BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE
After a whirlwind year, where Democratic lawmakers in Michigan took advantage of their first majority in both chambers in nearly 40 years to pass several of their priorities, leaders are making plans for the second half of the legislative session.
State Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters after a committee meeting Wednesday that she and her colleagues still have a few more things on their to-do list before the session ends at the end of this year.
Breen outlined priorities, including human trafficking, gun reforms and school safety.
More gun laws
On a federal level, there are some people who are prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms for at least a temporary period of time, including those convicted of a felony and those convicted of a misdemeanor for perpetrating domestic violence.
Breen said she’d like to extend federal definitions of prohibited parties, as well as penalties for those who attempt to violate the possession rules to state laws.
“We want to make that state law because local prosecutors and sheriffs, they would like to be able to pursue those charges, but they can’t right now,” Breen said.
Breen also would like to see legislation enacted this year that requires gun sellers to alert law enforcement if a person fails a National Instant Criminal Background Check System review when attempting to purchase a firearm.
“We need to make sure that the sellers give that information right away to law enforcement, because somebody who, they’re not supposed to have the guns by law already and if they’re attempting to get one, then there is quite likely a problem or tragedy on the horizon,” Breen said.
Lawmakers have been working on legislation to regulate 3D printed firearms and “ghost guns,” which are homemade firearms without a serial number, unregistered and untraceable, Breen said.
Breen was a part of the push for gun control laws in 2023 that led to the creation of extreme risk protection orders, safe storage laws and universal background checks.
Now that the highly anticipated report on assessing how preventable the mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021 was released late last year, Breen said lawmakers have reviewed the nearly 600 pages that found that the shooting could have been prevented and are ready to move forward on some school safety legislation.
Lawmakers will move on legislation to do things like improve the state’s school violence prevention reporting system, OK2SAY.
Much was learned from the Oxford report and a lot of care has been put into building a school safety package that aims to help identify signs of distress or potential violence from those in school communities, Breen said.
“Often kids can be lost in the system that might be a threat to themselves and so we want to make sure that they get all the support they need,” Breen said.
In the Senate, legislation poised to expand rules in court to allow human trafficking victims more room to pursue justice are heading for a floor vote soon, state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) told the Advance after a roundtable discussion last week.
Breen, who also attended the discussion, said during the conversation that the House is pursuing similar legislation, along with an assortment of other measures aimed to limit current laws penalizing victims of human trafficking for their actions while being trafficked.
House members are asking themselves, “What can we do to help human trafficking victims and help them reintegrate?” Breen said, adding that much of that effort starts when victims interact with law enforcement.
When a person is a victim of human trafficking, they can be coerced and forced into committing criminal offenses. Breen said the goal is to create a better system for those who survive trafficking situations.
During the roundtable discussion with care providers for human trafficking victims, Breen called particular attention to labor trafficking, acknowledging that often the image of a human trafficking victim is a young woman who is a victim of sex trafficking. But coming from her background as a City Council member in Novi, Breen recalled the story of five young men who were undocumented immigrants in her city dying in a house fire back in 2017 and how justice was limited for those individuals’ deaths.
“It left me with a horrible, horrible taste in my mouth. I’m looking for ways and I’m hoping that you guys can find ways to work with these municipalities, make them understand that human trafficking is real. It exists in places like Novi and Birmingham and rural America. It does; it’s not an indictment of the mayor or City Council. We just need to acknowledge [it],” Breen said during the roundtable discussion.
This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.
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