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.

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Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced states wouldn’t receive the data they need to draw new legislative maps until the end of September.

That could create problems for Michigan’s new Independent Citizen’s Redistricting Commission.

In a press conference Tuesday, Executive Director Sue Hammersmith said the commission hasn’t had a chance to talk about the delay yet but a plan should come together in the next few weeks.

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.

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.

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.

In mid-April, thousands of citizens gridlocked the Michigan state Capitol for miles, unleashing a cacophony of noisemakers and car horns for nearly seven hours protesting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order. "Operation Gridlock" was dotted with red "Make America Great Again" hats and yellow "Live Free or Die" flags. President Trump cheered the protesters on, tweeting "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!"

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Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee Kamala Harris stopped in Michigan for the first time after she was added to the ticket. To soundtrack of Motown, Lizzo and Mary J Blige Kamala Harris traveled from Flint to Detroit campaigning less than 45 days ahead of the presidential election. Harris reached out to Black and suburban voters in the state.

Outside of the Detroit Pistons Practice facility Harris talked about her reason for returning to the state.

Updated at 12:09 p.m. ET

Despite heavy rain, armed protesters gathered Thursday at the State Capitol in Michigan in what the organizing group, Michigan United for Liberty, has branded "judgment day."

This was the third planned demonstration since Michigan has been under a stay-at-home-order from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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After easing restrictions for industries like landscaping and construction over the past two weeks... Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state will need to have a waiting period before making decisions about other industries going back to work.

Governor Whitmer announced last week construction could begin again on May 7th. She says now the state will study if cases of COVID-19 begin to increase again when some sectors of the economy return to work.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer detailed the loose framework for the things she’ll consider when deciding which parts of the state to re-open and when they’ll be reopened in a briefing on Monday.

The Governor announced the state will be divided into eight regions, and data about how people get to work and how likely they are to spread COVID-19 based on workplaces will be considered when re-opening.

Whitmer says what other states are doing, isn’t right for Michigan.

Michigan Capitol Building photo
Michigan Senate / www.senate.michigan.gov

  Cars surrounded the Michigan capitol grounds for blocks as far as the eye could see Wednesday, with drivers laying on their horns. At least two-hundred people left their cars and clustered at the front of the capitol, not observing social distancing or wearing masks.

Shelly Vanderwerff, was recently laid from the greenhouse where she worked in Zeeland Michigan. She says she’s not upset that the Governor took action to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Several thousand cars flooded the streets around the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Wednesday to protest the governor's extended stay-at-home order. Cars jammed the streets around the Capitol building, filling the air with a cacophony of honking. People draped in American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags blared "We're Not Gonna Take It" and "God Bless The USA" out of car stereos.

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