This January three Democrats took key leadership positions in Michigan’s government. Over the past two months Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson have worked to change the policies of the Republican-controlled state legislature. Here are some of their most recent efforts. Earlier in February Governor Whitmer issued an executive order in an attempt to make major changes to Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The state senate’s Republican majority blocked her first attempt to restructure the DEQ based on her plan to eliminate the agency’s businessfriendly oversight panels.
Whitmer pushed forward with a second executive order that maintains many of her original clean water and environmental justice goals but keeps those panels in place, and Republicans have appeared receptive to her new plan. By the end of her first month in office, Attorney General Nessel had withdrawn the state from more than a dozen lawsuits, including challenges to Obamacare, the EPA and a variety of laws related to abortion and reproductive rights, started by her conservative predecessor. Nessel has also shown willingness to weigh in on the legality of constitutionally controversial Republican legislation, such as Michigan’s sick leave and minimum wage laws.
Following citizen approval of recreational marijuana, redistricting and voting access, Republicans in Michigan’s legislature tightened regulations on these types of ballot proposals to make it harder to collect signatures. By asking Attorney General Nessel to review the constitutionality of the ballot measure, Secretary of State Benson moved to strike down this ballot law, which she considers a violation of Michigan citizens’ rights to bring forward new legislation.