Gilchrist becomes first black lieutenant governor to sign bill into law

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist on Thursday became the first black lieutenant governor in Michigan history to sign a bill into law.

Gilchrist signed the legislation in the Capitol rotunda while serving as acting governor in the absence of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was on a business trip to Israel.

“When things like this happen, it is important to take a moment to recognize it,” Gilchrist said. “We don’t do it out of vanity. We do it out of gratitude, gratitude for all the people who have stood before us.”

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist became the first black lieutenant governor in Michigan history to sign a bill into law in the Capitol rotunda on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019.

The signing comes roughly 31 years after former Secretary of State Richard Austin became the first black statewide elected official to sign a bill into law.

The legislation from Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, repeals a lifetime ban on insurance producer licenses to those who have a felony record.

The legislation lifts the licensing ban for would-be insurance agents after a 10-year window has lapsed since the conviction. The new law would exclude those who had been convicted of violent crimes or finance-related crimes.

The legislation was in part inspired by a constituent who was unable to inherit his father’s insurance business because of an old drunken driving conviction, Hoitenga said.

In 2018, the Department of Insurance and Financial Services denied 61 applications for insurance producer licenses because of prior felony convictions.

Gilchrist, who co-chairs the Michigan Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force, said the legislation is another step toward fixing a system that excludes people from opportunities because of past mistakes.

“It’s part of our broader work in reforming our system of criminal justice,” Gilchrist said. “…It’s actually the work where we’ve made the most bipartisan progress in 2019.”

He later signed several other bills into law.