Whitmer to Give Fall Policy Agenda Speech
Governor Gretchen Whitmer will give what she’s calling a "What’s Next Address" on August 30 to outline her policy priorities for the fall legislative session.

It’s a move that comes after the first six months of session saw more significant legislation signed into law than any other comparable period in modern Michigan history, according to a Gongwer News Service analysis in May. It also comes amid increasing anticipation about where the first all-Democratic government in 40 years will turn next when the Legislature reconvenes and the Legislature starting to move some of its own priorities.

A statement from the governor’s press office issued Thursday said the proposals will "lower costs, make Michigan more competitive, expand opportunity and protect people’s fundamental rights. Together, they represent the future and will move Michigan forward."

A location for the speech was not announced, but the statement from the governor’s press office said it could be viewed on Facebook and YouTube.

Traditionally, governors outline an agenda for the year in the State of the State speech in January/February, and Whitmer did so. However, the number of pent-up priorities Democrats have already passed appears to be prodding Whitmer to more directly outline a fall agenda.

"This year, we got a heck of a lot done to put money back in people’s pockets, power our economic development efforts and make record investments in education, housing, workforce programs and so much more," Whitmer said. "In a few weeks, I look forward to outlining policy priorities for the fall in the What’s Next Address. I’m eager to discuss how we can continue lowering costs, growing our economy, and helping anyone ‘make it’ in Michigan. I look forward to working closely with my partners in the Legislature to build a brighter future for Michigan. Let’s get it done."?

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) was dubious about what Whitmer will propose.

"Our governor speaks as though she is a bridge-building moderate, but her actions show her to be a champion for the far-left’s agenda," he said in a tweet. "Unfortunately for struggling MI families, seniors, and small business owners, I can only assume ‘what’s next’ on Aug. 30 will be more of the same."

Officials:  Passage of Climate Package Would Be Huge Benefit to State
If the Legislature were to pass a bill package to phase out fossil fuels in the state by 2035, Michigan would be in line for billions of additional federal dollars in the years ahead, Democratic leaders and officials within the renewable energy sector said Thursday.

Speaking at a press conference in Detroit, officials and lawmakers touted the findings of a new report from 5 Lakes Energy stating that if the Democratic renewable energy package were signed into law this fall, the state would be in line for up to $7.8 billion in additional federal funding by 2050.

The report also stated that with a strong renewable energy regulatory framework in place, Michigan families could save up to $145 per year on their utility bills by the end of this decade and 160,000 jobs could be created in the renewable energy sector by 2050.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II stressed that the legislation would provide Michigan with a significant opportunity to be a leader in combating the threat posed by climate change while growing and diversifying its economy.

"This is a chance for us to grow, for us to be creative, for us to create access to opportunity, and we need to use this crisis for that effect," Gilchrist said. "Our nation is calling out for leadership in this space and there is no better place than the state of Michigan to deliver that leadership."

By passing the Democratic climate package, he said the state would be able to aggressively obtain more federal resources than ever before.

Gilchrist and others were speaking about Democratic legislation that would also phase out coal-fired power plants in the state by 2030, enact a yearly reduction in energy waste of 2 percent, a 17 percent reduction in emissions from buildings by 2030 and a 25 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 2035.

The report’s findings came using projections modeling a 52 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050. It also assumes the state’s electricity generation being 60 percent from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035.

Other factors used in reaching its findings are increases in vehicle electrification, a rise in building electrification and decarbonizing multiple industries across the state.

The report said enacting the legislative package to supplement the federal Inflation Reduction Act would lead to 1,000 fewer premature deaths in the state and reduce public health costs by $8.3 billion by 2050.

Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) focused on the health side of the issue of climate change.

"Here in the city of Detroit we all know too well that Black and brown communities have faced disproportionate impacts from pollution," Chang said, pointing to heightened rates of asthma and heart disease.

Chang said the legislation would move the state in the right direction and bring justice to communities that have borne the brunt of effects of climate change and pollution.

Carla Walker-Miller, chief executive officer of Walker-Miller Energy Services, echoed Chang on the health side of the issue.

"I don’t think we pay enough attention to the fact that we really are talking about saving lives," Walker-Miller said.

Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit) said Michigan ranks high nationally in residential energy costs and low on energy grid reliability. He said following a February ice storm, he had heard reports of some people in his district without power as long as 45 consecutive days and of seven deaths in his district.

He said passage of the climate package was the right thing to do for families and would help them protect themselves from the effects of climate change.

"I think we’ll be able to get this done in the next couple months," McKinney said.

Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Township), one of the Senate bill package sponsors, agreed, saying extensive work has been done on the package over the legislative summer recess.

