Michigan works to pass LGBTQ protections, repeal abortion, right-to-work For the first time in decades, Democrats run the show in Michigan, passing legislative priorities they've been after for years: repealing a 1931 abortion law, repealing right-to-work and more.

Michigan Democrats are getting their way for the first time in nearly 40 years

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Republicans in red states like Florida and Texas are moving further to the right on issues including abortion and LGBTQ rights. But in Michigan, Democrats have complete power for the first time in nearly 40 years, and they've wasted no time getting their top priorities to the governor's desk. Colin Jackson of the Michigan Public Radio Network brings us this look at how Democrats are governing after decades in the political wilderness.

COLIN JACKSON, BYLINE: Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her State of the State address this year with something no Democratic governor in Michigan has had since the early '80s - a legislature willing to pass her agenda, even if they only have a narrow majority.


GRETCHEN WHITMER: We spoke with a clear voice in November. We want the ability to raise a family without breaking the bank. We want strong protections for our fundamental rights to vote and control our own bodies.

JACKSON: Within the first two months, Democrats passed their centerpiece tax plan, a bill to repeal the state's defunct 1931 abortion ban and legislation to create civil rights protections for LGBTQ folks. Some votes, like the civil rights expansion, came with a little bipartisan support.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The bill is passed.


JACKSON: The abortion ban repeal fell closer to party lines. Democrats like Representative Laurie Pohutsky relished literally ripping the page out of the books.


LAURIE POHUTSKY: And I am grateful that we are finally, finally addressing it.

JACKSON: Votes on the Democrat's big tax cut, however, got messy. They folded in business incentive funding one of their own members wouldn't support and other spending Republicans didn't like. When the House vote did come up after hours of waiting, no one was allowed to speak. You could feel and hear the Republican anger.



JACKSON: This comes after years of Democrats feeling powerless in the minority, often being gaveled down.

JOE TATE: They know what they did, and I'll just leave it at that.

JACKSON: That's House Speaker Joe Tate. When asked, he didn't elaborate much more, but has said he's happy with what they've accomplished.

TATE: Voters exercised their power in terms of what they wanted us to do. So for us to have this majority, they want us to be effective, and we've shown that.

JACKSON: Next up, Democrats are rushing to pass the last of their early goals before going on spring break. That means getting labor priorities like repealing the state's 2012 right-to-work law to the governor. Meanwhile, Republicans are hoping that speed backfires. While their colleagues are selling the proposals as pro-worker, Republicans argue they're unpopular and expensive. Minority Leader Matt Hall.

MATT HALL: This is the beginning of the Democrat overreach that's going to lead to their demise and the Republicans taking back the House.

JACKSON: Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan CEO Jimmy Greene was among the main voices advocating for right to work back in 2012. He says he understands why Democrats are moving so fast to this time around, but warns them against overplaying their hand.

JIMMY GREENE: They shouldn't gulp. They should sip. They should show that they're responsible with power. Right now it looks like they're power-hungry.

JACKSON: Greene says Democrats arguably won control of the legislature with the help of a massive turnout spurred on by an abortion rights ballot measure, not to mention newly independently drawn districts that ended up competitive anyway. One factor in Democrats' favor - infighting within the state Republican Party.

GREEENE: I think the Republican Party is the best gift Democrats have. The idea that they're doing all this right now with an absolutely dysfunctional, inoperative, broke party apparatus - it probably gives them license to do what they're doing. Let's be honest. They're not afraid of Republicans. I wouldn't be.

JACKSON: And there could be a long road ahead. A deadly mass shooting at Michigan State University jumped gun control bills up on the priority list, and the legislature still has all year to meet.

For NPR News, I'm Colin Jackson in Lansing.

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