Feb. 11 | This Week In Government: Historic Increases Amid $7B Surplus Highlight Whitmer’s Budget; Teacher Retention, Targeted Student Supports Key In Whitmer K-12 BudgetFebruary 11, 2022
- Historic Increases Amid $7B Surplus Highlight Whitmer’s Budget
- Teacher Retention, Targeted Student Supports Key In Whitmer K-12 Budget
- 10% Increase For University Operations In Gov’s Budget Rec
- Lawrence Endorses Stevens Over Levin In 11th District Primary
- Supreme Court Eyeing Ethnic Intimidation Law As Part Of ELCRA Case
Historic Increases Amid $7B Surplus Highlight Whitmer’s Budget
An unprecedented surplus of $7 billion produced an unprecedented budget recommendation Wednesday from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as she recommended deploying the windfall throughout the government, from an 8.1 percent increase to K-12 schools to 10 percent increases for higher education, community colleges and revenue sharing to enormous investments in economic development and infrastructure.
Anyone who has followed state government and grown accustomed to inflationary or subinflationary increases, or even reductions, throughout the past 20 years had to be rubbing their eyes in amazement while scanning Whitmer’s recommended budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
At $74.1 billion ($14.3 billion General Fund), the governor’s recommendation represents a 6 percent increase over the current 2021-22 fiscal year (21.6 percent increase General Fund).
Receiving increases in all funds of at least 10 percent were the departments of Agriculture and Rural Development, Attorney General, Civil Rights, Environment, Great Lakes and Energy; Insurance and Financial Services, Labor and Economic Opportunity, Military and Veterans Affairs, Natural Resources and Transportation as well as the judiciary budget. The budgets for Civil Rights (21.1 percent), EGLE (45.6 percent), judiciary (58 percent), Military (60.9 percent) and Transportation (20.3 percent) saw exceptionally large recommended increases.
Changes in General Fund spending would be even more dramatic – a 39.5 percent increase in the Department of Attorney General, 27.6 percent in the Department of Civil Rights, 42.3 percent in EGLE, 19.4 percent in the Department of Health and Human Services, 88.4 percent for the judiciary, 77.8 percent for LEO, 85.2 percent in Miliary, 97 percent in DNR, 31 percent in the Department of Technology, Management and Budget and 20.4 percent in the Department of Treasury.
It is the 18th budget cycle for Ms. Whitmer between her time as governor, state senator and state representative.
“For the vast majority of my time that I have been in public service, we’ve had to make really hard decisions because the way that the budget grew didn’t even keep up with inflation so we were actually making cuts,” she said while speaking to reporters at Grand Ledge High School about an hour after the budget presentation. “Now we are in a position where we have an opportunity make investments. We have to be strategic about it. There’s a lot of one-time funding that we have access to, so we don’t want to build out things that we can’t sustain. We also have ongoing funding that we are going to be able to build sustainable programming and investment.”
And for all the gaudy numbers, that was a point emphasized by Ms. Whitmer in Grand Ledge and Budget Director Chris Harkins when he presented the budget to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee.
“This budget is structurally sound,” he said. “This is where we will discuss significant resources in this budget. But it’s important to understand that one-time fund balances are being used for one-time spending.”
Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, remarked that when he first entered the Legislature as a member of the House in 2009, as the state was moving into the depths of the Great Recession, the total state budget was $48 billion.
“All I’ve got say is, ‘Damn,'” he said of the proposed $74.1 billion budget.
Beyond the recommendation for the 2022-23 fiscal year, Whitmer also requested three new supplementals for the 2021-22 current fiscal year.
She already had requested a $2.5 billion ($46.6 million General Fund) supplemental for departments and agencies, largely focused on disbursing federal COVID-19 relief, much of which passed the Legislature on Wednesday in a $1.2 billion supplemental.
The new departments and agencies supplemental calls for $3.05 billion ($420.9 million General Fund) with a heavy emphasis on Food Assistance ($1.16 billion), the $500 million to the new economic incentive fund and the $500 million in hero pay.
Then there is the supplemental request for education with $2.5 billion sought ($301.5 million General Fund), mostly for K-12 schools through the new $1.63 billion in public school employee retention bonuses and $500 million to recruit new teachers.
