Exercising their new political power after taking full control of the state government, Michigan Democrats passed a flurry of measures to advance their agenda Wednesday, moving the Great Lake State to the left on gun control, gay rights, and labor laws.
Over the loud objections of Republicans, the Michigan House of Representatives voted to expand gun background checks, codify civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, and repeal a right-to-work law unpopular with labor unions, according to The New York Times. The state Senate, meanwhile, voted to repeal an abortion ban that, while unenforceable, is still on the books.
Some of the legislation still requires a vote in the other chamber, but all of it needs to be signed by Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before becoming state law.
The speed voting was made possible by the troika that Michigan Democrats won in November – control of both lawmaking chambers and the governor's office. With slim majorities in both the state House and state Senate, and a legislative session that is quickly running out, it remains to be seen how much Democrats will be able to accomplish.
"I didn't realize how valuable the time we have here is," Joe Tate, the speaker of the Michigan House, told the Times hours before his chamber was slated to take up bills on labor unions and guns. "There's only a finite amount of time for us to get things done."
Taking the reins of government earlier this year, Michigan Democrats vowed to repeal the state's right-to-work law. On Wednesday, union workers testified in support of the repeal measure and filled the House gallery as Democrats pressed forward with what they maintained was the will of Michiganders.
"Back in November, voters sent a clear message when they elected a pro-worker and pro-working families majority," state Rep. Regina Weiss, a Democrat, said when presenting the repeal bill to a committee.
Republican Jase Bolger, who served as speaker of the Michigan state House from 2011 to 2014, credited the right-to-work law with helping improve the state's economy 10 years ago and said Democrats would regret repealing the law if it ultimately passed. The bill must still pass the state Senate.
"I think they're going to damage Michigan's economy and therefore hurt Michigan's families," Bolger told the Times. "I think that's what's going to cause the political fallout that they're not seeing yet."
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