LANSING — With Michigan lawmakers home for the holidays, some are already planning for the next set of policy priorities and legislative battles in 2024.
The Legislature adjourned on Nov. 14 following a year of unified Democratic control in Lansing for the first time in four decades. The session saw Democrats working to pass significant party priorities, including repealing “right-to-work” laws, expanding clean energy standards,
Many measures were also passed with bipartisan support, including expanding free school breakfast and lunch to all students and limiting those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from owning a gun for 8 years following completion of jailtime or probation.
Much discussion from lawmakers centered around bipartisan sentiments and policymaking, since the House is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats.
It’s unclear when Democrats will be able to regain their outright majority in the House. The party lost its voting advantage in early November when two lawmakers, Rep. Kevin Coleman, D-Westland, and Rep. Lori Stone, D-Warren, won races for other offices. The chamber now stands at 54-54 with Democrats continuing to control the agenda.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday that she didn’t yet have a specific date for two special elections to replace Coleman and Stone’s seats until 2025.
“I don’t know yet,” she said when asked about the timeline. “Most of the work that I’ve staked out really is with an eye toward trying to find common ground and doing things in a bipartisan manner — so a 54-54 split, as opposed to 56-54, doesn’t change my calculation.”
Both districts are considered to be safely Democratic.
Rep. Dave Prestin, R-Cedar River, said that until those elections are held, the even split should encourage more work across the aisle.
“If there was ever an opportunity to strike a fresh bipartisan tone, it would be now,” he said, adding that the Legislature may not return to significant work until May.
House Minority Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, has blasted Democrats for the move to adjourn the Legislature in mid-November and proposed a power-sharing agreement that was not considered by Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit.
Earlier this year, Whitmer laid out policy goals for the remainder of 2023, some of which weren’t finalized and may be pushed into next year. These include the establishment of mandatory paid family and medical leave and lowering prescription drug costs.
Rep. Betsy Coffia, D-Traverse CIty, listed several legislative priorities she had for 2024, including addressing the cost of housing and childcare. She also said she’d advocate for an expansion of mental health insurance coverage, reforms to Michigan’s guardianship laws and further transparency, ethics and campaign finance expansions.
Republicans predicted the 2024 elections would prove difficult for Democrats following their voting record this session.
“We don’t have to get creative with our ads,” said Rep. Tom Kunse, R-Clare. “They’re doing everything they can do to not get reelected.”
Kunse highlighted Democratic support for energy policies that shifted final authority over large-scale solar and wind projects from local bodies to a statewide office appointed by the governor. He and other Republicans have said that the policy will limit public input on energy projects.
Some groups have already made their policy priorities clear for 2024, including crash survivors and advocates for reforms to Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws. Various groups have said that “inaction” from the Legislature on expanding post-crash care coverage and that lawmakers breaking without finishing their consideration of the changes is “heartlessly unimaginable.”
The policies received some bipartisan support in the Senate but were not considered in the House before adjournment.