For several Michigan lawmakers, the vision President Barack Obama articulated during his final State of the Union address Tuesday night for federal policy closely mirrored what they would like to accomplish on a statewide level.

Of all the major topics discussed, state Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said uniting Americans across partisan lines is among the most important issues that face both the country and the state.

“It’s important that we respect each other across these partisan lines and ideological differences and work together to do what’s best for the nation,” he said. “I thought that was an important message for this particular Congress to hear, and I think it’s an important message for the whole nation to hear because there is a real partisan division, almost a sort of partisan tribalism.”

Like Irwin, state Sen. Rebekah Warren (D–Ann Arbor) expressed concern over the growing partisan divide.

“I came away with a really positive feeling,” she said. “Biggest negative takeaway was that it was disappointing to see that things have broken down so much in Washington that the president basically did not put forward a huge legislative agenda because he feels like he would not have the success he would like. It’s a disheartening thing to acknowledge that Washington has gotten that partisan and uncompromising.”

Warren noted that there are bills in the state Senate that address almost every issue Obama brought up at the State of the Union. However, she added that those bills will not be passed without bipartisan cooperation.

“There are lots of bills introduced on both sides of every issue, but just like the nation, in Michigan we have to work hard to find bipartisan ways to work together on these issues,” she said. “None of them are issues can be solved by one party.”

In terms of legislation in the state House, Irwin said he appreciated Obama’s mention of the right for the individuals to produce renewable energy on their own property.

Irwin is currently working to remove barriers on home renewable energy production through the bipartisan Energy Freedom bill, which he introduced in September, and several other legislative pushes throughout the year have also focused on clean energy.

“The part of the speech that made me smile the biggest is when the president said Americans deserve the right to generate clean, homegrown power in their home,” he said. “That’s exactly what I’ve been fighting for in Michigan legislature. Every Michigan citizen should have the right to use their property to generate clean, homegrown power.”

Warren also lauded Obama’s role in recovering the auto industry early in his presidency, which he highlighted during a portion of his speech discussing economic successes.

In 2008, the government lent funds to General Motors and Chrysler to save them from bankruptcy. $70.42 billion of the $79.68 billion lent to auto companies was ultimately repaid, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Many Michigan cities, such as Detroit, were hit particularly hard during the turmoil in the auto industry. Warren said Obama’s leadership was key in creating policy to support the auto industry and helping Michigan’s economy recover from the 2008 recession.

“If you grew up in Michigan, you probably have someone in your family who has a job in the auto industry or related to the auto industry,” she said. “If the auto industry had truly gone into bankruptcy and had not been able to recover, it would have been devastating for Michigan’s economy for a very long time. I’m proud looking back at how that support was there when it was needed. I cannot imagine where we would be now had we not had that support.” 

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