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May 27 | This Week in Government: Board Blocks Craig, Johnson, Others From Ballot; Shirkey Supports Ballot Preprocessing, Early In-Person Voting

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

        1. Board Blocks Craig, Johnson, Others From Ballot; Lawsuits Expected
        2. Shirkey Supports Ballot Preprocessing, Early In-Person Voting
        3. Levin, Stevens Throw Jabs During Debate
        4. Senate Panel Hears More Support For Proposal To Raise EITC To 30%
        5. Senate GOP Blocks Dem Procedural Moves To Push Gun Bills

       

     


    Board Blocks Craig, Johnson, Others From Ballot; Lawsuits Expected

    Top contenders for the Republican gubernatorial nomination James Craig and Perry Johnson – along with candidates Donna Brandenburg, Michael Markey, and Michael Brown – were blocked from the August ballot after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked on their petition status Thursday.

    If the candidates hope to appear on the ballot, they have to file action in the Michigan Supreme Court with a tight timeline. The state hopes to finalize ballots by June 3 ahead of a June 18 deadline to print absentee ballots to be sent overseas and to military members.

    The board deadlocked 2-2 along party lines on the five Republicans’ petitions. Republican members Tony Daunt and Chair Norm Shinkle voted against the Bureau of Elections’ recommendation the five petitions be found insufficient for ballot access. The Democratic members, Vice Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz and Jeannette Bradshaw, agreed with the staff recommendation.

    Tudor Dixon was cleared of her challenge per staff recommendations, which held up 3-1 during today’s meeting. She will appear on the August ballot.

    The issues with the Republican gubernatorial candidates and others surrounded an alleged fraud ring implicating 36 circulators who are accused of creating 68,000 fraudulent signatures across 10 campaigns.

    Candidates running for governor argued that not every petition sheet circulated by the suspected fraudsters could be thrown out by the state. Elections Director Jonathan Brater told canvassers staff checked roughly 7,000 signatures and of those, not one was a valid signature.

    He said it would not be prudent or timely for staff to check every single one of the 68,000 signatures given the sampling of ones it did check were not valid.

    The failure to evaluate every single signature line by line was the common argument of the day.

    Mr. Brater addressed the issue outlining the review, which he said was comprehensive. He said staff separated the allegedly fraudulent sheets from the others. If there were signatures that looked legitimate, they were removed from the fraudulent pile.

    He said the situation is unlike anything staff has ever seen before. These circulators here committed fraud, Mr. Brater said, adding it was not a mistake.

    Former Director of Elections Chris Thomas told Gongwer News Service the bureau typically does a face review, ensuring that all the blanks are filled in and the jurisdictions are correct.

    If they see things that they question, then they move to signature comparison, Mr. Thomas said, adding this typically occurs when a challenge is filed. Many candidates also alleged throughout their testimony they did not have access to the QVF. Mr. Thomas said they have access to names of the voters, but not the signatures.

    As to if he thought the bureau’s comprehensive review was effective, Mr. Thomas said “that’s what we’re going to find out,” as the issue inevitably goes to court.

    Ms. Brandenburg and her attorney Daniel Martin were the first ones to testify against the staff recommendations. Her attorney pointed out that the bureau became aware of this problem in March, and they did not alert any of the candidates.

    “You flip the burden on us to prove that these ballots are the signatures are valid,” Mr. Martin said. “You cannot slip that out to us because a staff report suggests that’s the way we’d like to handle the procedure. … We would like to see the 1,000 signatures that were looked up in the QVF and the notes from that. That is the only way we can have a fair process through the determine if the just ‘on-the-fly’ process is fair.”

    Ms. Brandenburg said she was disturbed the campaign was not notified the signatures were fraudulent. She also called the process an “arbitrary goat rodeo,” claiming she turned in a second batch of signatures that were additionally thrown out and demanded multiple times to know where those signatures were.

    Ms. Brandenburg said it was approximately a 10,000-signature disparity. Her attorney said they have the receipt of the signatures dropped off.

    Mr. Craig’s campaign also experienced the fraudulent behavior from William Williams, and circulators Nicholas Carlton and Deshawn Evans gathered 1,003 and 1,036 signatures respectively. The bureau found 11,113 invalid signatures for Mr. Craig.

    Attorney George Lewis, speaking on behalf of Mr. Craig, said their team had 15 affidavits from signees indicating they were a victim of a circulator. Mr. Shinkle asked if the campaign has the name of the circulator the voter was victimized by to which Mr. Lewis said he could try and find that out at a later date.

