Monday, November 30, 2020

5 takeaways from Gov. Whitmer's State of the State

January 29, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer during her State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing on January 29, 2020.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer during her State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing on January 29, 2020. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

The annual State of the State address is a chance for the governor to clearly and directly communicate plans to the state legislature and constituents.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's 2020 State of the State address hit some key points that voters were expecting, such as infrastructure and healthcare, but the governor proposed solutions to issues that Michiganders might not have expected.

Here are The State News' five takeaways from the 2020 State of the State:

Expect more executive orders

"Impatience is a virtue," Whitmer said, according to a Michigan.gov transcript of the event. "No more waiting around to fix our roads. Or improve our schools. Or strengthen our families. The people of Michigan are counting on us. It’s time to act. And it starts here. In this room."

Whitmer said she is no longer waiting for a gridlocked state legislature to make progress. She is going to expand the use of executive orders in the Capitol.

Promises that were key talking points in her 2018 campaign — improving roads, healthcare, education — will no longer be made via the legislature, Whitmer said.

"When I introduced my proposal, I said I was happy to consider alternative solutions. But no one came up with any — at least not serious ones," Whitmer said in the transcript. "Any proposal that creates more problems than it solves is not a serious solution. So, it’s time for Plan B: executive action."

Whitmer wants to tackle implicit racial healthcare bias

Whitmer said that black women in Michigan are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. She attributed this disparity to implicit racial bias in healthcare.

Implicit bias is when biases or stereotypes affect one's decision-making unintentionally. Whitmer said doctors and medical professionals are failing to meet the medical needs of black mothers due to implicit racial bias.

The governor's proposed solution is to require implicit bias training in all Michigan medical education programs.

Mental healthcare is becoming a priority for Michigan Democrats.

The governor touted bipartisan legislation "that protects more than 83,000 Michigan residents’ access to mental health services," according to the transcript.

Whitmer wants to combat opioid addiction as a mental health issue.

"Opioid deaths in our state have nearly tripled in the last decade. I set a goal and harnessed resources to cut the number of opioid deaths in half over the next five years," Whitmer said in the transcript.

The governor wants to bring up test scores in Michigan

Whitmer expressed concern over Michigan's low literacy rates, saying that Michigan was in the "bottom 10" for literacy rates, but she has a proposed solution.

"We’ve already tripled the number of literacy coaches in the state," Whitmer said in the transcript. "The next step is to have literacy coaches train educators to better identify and support struggling readers. You’ll hear more about this in the budget next week."

Whitmer also discussed tackling the issue of prekindergarten childcare within impoverished communities.

"We’re working to make pre-k universal for kids living in districts where test scores are low, or poverty is high," Whitmer said.

Whitmer criticized her predecessor's "third grade reading law," a law that requires third graders to be held back a grade if they are more than a year behind in literacy tests.

"We’re also partnering with the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, the Skillman Foundation, the Battle Creek Community Foundation, and others to help families navigate the third grade reading laws signed by my predecessor," Whitmer said in the transcript. "This punitive law could be a nightmare for families and this initiative will give parents and students the resources and support they need to get through it."

She still wants to fix the damn roads

Infrastructure improvement was the governor's main selling point when announcing her plan to implement more executive orders.

She blamed the state legislature's inability to pass "meaningful" infrastructure laws, such as her 45 cent gas tax.

Whitmer unveiled a plan to fix the roads — issuing state road bonds that will go towards repairing state-owned roads.

She said her plan will save the state money overall, and that it was "fiscally responsible."

"Over the long haul we’ll actually save money. It just makes sense," Whitmer said in the transcript. "So, from now on, when you see orange barrels on a state road, slow down. And know that it’s this administration fixing the damn roads."

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