Democrat-Dominated State Legislature Rapidly Remakes Michigan in 2023

Since the Democrats wrested control from the GOP in 2022, liberal policies are rising, and the change has been seismic.
Democrat-Dominated State Legislature Rapidly Remakes Michigan in 2023
The Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 8, 2020. (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Steven Kovac

Since taking office in January 2023, Michigan Democrats have used their newly won control of both houses of the legislature to speedily push through a raft of new laws codifying their social agenda and undoing years of Republican policies.

In the area of gun control, the Democrat majorities passed and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, signed into law a bill amending the Michigan Penal Code to expand the list of crimes that bar a convicted individual from possessing a firearm.

They also extended the duration of the ban period.

The ban is not part of a sentence but commences following the sentencing and the completion of any period of probation, incarceration, or parole, and may remain in force for three to five years.

The new law was promoted as a way of reducing domestic violence.

According to a legislative analysis by the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency, the reach of the new law extends to hazardous waste violations, the careless operation of boats or snowmobiles, illegal labor practices involving minor employees handling cash, operating a foster care facility without a license, restraint of trade infractions, and bad insurance sales practices.

Also included were falsifying school aid records, unlicensed gambling activities, retaliation against a complainant and also the commingling of funds involving the care of vulnerable adults, and violations concerning funds in horseracing.

The new gun possession ban also applies to the unlicensed, for-gain, practice of residential construction.

A person convicted of any one of these misdemeanors could serve two years in prison and then be barred from owning a firearm for three to five years, depending on the crime.

Universal background checks for the purchase of any firearm, not just pistols; a Red Flag law allowing authorities to temporarily seize weapons from a person suspected by a family member or others of being a potential risk to commit a gun crime; and a requirement for gun owners with children in the house to lock up their firearms, has also become the law of the land in Michigan.

Obtaining abortions was made more convenient by Michigan Democrats, who did away with state mandates requiring abortion clinics to be located near a hospital emergency room.

They also abolished regulations governing the size and configuration of certain rooms in abortion clinics.

The Democratic majorities repealed a state law that required a woman seeking an abortion to be provided with information about the particulars of the procedure and alternatives such as adoption.

The law that kept colleges and universities from referring students to abortion providers was also repealed.

In deference to organized labor, Democrats repealed a 2012 law passed by Republicans designating Michigan as a Right to Work state.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to reporters in Midland, Mich., on May 20, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to reporters in Midland, Mich., on May 20, 2020. (Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

The 2012 law opened unionized workplaces to workers without forcing them to join a union and pay union dues or fees in order to work there.

The Democrats also restored the “prevailing wage,” which requires contractors to pay union-scale wages for labor done on state-funded construction projects.

Concerning energy policy, an area of great importance to the manufacturing sector of one of the nation’s most industrialized states, the Democrat-controlled legislature decreed that by 2040, 100 percent of energy production must come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2022, about 12 percent of the Great Lakes State’s energy production came from renewables. Two-thirds of that came from windmills.

The increasing unpopularity of proposed windmills and solar farm projects, as evidenced by a spate of recalls removing local officials who support the plans, has pushed local governments to impose rigorous land use conditions that are often viewed as unreasonable by developers.

In an attempt to keep the projects on schedule and reduce their cost, Democrats passed a law displacing local planning commissions and township boards as the primary source of zoning authority regarding proposed wind and solar energy developments.

Though still allowed some voice in the permit process, local control of zoning and land use has now been largely subordinated to the Michigan Public Service Commission, a state agency.

A broad expansion of the rights of the LGBT community has also been accomplished by Michigan Democrats through an overhaul of the state’s civil rights laws.

A series of bills addressed problems experienced by people identifying as something other than their biological sex in the areas of education, housing, public accommodations, and employment.

A pair of municipal elections recently played a role in slowing the Democrat’s legislative steamroller.

On Nov. 7, two Democrat House members were elected mayor of a couple of Detroit-area cities, which necessitated their leaving the legislature.

Their departure deadlocked the 110-member chamber 54–54.

The tie will likely continue until a special primary and special general election can be held early in 2024.

Both vacant seats are in strongly Democrat districts, so the Democrats are expected to recover their narrow 56–54 majority and then resume advancing their progressive legislative agenda.