    Mr. Lewis added that the campaign was told 19 signatures were checked of the 9,000 plus signatures invalidated.

    Ms. Gurewitz asked how Mr. Lewis expects the board to put Mr. Craig back on the ballot if they cannot determine the validity of the signatures. She followed by asking Mr. Lewis that isn’t it the job of the candidate to make sure the signatures are valid.

    Mr. Daunt, who earlier had made a statement he would not entertain any conspiracies that these candidates were targeted, said his gut tells him that these signatures are probably fraudulent but said he cannot base these decisions on assumptions. He asked if it was possible to check all of the signatures by June 3.

    Mr. Brater said it would not be practical to do so and said it has been in public record for at least a month and the bureau suggests the campaigns verify the signatures before submitting the petitions.

    Ms. Gurewitz, turning back to Mr. Lewis, said she struggled with the claim that Mr. Craig and others had been victimized, saying the Craig campaign has acknowledged those signatures were collected by individuals committing fraud.

    “I have seen references in the newspapers, and certainly there have been many stories … that Mr. Craig claims that he was victimized by circulators,” Ms. Gurewitz said. “So, you’re saying that if you submit thousands and thousands of signatures, which you have not validated, that we have to put Chief Craig, Mr. Craig, on the ballot, even though we have no reason to believe that those are valid signatures?”

    Mr. Lewis said that he was asking the state to go through line-by-line, to which Ms. Gurewitz fired back saying that the law puts the burden on the candidate to submit a sufficient number of valid signatures.

    “It does,” Mr. Lewis replied. “And it also puts a burden on the circulators not to commit fraud.”

    Attorney Mark Brewer said his client’s complaint provided 200 pages of evidence of forgery by the Craig campaign. The presumption of validity has been overcome, he says, adding that it is now on Mr. Craig to demonstrate the legitimacy of the signatures.

    “The patterns are undeniable, sheet after sheet of identical handwriting,” Mr. Brewer said. “Sheets that never saw the outside of the room because they were passed around a table. Not in the streets, on clipboards, exposed to weather and all the other exigencies one encounters when you circulate petitions.”

    Mr. Brewer then slammed Mr. Craig for not being the victim he was trying to portray himself to be, saying that it was his responsibility to turn in valid signatures.

    The idea that circulation sheets would seem different if they were genuinely circulated outside, gathering wear and tear in the process, came up other times in the meeting as well.

    Mr. Markey appeared to be blindsided like Ms. Brandenburg by the news that a considerable heap of his signatures was deemed invalid by staff. He took issue with the fact the bureau saw the names on the sheets of the alleged circulators, threw out his sheets, and again reiterated the complaints of his primary colleagues that the Bureau of Elections failed to examine every line.

    “If you went through 7,000 signatures and said, ‘we didn’t find a single one with redeemable quality,’ that itself should raise a question to the validity of your findings. Statistically, that’s unlikely,” Mr. Markey said.

    Mr. Markey told reporters that he would be filing a lawsuit. This is why normal people don’t run for office, Mr. Markey said.

    “They use this term, targeted. Targeted means you didn’t go line through line. That’s how it’s always been, and they violate it,” Mr. Markey said.

    Campaign lawyers for Perry Johnson additionally inquired if there was anyone at the Department of State who is qualified to do signature matching. To that, Ms. Gurewitz would later say that a handwriting expert was not needed to determine if the signatures were fraudulent.

    Mr. Johnson’s lawyers also asked specifically that Mr. Johnson’s signatures be treated differently than the others because he only needs a handful of valid signatures to meet the 15,000-threshold. Their argument was that Mr. Johnson only needed to rehabilitate1,200 signatures to make the ballot.

    If they had access to the QVF like Mr. Brater’s staff, the lawyers continued, Mr. Johnson’s campaign would have been able to verify names. James Garland, the individual who the attorneys say circulated the petitions in the area, is on the list of names the bureau identified as repeat offenders.

    They also have an affidavit from a signee similar to Mr. Lewis’ affidavits for Mr. Craig. Mr. Brater said at the end of the meeting the name on the affidavit did not match the signature on the QVF.

    During public comment prior to the discussion, Paul Cordes, chief of staff for the Michigan Republican Party, urged the board to reject the recommendations from the bureau. He argued that the state has a duty to determine whether each one of the signatures on a nominating petition are valid and genuine.

