LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Legislature reconvened in Lansing for a new session and Democrats, newly in charge of both chambers for the first time in decades, are wasting no time in laying out their priorities.
Holding the governor’s office and majorities in the House and Senate, Democrats can, in theory, pass any legislation they want to.
“It is no secret how excited Democrats are to be holding both legislative majorities with Gov. Whitmer in the governor’s office,” Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids said. “It’s an historic moment and we have 40 years of pent up policy ideas and we are ready to get to work.”
On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Brinks and House Speaker Joe Tate of Detroit laid out some of the first bills to be introduced, which include a repeal of the pension tax and increase in the earned income tax credit that the governor said will help some seniors and lower income families.
“We know across Michigan, as across the country and around the globe, people are facing the pinch, seeing high costs of everything from milk to gas,” Whitmer said. “…Every dollar that we can save people right now will make a huge difference, especially for seniors living on fixed incomes, working families who are working a full day but still can’t get ahead.”
While Democrats hold the majorities, they are slim. It is unclear if they will be able to garner Republican support for some of their early initiatives.
Sen. Aric Nesbitt of Lawton, who leads Republicans in the upper chamber, said Wednesday that he was interested in providing some form of tax relief but wants it to broader. Nesbitt said he would like to see a repeal of taxes on all retirement accounts like 401(k)s, not just pensions, and would prefer a child tax credit as well.
Regarding a targeted tax rollback for just pensions, Nesbitt said, “I think that’s going to be a challenge for some members of our caucus.”
Other bills Democrats are rolling out early in the session include legislation to expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual and gender identity, restoring the prevailing wage law, repealing right-to-work and abolishing the 1931 law that criminalizes abortion. That 1931 law was rendered moot when Michigan voted in November to protect the right to abortions in the state constitution.