the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced. The bill has been referred to the House Government Operations Committee for further consideration.
Contact Information — Under SB 169 sponsored by Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint), public employers would have to provide employee contact information to bargaining representatives within 30 days of hire and every 90 days afterward for each employee. The rationale for the bill is that union employees are barred from talking to their union representatives during work hours, meaning they typically must speak with them after-hours on their personal time. Unions are obligated to represent all in the bargaining unit, even if the employee does not choose to be a member of the union. Unions need the employee’s contact information to adequately represent them. Opposition to the bill from Republicans centered on invasion of privacy and potential misuse of the information for political purposes. The bill passed the Senate along party lines 20-18 and has been referred to the House Labor Committee.
State Rules Unleashed — SB 14 sponsored by Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) would eliminate the prohibition on adoption of rules by State agencies from being more stringent than federal regulations. Advocates from environmental groups including the Sierra Club of Michigan and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters testified in support of SB 14, but the Michigan Manufacturers Association testified in opposition to the bill. The bill passed in the Senate along party lines and has had one hearing in the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
Grad Assistant Unions — SB 185 sponsored by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) would allow college graduate student research assistants to be recognized as public employees and join unions. The measure passed the Senate along party lines over Republican objections. The bill has had two hearings in the House Labor Committee.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Allen v Milligan issued June 8 concerning Alabama’s redistricting process may have ramifications for Michigan some observers speculate. The high court held 5-4 that Alabama’s new congressional map diluted Black voting strength, unlawful under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Even though Black citizens compose 27 percent of the population of the state, the Legislature had enacted a Congressional map with only one of seven districts in which Black voters could elect their candidate of choice.
By reaffirming 40 years of precedent, the Court signaled to lower courts to take Section 2 claims seriously. The opinion will have immediate impacts on other states with pending Section 2 redistricting cases such as Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.
The dissatisfaction with the Michigan Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission’s State Senate and State House district lines around the Detroit area may gain strength from the Milligan decision. The decision may also influence map drawers in North Carolina and Florida. Changes in district lines could mean a different make-up of the U.S. House in 2024 and/or 2026.
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