"I’m very confident in our ability to get it done," Shink said.

Courtney Bourgoin, Evergreen Energy Midwest’s senior policy and advocacy manager, and others pointed to Michigan having the most renewable energy projects announced since the passage of the IRA last year.

"We’ve already seen Michigan reaping the benefits of the clean energy transition," Bourgoin said. "Now, timing and urgency are everything."

Will Legislators Touch The ’19 Auto Insurance Reform Following Supreme Court Opinion?
An advocate for those catastrophically injured in car wrecks is concerned the Michigan Legislature will check out from making further reforms after the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling that drivers injured before the 2019 auto insurance law was enacted are shielded from benefit cuts.

"I think there may be a few that are going to kind of drop off, or at least not have the overall interest to the same level that they had," said President Tim Hoste of CPAN, formerly known as the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault. "This issue is a significant problem. This is a care crisis, and this is something that we are going to see continue to happen, unless we can actually put something in place that works." 

Hoste spoke on the MIRS Monday Podcast about the Michigan Supreme Court’s July 31 ruling in Ellen M. Andary, Philip Krueger & Eisenhower Center v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company and Citizens Insurance Company of America. 

The 4-year-old reform aimed to create flexibility and historic price drops for Michigan drivers, specifically by removing the requirement for drivers to have unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. 

Within the public act’s formula was a cap on reimbursable family care of 56 hours per week and a 45% reduction in reimbursements paid for by Michigan insurers for a non-Medicare patient’s long-term care. 

In a 5-2 opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s holding that lawmakers did not clearly indicate that the statute would apply retroactively, meaning the aforementioned items should not affect those injured while covered before the law’s June 2019 passage. 

As CPAN now looks at how to advocate for drivers catastrophically injured after the law’s passage, Hoste said he doesn’t believe legislators will go back to the drawing board entirely for auto insurance reform. 

"I do want to kind of clear up one thing: we have been hearing for over a while now that CPAN and the medical and rehabilitation industry want to scrap the law and go back to the way that it was. That is 100% false," Hoste said. "We’re just simply asking for a fair and sustainable fee schedule – not the current fee schedule that was crafted on assumptions and settled with oppressive rate cuts." 

MIRS has learned that advocates in the medical and rehabilitation industry are not looking to change the present-day state of PIP choice, but are instead interested in legislation that replaces the 45% reimbursement reduction with a fee schedule. 

According to a June 2023 publication from Michigan Auto Law, the total number of car accidents in the state has jumped from 245,432 in 2020 to 293,341 in 2022. 

"We really do need legislative action because we have a large number of people who reside within Michigan who were injured after June 11, 2019," Hoste said. "Unfortunately, more people get injured each and every single day. That is the population now that still (constitutes) the massive care crisis that we have going on that has to be committed to be fixed." 

Hoste said CPAN is currently preparing a document that "really spotlights the main reason why auto insurance premiums are what they are, and the non-driving rating factors that are still very, very prevalent in the actual auto insurance system today."  

According to an August 2023 report from the Zebra, a car and home insurance comparison site, the average car insurance rate in Michigan is 73% higher than the American average at $2,639 annually. 

In Detroit, as of Aug. 3, the yearly average premium is $4,726. In nearby Macomb County, the annual average premium is $3,252 in Warren and $2,853 in Sterling Heights. In Lansing, it is $2,078 and in Grand Rapids, West Michigan drivers are subjected to an average annual premium of $1,986. 

A September 2022 report from the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) found that since the 45% reimbursement reduction and weekly 56-hour cap went into effect in July 2021, six catastrophic car accident survivors died, 78% reported a loss in services and 42 individuals were reportedly hospitalized due "to changes brought by reform."

"When (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer) signed this bill, she and the leadership in the House and Senate made a comment along the lines of ‘this is a highway to reform auto insurance, but we still have to install guardrails and exit ramps to make it work.’ That was over four years ago, and there hasn’t been one legitimate legislative effort to fix this issue and put in those guardrails and exit ramps that were talked about," Hoste said. "That’s what we’re asking (for): a laser-focused fix on the fee schedule, not crapping it." 


Left: Senator Mat Dunaskiss hosted Oakland County Commissioner, Dr. Ajay Raman, at the Common Ground Resource & Crisis Center in Pontiac with Common Ground Board Chair, Kay White, and Chief External Relations Officer, Jeff Kapuscinski.

Right: Jake German was happy to join Art Reaume of Reaume Benefits in his foursome at the Auburn Hills Chamber Golf Outing at Pine Knob Golf Club on July 27th, 2023.


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