GOP lawmakers Up North welcome bipartisanship in Whitmer’s speech but tensions still high

Jan 28, 2021

Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave her third State of the State speech Wednesday night. Because of the coronavirus pandemic it was the first delivered virtually, with the Governor speaking from her Lansing office.

In it she called for bipartisan solutions to the coronavirus.

“I’ll continue to reach out to Republicans here in Lansing,” she said. “While common ground seems less and less common these days, it’s never been more important that we work toward it.”

Republican lawmakers Up North largely welcomed that theme with some hesitancy.

"Gov. Whitmer also appeared to signal hope in her address tonight, but it remains to be seen whether she is willing to work with the Legislature to restore trust in government and foster a recovery for the state," State Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) wrote in a press release.

Whitmer's speech came the same day that the Republican-led Senate blocked 13 of her appointments to state agencies. The Republican-led House is also withholding federal funding for Michigan’s schools until the Gov. considers letting county health departments make decisions on school closures and high school sports.

All of this is meant to get Gov. Whitmer to the bargaining table on the state’s COVID-19 response, says newly elected State Rep. John Roth (R-Traverse City)

“I hope some of the actions we’ve taken might make her understand that it is divided government right now,” he said. “Both of us have to work together, I’m hopeful for that.”

Roth added that he and fellow Republican Rep. Jack O’Malley both have meetings scheduled with the Governor on issues related to their district. That’s an early sign of progress, he says.