Legislature back in action, LGBTQ training videos make waves: Your guide to Michigan politics

The Michigan state legislature was back in full force this week for the first session days since July— so buckle up, sit back and peruse the highlights of what was a week full of Michigan political news.

With the Senate meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20, and the House on Wednesday, Sept. 21, it’s believed the last day of session to occur prior to the November midterms will be next week on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Should that hold true, that day will be the last chance for lawmakers to bring bills across the finish line until nearly the start of December.

Myself and fellow MLive legislative reporter Jordyn Hermani are fully prepared to come with all the coffee and snacks necessary as lawmakers speaking on background say to prepare for a lengthy day come Wednesday.

Related: With culture wars dominating the agenda, Democrats call legislature’s past week a bust

Jordyn and I reported Friday on how lawmakers are split along party lines as to how time this past week has been spent.

Republicans, who set the legislative agenda as the majority party, are calling foul at the depiction of the Legislature’s work. Democrats are frustrated with the way things are playing out— Rep. Carol Glanville, D-Walker, told Jordyn that she attributes a lack of session days to campaign season.

“It’s a disservice to the people of Michigan that we’re not meeting in committees or not in conversations and negotiations,” Glanville said.

Rep. Graham Filler, R-Greenbush Township, on the other hand, said during time outside of session, he’d been “remarkably busy with policy development, stakeholder meetings, community meetings throughout mid-Michigan.”

Misinformation surrounding LGBTQ training for educators ‘deliberately divisive’, state department says

When state lawmakers did meet, teacher training videos from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) posted on social media last week caused contentious debates about the role teachers and parents have when it comes to discussing sexual and gender orientation in schools.

I’ve been following the issue since the clips, excerpts from teacher training for the 2021-2022 school year from MDE’s LGBTQ+ students project, started to receive backlash from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate, Tudor Dixon. This includes a Senate resolution passed along party lines by Republicans and a equal rights rally where organizers talked about the importance of protecting LGBTQ youth.

In one clip, a project trainer said during the virtual meeting that kids are “the best experts on their lives” after a teacher asked a question related to her students pronouns. In another, a trainer said that teachers have a legal obligation to report if an LGBTQ student is experiencing suicidal thoughts, but that they don’t necessarily have to out them if their preferred pronouns or chosen name was being used at school.

Many on the GOP side, including Dixon, have called for State Superintendent Michael Rice’s resignation. Rice said he won’t step down from his position, and MLive investigative reporter Matt Miller did some digging as to why his job is likely safe.

Michigan’s pandemic response ‘well coordinated’ but implementation fell short: draft report

Despite loud criticism, Michigan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was overall “well-coordinated” across state government, according to the first draft of an independent report requested by state leadership.

“Michigan agencies and departments demonstrated significant flexibility in adapting to the evolving crisis even as COVID-19 presented new challenges,” the draft report found, in part, after studying state government actions between Jan. 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021.

MLive reporter Ben Orner read the draft report, which found the state’s emergency management systems did not live up to the pandemic’s complexity.

“State government did not effectively employ unified command,” it found, as not enough people were trained in Michigan’s emergency response system.

Michigan’s deputy director of emergency management, state police Capt. Kevin Sweeney, pushed back on lack of unified command. He said in a statement that his team is working on responding to Tidal Basin’s draft so that it “adequately summarizes” Michigan’s response.

As college student, West Michigan congressional candidate argued against women voting, working

MLive file photo

John Gibbs who defeated Peter Meijer in the Republican primary for Michigan’s third Congressional District speaks to the media during a GOP unity reception at the Kent County GOP headquarters in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

News out of West Michigan turned national when a CNN report uncovered that Republican congressional candidate John Gibbs argued in college that the U.S. has “suffered” since women gained the right to vote in 1920, and said men could be considered smarter than women.

Gibbs made the statements on a website he created, The Society for the Critique of Feminism, while he was a student at Stanford University in 2000. CNN discovered an archived version of the website, which Gibbs had previously asked to be taken down, the network reported.

Comments made by Gibbs on the website include that the U.S. has “suffered” as a result of women’s suffrage because “increasing the size and scope of government is unequivocally bad.”

In a statement, Gibbs said he made the comments to “provoke the left on campus and to draw attention to the hypocrisy of some modern-day feminists.”

DePerno would ban Plan B ‘if it’s used after conception.’ Doctors say it doesn’t work that way.

After a recording posted to Twitter Tuesday caught Republican attorney general nominee Matt DePerno saying Plan B should be banned in Michigan, DePerno stood by his stance in an interview with MLive, saying the pill should be illegal to take “after conception has occurred.”

In an interview with MLive reporters Jordyn Hermani and Simon Schuster, DePerno said the recording was taken out of context. He’s not opposed to contraceptives in any way, because, he said, Plan B is not a contraceptive.

“Life begins at conception, and is the Plan B pill being used at that time as a contraceptive or is it being used to terminate a pregnancy?” DePerno said. “That’s the kind of conversation we were having. I think that’s a difficult question to answer.”

But Dr. Elena Oatey, an OBGYN with Central Michigan University Medical Education Partners, said it’s not difficult at all.

“No, even if you believe life begins at conception, it’s not going to terminate a pregnancy,” Oatey said.

MLive politics team summer 2022 steps

MLive’s politics reporters on the Michigan Capitol steps. Left to right: Ben Orner, Jordyn Hermani, Simon Schuster and Alyssa Burr.Daniel Shular | MLive.com

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