Rep. Laurie Pohutsky at a House Democrats press conference, Aug. 17, 2022 | Kyle Davidson
Members of the Michigan House Democratic Caucus gathered on the Capitol steps Wednesday afternoon to voice frustrations about the lack of legislative action in recent months.
The event was held in response to an announcement that Wednesday’s scheduled legislative session would not include votes or attendance.
“We have critical pieces of legislation that have been languishing for months that will help Michiganders today. It’s enough of this Republican summer vacation. Today’s a work day and we need to act like it,” said House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.).
The House’s legislative agenda is set by the chamber’s Republican majority. The last legislative hearing was held on June 30, with members of the Legislature working late into the night to finalize the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget.
“This summer vacation has gone on long enough and whether the Republican majority wants to or not, it is time to get back to work for Michigan,” Lasinski said.
Although Michigan has a full-time Legislature, the House and Senate often take breaks in the summer, particularly during election years so lawmakers have time to campaign. This year, the entire House and most of the Senate on the ballot.
The Michigan Advance reached out to a spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), but he could not be reached for comment.
Democrats blasted Republicans for failing to act on bills addressing inflation, education, reproductive health, and pollution, including legislation introduced by many of the speakers.
The bills Democrats highlighted include:
- HB 6346 – MI Tax Rebate Right Now, introduced by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights)
- HB 6117 – Retirement tax repeal, introduced by Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor)
- HB 4933 – Earned income tax credit expansion, introduced by Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.)
- HB 5176 – Back to school sales tax holiday, introduced Shannon
- HB 6279 – MI Kids Back on Track, introduced by Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek)
- HB 5542 – Reproductive Health Act, introduced by Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia)
- HB 5289 – Repeal the 1931 abortion ban, introduced by Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield)
- HB 4314 – reinstate polluter pay, introduced by Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor)
Pohutsky questioned some Republican’s opposition to Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, referring to the lack of action on her own effort to repeal the law and expand access to reproductive health care.
“It has been 280 days since I introduced the Reproductive Health Act,” Pohustsky said. “If Republicans were serious about not wanting people to be jailed over this antiquated and archaic law, we have multiple solutions to keep that from happening.”
Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) also spoke out about the lack of action on Rabhi’s effort to strengthen polluter pay laws, which places the responsibility for cleaning up contaminated sites on the companies responsible for the pollution.
Rabhi spoke about his efforts to reinstate these laws at a press conference last week, following a chemical spill in the Huron River in Southeast Michigan. Rabhi has introduced and reintroduced efforts to reinstate polluter pay since he was elected in 2017, with his most recent effort HB 4314 introduced in February 2021. The bill has stalled in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation.
Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) also spoke about a proposal to suspend sales tax on school supplies, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared support for earlier this week.
“We can help families with their back to school shopping but to do so we have to get back to work,” Koleszar said. “The Republican majority will not let us do our jobs because they don’t want to show up for work. It’s time to work for Michigan.”
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