It was a budget recommended as Whitmer seeks reelection in November to a second four-year term. And there were signs of that, from Whitmer’s repeated refrains that her budget makes historic investments not only without raising taxes but by cutting them. She offered details of her plans to lift the income tax off of retirement income and restore the Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of a filer’s federal EITC.
Usually, Whitmer and governors before her would meet with reporters in the Michigan Room of the Romney Building to take a couple dozen questions about the budget (last year, this was done virtually). Instead, Whitmer delivered a speech in the media center of Grand Ledge High School about her budget and then took about eight questions afterward.
Republican lawmakers responded in one of two ways to the budget recommendation.
Some expressed some doubt or relief about Whitmer proposing to cut taxes but also said they looked forward to working with her on a broader tax cut than she has proposed. Several also voiced support for spending money on mental health, roads and other one-time needs.
Others, like Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), voiced horror at the spending increases.
“If you look at the School Aid Fund, we have some very substantial structural problems with our finances going forward,” he said. “If you look at our skyrocketing pension payments, we pay over 40 percent of payroll going toward unfunded liabilities. So, I just wish there was more focus on making sure we had a focus on paying down debt and saving for the future.”
He also panned the state calling for $1 billion in funding for roads, asking “why in the world would we need to take out an additional billion dollars in debt?” Albert is, of course, referencing the recent $3.5 billion in road bonds the Whitmer administration has taken out to pay for various construction projects around the state.
“How about even if you’re not going to pay down debt, how about you just don’t take out more, OK? It just seems irrational to take out more debt right now for roads,” he said.
He did say that he was pleased with certain aspects of the budget, however, but did not go into much detail on that subject other than to say, “if you increase the budget by billions of dollars, you’re going to do something good at some point in time.”
Tori Sachs, executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund, said Whitmer “proposed nothing more than an Oprah-style taxpayer-funded giveaway” that should have been returned to workers.
And Annie Patnaude, state director for Americans for Prosperity, said the budget lacks lasting and meaningful tax cuts.
“It allows Lansing bureaucrats to spend these dollars on fleeting programs. We should implement genuine and substantial tax rate reductions that would help Michigan attract more businesses and people for the long term,” she said in a statement. “It’s hardly surprising that Governor Whitmer would try to hide her tax-and-spend record behind gimmicky election-year tax carve outs and spending.”
To the criticism that her proposal represented a spending spree, Whitmer demurred.
“If investing in the education of our children or the safety of our communities or ensuring that whether you’re a police officer, a firefighter, a grocery worker, a nurse, a teacher, people who have been on the front lines the last two years get a little more money in their pocket, I think the vast majority of Michiganders will say it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “We cannot let this opportunity go by without making those investments.”
While the supplemental budgets Whitmer has proposed for the 2021-22 fiscal year and the 2022-23 budget she recommended Wednesday fully spend down the $7 billion surplus, they mostly leave untouched most of the largely discretionary federal coronavirus relief money the state still has to spend.
Once Whitmer signs the $1.2 billion supplemental budget bill (HB 5523) given final passage Wednesday, the state will have $4.7 billion remaining in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for state fiscal relief to spend.
Harkins said the 2022-23 budget recommendation uses little of that $4.7 billion. The $500 million in “hero pay” for front-line workers during the pandemic would draw from those funds as would about $20 million for bonuses to encourage public safety workers to stay on the job, he said.
For Democrats, it was a dream budget with large new investments in programs they have long lamented have been on a starvation diet.
“It’s time to make investments that are long overdue, and that’s what this budget does,” Whitmer said.
If there was a word of the day, it would be “applauds.” Almost every group that tracks funding from the state on behalf of itself or its members issued a statement applauding Whitmer’s budget recommendation.
“The budget recommendation uses one-time funds effectively and efficiently, making sound one-time investments in the areas of greatest need, instead of broad tax cuts that will do nothing to boost the economy and will only hurt our bottom line down the road,” said Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Today, the governor has managed to pair historic funding increases with future-forward thinking and investments, which stands in sharp contrast to possible widespread tax cuts that would repeat past mistakes at the expense of Michigan’s future.”
