5 places where Michigan’s governor and legislature can make deals

Editor's note: Vanguard President and CEO TJ Bucholz comments on issues that are expected to be addressed in Michigan's divided government.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Michigan’s government will be divided.

Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer has touted her legislative experience and ability to reach bipartisan compromises. Beginning in January, Michiganders will see whether their new governor and legislative leaders in Lansing can come together or whether they’ll stalemate on the biggest issues facing the state.

There are some issues on which we mostly agree: Roads need fixing. Education needs improving. Water quality needs protecting. What follows, though, are specific areas where Michigan’s new political leaders might find early common ground, which in turn could lead to further collaboration.

Criminal justice reform

Republicans under Snyder have looked for ways to reduce the cost of Michigan’s criminal justice system by, for instance, finding ways to reduce the state’s prison population. The day after her election, and after voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, Whitmer announced she would consider granting clemency to people convicted of marijuana-related crimes.

That indicates that criminal justice reform, an issue Republicans in other states have embraced in recent years, could be a place for policy alignment between the new governor and legislature, experts say.

“You could see that in the first year here. People are coming to the table for different reasons,” said TJ Bucholz, President and CEO of the left-leaning Vanguard Public Affairs. “Democrats are coming to the criminal justice reform table for human rights reasons. Republicans are coming to the same table because they see the high cost of maintaining prisons.”

Water policy

Whitmer pledged to create a Department of Great Lakes and Freshwater and state infrastructure bank which would, among other things, help fund replacement of lead drinking water pipes. The threat of industrial chemicals called PFAS has exacerbated existing problems with drinking water across the state.

“There’s no way that the state with the most access to fresh water in the country (should have) the water issues that we have. And when you look at message polling, water was polling really high,” Bucholz said. “So I think you’re going to see (Whitmer) come out of the gate really strong on water, and I don’t think the Republicans are going to disagree with her much on it.”

Read the full article here: https://www.bridgemi.com/public-sector/5-places-where-michigans-governor-and-legislature-can-make-deals

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