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Michigan stories to watch in 2024, from politics and schools to EVs and energy

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Is this the year to fix Michigan’s broken mental health system? Will the state decide the presidency? Will anything happen in Lansing in spring? Here is what to expect in 2024.
  • Michigan enters 2024 with no shortage of issues demanding policymakers’ attention, from instability within the auto industry to middling educational performance
  • It’s also an election year, with several high-profile races putting Michigan in the spotlight
  • But it’s not clear how much will get done in Lansing, which is stuck in political deadlock until mid-April

This could be a momentous year for Michigan, as the state’s voters elect a new senator, settle races that could decide the makeup of Congress and once again figure prominently in the campaign for the White House.

But after a big year in 2023 that included a landmark United Auto Workers strike and the first Democratic majority in the Legislature since Ronald Reagan was president, things likely will get off to a quieter start in 2024 — at least in Lansing.

Lawmakers reconvene in January with a temporary stalemate in the House, making it unlikely much will get done at the Capitol this spring, but that’s not to say 2024 will be boring: Big changes are coming economically, socially and at the ballot box.

Here are the stories to watch in 2023, according to Bridge Michigan’s business, education, environment, health and politics reporters:


Late in 2023, Michigan passed an important milestone in its long climb from pandemic job losses: More people were working in the state than in late 2019.

All of a sudden, after years of turbulence in the economy, there are numerous signs of health: Michigan’s unemployment rate is about 4 percent, inflation has cooled, gas prices are low, and the stock market was surging in December.

Big issues to watch in 2024:

  • Which way for EVs? Sales are increasing, and electric vehicles are on pace to comprise 9 percent of light-duty vehicle sales in 2023. But trouble signs are looming: After going into EV production whole-hog, automakers this fall started to pull back on production: Ford Motor Co. has downsized a major EV battery factory and slowdowns are emerging elsewhere. That raises questions about supplier investment, auto employment levels and whether more cuts are coming — especially since Michigan has invested big money in luring EV suppliers.
  • Housing: Michigan’s housing market remains log jammed amid high interest rates and a lack of supply. Buyers’ borrowing costs doubled in 2023 compared to a year earlier, if they could even find a property to buy. And lenders tightened up on requirements. According to Zillow, that didn’t slow the steady upward creep of home prices, which rose 3.9 percent in 2023 to a statewide average of $232,308. The average listing finds a buyer in around 12 days.
  • Population woes: Housing is directly tied to Michigan’s efforts to jump-start population growth. And as inflation abates, “we certainly are seeing continued inflation happening in housing,” economist Paul Isely of Grand Valley State University recently told Bridge. Housing prices and supply pressure more than residents’ living situations: Employers report difficulty hiring as a result, which in turn stifles regional and statewide hiring and population growth. 

—Paula Gardner


Lawmakers approved several changes to Michigan education policy in 2023, including expanding teacher unions’ bargaining rights and loosening teacher evaluation metrics to make student test scores less important.

In the new year, there appears to be momentum for a handful of priorities, including: 

  • School safety: Since the shooting at Oxford High School in 2021, lawmakers have approved millions towards school safety.  House Education Committee Chair Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and House Education Committee Minority Vice Chair Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, both identified school safety legislation as a top priority in 2024.
  • Free school meals: Historically, Michigan students have only been eligible for free school meals if their parents’ income falls below a certain threshold. But that changed during the pandemic, when the federal government briefly provided free school meals to all kids. After the program lapsed, Michigan lawmakers authorized up to $160 million to extend the program through the current school year. Senate Education Committee Chair Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, said she wants Michigan to make it permanent. 
  • A new state education agency: Worried that Michigan is prioritizing only K-12 education while ignoring preschool and college, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year created the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential in December. Acting director Michelle Richard told Bridge she wants more kids enrolled in “high quality” pre-K programs and before-school, after-school and summer learning programs.  “That’s a game changer,” Richard said. “We've never made systematic, ongoing investments in what happens to our school-aged kids when they're not in a classroom setting.”

—Isabel Lohman


As the globe closed in on its hottest year on record, Michigan lawmakers in November passed laws requiring utilities to switch to clean energy by 2040, while paving the way for more large wind and solar developments in rural Michigan.