Teacher Retention, Targeted Student Supports Key In Whitmer K-12 Budget
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget contemplates spending $20 billion on K-12 education in a mix of supplemental funding in the current year to provide direct payments to school staff, along with increases in the foundation allowance and targeted supports for various student populations during the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The proposal saw widespread support among many education advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers, with the Senate Republican chair of the K-12 budget excited about the proposals but not necessarily on board with everything.
Whitmer, speaking at Grand Ledge High School following the budget presentation, said much in her budget, including the payments to educators in staff, is “so overdue.”
“This budget makes our values clear: Students belong in school, and our educators need and deserve more respect and more resources to help our kids succeed,” she said.
Among its main components, the K-12 executive budget recommendation would spend $988 million to continue building a weighted funding model that includes the base per-pupil foundation allowance with additional funding for students with more costly education needs.
Of that, $580 million would go toward increasing the base per-pupil funding grant to $9,135. That is a 5 percent increase, or $435 per pupil.
Then $222 million would go toward increased supports for economically disadvantaged students, $150 million for special education students, $30.8 million for vocational education and $5.3 million for intermediate school districts, English language learners and rural and isolated districts.
The governor is also proposing a $2.3 billion supplemental for the current 2021-22 fiscal year that includes $1.7 billion for educator retention with the bulk going to payments for educators who agree to work in their current district for the next three years, $50 million annually for teacher onboarding and mentorship programs and $75 million for innovative approaches to address educator retention needs.
Another $600 million for recruitment programs during the next three years would also be included in the supplemental as proposed.
In total, the K-12 budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year as proposed by the governor is $18.4 billion ($108.2 million General Fund), an 8.1 percent increase (26.7 percent General Fund).
“There are a lot of things we are going to look at,” Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), said in an interview. “Clearly many of the things we proposed, I think the governor has agreed with. Continuing to increase that per pupil funding we all agree with. Some of that additional spending, we will have to look at where it is directed.”
Schmidt chairs the Senate Appropriations K-12 and Michigan Department of Education Subcommittee.
On the teacher retention piece, Schmidt said he wants to look at some longer term solutions and questioned if bonus payments to educators would make a huge difference.
“I think one-time money is not really 100 percent the answer. I think we are going to need to look at some other things that I personally believe can have a greater impact,” he said. “How we educate our teachers, working with universities and colleges. The fact that we are increasing per pupil funding makes a big difference because school districts can increase salaries, increase benefits. So, that plays into it, too.”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice in a statement called the recruitment and retention proposals “very strong.”
“This is a great education budget,” Rice said. “The plan associated with recruitment and retention efforts is very strong. The retention bonuses would help retain teachers and support staff – a very persistent challenge in Michigan public schools. The recruitment investments would help districts develop grow-your-own programs to help support staff become teachers, inspire students to join the education profession, and provide scholarships for future educators and stipends for student teachers.”
However, the Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools panned the fact that non-public school teachers are not included in the retention payments.
“The governor’s teacher retention plan has a gaping hole. Nonpublic school teachers are required to have the same credentials to teach as those in public schools,” Brian Broderick, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “In fact, these teachers have met the governor’s stated goal of providing in person learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no reason why they should not be included in this effort to retain and attract teachers for all of Michigan’s K-12 schools.”
As part of the teacher retention and recruitment, the executive budget plan would fund a new scholarship for educators, provide a stipend to student teachers and allow schools to implement their own programs.
Approximately $250 million ($150 million one-time and $100 million ongoing), would go toward providing $10,000 per year for first-time degree-seekers and career changers seeking to become teachers, and reimburse educator preparation programs for tuition costs. Recipients would be required to commit to teaching for two years in Michigan for each year the reward is received.
The executive office said the proposal would help fund 12,500 new educators during the next two years and the ongoing funding would help support the creation of 5,000 educators every two years.
Another $150 million would be spent during five years on stipends for student teachers. It would provide $9,600 per semester and be paid through educator preparation programs.
The executive budget recommendation would also provide $361 million for student mental health services. Specifically: $150 million for a program that builds capacity in school buildings for teachers and leaders to help students manage their mental health, $120 million for districts to hire mental health professionals, $50 million for mental and physical health in intermediate school districts, $11 million for school-based clinics, $25 million for mental health screenings and $5 million for specialized supports for specific students.
