your guide to Michigan politics

This past week, as the legislature is poised to reconvene in Lansing, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave an unprecedented speech to try and send them down her preferred paths. This is your guide to Michigan politics.

Michigan’s constitution assigns the state’s governors one required speech per year: a state of the state address, presented to the legislature in January, technically aimed at keeping them abreast of what’s going on.

In reality, these days it serves as the executive’s highest-profile opportunity to set an agenda and rally their troops into enacting it.

And after a whirlwind half-year of significant policy changes, this week Whitmer went in for a second bite of the apple. She gave another speech, this one aptly titled “what’s next” in Lansing to a crowd composed largely of political allies.

It laid out a second wish list of policy priorities including:

  • A 100% clean energy standard
  • Paid medical and family leave
  • Removing additional barriers to abortion services
  • Establishing protections against election subversion
  • Lowering the cost of prescription drugs
  • Codifying Obamacare protections into state law

Coverage: Whitmer lays out fall priorities: paid leave, clean energy, abortion access

The speech didn’t offer much in the way of details about these new goals. No deadline for the clean energy standard was proposed, nor were any standards for a paid leave policy. It appears those sticking points will be left to the legislature to iron out.

She also spent part of the speech praising the content of the state budget, which was signed into law in July. The $82 billion in spending is the most in Michigan’s history and MLive recently combed through the document to see just how the legislature will be spending down a nearly $9 billion surplus.

The analysis found nearly $1.6 billion in in special projects, known as earmarks or pork-barrel spending, with roughly 90% of the money going to places represented by at least one Democrat in either the state House or Senate.

Deep dive: Areas represented by Democrats received 90% of pork projects in Michigan’s budget

We’ve created a map and database of the projects for readers to explore in the articles.

In other news, a number of big developments for the 2024 election are looming.

One could upend the first legislative district maps drawn by the independent citizens redistricting commission. A panel of federal judges agreed Tuesday to move a suit to trial that alleges districts in and around Detroit were racially gerrymandered by the commission, reducing the power and representation of Black voters who live there.

Five House districts and four Senate districts will be subject to scrutiny in the trial. If the plaintiffs succeed, it could mean the districts are redrawn in advance of the election.

Another issue in advance of the election: with just about six months to go, state leaders appear confident the 2024 presidential primary will happen on Feb. 27, but none of them want to say for sure how it will happen.

“I don’t think anyone knows for sure what’s going to happen,” Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, D-East Lansing, the chair of the state House’s elections committee, told MLive. “A lot of things are up in the air.”

More: Michigan’s presidential primary date uncertainty, explained

Former President Donald Trump’s political future faces another layer of complication of top of the four indictments he’s facing. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on the MIRS Monday podcast this week she is speaking with other secretaries of state to determine whether Trump could face disqualification from the ballot in Michigan and other states under the 14th Amendment.

The amendment bars Americans from holding any political office if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion,” and legal scholars, some of them deeply conservative, have begun making the argument that Trump’s efforts to subvert the result of the 2020 election fits the bill. In Michigan, the serial litigant Michael Davis filed a suit in federal court in the hop of making it happen.

But even as Trump make be off the ballot, more familiar names may be on: Peter Meijer, the former congressman and heir to the hypermarket chain, has announced he’s exploring a run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Debbie Stabenow. He may be just one of several prominent Republicans entering the race in the coming days.

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