Written by Forrest Wall, CAE, Vice President Government Affairs and Industry Relations
Emotional Support Animal Legislation Vetoed By Governor Whitmer
In a disappointing end to the 2019-2020 Michigan Legislative Session, Governor Whitmer vetoed the emotional support animal legislation supported by AAM and other rental property organizations. The veto came on the heels of Senate passage of the bills on December 18th. The Michigan House of Representatives originally passed the bills in March of 2020, and then concurred the Senate-amended legislation on December 21st. As you may recall, this legislation was a two-bill effort to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal (ESA). The first bill, House Bill 4910, would have created the “Misrepresentation of Emotional Support Animals Act.” This bill proposed:
- A definitional framework for state law
- Bars individuals and health care providers from falsely representing a disability or possession of an ESA
- Allow disability documentation requests by housing providers after resident signs authorization
- Requirements for health care providers who prescribe ESAs
- Penalty provisions for violations of the law
- Allowance for lease termination for false representation
- Directive to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to establish a hotline which would receive reports of false representations and complaints
The second bill, House Bill 4911, would have amended the Revised Judicature Act to support termination of a lease for misrepresentation of an emotional support animal.
In her veto letter, the Governor stated, “While I appreciate the intent behind these bills – to ensure that housing providers are able to verify the need for emotional support animals – these bills result in too great an intrusion on the privacy of people with disabilities.” Encouragingly, however, the Governor committed to working toward a compromise on the issue. The final sentence of her letter states, “Nevertheless, I look forward to working with the legislature to craft a solution that strikes a better balance between the need of housing providers to verify information and the privacy rights of people with disabilities.” With the veto and the end of the legislative session, the bills will need to be reintroduced in 2021 and the process starts over.