Kristin Rispoli, an associate professor in the department of counseling, educational psychology and special education at Michigan State University’s College of Education, said there is a huge need for mental health programs in the state’s schools.
“COVID-19 has undoubtedly and exponentially increased mental health needs among K-12 students, and disparities in access to quality care have only grown wider since its onset,” she said in a statement. “It is critical that schools are equipped to provide high-quality supports for whole-child learning, including social-emotional and academic competence.”
Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), the minority vice chair of the Senate K-12 subcommittee, said in a statement that Whitmer’s mental health proposals “will go a long way toward ensuring students’ success.”
“The past year has been so difficult for our students in and out of the classroom. From school closings due to staff shortages resulting from COVID outbreaks and heartbreaking tragedies, they have been through far too much adversity in their short lives,” she said. “And while these youths are incredibly resilient, we must ensure that long overdue mental health care is accessible and available to them.”
The governor is also recommending $72.6 million for pre-kindergarten education programs, including $56 million for the Great Start Readiness Program, which would increase the full-day allocation to $9,135 per pupil. The funding would also create grants for new or expanded programs ($30 million) and fund new-home based pilot programs ($5 million).
Another new item in the K-12 budget recommendation is the creation of a school infrastructure fund with a $1 billion deposit to provide $170 million annually until the 2028-29 fiscal year. The funds would be used for significant infrastructure projects and would offset a portion of costs for districts, particularly those with lower taxable resources.
In an effort to help students get back on track academically, the executive budget recommendation also includes $50 million for before and after school programs. Another $66 million would go toward school safety programs. Additionally, Whitmer recommends $6 million for academic supports and infrastructure needs for the Oxford School District.
Michigan Afterschool Partnership Executive Director Erin Skene Pratt said in a statement the expanded program would help parents enter the labor market sooner, calling it a win for employers.
“High-quality out-of-school time learning opportunities are game-changers for students, who can make important connections with their own learning and with adult mentors who are ready to help boost social and emotional wellbeing,” she said. “As we look to build the workforce and economy of tomorrow, this type of investment is critically important.”
The budget as recommended would also:
- Maintain $31.5 million for state-funded literacy coaches;
- Maintain $3.5 million for the Michigan Education Corps, which provides tutors in classrooms;
- Provide $19.9 million for early literacy grants;
- Provide $1.8 billion for MPSERS retirement contributions and increases the cost offset payment by $12 million;
- Provide $9.1 million for early interventions, school-level supports and nutrition programs in Flint; and
- Provide $94.4 million for literacy initiatives in the Detroit Public Schools Community District as part of a court settlement.
AFT Michigan President David Hecker in a statement called Whitmer a leader students and educators need, and praised her dedication to public education.
“Gov. Whitmer is taking important steps to support both K-12 public schools and higher education across the state,” Hecker said. “This proposed budget would be the biggest education funding increase in 20 years and would move our state closer to funding equity. These changes are critical to ensure every student, no matter who they are or where they live, can receive a quality education.
10% Increase For University Operations In Gov’s Budget Rec
Michigan’s 15 public universities would receive a total of roughly $1.5 billion for university operations alone for fiscal year 2022-23, making Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s higher education budget recommendations the largest year-over-year operations increase for universities in the past decade.
The executive office’s proposed budget would provide universities a budget of $1.8 billion ($347.9 million School Aid Fund and $1.3 billion General Fund), a 2.5 increase (3.7 percent decrease School Aid Fund).
The recommendations propose ongoing funding of $76.3 million General Fund, a 5 percent increase for university operations, including a 5 percent increase for Michigan State University’s AgBioResearch and MSU Extension. It also recommended $76.3 million General Fund, another 5 percent increase, in one-time funding to be used for university operations as well and the MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension would also be included in the increase.
To receive the funding increase, universities must limit tuition and fee increases to 5 percent or $722 per student, or whichever is greater. Universities must also participate in the Michigan Transfer Network and give regular updates to the network which will ultimately inform students how their credits will transfer among Michigan postsecondary education institutions.
Funding increase requirements also demand universities to participate in reverse transfer agreements with at least three community colleges and consider whether dual enrollment credits were used for high school graduation when deciding to gift university credits.
