Gun reform, tax cuts among dozens of Michigan laws taking effect in February
- More than 60 laws already signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will take effect Feb. 13 as Legislature adjourns early
- 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”
- Impacted laws include gun reforms, additional protections for LGBTQ residents, repeals of many Republican-backed laws
Dozens of laws from gun reform and additional protections for LGBTQ residents to repeals of Right-to-Work and abortion restrictions are set to take effect in February, now that the Michigan Legislature has wrapped up work for the year.
In all, at least 67 bills that were signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2023 will take effect Feb. 13, 91 days after the Legislature adjourns its session on Tuesday. That’s not counting bills passed in recent days that haven’t been signed yet, so that number is sure to grow.
Democrats who control the Legislature passed a host of priorities this year, but many didn’t have enough support among Republicans to take effect immediately. That meant they had to wait three months after the Legislature wrapped up its session to become law.
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Few Republicans signed off on major Democratic-backed legislation, prompting the delays.
Here’s a look at the highlights of what laws will take effect next February:
New presidential primary date
On Feb. 1, Whitmer signed legislation to move Michigan’s presidential primary date 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 allot most of Michigan’s GOP delegates 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 percent of the federal level to 30 percent 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 bill from taking 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.
Because it wasn’t granted immediate effect, the bill 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.
An expansion to Michigan’s anti-discrimination law sought by LGBTQ rights advocates is among the new laws set to take effect next year.
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.
The package of laws also strips abortion sentencing guidelines from the state criminal code and repeals a law making it a misdemeanor to sell or distribute information about “recipes or prescriptions” for contraception and abortion.
Later in the year, Whitmer signed legislation adding 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.
Last week, 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. Whitmer is expected to sign the bills.
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.
Third grade reading, A-F school grading repeal
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.
A slew of election process-related bills, most of which will 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.
Another newly-signed law repealing a ban on hired transportation to voting booths is also set to take effect next year.
Other laws taking effect in February
- 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 signed last week 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.
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