Whitmer to Have Live Audience for State of the State for First Time in Three Years
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her fifth State of the State address Jan. 25, her office announced last week.

The speech — in which the governor sets out her agenda for the year — is expected to be delivered before a live audience at the state Capitol for the first time since 2020. In both 2021 and 2022, Michigan’s State of the State address was a virtual event because of COVID-19 concerns.

It will be the first time since 1983 that a Democratic governor has delivered a State of the State address while Democrats held majorities in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature. Democrats flipped both the House and Senate, by narrow margins, in the Nov. 8 election.

"The State of the State address is an opportunity to talk about the issues that make a real difference in people’s lives and focus on what we’re going to get done this year," Whitmer said in a news release. "I can’t wait to share my vision for our state as we move towards our bright future, and lay out my plans to lower costs, bring supply chains and manufacturing home to Michigan, and ensure Michiganders have unparalleled economic opportunity and personal freedom.”

Democratic priorities are well-known, and Whitmer touched on several of them in her brief inaugural address on the Capitol steps Sunday.

She talked about tax relief for seniors, measures to reduce gun violence, improving roads and water infrastructure, and making Michigan "an epicenter of innovation in clean energy, batteries, and (computer) chips." Whitmer pledged to continue to make record investments in education and to take steps to tackle climate change.

Not mentioned in Whitmer’s inaugural address was the repeal of the right-to-work law passed under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012, which has been identified as a priority by her and other Democrats. Whitmer also did not address the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac, which she has pledged to shut down as an environmental hazard. The issue is currently before the courts.

Who Might Run for Stabenow’s Senate Seat
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s retirement announcement sets the stage for what is sure to be a hotly contested 2024 campaign for her open seat.

Michigan Democrats, coming off sweeping victories in 2022 and their third straight successful election cycle, have what is considered to be a deeper bench of current officeholders. Stabenow alluded to it in her statement, mentioning a "new generation of leaders" and noting gains for female candidates since she first ran for local and legislative offices in the 1970s.

Republicans see the announcement as an opportunity to flip a seat in a chamber that has seen only one Republican Michigan senator in the past 44 years, Spencer Abraham.

The last time the state had an open Senate seat, 2014, Democrat Gary Peters and Republican Terri Lynn Land ran unopposed in the primary. That may not happen this time, unless the parties can clear their fields before an expensive general election showdown in the battleground state.

It is very early. But one Democrat whose name is being mentioned a lot is third-term Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Lansing, a former CIA and Defense Department official who won a toss-up congressional seat in November.

Others include fifth-term Rep. Debbie Dingell of Ann Arbor, third-term Rep. Haley Stevens of Birmingham, former Rep. Andy Levin, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township said they will not run. Duggan said Thursday he already had heard from three prominent people who are interested. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has changed his residency to Michigan, said he is focused on his job and not seeking another one.

"I admire what Stabenow did here. Recognizing this crop of candidates and stepping aside is amazing," said Joe DiSano, a Democratic consultant. "Democrats have never been in better shape for a bruising Senate battle. It’s exciting."

Republicans, though, will have a better chance of flipping the seat without having to face Stabenow, who handily won re-election three times.

The GOP’s bench of current elected officials includes first-term Rep. John James of Farmington Hills, who ran for the Senate twice before, second-term Rep. Lisa McClain of Romeo and seventh-term Rep. Bill Huizenga of Ottawa County.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, a former congresswoman and secretary of state whom some Republicans wanted to run for governor, ruled out a Senate run.

Other possibilities include former one-term Rep. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids; Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, who lives in Michigan; former attorneys general Mike Cox and Bill Schuette; former state Sen. Tom Barrett of Charlotte, who squared off against Slotkin; and various 2022 gubernatorial candidates, including self-funders Perry Johnson and Kevin Rinke.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon, who lost to Whitmer in the fall, said Stabenow’s retirement "gives Republicans the chance to coalesce behind a strong candidate, put in the work on the ground now, and prove why Joe Biden’s runaway spending and record of failure are hurting hardworking Michiganders." A person with knowledge of her thinking said she is not ruling anything out but is focused on helping Republicans win in 2024.

There is plenty of time to contemplate. The filing deadline to run will be in April 2024, more than 15 months from now.

FTC Proposes Ban on Employee Non-Compete Agreements
On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a proposed rule to prohibit employers from enforcing non-compete agreements against former employees, contractors, and other workers. The proposed rule defines “non-compete clause” broadly as “a contractual term between an employer and a worker that prevents the worker from seeking or accepting employment with a person, or operating a business, after the conclusion of the worker’s employment.”

Further, the rule prohibits broad non-disclosure agreements that “effectively preclude[] the worker from working in the same field” after separation. Notably, this rule does not prohibit agreements restricting outside work by employees during the term of their work for the employer. The rule also provides an exception for enforcement of non-compete agreements related to the sale of a business (or sale of such person’s ownership interest in a business) when the person restricted by the agreement is a “substantial owner [owning at least 25 percent of] … the business entity at the time the person enters into the non-compete clause.”

In addition to prohibiting enforcement of non-compete agreements, the proposed rule also imposes an obligation on employers to notify all employees subject to non-compete agreements that such contract is no longer in effect and may not be enforced.

The next steps for this proposed rule will be completion of a 60-day comment period, then the FTC will publish a final rule that will go into effect 180 days after publication. As with other recent federal agency rulemaking, this regulation is very likely to face legal challenges that may further delay or prevent enforcement.

We will continue to monitor this proposed rule and provide updates on progress and any significant legal challenges along the way. 


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