Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist the highest ranking Black politician to sign a Michigan bill into law

With Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer out of the country for business in Israel, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist is serving as acting governor. And in his role as acting governor, Gilchrist signed House Bill 4044, which passed with strong bipartisan support. With the bill signing, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist became the first Black lieutenant governor to sign a bill into law in the state’s history.  

In 1992, then Secretary of State Richard Austin became the first Black politician to ever sign a bill into law, serving as acting governor for Gov. James Blanchard and Lt. Gov. Martha Griffiths.

“As someone to be the first person to hold a position like this, it is a real honor to follow in the footsteps of former Secretary of State Richard Austin who was the first Black person to sign anything into law in Michigan,” said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist. “It’s such an honor to follow in the footsteps of such a giant in our community.”

The signed legislation will reverse the lifelong ban on felons who submit applications for insurance producer licenses by allowing the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to issue those licenses to individuals who have not been convicted of a felony in the last ten years. 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist became the highest ranking Black politician to sign a Michigan bill into law.

While many applicants with prior felonies will be granted an insurance producer license, the new law will still provide exemptions for people with violent, fiduciary, or financial-related crimes.   

Under current law, the State of Michigan does not grant insurance licenses to individuals with felony convictions. As a result, the state denied 61 applications due to prior felony convictions in 2018. 

“To have my first piece of legislation be something that is relevant to my portfolio of work as Lt. Gov. of Michigan is important to me, “ said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist. “I’ve done a lot of work on criminal justice reform in my first year and to be able to sign this legislation, which will, among other things, make it possible for people with felony convictions become rehabilitated and sell insurance, is exhilarating.”

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist is serving as the acting governor due to Gov. Whitmer’s overseas business trip to Israel.

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist is serving as the acting governor due to Gov. Whitmer’s overseas business trip to Israel to strengthen relationships and build business ties with startups and mobility companies to help Michigan compete for good-paying, high-tech jobs. He said she sent him her best wishes.

“We spoke before she left for her trip overseas and she said the state of Michigan is in good hands with me,” Lt. Gov. Gilchrist said. “This isn’t my first time as acting governor, but it’s my longest stretch serving, and Gov. Whitmer said she was excited about my first bill signing.”

House Bill 4044, sponsored by Rep. Michele Hoitenga, will take immediate effect.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said he wore one-of-one cufflinks worn by former Michigan state Senator Jackie Vaughn III to sign his first bill. He also signed nine other bills into law as acting governor, including House Bill 4209, which makes it easier for property owners to pay their property taxes by amending the General Property Tax Act to allow the deputy treasurer or another township official to collect taxes and House Bill 4226, which puts a $250 cap on fees charged for the work to calculate the exact amount individuals must pay to redeem property at foreclosure.


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