While You Weren’t Looking, Michigan Turned Into Texas

The Michigan legislature’s lame duck session is only three weeks long, but the state house didn't need more than 18 hours to move the state sharply to the right. During a marathon session Thursday and Friday, the state house passed a variety of very conservative bills on issues from abortion to gun control to taxes. You can’t say they’re not efficient. The state, which favored Obama by 9 points and has long been home to a moderate-progressive movement, may now have a set of laws that puts it on America’s more conservative end.

Perhaps most shocking for pro-choice advocates was the effort to restrict abortion rights—or, as Mother Jones put it, “the abortion mega-bill.” Assuming the governor signs the bill into law, women in Michigan will now have to buy separate insurance policies to cover abortion. Otherwise, even in cases of rape or miscarriage, the abortion will not be covered. Clinics that provide more than 120 abortions a year will now face significantly more stringent licensing and regulation standards, much stricter than most other medical facilities. Pro-choice advocates have argued the new building codes and other requirements could shut down many clinics. Which, of course, is likely the idea of the bill in the first place.

Another bill does away with a bunch of gun-free zones, allowing people with concealed weapons permits to carry said concealed weapons in schools, day cares, hospitals—just about everywhere. The law does, however, allow schools and private businesses to remain gun-free zones voluntarily. The bill was passed before the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but there’s little indication that changes the calculus for gun-rights advocates. Steve Dulan, who heads the Michigan Coalition of Responsible Gun Owners, told the Petoskey News the measure would offer more protection from such shootings. “If you have pistol free zones they are actually mass murderer empowerment zones,” he said. Similar measures have been passed around the country, advocated by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), with the idea being that an armed citizen might be able to take down a shooter. Some public safety officials, however, have pointed out that more guns can complicate the situation for law enforcement. When both are armed, it's hard to tell the murderers from the do-gooders.

There's more of course. One measure would require voters to declare their citizenship before they can cast a ballot. Another makes recalling elected officials more difficult by shortening the number of days during which signatures could be collected from 90 to 60. 

The bills now go to Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Earlier this year, Snyder made headlines when he vetoed a voter-ID bill, bucking his party because, in his own words, “the right to vote is precious.” But there’s little indication he’ll be pushing back against fellow Republicans this time around. He already signed right-to-work legislation into law last Tuesday, which he previously didn't support. The new law strikes a blow to unions in a state where they once commanded tremendous power, and now puts Michigan in the same category with states in the South and plains, where workers have had considerably less power.

It used to be that parties in each state had unique identities and different policy priorities. Republican parties in Midwestern manufacturing states looked different than those in the rural (and often more conservative) parts of the country. Now, as deep red states like Texas and Oklahoma start their legislative sesssions in January, it seems, they can get some bill ideas from Michigan.


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