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Michigan Legislators Propose Raising Taxes on the Working Poor

I grew up in Michigan, a state known for its beautiful lakes and beaches, its tart cherries, and for giving birth to the auto industry. Among Michiganders, the state is also known, a little less fondly, for its enormous potholes. Our potholes are so infamous, in fact, that in past years local breweries have crafted and sold beer, like the Pothole Stout, to raise funds for fixing the roads.

You might expect a local business to use its talents to help fill a pothole, but you would never expect someone to fill a pothole with food from a family’s table. But that’s essentially what the Michigan House of Representatives voted to do this week, approving a bill that would eliminate the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in a misguided attempt to find funds to repair Michigan’s roads. Read more »

Poised to Affirm Fairness in All Four States, the Sixth Circuit Takes Up Marriage Equality

Protection of basic individual rights has had a tough time as of late in the courts. Marriage equality, however, is a happy exception, sweeping through the courts with extraordinary unanimity. The Supreme Court started the trend last June in United States v. Windsor. In Windsor, the Court overturned as unconstitutional Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples. Since then, every federal court to decide the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans has found the state laws unconstitutional. Next up are the rights of same-sex couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee—the four states over which the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction—with five district court cases under review by that court.

In Tennessee, married same-sex couples are looking to have their validly-performed, out-of-state marriages recognized in their home state. In Ohio, one case is seeking to have valid out-of-state marriages between same-sex couples recognized for the purposes of death certificates, and the other case is seeking the same recognition rights for birth certificates. In Michigan and Kentucky, same-sex couples are seeking the right to marry in their states. In all cases, the district courts found the challenged marriage bans and marriage recognition bans unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Read more »

Pure Michigan: Great Lakes, Lighthouses, and…Rape Insurance?

As a Michigander living in DC, I am a constant, vocal ambassador for my home state. My apartment is decked out in University of Michigan paraphernalia and mitten-state décor. I never fail to get misty-eyed at the Pure Michigan commercials, the Tim Allen-narrated, nostalgia-laden tourism campaign.

But the Michigan legislature’s recent move to ban almost all abortion coverage in all private insurance plans, inside and outside the marketplaces set up by the new health care law—and without exception for rape and incest—is pure BS.

This bill, which, because of a quirky Michigan law, is veto-proof by the Governor (who vetoed a similar measure last year), threatens to do real harm to Michigan women. In her courageous statement on the chamber floor, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer shared her own story of being raped while she was in college, and noted that if she had become pregnant as a result, she would not have had coverage under this measure. Read more »

Michigan Court: Mersino Management Bosses Do Not Get to Decide if Employees Get Access to Birth Control Coverage

Last Thursday, July 11, a district court in Michigan refused to temporarily stop enforcement of the contraceptive coverage benefit against another for-profit corporation. The company challenging the contraceptive coverage benefit is Mersino Management. Mersino Management sells water bypass systems for profit. Indeed, it states that “complete water management is our specialty.” The bosses at Mersino Management also think that they have a special right to decide whether their employees get access to birth control. Specifically, Mersino Management has been arguing in court that for-profit companies can exercise religious beliefs and that bosses’ should be able to impose those religious beliefs on their employees to determine whether employees are able to have birth control coverage.   Read more »

Several States Boost Early Care and Education Funding

A number of states have taken important steps forward this year to expand access to high-quality early learning programs, according to a new National Women's Law Center fact sheet. While some states' budgets are still being debated, at least sixteen have already increased funding for child care and early education, and at least another eight are considering proposals for additional funding. 

Progress was made in a wide spectrum of states, including both states already providing substantial support for early care and education as well as states that had not previously made significant investments in this area. Indiana and Mississippi, which had been among the ten states that did not fund prekindergarten programs, established new prekindergarten programs, with Indiana investing $2 million and Mississippi investing $3 million. Michigan increased funding for its existing prekindergarten program by $65 million (60 percent), which will be used to serve at least 10,000 more children. 

A few states acted to enable more families to receive help paying for child care. Maryland has reduced the number of children on the waiting list for child care assistance from over 17,000 in 2012 to just 76 a year later. North Dakota increased its income eligibility limit for child care assistance from 50 percent to 85 percent of state median income (the maximum allowed under federal law) and provided funding to raise reimbursement rates for child care providers and to support grants for child care facilities and other efforts to increase the supply and quality of care. 

However, the news is not all good. Two states significantly reduced families’ access to child care assistance, and two additional states are considering cuts to child care and early education programs. Read more »

27 Governors Highlight Early Care and Education in State of the State Addresses

Everyone’s ears perked up when President Obama announced his new early childhood education plan at the State of the Union last month. And many noticed when Jon Stewart started talked prekindergarten and the President’s plan on the Daily Show. But the focus on early care and education isn't just happening at the national level: 27 governors across the country — from left, right, and center — signaled that early childhood was a priority for them in their State of the State addresses.

Like the President, these governors (and the Mayor of Washington, D.C.) recognize that investing in children in their earliest years is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Early care and education helps nurture young children and prepares them for future educational and career success, provides crucial support for parents, and strengthens our nation's economy.

A number of governors called for significant new investments in early care and education to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he wanted to "ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to high-quality early education." Read more »

Letting Women Die, Michigan?

Remember the terribly tragic story of Savita Halappanavar who was refused an abortion at a hospital in Ireland, and died because of it? Some legislators in Michigan evidently think refusing abortion in such cases is not only acceptable, but should not even bring any punishment on the hospital. 

Michigan Senate Bill 975 passed the Senate last week – when they locked the public out of the state capitol – and is scheduled to be considered in a House committee this morning. It would allow a hospital to let a pregnant woman die, without risking its license or a lawsuit or even a fine. Read more »

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: June 18 – 22

Welcome to this week’s roundup! This has been such a busy week leading up to the 40th Anniversary of Title IX on Saturday. Help us celebrate! Visit our new Faces of Title IX website and our Title IX anniversary blog carnival to read different women’s personal experiences with this milestone law. Want to share a Title IX story of your own? Let us know what it is here!

This week, we also have stories about one blogger’s experience with online sexual harassment and bullying, how Olympics sports commentators don’t give female athletes credit where credit is due, and some updates on the Michigan state representative banned for saying “vagina” mid-debate – read on for more!

Even after 40 years of Title IX, we still have a lot of work to be done to end sex-based discrimination. It occurs on the field, on the job and also on the internet, and many women are the targets of online sexual harassment and cyberbullying. Anita Sarkeesian, pop cultural blogger for Feminist Frequency, was violently threatened and attacked for wanting to cover women’s portrayal in video games in her Kickstarter project the other week.

We’re not the only ones appalled by the vitriol spewed at Sarkeesian over this incident. The silver lining: Sarkeesian You can refuses to be silenced despite the misogyny and violent attacks directed at her – and to us, this is a clear-cut example of bullying, digital or not. Read more »

Hey Ladies: Michigan Declares “Vagina” Dirty Word, Will Put You in Time Out for Using It

“I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina, but no means no.”

You might think that’s a snarky turn down to a creepy pickup line, but sadly it’s not. Those are the words Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown used in response to the anti-abortion bill the Michigan House was debating before she was declared out of order and banned from speaking by Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas Wednesday afternoon.

Vagina: such an offensive word we can’t even use it when talking about legislation that, you know, would legislate reproductive health which – newsflash! includes vaginas.

Read more »