LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held an event in Lansing Wednesday to discuss the first eight months of the legislative session and lay out her plans for the legislature for the rest of the year.
The morning event at a riverside facility in downtown Lansing felt like a news conference, a campaign kickoff and pep rally all rolled into one.
At an event billed as bipartisan, Democrats dominated, with only a couple of GOP legislators visible. The governor and lieutenant governor heaped praise on the Democratic legislature for what they see as their accomplishments so far this year.
Then, Whitmer set her sights on the rest of the session, which resumes next week.
“Today, I want to answer one question, and that is: What’s next? Right?” she said. “It’s a question we love to ask in Michigan. It’s in our DNA. As tough, competitive people, we are always focused on what’s next.”
The governor said she wants the legislature to begin working on a broad-ranging agenda when the session resumes.
“Well, my answer has four parts. What’s next on the fall agenda for Michigan is the health of our people, the health of our planet, the health of our economy and the health of our democracy,” Whitmer said.
Among other items, the governor called for the legislature to roll back laws that she said interfere with women’s reproductive health, codify parts of the Affordable Care Act into state law and lower the cost of health care and prescriptions.
Her list of action items also included moving toward using all clean energy in the state, improving the economy and ensuring election security.
Her Democratic partners in the legislature were enthusiastic about the somewhat unusual speech.
State Sen. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, said of the speech: “It’s really important to have an agenda as we head into the fall and the end of the year. I think that is really what the governor is talking about. We don’t want to lose momentum. We want to have a clear agenda, what we’re going to get accomplished. You know, there is some question in terms of how long we’ll be in session.”
While Democrats in attendance embraced the governor’s agenda, Republicans at the Capitol were somewhat suspect to say the least.
The question arises because even though Democrats have been highly successful in passing much of Whitmer’s agenda, some of it has had little bipartisan support, and a number of bills — including prevailing wage and right to work — did not get enough votes for immediate effect, which means they cannot go into place until 90 days after the legislature adjourns. Adjourn early, and the bills go into effect earlier.
Michigan Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, pointed to the bill that Democrats passed to move up the presidential primary to February, making it one of the earliest in the country.
That bill did not get immediate effect and would require early adjournment in order to happen. It would also strip Republicans of many delegates, because their national party does not allow such a move.
When asked what he made of Whitmer’s speech, Nesbitt, the Republican leader, said, “She’s trying to set herself up for a presidential run. She’s trying to take some poll-tested issues, not put much meat on the bone and just do a public relations tour that we’ve been seeing this summer and is going to continue on this fall.”
When the legislature comes back next week, representatives will begin to deal with the governor’s agenda in an atmosphere that seems little changed from when the two sides took a break in late June.