Lansing has been a hotbed for legislative action in recent weeks as Michigan lawmakers tackled gun control, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and the right to work in a slate of new bills passed and repealed in several legislative sessions across the House and Senate.  

Additional gun safety laws — safe storage laws, universal background checks and red flag laws have been passed by lawmakers and LGBTQ+ protections will be added to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Lawmakers also repealed the 2012 right to work law signed into action by former Gov. Rick Snyder and the 1931 abortion ban. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill to expand LGBTQ+ protections Thursday, March 16, the same day the Michigan Senate approved a trio of proposals related to gun safety.


One Detroit senior producer Bill Kubota sits down with Michigan Radio Political Director Zoe Clark to get a rundown on what lawmakers passed and where they stood on the issues. They talk about the impact the recent mass shooting at Michigan State University had on gun control conversations, the legislature’s bipartisan support of the Elliott-Larsen amendment, and the controversy around the right to work. 

Full Transcript:

Bill Kubota, Senior Producer, One Detroit: Another rally about guns at the state capitol this week. Hundreds came. Detroiters, spartans, the governor. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: We are done only offering thoughts and prayers. It is time for action. 

Mia Reid, Moms Demand Action: It is so difficult because it is not the natural order. We’re not supposed to be burying our children!

Bill Kubota: A few here protesting the protesters and the keynote speaker, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, still recovering from a gunshot to the head in a mass shooting where six others were killed in 2011. 

Gabrielle Giffords, Former Congresswoman, Activist: But change doesn’t happen overnight. I can’t do it alone. Join me. Let’s move ahead together. Amen. 

Bill Kubota: But now, Michigan gun laws are really expected to change. Other laws, too, spinning out of a whirlwind Wednesday House session last week. Elliot Larsen, right to work. We’ll talk about those. But first, background checks for gun purchases. 

Rep. Angela Rigas, D-Caledonia Township: Simply put, this bill is a slippery slope toward an oppressive, authoritative government or should I say even more oppressive authoritative government. 

Rep, Jaime Churches, D-Wyandotte: This package will not take anything away from gun owners. It will merely be an inconvenience to you. The same way you inconvenience my curriculum so I can teach my kids survival. A required background check, much like every parent who comes into my classroom has to have to read to my students. 

Bill Kubota: State Rep Jaime Churches. She was a teacher downriver. She introduced a gun bill that passed in a vote split along party lines. The recent shootings at nearby Michigan State University activating legislators. 

Zoe Clark, Political Director, Michigan Radio: For a lot of lawmakers, it was personal. 

Bill Kubota: So many connections to MSU. Here’s Zoe Clark, Michigan Radio’s Political Director. 

Zoe Clark: That can be frustrating for some people. That it takes something personal to get something done. They definitely moved gun safety legislation forward on the calendar.  

Bill Kubota: Well, what was the problem that the Republicans had with that? 

Zoe Clark: Well, look, I mean, I don’t want to just make it all about Democrats versus Republicans, but Democrats want some gun safety legislation that they’ve been pushing for. And Republicans tend to be Second Amendment. And they say it’s not about gun safety legislation. This is a mental health crisis.

And Democrats, at least these bills that have been pushed so far, are these three, right, that many folks say actually can be helpful if you look at the data across the country and this is safe storage laws, red flag laws, universal background checks. what we know about Michigan voters is in recent polling, it shows that actually, a majority of Michigan voters approve of these three pieces of legislation that they’re pushing. 

Unknown Speaker: Senate bill number 04, a bill to amend the Elliott-Larsen’s Civil Rights Act. 

Bill Kubota: Elliot-Larsen dates back to 1977, protecting Michiganders from discrimination, but not LGBT people. Not until last year when the state Supreme Court decided that it does. But there’s no guarantee their ruling can’t be overturned, thus the amendment. 

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, Speaker Pro Tem, D- Livonia:  I also rise today as the first out queer woman to serve in the Michigan legislature. But I do just want to note that a few months ago I was prohibited from even making that statement in this chamber, and I’m grateful that the landscape has shifted dramatically. 

Rep. Mike McFall, D- Hazel Park: We’re often accused of having a secret agenda. The truth is, the only agenda I have is to live my life free from discrimination and hate. 

Rep. Rachelle Smit, D- Shelbyville: Many religious individuals and organizations hold deeply held beliefs about sexuality and gender. Forcing them to act in a way that goes against their beliefs is a violation of their religious freedom. 

Rep, Noah Arbit, D- West Bloomfield: To all those who would invoke the word of the Lord to deny us these rights. I remind you, the Lord created us in his own image. Can you not see the Lord in me? Can you not see the Lord in your gay sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews? Can you not see the Lord in us? 

Rep, Jason Hoskins, D- Southfield: This legislation will show LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ people of color, that they can fulfill their full aspirations. Your identity won’t limit who you are or what you can do. You don’t have to hide anymore. You don’t have to feel less than. And that is cause for celebration. 

Bill Kubota: Bipartisan support. Eight House Republicans voted for the amendment. 

Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, Speaker Pro Tem, D- Livonia: The bill is passed. 

Bill Kubota: I wonder if some of the talks on the floor by some of the representatives changed some minds? 

Zoe Clark: I don’t know how much of it changed minds versus what we know is there were probably some Republican lawmakers, even in previous sessions, that would have voted for it, but it never actually came to the House or the Senate floor because Republicans were in charge and didn’t ever put it up for a vote. 

Bill Kubota: Now, the Governor locks the Eliot-Larsen amendment into state law. The third big one that I’d like to talk about kinda started in 2012. And that’s ‘Right to Work’, what happened there? 

Zoe Clark: Oh, my goodness. Well, so let’s go back ten years ago, this past December. This is legislative Republicans pushed forward ‘Right to Work’ in an incredibly short amount of time. Rick Snyder, then governor, Republican, basically said it wasn’t on his agenda. This wasn’t necessarily something he wanted to do. He believed it was divisive, but he ended up signing it into law. And there were huge protests at the state capitol. 

Bill Kubota: Less commotion last Wednesday, as the script was flipped, voting along party lines. 

Rep. Dylan Wegela, D- Garden City: The so-called ‘Right to Work’ law was designed not to give workers freedom, but to weaken their bargaining power and increase the profits of a few. 

Rep. Matt Hall, D- Kalamazoo: Many companies look solely to ‘Right to Work’ states, and this is one of those major factors in determining whether we’re going to land a major economic opportunity for our state. 

Rep, Regina Weiss, D- Oak Park: Right To Work’ was never about freedom. It was simply about control. Dr. Martin Luther King knew that truth all the way back in 1961, when he said, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘Right to Work’.” 

Zoe Clark: Wednesday, I mean, that movie, ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’, you know winning all of the Oscars. I mean, it felt a little like that in Lansing last Wednesday. It really was just the way that the votes happened so quickly. It had a lot of folks’ heads spinning. And what Democrats are saying is like, look, this is what we said we were going to do. 

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