Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist became the first African American Lieutenant Governor to sign a bill into law Thursday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is in Israel on a trade mission. Gilchrist is filling in as acting governor while she is gone this week.
At the bill signing in the rotunda of the state Capitol, Gilchrist called the moment historic.
“I want people to understand. We talk about young people seeing this, and that’s important,” he said. “But I think everybody needs to understand that we can work together to achieve things that were once unthinkable.”
The new law will allow certain people with a felony on their record to sell insurance. The Department of Insurance and Financial Services would no longer be able to automatically deny a person a license to sell insurance simply because they were convicted of a felony more than 10 years ago.
Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) is a bill sponsor. She said the law is archaic and that the state is righting a wrong.
“One constituent could not even inherit his father’s company, his insurance company, because he had a couple of drunk drivings on his record,” she said.
Gilchrist echoed his support of the new law. But also said he hopes his signing the bill into law will open the door for more diversity in state government.
“I want to make sure that I am doing my best to enable other people to have their own historic experiences,” he said. “To do things that have never been done before.”
There are exceptions for people with violent or money related felonies. It also only applies to people who have not been convicted of a felony in the last 10 years.