Now comes the formidable task of implementing the laws, a duty assigned to a state agency best-known for deciding when Consumers and DTE can raise electricity rates.

  • Clean energy question marks: The Michigan Public Service Commission will  be tasked with enforcing the deadlines in the climate law and deciding whether utilities can get extensions. It will also spend the next year building out a state permitting system for large-scale wind, solar and energy storage projects, which are currently regulated at the local level. “There’s a whole bunch of communities trying to figure out what the law means for them,” said Sarah Mills, associate professor and director of the Center for EmPowering Communities at the University of Michigan. Assuming the law survives, that is. Opponents of the solar siting law have already launched an effort to overturn it. 
  • Yes to nuclear power? The owners of Palisades nuclear power plant should learn in early 2024 whether it has won a $1 billion federal loan to repower the facility. If it gets the loan, the company will likely seek more money from Michigan taxpayers who so far have chipped in $150 million, said Patrick O’Brien, spokesperson for Holtec Energy that owns the company.
  • Will Michigan clean up its act? Seemingly every session, Michigan lawmakers debate policies to speed progress toward cleaning up Michigan’s 13,000 orphan contaminated sites. And seemingly every session, the proposals die in committee. Could this year be different? Lawmakers are considering a new batch of Democratically-sponsored proposals, and some see a pathway to passage under Lansing’s new political dynamic. Others are less optimistic, noting that both parties are reluctant to oppose the powerful industries that are some of Michigan’s biggest political donors.

— Kelly House


In many ways, Michigan’s health care system continues to mend from three years of COVID, which gutted staff levels as burnout sent workers fleeing to other industries or early retirement. 

Here’s how that process will continue in 2024:

  • Fixing a broken mental health system: Michigan’s mental health system for years has failed to provide adequate services for its children. The state is under a federal court order to better tend to children in its care on Medicaid. But even those with private insurance, including some who testified for special legislative committee hearings last year, say their children are left languishing in crisis and danger without enough social workers, child psychiatrists and residential treatment. 
  •  National trends, local impacts: From a nationwide settlement with opioid manufacturers to continued efforts to restrict abortion access, national stories will impact Michigan's health care landscape in 2024. As part of the drugmaker settlement, Michigan will receive an estimated $1.5 billion over the next ten years to address the ravages of the opioids. And along with other states, Michigan will continue to review massive Medicaid programs. That includes evaluating who is really eligible for continued coverage. Finally, with the U.S. Supreme Court considering limits on the abortion pill, out-of-state patients seeking abortions may continue turning to Michigan providers.

— Robin Erb


Michigan’s political landscape saw a monumental shift in 2023, as Democrats won full control of the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years, passed several big laws and repealed multiple Republican statutes.

But most governing came to a halt in November, when Democrats temporarily lost their narrow voting majority in the House. 

In 2024, here is what to watch:

  • Will anything get done in Lansing? There are still some big-ticket items on Democrats’ list, including a new drug affordability board that could attempt to limit prescription drug prices, and Whitmer’s push to create a policy guaranteeing paid sick and family leave for every worker in the state. Democrats will likely win back their House majority on April 16, when voters will fill two vacant seats in a special election. But fall elections won't be far behind, and the Legislature typically breaks early to allow legislators to campaign. That may not leave much time for heavy lifts. 
  • Sunshine at last?  One area of possible compromise: Government transparency legislation, according to Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township. That starts with expanding the Freedom of Information Act to subject the Legislature and governor office “to the same requirements as local governments,” Nesbitt told Bridge. 
  • A busy election season: Politics will be huge all year: Michigan again is expected to be a battleground for the White House, while voters will elect a successor to retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow, as well as two open seats in Congress and decide whether Democrats will retain control of the state House.
  • Voting changes: Michigan voters will participate in democracy differently in 2024, with nine days of early voting statewide and eased access to absentee ballots. Will it work?

—Jonathan Oosting

— This story was reported by Robin Erb, Paula Gardner, Kelly House, Isabel Lohman and Jonathan Oosting

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