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Whitmer talks turkey, policy

Governor Gretchen Whitmer continued a new Michigan holiday tradition in pardoning a turkey Wednesday.

The turkey, a white bird named “Dolly Pardon,” came from a farm in Ingham County. Entering in a cage accompanied by a wagon that read “just pardoned,” Pardon wore a golden necklace made of leaves and Christmas bulb ornaments.

The pardoning ceremony was held this year on the Capitol lawn. It featured children, a cardboard cutout of Pardon’s namesake, music icon Dolly Parton, and the governor.

During her address, Whitmer laid it on thick for the occasion.

“On an average day, my day is stuffed with daily responsibilities. But responsibilities like pardoning a turkey are truly, truly special. They are the gravy on top of what I do every day,” Whitmer told a group of seated kids.

Pardon is next slated to live out the rest of its life at the Abraham Ranch in Clarkston, a sanctuary that works with the Michigan Humane Society.

Tim Boring directs the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He used the moment to highlight Michigan agribusiness.

“Farms like where Dolly has recently called home are drivers of rural economies here in Michigan.

They're foundations of community culture. They’re just such a big part of why Michigan’s such a special place to live,” Boring said.

This is the second time Whitmer’s pardoned a turkey during her time as governor. Her communications staff said they weren’t aware of another administration pardoning turkeys in the past.

After the event, Whitmer answered a few policy-related questions from the press. She had just signed a handful of bills into law, including part of a package repealing some abortion restrictions in Michigan.

Legislation she has not yet signed would codify the legal right to an abortion into state law. It would also end requirements that medical coverage for the procedure be purchased through a separate insurance rider.

Whitmer said the legislation feels like a full circle moment from when the insurance rider policy was passed during her time in the state Senate.

“It feels like affirmation that when you dig in on a fundamental right, and you stay the course that you can win these battles, and so, I think it’s a positive lesson from a very hard chapter,” Whitmer said.

Aside from abortion access legislation, the governor has several more bills awaiting her signature across a host of policy areas. Those include elections and financial disclosure.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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