Britany Affolter-Caine, executive director of Michigan’s University Research Corridor, applauded Whitmer’s proposed 10 percent increase, saying it could increase the state’s overall competitiveness by encouraging top companies to work with the talent coming out of those universities.
“That extra money would help our economy, communities, and residents by making higher education accessible to more students, creating more of the high-demand graduates that our businesses and industries need to thrive,” Affolter-Caine said in a statement. “Michigan’s URC – an affiliation of Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, Michigan’s three major research universities – would see critical efforts supported that would spur greater growth in research and development in areas such as mobility, medicine and smart manufacturing.”
The governor also recommended a funding floor of $4,500 per student for universities, spending $12.7 million to fund the first year of the four-year phase in. The first round of funding raises the floor to over $3,500 which would be critical for Grand Valley University, Oakland University, Saginaw Valley University, University of Michigan-Dearborn and University of Michigan-Flint since all five schools receive funding below the proposed floor of $4,500 per student.
The University of Michigan proper would see the largest increase, with a recommendation of $355 million, followed by Michigan State University at $318 million General Fund and Wayne State University at $223 million General Fund.
House Appropriations Higher Education and Community Colleges Subcommittee Minority Vice Chair Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) said she thinks higher education remains underfunded.
“The cost of tuition has increased so much that a student cannot take out enough federal aid to cover the cost of tuition,” Steckloff said. “Even with our highest need students, those who are Pell Grant eligible, universities have been very lucky to obtain some sort of funding for a tuition grant, but it still is not enough.”
The governor is recommending $141.7 million for financial aid programs and an in the award amounts for Michigan Competitive Scholarships from $1,000 to $1,200 and Michigan Tuition Grants from $2,800 to $2,900. Whitmer also recommended the Tuition Incentive Program be capped at 2.5 times the in-district per-credit community college tuition rate.
In a statement, Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said he welcomes Whitmer’s proposed minimization in tuition increases, calling it a major step toward improving the affordability to attend public universities.
“We are thankful for the governor’s proposed historic reinvestment and are hopeful that state lawmakers will be supportive as they commence with budget negotiations,” Hurley said in a statement. “It is critical that policymakers recognize the governor’s recommendation is helping repair damage done to college affordability in our state since 2000. Adjusted for inflation, Michigan’s support for public universities has been cut by $1 billion since 2002, and per student support is down 43 percent.”
The University Indian Tuition waiver program for Native American Michiganders would be funded with $12.1 million to reimburse investments, a decrease of $344,000 from fiscal year 2021-22.
The budget would continue to cap the amount of unfunded accrued liability contributions paid by Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System and continue to have the state make payments for amounts over the statutory cap of 25.73 percent. The $84.7 million allocated last year would mean the amount of the cap is reduced for the upcoming fiscal year and the higher education budget would include a total of $4.7 million for university retirement costs.
A supplemental for fiscal year 2021-22 recommends $141.5 million General Fund for infrastructure, technology, equipment and maintenance, hoping to aid infrastructure delays.
Lawrence Endorses Stevens Over Levin In 11th District Primary
The soon to be retired U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence formally endorsed U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens Thursday for the redrawn 11th U.S. House District.
It’s a big boost for the Stevens campaign as a primary against U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) nears.
During a press conference at New Bethel Baptist Church, Lawrence (D-Southfield) announced she is supporting Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), saying during the past month she contemplated who would be best to represent her constituents like those in Pontiac when she retires.
“No person represents the qualities, the compassion, the work ethic, better than Haley Stevens,” she said.
Speaking with Gongwer News Service, Stevens said Lawrence has been a friend and a mentor since her win in 2018.
“From the minute I got into Congress, she was opening doors for me, sometimes when she didn’t even know when she was doing that,” Stevens said. “And I have just always had a really strong relationship with her.”
Stevens said Lawrence offered her much advice and support when discussing the newly redrawn 11th District. She recognized Ms. Lawrence has been rock for communities such as Pontiac and a rock for women, saying she “means the world to her.”
“I take nothing for granted. I’m following in the footsteps of a giant,” Stevens said. “It just makes me want to work harder, makes me want to continue to get out and meet voters, introduce myself and stay connected and show up every single day, not just Election Day.”
