MI progressives say key issues missing from Democratic priority list

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) answers reporters' questions about Whitmer's State of the State.

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) answers reporters’ questions after Gov. Whitmer’s State of the State address. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Progressive Democrats say Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s speech last week missed a number of items as the timetable for actions that will lead to partisan fighting remains unclear.

Why it matters: The governor’s address focused on three groups of residents — working families, recent college graduates and children. “But when you try to put everyone into just a few categories, you make a lot of people invisible,” Michigan United executive director Ken Whittaker said in response to the governor’s speech.

  • The group applauded Whitmer for highlighting proposals such as Universal Pre-K and the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
  • Not to mention labor issues “definitely scares me,” Detroit resident and lifelong Democratic voter Keith Malinowski told Axios. “Republicans had no qualms about passing the right to work. Democrats seem lukewarm.”

What you say: “No, absolutely not,” House Speaker Joe Tate told Axios when asked about a lack of momentum to repeal the right to work that gives all employees the rights and benefits of members in their company’s bargaining unit are

  • “We know that for us as Democrats there will be a focus on labor issues … Look at the bills that House Democrats have already tabled.”
  • Oakland County Commission Chairman Dave Woodward, a former state legislator, tells Axios that he expects hearings on these bills in the coming months.
  • “I have a whole laundry list of things I wish would be in the speech, but a State of the State speech sets the tone, the governor tosses things where there has already been a lot and lifts them Things come up that align with her priorities,” Woodward said.

The big picture: While the governor mentioned her intention to continue funding law enforcement after investing $1 billion in the police force during her first term in office, Whittaker says any discussion about public safety must focus on the needs of the people. His group has been active in restoring the so-called “good times” credit to incarcerated people who are changing their lives in prison.

  • The group is also pushing to bring back driver’s licenses for all residents regardless of immigration status.

Zoom in: “For 15 years, undocumented Michiganders have lived in fear because they were denied driver’s licenses,” says Whittaker.

  • “We may have a chance to reintroduce driver’s licenses for undocumented people,” says Detroit councilman Gabriela Santiago-Romero, who told Axios last month she was “cautiously optimistic” about the new composition of the legislature because ” we see what it’s like to have Democrats in control and still nothing happens.”

Between the lines: Before becoming a city councilman, Romero was an intern in Lansing for Sen. Stephanie Chang, who was a leading voice in finding solutions to the ongoing housing crisis.

  • Whitmer signed a $1.1 billion spending bill on Tuesday that will allocate $275 million to provide affordable housing and fight the plague.
  • It is investing $150 million in the Housing and Community Development Fund to build and renovate homes, and it will also fund the Missing Middle Housing Program, which is specifically aimed at building and rehabilitating homes for middle-class families.

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