With Democratic control, Michigan Gov. Whitmer pushes for health care and climate change laws

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave an outline of Democratic plans for the final months of the year in a speech Wednesday that included calls for funding paid family and medical leave, mandating a 100 percent clean energy standard and codifying protections ensured by the Affordable Care Act.

The second-term Democratic governor highlighted her policy priorities during a “What’s Next Address,” following the first half of 2023 that saw the party roll back decades of Republican measures while implementing its own liberal agenda.

“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 Wednesday in Lansing.

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.

“Our plans are ambitious, but they are achievable. Let’s get them done,” Whitmer said in her speech as legislative leaders looked on.

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 an 11-bill gun safety package and the repeal of a right-to-work law.

READ MORE: Men accused in plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Whitmer wanted to start a civil war, prosecutor says

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 was 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.

As neighboring states continue to tighten restrictions on abortion, Whitmer called for Michigan to further protect reproductive rights. She asked lawmakers to repeal “politically motivated, medically unnecessary restrictions,” on the procedure, such as a 24-hour wait period for patients. Voters in the state approved a ballot measure last year that codified abortion rights in the state Constitution.

“With a US Supreme Court stripping away basic rights, we must be proactive about repealing these antiquated state laws,” Whitmer said.

One of Whitmer’s more ambitious priorities was a call for legislation providing paid family and medical leave, which “77 percent of Michigan workers do not have access to,” according to her.

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 multiple tornadoes that killed five people and left hundreds of thousands of customers without power.

Whitmer did not address the continued power outages across the state in her speech but said that the state’s utility regulator, the Michigan Public Service Commission, “needs more tools.”

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