Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Bills to Protect Foster Kids and other Legislation
October 07, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 7, 2022
Gov. Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Bills to Protect Foster Kids, Bolster Election Access, Other Legislation
LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed several bipartisan bills to increase protections for foster youth and remove barriers for families interested in adopting or fostering a child. She also signed legislation to expand voting access for troops and authorize local clerks to pre-process absentee ballots two days before Election Day. This brings the total number of bipartisan bills Governor Whitmer has signed since taking office to 959.
“These bipartisan bills deliver on a range of kitchen-table issues and are proof of what’s possible when we work across the aisle to put Michiganders first,” said Governor Whitmer. “Together, we are taking action to protect Michigan’s foster youth by offering them more permanent homes and improving training for the professionals who work with them. We are increasing capacity at high-quality residential facilities, and conducting thorough assessments to ensure foster children’s needs are being met. Finally, we are also expanding voting access for Michiganders who are serving our nation in uniform and authorizing local clerks to pre-process absentee ballots two days before Election Day. Let’s keep working together to protect kids and help more people exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
Protecting Foster Youth
"Our child welfare system took a huge step forward today with the signing of these bills into law. Several of these bills expand the definition of relative,” said Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township). “With this in place, if no blood relative is available to foster a child, then someone with close emotional ties can be considered instead of the child going to a stranger. I am so appreciative of the work that my colleagues on the Adoption and Foster Care Task Force did to help the children of our state as well as Governor Whitmer's support."
"I'm grateful that my bill to require LGALs participate in trauma-informed training will now be law,” said Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia). “It's important that those tasked with advocating for our foster youth understand their experiences and needs as best they can."
“Today marks a significant step in the right direction toward better supporting Michigan’s foster care and adoption systems,” said Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing). “These substantial, effective, and long overdue changes will directly benefit foster youth across the state. As a member of the bipartisan task force that helped develop these bills, I am confident and proud that this legislation prioritized the needs of this uniquely vulnerable population and those who serve them.”
“It is great to see this bi-partisan legislative package updating Michigan’s foster care laws signed into law, including my bill SB 1166,” said Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington). “Enactment of this legislative package is a step in the right direction to help the kids served by the foster care system and we should continue working to find additional improvements.”
HB 5975: Requires trauma-informed training for lawyer appointed to act on behalf of a child in court.
HB 5975 was sponsored by Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5974: Revise definition of relative in the juvenile code.
HB 5974 was sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5977: Requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to conduct an annual needs assessment regarding the utilization of residential treatment and the needs of youth who are referred for clinical interventions.
HB 5977 was sponsored by Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5978: Requires MDHHS to use family finding and engagement company to help connect foster children to family members and friends.
HB 5978 was sponsored by Rep. Rodney Wakeman, R-Frankenmuth, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5980: Provides extended licensing for certain foster homes.
HB 5980 was sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5976: Requires annual report by the Department of Health and Human Services to submit to legislature.
HB 5976 was sponsored by Rep. Tyrone Carter, D-Detroit, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5981: Increases capacity for foster youth in state licensed residential facilities.
HB 5981 was sponsored by Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, and a copy can be found here.
HB 6073: Revises definition of relative in the childcare organizations. The bill will expand the legal definition of relative in Michigan to include fictive kin.
HB 6073 was sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and a copy can be found here.
HB 6074: Revises definition of relative in the probate code of 1939.
HB 6074 was sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, and a copy can be found here.
HB 6075: Revises definition of relative in the guardianship assistance act.
HB 6075 was sponsored by Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, and a copy can be found here.
SB 1166: Requires child placement preference to be given to relatives of the child if they meet all the relevant child protection standards.
SB 1166 was sponsored by Sen. Curt Vanderwall, R-Ludington, and a copy can be found here.
Strengthening Elections, Expanding Voting Access
HB 4491: Allows local clerks to pre-preprocess absentee ballots two days prior to Election Day. It also codifies existing best practices for absentee ballot drop boxes.
HB 4491 was sponsored by Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, and a copy can be found here.
SB 8 & SB 311: Allow our overseas military members to return their ballot electronically, making it easier for service men and women to participate in our elections.
SB 8 was sponsored by Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, and a copy can be found here.
SB 311 was sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Groveland Township, and a copy can be found here.
Michigan’s elections are free, fair, secure, and accurate and the results reflect the will of the voters. The results are certified and audited by Republican, Democratic, and non-partisan election officials.
The new law allowing clerks to pre-process ballots before election day helps Michigan catch up to other states that provide the right to vote absentee to all voters. While many clerks have already hired staff for the 2022 election and will not be able to utilize the new provisions, they will be able to take advantage of this law and speed up election results in future election cycles.
The Michigan Bureau of Elections released its report on the 250 post-election audits conducted across the state, affirming the accuracy and integrity of Michigan’s November 2020 election. Officials also conducted a statewide audit exercise, by hand-counting votes cast for president on more than 18,000 ballots randomly selected across the state, which affirmed the outcome of the presidential election as previously determined by tabulation machines. And judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats rejected more than 60 lawsuits challenging the outcome.
Governor Whitmer’s Executive Directive to Boost Voter Registration
In May, Governor Whitmer signed executive directive 2022-04, instructing all state departments and agencies to identify and assess potential opportunities to help eligible Michiganders register to vote and gain access to reliable information about voting.
Under the executive directive, state departments and agencies must look at ways to provide Michiganders with reliable information on voter registration and voting, including displays in public spaces, printed materials, online information, public announcements, and social media posts. They must also consider which of their offices could help register voters by distributing vote by mail applications, helping Michiganders complete their voter registration forms, and accepting applications for voter registration.
Michigan’s state government interacts with citizens from all walks of life in countless ways: from providing fishing and driver’s licenses to supporting veterans, educating children, and administering Medicaid or food assistance. This level of engagement which extends to all 83 Michigan counties, provides the state an opportunity and obligation to reach the citizens they serve and empower them to fully participate in our democracy.
The executive directive can be viewed here.
Expanding Paid Leave
HB 6070: Creates a framework for tax incentives for employers to offer up to 12 weeks of paid leave to employees who have adopted a child (pending appropriation).
HB 6070 was sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, and a copy can be found here.
Governor Whitmer’s Paid Family Leave Investments
Since taking office, the governor has expanded paid family leave to all State of Michigan employees and will continue working across the aisle to expand this critical pro-family benefit to more Michiganders. Today’s bipartisan bill demonstrates a joint commitment to ensuring all parents have the benefits and support they need to raise a family.
SB 178: Sets up a process by which bottle distributors near state borders can request a refund from the state to be made whole if more is paid out in bottle deposits than is taken in.
SB 178 was sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, and a copy can be found here.
HB 5956: Modifies sunset on certain costs that may be imposed criminal conviction.
"I look forward to continuing conversations with the stakeholders and administration to come up with a permanent fix on trial court funding so we don't have to keep putting a band aide on this issue," said Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport).
HB 5956 was sponsored by Rep. Sarah Lightner, R-Springport, and a copy can be found here.