Lawrence told Gongwer when the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission redrew the seats, she noticed Ms. Stevens represented a large majority of the new 11th District.
“I had already started thinking about the advantages of her being in the 11th District. As we know another member jumped in, but I’ve been consistent with wanting to support her,” Lawrence said. “She and I connected over so many different things and I just know that she’s the right person.”
Lawrence said she will endorse a Black person for the 13th District, mentioning she is aware and also concerned about her exit as the lone Black Congressional member. It is unclear if she will endorse state Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) for the 13th after the two shared a joint press conference in Hamtramck celebrating the passage of the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act.
Levin has received a number of union endorsements. When asked her thoughts on those Levin endorsements, Stevens also mentioned she has received union endorsements, noting that there are many other endorsements up for grabs. She said in 2018, she ran on a 21st century labor movement advocating for raising the minimum wage to $15.
She was also asked about her reasoning for running in the 11th District rather than the 10th District. Looking at all the districts, she said the redrawn 11th District is the largest concentration of her current voters.
“I have the plurality of constituents in this district and as it pertains to the 10th, I represent 0.9 percent of that district,” Stevens said. “Of all the southeastern Oakland County districts the 10th has the least amount of population that I have represented.”
However, she did say Levin represents 70 percent of the 10th District and asked him if he thought about running there. She said Mr. Levin told her he has a family legacy in the 11th, saying she found it hard to understand leaving behind that many constituents.
As far as the 10th District, there has been little heat from Democrats while popular Republican John James announced he would be running for the seat and recruited former U.S. representatives from the area to co-chair his campaign.
Stevens was bullish about the Democrats’ chances there, though a big name hasn’t filed as of yet.
“I’m fired up about what the Democrats have done,” Ms. Stevens said. “I think we have to poke our heads up a bit and champion the American Rescue Act, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act that got done – signed, sealed and delivered. Huge deal for Michigan on the Infrastructure bill and what we’re going to do for roads, electric vehicle charging, for workforce training. Huge deal about the monies we’ve gotten to the communities through the American Rescue Act.”
She said she felt the energy was there to make big Democratic wins for 2022, adding she will work to put the Voting Rights Act in front of voters this year.
“And of course legislation that I co-sponsored and voted for, Voting Rights Act it’s deeply personal to people. The Voting Rights Act is going to be on the ballot for 2022 make no mistake about it,” she said.
Supreme Court Eyeing Ethnic Intimidation Law As Part Of ELCRA Case
The fate of a 2020 published Court of Appeals ruling holding that the state’s ethnic intimidation law does not apply to transgender people now could be tied to how the Michigan Supreme Court rules on the state’s civil rights law.
A 2-1 majority of the Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s law prohibiting intimidation or harassment of another person on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin when causing physical contact with that person, damages or destroys the property of that person or threatens to take either of those actions does not apply to transgender persons.
In an order dated Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court, which is considering whether to grant prosecutors’ request that it grant leave to appeal in the case, held the request in abeyance because the court’s decision in the Rouch World LLC v. Department of Civil Rights case “may resolve an issue raised in the present application for leave to appeal.”
The Rouch World case involves whether the category of “sex” in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act applies to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Court of Claims ruled that it did apply to gender identity but not sexual orientation. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal directly, bypassing the Court of Appeals.
In the Rogers case, Kimora Steuball, who identifies as a woman, was shot in the shoulder at a gasoline station in Wayne County in 2018 after a man began mocking her in line, calling her a man and asking to see her penis. The man then allegedly pulled a gun and threatened to kill her. Steuball has said she then grabbed at the man’s hand for the gun, a struggle ensued and at some point, the gun fired into her left shoulder. Her shoulder was shattered, and she underwent surgery.
The defendant, Deonton Autez Rogers, was charged as a third habitual offender and with discharging a firearm in a building causing physical injury, discharging a firearm in a building causing serious impairment, assault with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, felon in possession of a firearm, fourth-degree child abuse and ethnic intimidation.
Rogers’ attorney asked the Wayne Circuit Court to reverse the district court’s ruling to bind him over on several charges, and the court agreed to quash the two charges of discharging a firearm in a building and the ethnic intimidation charge. Mr. Rogers argued that the ethnic intimidation statute does not apply to transgender persons.