Dems are eyeing ethics reforms, gun reform and abortion ban repeal next year, Lasinski says
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s Election Day watch party in Detroit on Nov. 8, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)
House minority leader focused on the future while recounting challenges this session during roundtable
As the 101st Legislature ends and a newly elected Democratic majority gets ready to take the reins, outgoing House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) hosted a media roundtable on Wednesday, focusing on education, economic support and ethics in the Michigan House.
Lasinski, who is currently finishing her third term, led the state’s first female-majority caucus, as well as the most diverse caucus in Michigan’s history. She is term-limited and Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit) is set to lead the House as speaker next year.
Reflecting on the past two years, Lasinski cited partnerships with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Senate Democrats as the driving force behind Democratic accomplishments in the House over the past two years.
According to the House Democrats website, Democratic representatives have introduced 1,288 bills in the past two years, including 68 that were signed into law.
Among these accomplishments, Lasinski touted improvements to environmental protections and record high funding to schools. However, Lasinski also highlighted unsuccessful efforts, including attempts from House Democrats to provide inflation relief and calls to form a bipartisan ethics committee to investigate former House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) for his conduct in office, as well as other lawmakers who supported efforts to overturn the 2020 election on the basis of false claims and conspiracies.
“We all know there’s a difference between criminality and ethical violations and we had every tool and we had every opportunity to look into that, and we were unable to under the previous, now outgoing leadership,” Lasinski said.
“I look forward to serious steps being taken to ensure that we defend our state government, that we defend their elections and we defend the integrity of this institution.”
Lasinski said she expects to see a change in the legislative approach in the coming legislative term, following a lack of meetings during the pandemic as well as over the summer.
The House’s legislative agenda was set by the chamber’s Republican majority. 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.
“We never contributed to the process of governing during the [COVID-19] pandemic. Other than under Republican leadership, criticizing the actions of another There was never a bill brought to [the governor’s] desk that reflected anything different or a new idea. And we saw that continue in this term at an accelerated rate,” Lasinski said.
“There has been a, ‘Take your hands off the wheel and just criticize the governor’ approach for the last four years. I believe the people in Michigan have reacted to that during this legislative session,” Lasinski said, referring to Democrats winning a majority in the House and Senate, as well Whitmer and other top Democrats winning reelection
Looking to the future, Lasinski said there are already conversations between the governor and Tate on efforts to improve transparency, including discussions on financial disclosure.
Lasinski also highlighted the importance of properly implementing policies supported by voters, calling for the repeal of Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban, alongside other policies that are unenforceable or outdated.
Alongside the implementation of Proposal 3, which enshrines reproductive rights in the state Constitution, Lasinski said the Legislature needs to pass and implement the Reproductive Health Act, H.B. 5542, which was proposed by Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia) in November 2021 and received broad support from House Democrats. The policy would repeal Michigan’s 1931 abortion ban and expand access to abortion, contraception and other forms of reproductive health care.
“It’s not just the repeal of bad laws, but it’s putting in place now the legislative framework for the implementation and enforcement of that constitutional amendment,” Lasinski said.
She also noted the importance of providing policy support for the state’s school funding to ensure the success of graduating students and the creation of the talented workforce businesses and entrepreneurs need going forward.
In addition to school funding, the state also has access to federal funds left unspent by Republican leadership, giving Democrats an opportunity to continue to develop infrastructure within the state, Lasinski said.
Improving broadband access throughout the state would be life changing for residents and would create a competitive environment for businesses across the state to access customers and grow their businesses, Lasinski said.
Gun reform is another likely effort for the incoming Legislature, Lasinski said.
“There is a deep respect for gun owners, for guns and for safety for children and for families in a home that Michiganders want to see move forward,” Lasinski said.
“Common sense items, background checks without gaps in safe gun storage. Good gun owners do all of that and are open to that, so I anticipate that based on the demands of Michiganders we will see, hopefully, some improvement in safe gun laws in our state,” she said.
Lasinski also expects incoming Democrats will take a hard look at Michigan’s Right to Work law, which outlawed requiring union employees to pay dues as a condition of employment. That could include repealing the 2012 law passed by Republicans or introducing a new policy.
“If anybody can point to a club that you’re allowed to walk into and not pay dues and get all the benefits of that, that’s not fair,” Lasinski said.
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