    “That has not been done here,” Mr. Cordes said. “Secretary Benson further instructed the Bureau of Elections and the members of the board that when canvassing nominating petitions, they must perform their signature verification duties with presumption that a voter’s petition signature is his or her genuine signature and comparing signatures.”

    Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) also addressed the board and said it was hard to gather petition signatures, saying the Legislature has made countless decisions and exemptions because of COVID-19.

    “I don’t even want the details of why the signatures where hard to get,” Mr. Maddock said, adding that the board has the power to make reasonable changes. “Michigan voters deserve to have these candidates on the ballot.”

    I think the board has plenary power in order to make those changes to accommodate these candidates, he said.

    Before the vote, Mr. Daunt and Mr. Shinkle explained why they would be voting no on finding the five gubernatorial nominating petitions and three judge nominating petitions afflicted by the fraudulent signatures. Mr. Shinkle said he would like to see the circulators face go to prison for their actions but does not want those same actions to affect the candidates. Mr. Daunt took issue with the 10 percent sampling of the 68,000 votes, saying he is very concerned about this notion of assumption.

    Mr. Brown will not be among the possible eight to challenge the matter in court. Regardless of the decision, he said early Thursday morning via Twitter he would remain withdrawn from the race.

    Mr. Craig however released a statement after the decision, echoing the complaints of his fellow gubernatorial candidates that the bureau failed to go line-by-line and the lack of notice that the signatures were fraudulent.

    “In addition to the BOE not performing its duties according to Michigan law, the BOE chose to withhold the suspicion of fraud from the campaigns until two days before their public hearing,” Mr. Craig said. “In fact, the BOE released their reports to the media before the campaigns; with many campaigns learning about the fraud from social media before being duly notified. Because of this, we will be filing an immediate appeal in the courts.”

    MIGOP Chairman Ron Weiser also released a statement, saying they would closely monitor the situation as campaigns continue through the challenging process.

    “The way this bureau deviated from its historical practice is unprecedented and I think the arguments laid out by the challengers should have their time in court,” he said. “This is about fighting against voter disenfranchisement and for choice at the ballot box.”


    Shirkey Supports Ballot Preprocessing, Early In-Person Voting

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey in a Monday television interview said he was not only supportive of extending the preprocessing of absentee ballots that was temporarily allowed for the 2020 elections but also is supportive of allowing for early in-person voting in Michigan.

    Speaking Monday on JTV’s “The Bart Hawley Show,” Mr. Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he has met with local clerks at length and heard their views on extending the allowance of preprocessing of ballots.

    He added there was apprehension initially among some lawmakers when preprocessing of absentee ballots was allowed in 2020, including himself. Since then, he has come to support the concept.

    “At the very least we should extend that sunset,” Mr. Shirkey said. “It proved itself to work very well.”

    The Legislature last election cycle passed PA 177 of 2020, which included provisions giving clerks overseeing a population of 25,000 or more the ability to open absentee ballots’ outer envelopes and ready them for processing the day prior to an election. The provisions for absentee ballot preprocessing, however, included a December 31, 2020, sunset, requiring legislative action to extend or make permanent (See Gongwer Michigan Report, October 6, 2020).

    So far, the chairs of the election committees in the Legislature have not acted on renewing the preprocessing language (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 19, 2022).

    Mr. Shirkey even went a step further during the interview, saying he believed there should be “a longer election season” of up to two weeks of early in-person voting. Michigan currently allows for in-person absentee voting for 40 days prior to an election.

    Michigan is one of 17 states that allow for early in-person absentee voting, based on National Conference of State Legislatures data. Another 20 states and the District of Columbia allow for early in-person voting and eight states have all-mail voting with early voting options. The remaining five states do not have any form of early voting.

    “That should minimize the confusion over absentee votes, doesn’t eliminate them, and we should be able to get rid of drop boxes,” Mr. Shirkey said.

    Mr. Shirkey said he believed that drop boxes can be a problem, which could lead to temptation to tamper with them in some way.

    He then pointed to other states including Florida that have early voting, saying it has worked well there.

    When asked if he would support statutory changes to allow for early voting, he said he would be despite potential hesitation among some lawmakers.

    “If it doesn’t get done this term, I’m hoping that the next legislative session will evaluate it, but we very definitely should extend the sunset on preprocessing. The clerks did a great job on that,” Mr. Shirkey said.

    As to a need for smaller towns preprocessing ballots, Mr. Shirkey said he does not believe there has been a proven need, adding he has not heard of any demand for it in smaller communities.


