Abigail Censky

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.

A nameplate that reads "Mom Boss" sits on the desk of Michigan state Sen. Stephanie Chang's basement office in the capitol building in Lansing. Around it sit framed photos of her daughters.

When Chang began her term in the Michigan House in 2015, she was pregnant, and then again when she started her term in the Michigan Senate in 2018. In her official role, she's the Minority Floor Leader for the Democrats. Unofficially, she's branded herself a #mommylegislator.

Black residents in Michigan account for roughly 21% of the state's COVID-19 deaths despite being just 14% of the state's population. State officials want to decrease the number of deaths, so Michigan is relying on a formula recommended by the Centers for Disease Control called the Social Vulnerability Index to help guide its vaccine distribution.

After an election that saw record voter turnout, with many of those voters casting their ballots early and by mail, some Republican state lawmakers are proposing a wave of new voting laws that would effectively make it more difficult to vote in future elections.

The proposals come in the aftermath of the unprecedented onslaught of disinformation about the conduct of the 2020 election by former President Donald Trump and some of his allies in the Republican Party.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The day Michigan's electors gathered in the state Capitol, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer paused briefly on the checkered marble floor before entering the state Senate chamber.

"Obviously [we] never could've imagined..." she paused to laugh, emphasizing her next word, "anything... about this year. But it's an honor to play a role here in finalizing this vote, respecting the will of the people and making sure Michigan's voice is heard."

It happens at the beginning of every year: elected officials, legislative staff, lobbyists, journalists and the public gather in large numbers in state capitol buildings around the country for a relentless few weeks — or months — of lawmaking.

In 2020, official business had wrapped in many states by mid-March when lockdowns began. In others, the spread of COVID-19 sent lawmakers home early.

Updated Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. ET

In Michigan, the House of Representatives is being investigated by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration over violations to COVID-19 workplace regulations following an employee complaint.

Since the start of the pandemic, 11 Michigan state legislators and more than 30 legislative staffers have tested positive for coronavirus. Those numbers do not include Democratic Rep. Isaac Robinson who died of suspected COVID-19 on March 29.

Copyright 2021 WKAR Public Media. To see more, visit WKAR Public Media.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

When it comes to the presidency and the U.S. Senate, Democrats are largely playing offense. That's true further down the ballot, too, for the offices where many of the policies that affect our daily lives are made: state legislatures.

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