Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations
ESA Issue Active On Both State & Federal Levels

As you may have read in my October article, legislation was introduced in September in the Michigan House of Representatives to strengthen state law to help prevent the false representation of possession of an emotional support animal. This legislation is now joined by identical bills in the Michigan Senate – Senate Bills 608 and 610 – introduced by Sen. Dale Zorn (R-17th District). Both the House legislation and the Senate versions recently started the legislative process with hearings before the House Regulatory Reform Committee and the Senate Local Government Committee. AAM Board Member Karlene Lehman of Princeton Enterprises testified at both hearings in support of the legislation. Ms. Lehman provided compelling evidence of the fraudulent documentation currently available, as well as the need for better standards under the law and penalties for those who falsely represent a need for an emotional support animal. Thank you for your advocacy on this issue, Karlene!

On a federal level, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has requested the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate websites which sell questionable assistance animal (includes both emotional support and service animals) documentation. In a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph J. Simons, Secretary Carson stated, “These certificates are not an acceptable substitute for authentic documentation provided by medical professionals when appropriate.” This action is certainly a step in the right direction, but ultimately revised guidance from HUD is needed to further limit abuses of the law.

Amendments to Elliott-Larsen Act Introduced

Two bills have recently been introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. House Bill 5157 proposes to amend both the title and section 502 of the act (relating to real estate transactions) to add victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to the protected classes under the statute. The second piece of legislation, House Bill 5224, would also amend both the title and section 502 to include military status. These bills join Senate Bill 351, introduced earlier this year, which would amend the act to include sexual orientation, gender identity or expression among the protected classes under the law. Currently, Michigan’s civil rights law prohibits discrimination in real estate transactions on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, familial status, and marital status.
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