    Levin, Stevens Throw Jabs During Debate

    AUBURN HILLS – U.S. Rep. Andy Levin and U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens did not hold back during a debate Tuesday, exchanging jabs on a variety of topics including abortion and campaign finance, though the pair of incumbents seemed to agree on many issues.

    Both lawmakers are seeking the Democratic nomination in the 11th U.S. House District, an incumbent v. incumbent battle that has come in the wake of redistricting.

    Ms. Stevens of Waterford Township opened the night by saying she had spoken to the White House regarding the horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas, which at the time of publication has resulted in at least 20 deaths. Ms. Stevens said she is calling for an emergency declaration from the president.

    Mr. Levin also mentioned the shooting, saying the talk of thoughts and prayers needs to stop and action must be taken to end “this public health crisis.”

    While the two seemed to agree on this issue as well as many others, this did not stop them from swiping at each other. Moving from gun reform to abortion access, Mr. Levin said he favored protecting abortion rights any way possible, be it federal legislation, state legislation, or petition drives.

    “You’ve seen me as a pro-choice, Democratic woman in a traditionally Republican seat hold the line for all of us and I’m going to continue to do that. I am the candidate in this race to stand up for women’s rights,” Ms. Stevens said.

    Mr. Levin implied he was the candidate in this race who had done more to protect the rights to an abortion, introducing the first resolution in Congress to support abortion providers. He also said that Congress needs to speak plainly and assert that abortion is a human right.

    Ms. Stevens charged back, saying, “Was that the sound of another 60-something-year old white man telling me how to talk about choice?”

    “I don’t think I said a word about how my colleague should talk about choice,” Mr. Levin replied in his rebuttal.

    Both also said they support eliminating the filibuster so Congress can codify Roe v. Wade.

    “Absolutely I do,” Ms. Stevens said. “I’m sick of broken government institutions … I feel very strongly about the filibuster that’s withholding progress and withholding women’s rights and withholding our voting rights. It’s time to break the glass.”

    Mr. Levin was shocked, saying he believes this is the first time Ms. Stevens has ever taken this position.

    “I’ve been an opponent of the filibuster,” Mr. Levin said, adding he often challenged his Uncle Carl Levin on the matter. “The filibuster is the vestige of Jim Crow. The only thing it is was used for, for the vast majority of its existence, was to prevent Black people from being full and equal citizens of this country.”

    Ms. Stevens said she sent out a letter calling for an end to the filibuster and Mr. Levin said he looks forward to reading said letter.

    On the matter of expanding and reforming the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. Levin said he would and was in support of 18-year term limits. Ms. Stevens did not say whether or not she was open to expansion, but she did say she was open to reform and would like to see legislation that envisions a more modern Supreme Court.

    There was another moment of some contention when inflation was brought up. Ms. Stevens said she wanted the cost of daycare to be no more than 7 percent of a person’s income. Mr. Levin told Ms. Stevens if she wanted to be on the side of workers, she should stop taking PAC money from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

    This matter was brought up again later during discussion of how the candidates would support new efforts by workers to organize in the workplace. Ms. Stevens said it was time to get the minimum wage up to $15 per hour and also said she would continue to hold Mr. Bezos accountable.

    “What will we do to support workers who are organizing? My colleague takes a max-out check from Amazon’s PAC,” Mr. Levin said, recounting the multiple times he has organized with the UAW. “It’s my life. I’m a union organizer in Congress.”

    Ms. Stevens pointed out that Mr. Levin took corporate PAC money for much of his congressional career, saying that he has only donated half of it, and only did so just last week. She suggested if her opponent was interested in donating to pro-choice causes, he could do so at her website.

    Mr. Levin said he decided this election he would not take any more corporate PAC money and said he encouraged his colleague to return any money she received from PACs that have also donated to insurrectionist Republicans such as U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and U.S. Rep. Scott Perry.

    Mr. Livengood asked Ms. Stevens why she took the money, some $450,000, particularly the donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and if she would consider giving it back.

    Ms. Stevens said she has been endorsed by the AIPAC along with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

    Mr. Levin said the issue wasn’t that she was endorsed, rather that she was getting “all the special interest money.”

    “I feel awesome about it. I’m really happy I did and it’s the best thing I’ve done,” Mr. Levin said of returning $66,000 in PAC money from corporate PACs and trade groups that donated to Republicans who tried to overturn the 2020 election (editor’s note: this story has been changed to correct the dollar amount Mr. Levin received and returned). “Come on, it’s never too late, you can join me. I only did it last week. Do it this week.”

