Honigman Capitol Report


2023 Legislative Session Ends Early

The Legislature adjourned earlier this month before December for the first time in 55 years. Both chambers passed resolutions to adjourn on November 14th with an expected date of return of January 10th. The early adjournment means that February 13, 2023 will be the effective date for all bills signed into law without immediate effect over the last year. The end of the session was marked by a flurry of activity regarding supplemental spending, teacher evaluations, financial disclosure bills and renewable energy standards. Spring saw major democrat priorities move at a rapid pace including the Earned Income Tax Credit, LGBTQ rights and repeal of right to work. Governor Whitmer gave a fall address to tee up additional priorities, such as energy reform, economic development tools, and addition reforms related to abortion access.


Expansion of Anti-Discrimination Laws

Lansing’s first Democratic majority in 40 years passed legislation expanding anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ rights to ensure workers at smaller employers only covered by state law are protected. The legislation also applies to housing, public accommodations, education and public services. Although the U.S. Supreme Court banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2020 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, this applies only to employers with 15 or more workers. The legislature also expanded civil rights protections to anyone who terminates a pregnancy for any reason and prohibits discrimination based on hair trains and hairstyles by being the 23rd state to implement a version of legislation nicknamed the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act.


Right to Work Repeal

Democratic allies of labor unions repealed the right-to-work law, permitting unions to employ union security clauses in labor agreements and require employees to join the union and pay dues. When it becomes effective in February, the legislation could have an immediate effect on some unionized workplaces whose collective bargaining agreements contain dormant union security clauses. The law, signed in March, restored a prevailing wage law that was repealed by a Republican-led legislature in 2018. Contractors awarding state-funding construction projects must now pay the prevailing wage as determined by the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.


End of Product Liability Immunity for Pharmaceutical Companies

Supported by both Democrats and Republicans, legislation that repeals a Michigan law that made drug manufacturers and sellers immune from product liability if they have FDA approval passed the House 79-30. The goal is to allow Michiganders to participate in nationwide class action litigation and settlements that residents have previously been barred from because of Michigan’s unique blanket defense for drug makers.


Renewable Energy Transition

Among the measures signed by Governor Whitmer, the Clean Energy Future Plan bill package requires the state’s power companies to source large portions of their energy from wind, solar and nuclear energy over the next two decades. Targets include 60% by 2035 and 100% by 2040. Companion legislation will take away local municipalities’ control over certain zoning and permitting for renewable energy products and hand authority over to a state regulatory agency, the Michigan Public Service Commission. Proponents of the package believe it will streamline building new generation capacity by preventing municipalities from blocking renewable energy projects.

Special Election Called to Fill Vacant House Seats

Governor Whitmer has called for a special election to fill two seats left vacant in the Michigan House of Representatives caused by the November mayoral election results. State Representative Lori Stone (Democrat) from the 13th District and State Representative Kevin Coleman (Democrat) from the 25th District were elected mayors of Warren and Westland respectively. The Governor has called for the special primary election to be held on January 30, 2024 and the general election to be held on April 16, 2024, stating “as we look ahead to 2024, these special elections will ensure that Michiganders in the 13th and 25th districts have representation in Lansing working for them as soon as possible. I look forward to working with the next representatives from these districts when voters elect them in the new year.” Twelve candidate have filed to run for the two seats, Democrats LaMar D. Lemmons of Detroit, Suzanne Ostosh of Warren, and Mai Xiong of Warren and Republicans Brandon Cumbee of Warren, Curtiss Ostosh of Warren and Ronald Singer of Warren for the 13th House District and Democrats Peter Herzberg of Westland, Melandie Yvonne Hines of Westland, Shannon Rochon of Wayne, Andrea Rutkowski of Westland and Layla Taha of Westland and Republican Josh Powell of Westland for the 25th House District.


Looking Ahead

The month of December will see continued motion of bills sent to the Governor for her signature. Supplemental appropriations in HB 4292, sponsored by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D- Ann Arbor) have yet to make it to the Governor’s desk. Among other items, this bill contains $10 million to fund a one-time late filing to the State Tax Commission for industrial personal property tax exemptions in tax year 2021. A product of a year’s long Honigman lobby effort, this is one of many items stakeholders eagerly await. As with many measures this year, the Senate fell short of the two-thirds majority vote to grant the budget supplemental “immediate effect”. As such, instead of becoming law with the Governor’s signature, the spending would become law on the same February 13th date mentioned previously in this report.

The newly created Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP), is slated to stand up during the legislative stand-down. We anticipate that there will be some work sorting through the new agency’s overlapping objectives with, both, the Department and Board of Education, as well as, workforce development agencies. Agency leadership and organizational structure are among the basic details we expect to emerge in the coming weeks.


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