Michigan Redistricting Questioned Again in New Lawsuit
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) are facing another lawsuit for allegedly violating the Equal Protection and Voters Rights Act (VRA).
This new lawsuit comes after a previous lawsuit was filed by the Detroit Caucus in Detroit Caucus v ICRC, which was denied by the Michigan Supreme Court. Both lawsuits allege that the new redistricting methodology decreases the Black voting age population significantly to 50% or less from an earlier map not adopted by the ICRC which violates the VRA. The plaintiff was able to get the three-judge panel to approve the VRA claims for the 9 districts and 13 districts for Equal Protection violations.
John Bursch, the plaintiff’s attorney, hopes that the trial will end with a settlement to allow the districts to be adjusted within the year. Without a settlement, there would be a delay and the district lines would be redrawn next year. This would heavily impact the primary elections next year as candidates would have to wait for the new district lines to be drawn and approved.
With the complexity of the lawsuit, there could be many possible outcomes. Our McCall Hamilton team is monitoring this development as the trial is set for November 1, 2023.
Michigan Lawmakers Push for Additional Changes Following Prop 3
On August 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her “What’s Next Address” and discussed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) being a priority for this fall. This comes after Michigan voters overwhelmingly supported the passage of Proposal 3, which legalized abortion in Michigan after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Despite abortion being legal in Michigan, many wanted to see additional legislation that aims to protect access to abortion services and repeal current laws that add hurdles to those seeking and providing abortion services. A bill package of 11 bills was recently introduced which seek to remove these laws from Michigan statute. Just this week, the bills received a testimony only committee hearing in the House Health Policy Committee. Our McCall Hamilton team anticipates they will move quickly through the legislative process.
Governor Whitmer appoints Scott Bowen as the new Director of the DNR
On September 5, Governor Whitmer announced that Scott Bowen will be the new Director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Bowen comes to the DNR with extensive legal experience being a founding member and partner at a law firm and working as a Judge appointed by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm. Bowen also held multiple positions working as an assistant city attorney and a special assistant attorney general for the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Fiscal Agency Issues August Revenue Reports
The Senate Fiscal Agency (SFA) released a new report, highlighting that the state’s General Fund and School Aid Fund tax collections sat below projected levels from the May 2023 Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC).
The SFA reported that the General Fund taxes were $115.9 million below projections estimated at the May CREC for the month of August. The School Aid Fund collections were $14.5 million below May forecasts.
The reduction in funds was due to individual income tax withholding and sales tax collections, coupled with refunds for individual income taxes being higher than expected. All of these items, alongside higher than expected revenues in lottery revenue, use tax collections, and Michigan Business Tax collections, left the state with lower-than-expected revenues for August.