    Both lawmakers agreed on a variety of topics, including refusing to put U.S. troops in Ukraine for fear a nuclear war could occur between the U.S. and Russia. They also supported shutting down Line 5 if needed. Mr. Levin did not like the idea of a tunnel around the Line 5 pipeline and Ms. Stevens said as vice chair of the House Science Committee, they have yet to have a hearing on the matter.

    I certainly would follow the cues of our governor, Ms. Stevens said.

    When asked about their stances on Medicare for All which would eliminate private health insurance, Mr. Levin said he was in support of this and Ms. Stevens said there are some pieces of unfinished business with health care.

    They agreed on forgiving student loans, with Ms. Stevens saying the Pell Grant needs to be expanded because she has heard from her constituents that they do not qualify for financial aid. She said forgiveness was just the first part of the problem. Mr. Levin said $50,000 of student loans for each individual needs to be forgiven and the first two years of college at community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as other minority-serving institutions need to be free.


    Senate Panel Hears More Support For Proposal To Raise EITC To 30%

    Legislation that would increase the percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit claimable for credit on state tax returns drew continued support during Wednesday testimony before a Senate panel along with bipartisan support from members.

    Taken up by the Senate Finance Committee for testimony only was SB 417, which would increase the EITC to 30 percent by 2024.

    “This policy is designed to bolster the earnings of low-wage workers and offset some of the taxes they pay, providing the opportunity to step up and out of poverty and towards meaningful economic security,” bill sponsor Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) said.

    Previous testimony on the bill was positive, drawing support from small business owners, food banks, and the hospitality industry (See Gongwer Michigan Report, December 8, 2021).

    Recently, the Legislature passed a more than $2 billion tax cut that included an expansion of the EITC to 20 percent (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 19, 2022).

    Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said his key concern has long been over those who might not be legally qualified to obtain the credit. The main focus of Wednesday’s hearing was over the issue of incorrect payments and preventing fraud.

    Mr. Schmidt said Wednesday national figures show about 20 percent of EITC payments are made incorrectly.

    Jeff Guilfoyle, chief deputy treasurer for the Department of Treasury, said some instances of attempted fraud occur, but most often the problem with EITC payments is with incorrect calculations of the credit.

    He said funding such as a $1 million grant announced recently by the state to an organization to expand the capacity of free tax preparation services for low-income individuals seeking the home heating credit are the type of services that can help reduce both fraud and errors in tax filings.

    Mr. Guilfoyle said the credit helps working families and can bring more people into the labor force, which then helps businesses and fuels economic growth.

    When asked by Mr. Runestad about the demographics of those who do not apply for the ETIC who qualify, Mr. Guilfoyle said he was not sure of the figures, saying there likely is research available that could be located to provide that information.

    The proposal is one of multiple pushes to address taxes in the state, which has divided the two political parties for months.

    A Republican tax plan that would reduce revenues by more than $2 billion was passed last week but is likely to be vetoed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. One of its provisions is an increase in the EITC from 6 percent to 20 percent

    Democrats have been calling for an EITC increase after it was lowered a decade ago. Some form of increase in the credit could be one potential area of agreement between the two parties, but how it would factor into any larger overall package remains unclear.

    Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) told reporters following the meeting she was supportive of raising the EITC to 30 percent.

    She said increasing the EITC is a topic of discussion during budget negotiations, and she said her colleagues also support an increase.

    “I think that 30 percent is the right number, and we can help so many Michiganders if we are able to expand it, so I’m excited about the bipartisan support,” Ms. Chang said.

    Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, in a statement following the hearing, urged movement on raising the EITC.

    “The external appetite for an EITC increase keeps growing, as does the momentum in the Capitol, and the proposal continues to be the only tangible tax change being embraced on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Stanton said. “As policymakers continue to look for the most beneficial ways to invest historic state revenues, increasing the EITC will benefit working families, small businesses, and local economies.”


    Senate GOP Blocks Dem Procedural Moves To Push Gun Bills

    Senate Democrats sought a new avenue in their push for getting movement on gun legislation Wednesday by trying to force a floor vote on a bill package by quickly discharging multiple bills from committee to the floor via parliamentary procedure.

    Ultimately, majority of Republicans were able to counter the abrupt move by simply re-referring the bills back to the same committee, further exposing the existing gulf between the two parties on the issue of considering tighter gun restrictions.

    Senate Minority Floor Leader Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) made a motion quickly early in session just after attendance was taken to discharge SB 550, SB 551, SB 552, and SB 553 from the Senate Government Operations Committee. The bills would require the safe storage of firearms.

