Michigan will be less free and more regulated in 2023

Expect water rights to be challenged and homeschools to be regulated

With Democrats taking control over the Legislature, executive branch, and Michigan Supreme Court next year, a progressive agenda is likely to advance quickly throughout the state.

If past introduced bills offer a window into the future, Michigan will be substantially transformed, likely following in the footsteps of California and New York.

Let’s take a look at some of the bills that have been introduced by Democrats but never passed due to Republican legislative control. This give us a forecast of what is likely to happen in Michigan in the 2023.

Property owners in the state currently have the legal right to use groundwater reasonably — as long as it does not hinder a neighboring property owner’s ability to obtain water. This is known as the riparian water use doctrine.

This right is likely to change. The homeowner who wants to use pond water on her property for landscaping projects could be subject to state control under the new Legislature. The same for a farmer whose tractor wheels create furrows that then collect puddles of water when it rains. This could set the stage for protracted and expensive legal battles, such as that endured by a Michigan man decades ago for moving some dirt around on his property. (The case even reached the U.S. Supreme Court.)

House Bill 5953, introduced by Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, and Senate Bill 987, introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, says “The waters of this state, including ground water, are held in the public trust by this state.” The legislation does not differentiate between puddles or larger bodies of water and gives state bureaucracies wide latitude to control water use on personal property.

If parents like choice in education, they will not like the plans Democrats may have in store for them. In 2014, Democratic legislators tried to limit the number of charter schools, but were foiled by opposition by charter school parents and allies. The idea could resurface next year, however.

Homeschoolers may face increased pressure from the state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association reported April 12 that Irwin was considering legislation to regulate homeschooling.

Attorney General Dana Nessel supports the idea and said, according to the Detroit Free Press that “a lack of oversight can result in an inadequate education that does not prepare kids for personal success in life. Michigan children deserve better.”

Limiting school options for students is not the only possible change in K-12 education. Lawmakers also have control over curriculum requirements. 

Senate Bill 460 would prohibit local and intermediate school districts, as well as public school academies from teaching critical race theory and curriculum recommendations from The 1619 Project. The bill from Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, was approved by the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee, but it has yet to receive a floor vote.

Under Democratic legislative control, look for social justice and ideological curriculums at school to receive a big boost in support.

In the past few years, parents have used school board meetings to push back against diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculums in public schools. They have also objected to schools stocking their shelves books containing graphic sexual content. These parents may face even greater challenges in the coming months.

One thing is for certain: Michigan is going to change next year. That doesn’t mean it will improve. CapCon will be here watching it all, letting you know what’s at stake.

Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email her at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.