Abigail Censky | Connecticut Public Radio
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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.

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!"

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.

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.

Michigan's lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Tuesday as the state recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19-related deaths in 24 hours. The legislature convened despite the warnings from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and public health officials who've called for limited gatherings to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As they entered the Capitol, each lawmaker underwent a health screening and temperature check. Many donned homemade masks while the lieutenant governor presided over the Senate wearing an "Everybody vs. COVID-19" shirt.

Members of the Michigan State University marching band are braving below freezing temperatures to take part in "Sparty Watch" — a more than 50-year-old protection scheme devised to fend off attacks on MSU's beloved mascot, The Spartan, in advance of their rivalry football game on Saturday.

It's 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and 22 degrees. Twenty members of the MSU marching band and color guard are huddled outside in the snow flanking the 9-foot bronze statue.

With the UAW strike against General Motors in its fourth week, the automaker is losing millions of dollars. So are the businesses that supply GM. Many of their workers have also been out of work for four weeks, but unlike the striking UAW workers, their plight is much less visible.

Lansing, Mich., has nine regional GM suppliers. These are companies that do everything from producing ads to making parts for GM's cars and trucks. Altogether, that's more than 6,000 jobs. Supplier jobs in Lansing outnumber GM jobs.