Top 4 Environmental Wins for Michigan in 2023

Top 4 Environmental Wins for Michigan in 2023

2023 was a monumental year for Michigan’s clean energy future and democracy. After Michiganders elected a pro-conservation majority to the legislature for the first time in 40 years, Michigan lawmakers got to work quickly and kept up the pressure all year. 

This year we saw Michigan lawmakers pass legislation to protect women’s reproductive rights, keep our kids safe from gun violence at school, and protect workers’ rights. Among the many important bills passed this year, several bills protecting Michigan’s air, land, water, and democracy stood out – including a historic clean energy package.

Here’s a look at four bills from 2023 that will protect our drinking water and Great Lakes, invest in our clean energy future, protect Michigan’s precious natural resources, and ensure an accessible democracy for all Michigan voters into 2024 and beyond: 

1. The Clean Energy and Jobs Act

After Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled the MI Healthy Climate Plan in 2022, the hopes of action to invest in clean energy and tackle the climate crisis lay in the hands of the Michigan Legislature. The governor’s climate plan – which outlined a path towards 100% clean energy and comprehensive infrastructure investments – required legislative action to be fully implemented. 

In April 2023, Senate Democrats introduced the first versions of the legislation – dubbed the Clean Energy Future Package. The legislation was aimed at investing in clean energy projects, creating good-paying jobs, and lowering costs for Michigan families. Soon after, Michigan House Democrats introduced a more narrow, but more detailed version of the legislation, and a summer of policy work and stakeholder negotiations kicked off. 

Before the bills were introduced, Michigan LCV jumped into action. Throughout the summer our team advocated, educated, and supported pro-clean energy lawmakers in their home districts across the state. Through thousands of conversations with voters, we helped Michiganders understand how investing in clean energy and implementing the MI Healthy Climate Plan would directly benefit them by lowering energy costs, creating good-paying jobs, and laying the foundation for a cleaner, healthier future.

In November the Michigan House and Senate passed the final version of the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, and on November 28, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed the bills into law. 

The Clean Energy and Jobs Act is a big deal for Michigan. It will require Michigan’s energy to come from 50% renewable sources by 2030 and 60% by 2035, expand access to energy efficiency programs like rooftop solar, and authorize the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to regulate corporate energy utility company resource planning on a broader array of important issues, including environmental justice and health impacts. 

Most importantly? The Clean Energy and Jobs Act will help implement Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan and set Michigan on a path towards 100% clean energy. Now that it has been signed into law, Michigan is poised to become a national leader in clean energy jobs, lowering energy costs, improving grid reliability, and tackling the climate crisis. 

2. Filter First 

After the Flint Water Crisis rocked the nation nearly a decade ago, Michigan has been in the spotlight when it comes to lead in drinking water, and the state has actively worked toward solutions.

‘Filter First’ emerged as a leading policy solution in recent years for children in daycare centers and classrooms. The policy revolves around the installation of water filters for drinking fountains and other drinking water sources to ensure kids have the safest possible water to drink at the most important moment – when their vulnerable brains are developing. 

In 2023, after years of work by Michigan LCV and an array of partner organizations, and with some funding previously appropriated, the ‘Filter First’ legislation advanced. Thanks to a new majority in Lansing, House Bills 4341 and 4342, as well as Senate Bill 88, were passed and signed into law by Governor Whitmer in October. The legislative package will require the installation of water filters in all schools and childcare centers to protect Michigan kids from lead contamination in drinking water. 

Passing ‘Filter First’ was a step toward protecting our kids from lead and it sets a national model for how we can combat lead contamination in our schools. As the bills are implemented, Michigan kids will have clean, safe, lead-free water to drink at school and will be protected from the adverse health effects that lead can inflict. 

3. Proposal 2 Implementation Bills 

After 2020, when Michigan saw widespread attacks against a free and fair election, it was clear that our state needed to strengthen voting rights and election laws to ensure every Michigan voter could cast their ballot without fear of intimidation, harassment, or of their vote not being counted. 

Thankfully, Michigan voters responded to threats against our democracy by passing the Proposal 2 ballot initiative in 2022, which aimed to protect our freedom to vote, improve access to the ballot, and ensure free and fair elections. But like the MI Healthy Climate Plan, Proposal 2 required legislation to fully implement its provisions.  

Our 2023 313/616 Votes team, who worked throughout the summer to educate Michigan voters about the changes to our elections and voting rights brought about by Proposal 2!

Early in 2023, pro-democracy lawmakers and advocates in the legislature introduced a package of Proposal 2 implementation bills. Throughout the summer, the House and Senate passed the package, which was then signed into law by Governor Whitmer. These bills included: 

  • Senate Bill 339: Establishes an absentee ballot tracking system that allows voters to track their voter application or absent voter ballot through a website or mobile application. 
  • Senate Bill 367: Requires nine days of early voting for statewide and federal elections 
  • Senate Bill 370: Implements prepaid postage for absentee ballots, creates standards for signature matching, and outlines a cure process for missing or mismatched signatures
  • SB 373: Expands the types of acceptable voter identification to include local government photo identification 

These Proposal 2 bills address some of the most daunting barriers for Michigan voters in accessing the ballot. 

4. Repealing ‘No Stricter Than Federal’

Surrounded by the Great Lakes, twenty percent of the Earth’s fresh surface water, and plentiful groundwater, Michiganders have a deep connection to water. Water sustains everything in our state, from our economy to our way of life. But Michigan is not immune to the degradation of our great water resources. 

This year, Michigan lawmakers took steps to address the array of threats facing our air, land, and water by passing Senate Bill 14, which repealed Michigan’s ‘No Stricter Than Federal’ law. For the last several years, since the waning days of the Snyder Administration, this state policy prohibited Michigan from setting regulatory standards for air and water pollution that were stronger than the federal government’s. ‘No Stricter Than Federal’ impacted Michigan’s ability to protect our most precious natural resources and opened the door for future administrations to back away from the highest quality protections. 

By repealing ‘No Stricter Than Federal’ Michigan now can set in-state, best-fit standards to protect our globally unique environment and our health. This means our Great Lakes and our 3,288 miles of freshwater coastline, 11,000 inland lakes, tens of thousands of rivers and streams, wetlands, and more can be protected to the level we all deserve as Michiganders. 

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