Election Updates and Legal Matters
Monday, September 5th, 2022Labor Day
Tuesday, November 8th, 2022Michigan's General Election
Judge Extends Preliminary Injunction to Block Enforcement of 1931 Law
After two days of oral arguments, reproductive rights advocates won a temporary victory on August 19 when Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Cunningham extended a preliminary injunction on the 1931 law that essentially bans abortion in Michigan.
The preliminary hearing in Whitmer v. Linderman et al. was called by Judge Cunningham after a Court of Appeals (COA) decision in early August that rendered the existing injunction on the 1931 ban only applicable to state law enforcement, not local prosecutors. Quickly following the COA decision, Judge Cunningham granted Governor Whitmer’s request for a temporary restraining order on county prosecutors and called for another hearing on August 17 to review the injunction.
The decision on August 19 reinstates the injunction until after the November 8 election when voters will potentially have the opportunity to vote on a ballot proposal that will enshrine some level of abortion rights in the state Constitution. The court set a pre-trial conference for 9:30 a.m. on November 21.
At this time, any further legal action regarding the constitutionality of abortion would stem from the Michigan Supreme Court; however, it remains unclear as to whether the court will choose to act before the election.
Following the ruling, Governor Whitmer issued a statement saying, “I am grateful for this ruling that will protect women and ensure nurses and doctors can keep caring for their patients without fear of prosecution…” Right to Life of Michigan took to social media to say: “Governor Whitmer is bringing this case because they have never had the votes to change Michigan’s abortion law and doubt they will have the votes in November to add abortion into our constitution. She doesn’t really believe in democracy.”
Special Prosecutor Asked to Take on Voter Tabulator Investigation
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordination Council for a special prosecuting attorney to review charges against nine individuals in an investigation into vote tabulators from the 2020 general election.
This investigation stems from a request by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson who, back in February, asked Nessel to investigate third-party access to vote tabulators. Individuals involved in this investigation were allegedly trying to provide evidence that then-President Donald Trump had the election stolen from him.
Notable individuals included in this investigation are Republican attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, Representative Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), and Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf. Charges in this case include conspiracy, using a computer system to commit a crime, willfully damaging a voting machine, malicious destruction of property, fraudulent access to a computer, and false pretenses.
Let MI Kids Learn Ballot Initiative Submits Signatures
Let MI Kids Learn, a ballot initiative that would establish a scholarship program to provide grants to low-income students for education expenses, submitted signatures to the Bureau of Elections on August 10. The initiative, supported by the DeVos family, collected 520,598 signatures.
Under this initiative, public school students could receive up to $500 and public school students with disabilities could receive $1,100. These funds could be used for transportation, tutoring, tuition, mental health support, and other expenses that are education related. Private school students, however, could collect up to $7,000. Another aspect of the initiative would allow taxpayers that contribute to the program to claim up to $500 in tax credits, with an annual maximum starting at $500 million.
Similar efforts have been underway in other states and the outcomes appear to be somewhat mixed in part due to the fact that the program performance is not easy to objectively assess. This proposal has drawn criticism from the State Board of Education president Casandra Ulbrich and the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, Lavora Barnes, among others. According to the For MI Kids coalition, led by Ulbrich, this initiative could reduce state revenue by approximately $90 million in 2024 and continue to reduce state revenues annually.
Should the signatures submitted for the ballot initiative be approved by the Board of State Canvassers, voters would have the opportunity to vote on the initiative during the 2024 election. However, the Michigan State Legislature could choose to take up the initiative for a vote if certified by the Bureau of Elections.
Fiscal Agencies Release July Revenue Report
The House and Senate Fiscal Agency issued their July revenue reports showing an increase in Michigan’s tax revenues from Fiscal Year 2020-21. Tax revenues also came in higher than estimates issued by the May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference.
The Senate Fiscal Agency reported that revenues from taxes with the General Fund and School Aid Fund earmarks totaled $2.9 billion – an 8.9 percent increase from July 2021. Tax collections for the month were reported at $275.7 million above estimated levels.
The House Fiscal Agency reported cash collections from major taxes, penalties, interest, and lottery transfers totaled approximately $2.8 billion for July 2022 or $229.1 million more than July 2021. For fiscal-year-to-date, collections were reported 17.5 percent higher in FY 2021-22 compared to FY 2020-21.
House Primary Race Heads for a Recount
In the 34th House District, which encompasses Lenawee County, incumbent Senator Dale Zorn (R-Ida) is facing a recount against Madison Township Fire Chief Ryan Rank after results revealed that Rank lost the Republican primary by seven votes.
Zorn, who decided to run for the House seat as he would be term-limited in the Senate, won the primary with 4,774 votes. Rank received 4,767 votes.
The 77th House District also saw a close primary race, but between Democratic candidates. Emily Dievendorf won the primary with 4,547 votes, while Jon Horford received 4,522 votes – a 25-vote difference. Horford is not seeking a recount.
Federal Judge Declares Mistrial in Flint Water Trial
On August 11, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Grand of the Eastern District of Michigan U.S. District Court ruled a mistrial in the Flint Water Civil Trial after the jury shared it was unable to come to an agreement on a verdict in the case. The hung jury stated that continued deliberations would cause stress and anxiety with someone having to surrender their vote for the purpose of having a verdict.
The trial involved four plaintiffs, all of which are children, against defendants of engineering firms Veola North America (VNA) and Lockwood, Andrews, & Newnam (LAN). The plaintiffs lived in Flint during the water contamination crisis and attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that LAN was responsible for 25 percent of the crisis while VNA was responsible for 50 percent, with both companies negligent in giving fault advice to the city. The rest was placed on the state and former state officials. LAN and VAN argued the state and city officials were to blame.
In total, the trial lasted 76 days and had 45 people testify in the case.
Michigan Sees Drop in Unemployment Rate
In the month of July, Michigan saw a decrease in the seasonally adjusted jobless rate by one-tenth of a percentage, dropping to 4.2 percent. Although Michigan has seen a precipitous drop in the unemployment rate year over year – from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent – Michigan’s jobless rate remains behind the national average, which for July was 3.5 percent.
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget (DTMB) reported that statewide, employment increase by 8,000 jobs and unemployment was reduced by 5,000, leading to an overall workforce gain of 3,000 jobs.
Michigan’s nonfarm jobs saw the greatest increase at 3.1 percent. This was followed by leisure and hospitality at 2.6, and retail trade at 0.5 percent.
MDHHS Creates Regional Health Advisory Councils
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced the creation of eleven Regional Health Advisory Councils across the state. These Councils are designed to combat health disparities in both rural and underserved communities.
Composed of community organizations, the Regional Health Advisory Councils will serve populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. They will be tasked with reducing COVID disparities in minority populations, planning reduction of community-identified priority risk factors, developing and implementing practices and policies to promote equity and reduce disparities, efficiently and equitably distributing resources to communities, and developing community-driven decision making and priority setting.
They will be funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support grant. The following counties will have an established council: Genesee, Ingham, Kent, Oakland, Ottawa, Macomb, Muskegon, Saginaw, Washtenaw, Wayne, and the City of Detroit.
Whitmer Tests Positive for COVID
On Tuesday, August 9, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced she tested positive for COVID-19 – the Governor’s first known infection. Whitmer is vaccinated and twice boosted. She reported mild symptoms.
Two days before the positive result, Whitmer attended a campaign rally in Benton Harbor where approximately 300 people were in attendance.