    Democratic Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II granted the motion, which appeared to catch Senate Republicans off-guard.

    Republicans countered by making a motion to re-refer the bills to the same committee, which is controlled by the Senate majority leader and is where legislation often goes to die.

    Democrats during a contentious floor debate prior to the vote called movement on gun legislation urgent in the wake of Tuesday’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of at least 19 elementary school children and two teachers and accused Republicans of inaction. Republicans countered by saying now is the time for grief and not politicizing the matter.

    The vote to re-refer the bills to committee was 22-14 along party lines.

    Wednesday’s effort by the Democrats was not going to succeed in the Republican-controlled Senate and even if it had, it would have fared less chance of success in the GOP-controlled House.

    It was the second time in less than a year where Democrats sought to use parliamentary moves. Last fall, Democrats delayed for a day, but did not ultimately stop, Senate passage of Republican voter identification legislation by moving to adjourn for the day. The voter ID legislation passed the following session day.

    At issue Wednesday were bills introduced in June 2021, a package spearheaded by Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor), whose district was the site of the November 2021 Oxford High School shooting in which four students were killed and several others were injured.

    Under SB 550, guns would be required to be stored safely to prevent injury and there would be criminal penalties for the failure to do so and if a firearm was used to cause an injury or death. Sentencing guidelines would be made under SB 553.

    The remaining bills, SB 551 and SB 552, would exempt sales and use tax for the purchase of safes, lock boxes or trigger and barrel locks for firearms for home storage.

    Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has promised Ms. Bayer since last session a hearing on a set of bills that would create a process by which a judge could order and law enforcement could temporarily seize firearms from individuals deemed capable of posing a danger to themselves or others. No hearing has yet been scheduled despite Ms. Bayer reintroducing the bills earlier this year following the Oxford shooting.

    Democrats unloaded on their Republican counterparts during the floor debate that preceded the vote.

    “This is urgent, now,” Ms. Bayer said in a floor speech prior to the re-referral vote. “We did nothing after the Oxford shootings. We did nothing after the Buffalo shootings. And now you don’t want to do anything today. I object to not doing anything any longer. This is urgent. Every day we don’t take action, we are choosing guns over children.”

    Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), one of the bill sponsors, accused Republicans of trying to bury gun legislation and of doing the bidding of the gun lobby. He called the lack of action embarrassing.

    “What are we going to do to try and prevent another one of these tragedies from happening? We have a motion, we have legislation, we can make a difference,” Mr. Irwin said. “Let’s not bury this legislation. Let’s take the vote. Let’s have the courage of our convictions. Do you stand with gun safety, or do you stand with the gun lobby?”

    Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) countered by saying there is a time for an honest discussion but in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy like the one in Texas, families are grieving.

    “They are still at a point where the weight is so heavy on their chest that they can’t breathe,” Mr. Horn said. “They don’t give a flying frog what we do here in the Senate. Right now, they’re not paying attention to us. It’s way too early to start assigning bill numbers to their grief.”

    Sen Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) spoke of what many parents like himself were likely thinking Wednesday morning when their children left for school: hoping that they will be OK.

    “There’s a place for prayers after a tragedy, I don’t believe that prayers are useless. … We can pray, but those prayers at some point have to lead to action,” Mr. Hertel said. “There’s no bill that would bring any of those 19 souls back, but what I can tell you for sure is that inaction is unacceptable. No other country deals with this. No other country sees the tragedies that we see.”

    Matt Sweeney, spokesperson for Mr. Shirkey, said following session said the majority leader was not available for comment.

    Mr. Sweeney, when asked whether Wednesday’s floor move by Democrats might hurt Ms. Bayer’s chance at getting a hearing on gun legislation, said: “I would not expect him to be inclined to make an immediate decision on something like that in the heat of the moment.”

    Following session, Ms. Bayer told reporters she will not stop pushing for movement on gun legislation for the rest of her time in the Senate, adding she was about as mad as she’s ever been in her legislative tenure over the refusal by Republicans to move on the issue.

    “No action, and yet they call themselves pro-life. They’re pro-gun, they’re not pro-life. Choosing guns over kids, over and over again,” Ms. Bayer said. “We have a handful of people who decided that they would rather take campaign funds from the gun lobby than protect kids.”

    She said proposals that Democrats are pushing such as her firearm seizure bills, also known as a red flag law, have proven effective in other states.

    “Every time something happens now it takes me longer to stop crying,” Ms. Bayer added.