(Source: MIRS.news, Published 09/13/2023) The state is now one step closer to six new recognized religious holidays, after the full six-bill package establishing Islamic, Jewish, Hindu and other religious holidays passed the House, despite one absent Democratic member.
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr, Lunar New Year and Vaisakhi are the holidays that could be newly included.
Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) was not present at session Wednesday while recovering from knee surgery several weeks ago, but the entire package received at least some bipartisan support, even Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy)’s HB 4448, which designates the Chinese Lunar New Year as a holiday. House Democratic Spokesperson Amber McCann said Democrats anticipated some Republican hesitance on that bill specifically.
Democrats put MacDonell's bill up first, where it received a 70-38 vote in favor. Republican Reps. Joseph A. Aragona (R-Clinton Township), Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo), Gina Johnsen (R-Lake Odessa), Tom Kuhn (R-Troy), Mike Mueller (R-Linden), Jerry Neyer (R-Shepherd), Brad Paquette (R-Niles), Bryan Posthumus (R-Rockford), John Roth (R-Interlochen), Kathy Schmaltz (R-Jackson), Bill G. Schuette (R-Midland), Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland), Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown) and Pauline Wendzel (R-Coloma) all voted yes. Rep. Donni Steele (R-Lake Orion) was absent.
After the first bill proved successful, Democrats put the rest of the package up, and Reps. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton) and Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) spoke in favor.
Steckloff spoke about HB 4544, which is sponsored by Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield) and establishes the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah as a state holiday, along with her HB 4545, which designates the same for Yom Kippur.
She said Friday is the eve of the Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, and “I can’t think of a better time than that” to pass the legislation.
Arbit’s Rosh Hashanah bill passed 90-18, with Republican Reps. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City), Matthew Bierlein (R-Vassar), Ken Borton (R-Gaylord), William Bruck (R-Erie), Graham Filler (R-St. Johns), Andrew Fink (R-Osseo), Phil Green (R-Millington), Jaime Greene (R-Richmond), Mike Harris (R-Clarkston), Tom Kunse (R-Clare), Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock), David Martin (R-Davison), Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes), Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland), Alicia St. Germaine (R-Harrison Township), Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills), Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington), Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) and Dale Zorn (R-Onsted) joining the Republicans already on board.
Steckloff’s HB 4545 passed 92-16, with Reps. Robert Bezotte (R-Howell) and Dave Prestin (R-Cedar River) also added to the list.
She was joined in speaking for the bill by Puri, who supported the additions of the Hindu festival Diwali and Hindu and Sikh celebration Vaisakhi with his HB 4446 and HB 4449.
HB 4446, establishing Diwali, passed 89-19, with Republican Prestin voting no. HB 4449 passed 88-20, and Martin was an additional new no vote.
Puri said he sponsored the bills because Michigan may be known as the “land of lakes and cars, but it's also a diverse state with a vibrant multicultural makeup.”
He said it’s crucial to acknowledge and honor those cultures by designating their holidays “to foster cultural understanding and strengthen the sense of belonging.”
Puri also retold the story about why he ran for public office, after a man opened fire on his family’s former place of worship and killed six.
“He didn't even realize which community he was targeting,” Puri said.
He also retold the joke first told during testimony before the House Government Operations Committee, with a more serious undertone.
Though Puri said he loves being a legislator, one of his least favorite parts is being mistaken for other minority legislators.
“Last term, there were a few others. This term, it’s often my colleague in the 9th District, Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), which still doesn’t make any sense to me."
“As I said before, not only am I funnier than him, I have better hair, am taller and also better dressed,” Puri said. “And although we joke about this, it’s extremely frustrating when that happens, and continues to happen year after year."
Aiyash responded jokingly, calling himself the “ugly twin here,” and speaking in favor of his HB 4447, which designates Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr, two Islamic holidays.
The bill passed 87-21, with Republican Rep. Timothy Beson (R-Bay City) also switching back to a no vote.