Compromise means progress in 2018

Our work at the Michigan League for Public Policy is never done. We focus on issues like income inequality, health, child wellbeing, workplace issues, criminal justice and education. And after a whirlwind, contentious lame-duck session, we’re finally able to watch the dust settle and reflect on a big year in policy.

There are wins to celebrate, but, more importantly, there are goals to set in the new year.

One cause for celebration? Compromise.

It’s been awhile, but we have been happy to see the return of bipartisan agreement recently. First, we saw support for the effort to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction in Michigan. Currently, 17-year-olds in Michigan are tried as adults, regardless of their crimes. A broad coalition of organizations and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle fought hard to change that this year, and, although the bipartisan package of bills didn’t make it out of lame duck, we’re hoping to see it passed in 2019!

Another recent compromise came with the 2018 federal Farm Bill, which was passed earlier this month. The Farm Bill strongly supports Michigan’s farmers and agriculture, our second-largest industry, but it will also create jobs and economic activity at a variety of companies and communities around the state. We are grateful especially to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who has always been a strong voice for Michigan farmers, for her leadership in shepherding a compromise on the legislation through as the ranking Democrat on the Farm Bill conference committee.

In September, folks worked together to improve Michigan’s criminal justice system. Representatives from conservative and progressive organizations alike got together at the Michigan Safety and Justice Roundtable to find consensus on solving issues within our state’s justice system. We discussed issues like post-incarceration barriers to employment, the connection between poverty and incarceration, improving data collection, and pursuing alternatives to incarceration. It was refreshing to see groups that often have opposing viewpoints working together to find solutions. Our state has a Michigan Department of Corrections, not a Department of Incarceration, and we need to do a better job of helping advance the lives of the roughly 3 million Michiganders who have some type of criminal record. It’s the right thing to do for them, their families, and our state.

Of course, a cursory glance at Twitter or a quick session of flipping through the channels on TV will prove that compromise still isn’t the norm. But we’re hopeful that the new year will bring with it a stronger air of cooperation. We’re especially watching the 2020 state budget process, where the new governor and members of the Michigan Legislature will not only set our state’s fiscal course, but prioritize our values.

Among the things we at the League value? Access to affordable, quality child care for working families. Healthy food and water systems around the state. Investments in education from cradle to career. Fair tax systems. Protecting health care coverage. And general supports for folks who struggle every day to make ends meet.

To give lawmakers guidance on those values, the League has put together a comprehensive package of budget briefs laying out our goals for the state, which you can find at www.mlpp.org. We hope you’ll take a look and help us build a stronger Michigan for all in 2019!

Laura Ross is a communications associate at the Michigan League for Public Policy.