Gun, abortion, energy reform among 142 Michigan laws taking effect Tuesday
- 142 laws signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year will take effect Feb. 13
- Laws have a 90-day waiting period to take effect after the Legislature adjourns unless two-thirds of lawmakers in both chambers agree to “immediate effect”
- Laws taking effect Tuesday include gun reforms, additional protections for LGBTQ residents, repeals of many Republican-backed laws
Nearly half of the laws passed by the Democratic-majority Legislature last year are set to take effect this week, including sweeping overhauls to the state’s energy and election policies, repeals of Republican-backed labor laws and abortion restrictions and firearm safety measures long sought by gun control advocates.
Of the 321 bills signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2023, 142 of them — 44% — will take effect Tuesday, Feb. 13. Another 28 bills signed last year will take effect later in 2024, and five laws approving expanded automatic voter registration options will go into effect June 30, 2025.
Democrats passed a laundry list of priorities during their first year with full majority control of state government in decades, but many of the biggest didn’t have enough support among Republicans to take effect immediately.
That meant the bills had to wait three months after the Legislature wrapped up work for the year to become law. Democrats ultimately opted to adjourn for the year in mid-November, a month earlier than usual, so time-sensitive legislation could take effect sooner.
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Legislative leaders said Tuesday marks a historic, albeit delayed, win.
“Michiganders made their voices known and elected a Democratic trifecta, focused on putting people first,” House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “We’ve listened and delivered on what Michiganders need the most to live better lives now and in the future.”
Here’s a recap of what laws will take effect this week:
New presidential primary date
Michigan’s presidential primary date is moving from March 12 to Feb. 27.
The change, backed by the Democratic National Committee and Democratic President Joe Biden, will make Michigan one of the first states to hold presidential primaries, which supporters said would increase the state’s clout.
Republicans opposed the move because Republican National Committee rules prohibit Michigan from holding primaries before March 1. In June, the Michigan Republican Party adopted a hybrid primary plan that would only guarantee up to 16 of Michigan’s 55 delegates for the winner of the state’s presidential primary. The rest would be allotted in party caucus meetings on March 2.
Tax credit expansions
Legislation expanding the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income workers and repealing the so-called pension tax on retirement income will take effect in time for 2024 tax filings.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, offered to low-income workers, will jump from 6% of the federal level to 30% of the federal level, boosting average state savings from $150 to nearly $750. That change could benefit 738,000 residents who qualified for the credit in 2019, the most recent year with comparable data.
The new law will also restore a full tax exemption on pension income, repealing a 2011 tax over the course of the next four years starting in tax year 2023. Filers will be able to choose whether to take advantage of the phased-in pension exemption or continue to claim an existing exemption for any type of retirement income, up to $20,000 for an individual or $40,000 for joint filers.
The concepts had bipartisan support, but Senate Republicans blocked the legislation from taking immediate effect to preserve a projected income tax rate reduction triggered by a 2015 law that requires the state to cut income taxes if revenue significantly outpaces inflation.
That meant the law did not include $180 checks for all tax filers, as the governor had proposed, and a retroactive provision issuing refunds for qualifying 2022 Earned Income Tax Credit filers won’t be sent until the law takes effect.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed climate bills last fall requiring Michigan utility companies to get 100% of their energy from clean energy sources by 2040.
The new laws also give the state the authority to override local decisions to allow farmers and property owners to house wind and solar projects on their land.
The provisions remain controversial — in January, the group Citizens for Local Choice got approval to gather signatures for a ballot measure that would repeal the renewable energy siting law.
An expansion to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law sought by LGBTQ rights advocates is among the new laws set to take effect Tuesday.
The legislation, signed by Whitmer in March, stipulates that employers won’t be able to fire or refuse to hire people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Landlords and real estate agents cannot refuse to rent or sell a property to a person for those reasons, either.
Right-to-Work repeal, prevailing wage restoration
A priority for unions and a threat for many business groups, new laws repealing the state’s previous Right-to-Work law and restoring prevailing wage rates will soon take effect.
Taken together, the legislation ends a 2012 law that prohibits compulsory union dues or fees and restores a construction-industry “prevailing wage” law the GOP repealed in 2018. The prevailing wage law restores guarantees for union-scale wages and benefits on any government-funded construction project, including schools.
Several other labor-related laws that will take effect in February expand bargaining rights of teachers’ unions, allowing unions and districts to bargain over what classes teachers teach, how teachers are evaluated and several other items.
Upon taking the majority in the Legislature, Democrats repealed dormant bans on abortion procedures and abortion-inducing drugs, and also added protections for abortion recipients to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which will ban employers from firing, demoting or otherwise discriminating against an employee if they get an abortion.
Later in the year, lawmakers passed bills to remove other abortion restrictions in state law, including bans on insurance companies covering abortion without an opt-in rider, bans on most late-term abortions and building codes for abortion facilities critics have said make it difficult for new clinics to open.
Two months after a mass shooting at Michigan State University, Whitmer signed laws at the campus requiring gun owners to securely store their firearms and establishing universal background checks for gun purchases.
A month later, Whitmer signed related “red flag” legislation allowing court orders to prevent people posing a risk to themselves or others from possessing a gun.
Advocates have argued the laws can help save lives, while opponents say it would chip away at gun owners’ rights.
Lawmakers also approved legislation banning domestic abusers from owning guns for eight years after their conviction, including those convicted of misdemeanors involving domestic violence.
A law repealing portions of the state’s controversial reading law that required students who test more than a grade behind in reading to repeat third grade was signed into law in March and will take effect early next year.
Reading retention laws have become fairly common in recent decades as states seek to improve literacy early in students’ academic lives and reduce dropout rates. But critics contend the Michigan law is punitive, inequitable and ineffective.
Legislation repealing the state’s report card system where schools receive A-F grades in several factors, including test scores and graduation rates, will also take effect this week, as will changes to teacher evaluations that make the assessments less reliant on student test scores.
Early voting and more
Several election process laws, many of which codify elements of Proposal 2 — a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2022 to expand voting access — will take effect in time for 2024 elections.
Changes include requirements for at least nine days of early voting before Election Day, a statewide absentee ballot online tracking system, prepaid postage for absentee ballots and more.
Lawmakers also approved new parameters around the election certification process, a requirement for disclaimers on political campaign material digitally altered with artificial intelligence, a pre-registration option for 16- and 17-year-olds and a repeal of a ban on hired transportation to voting booths.
Although some of the new policies had bipartisan support, many Republicans opposed the bulk of the looming changes, arguing they could compromise election security and impose a cost and administrative burden for both the state and local election clerks.
Other laws taking effect Feb. 13
- A law reversing a 2018 Republican policy limiting state agencies’ ability to set rules stricter than federal standards
- Legislation eliminating an “asset test” requiring people to have less than $15,000 in total assets to qualify for food assistance benefits
- A package adding key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including allowing people up to age 26 to use their parents’ health insurance and protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, to Michigan law
- Crime victims’ rights laws allowing victims’ faces to be blurred during virtual court proceedings and allowing law enforcement to share victims’ contact information with domestic and sexual violence service providers.
- Legislation making Juneteenth a state holiday
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