Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday will outline Democratic plans for the final months of the year after a first half of 2023 that saw the party roll back decades of Republican measures while implementing their own liberal agenda.
The second-term Democratic governor's policy priorities, which will be outlined during a “What's Next Address," include a call for paid family and medical leave, a 100% clean energy standard and the codification of protections ensured by the Affordable Care Act, according to her office.
The governor’s speech comes as lawmakers are set to return to the state Capitol Sept. 5 after a two-month summer break. Michigan is one of the few states with a full-time legislative session and Democrats are looking to take advantage of every minute with control of the state House up for grabs next year.
Michigan Democrats hold a “trifecta” — control of the state House, state Senate and the governor’s office — for the first time in nearly 40 years and passed numerous long-sought measures in the first eight months of the year, including a 11-bill gun safety package and the repeal of a right-to-work law.
Whitmer has delivered a “State of the State” address at the start of each year, as most governors do, but her Wednesday speech ahead of the second half of the legislative session will be a first. Democrats passed nearly every measure that Whitmer called for at the beginning of the year and her speech this week could once again provide a roadmap of what's ahead.
Her speech will include a call to further protect reproductive rights in Michigan as neighboring states continue to tighten restrictions on abortion. Voters last year approved a ballot measure that codified abortion rights in the state Constitution but Democrats are looking to rollback additional restrictions on the procedure, such as a 24-hour wait period for abortion patients.
She also wants to pass legislation proactively protecting key provisions included in “Obamacare," including one that requires insurers to cover preventive services, as the nation’s health law continues to face legal challenges in federal court.
Republicans have been critical of a legislative session that they say so far has lacked bipartisanship, with many bills passing along party lines. They were also critical of a $82 billion budget that was approved in June and crafted primarily by Democrats.
Republican state Rep. James DeSana criticized Whitmer in a statement ahead of her speech for taking a “victory lap” days after Michigan was hit by at multiple tornadoes that killed five people and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power.
According to the governor's office, Whitmer's speech is expected to address the continued power outages with a call to empower the state's utility regulator, Michigan Public Service Commission, by giving them more tools.