Welcome to our May & April e-newsletter!
Included in this edition are some important legislative updates, community events and other resources I hope will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by telephone at (517) 373-0820 or by email at FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov for questions about these or any other state-level issues.
Felicia A Brabec
33rd House District
Coffee Hour: In-Person and Virtual
Please join me for our next Coffee Hour! This is an opportunity to chat, ask me questions and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. I will be hosting my Coffee Hour in-person at Brewed Awakenings (7025 E. Michigan Ave.) and virtually this Saturday, May 27, from 1-2 p.m. It will be streamed via Zoom and my Facebook page. We hope to see you there!
Check Your Heart Act Introduced and Passed in the House. The Check Your Heart Act has passed in the House! These bills (House Bills 4362, 4363 and 4364) will allow Michiganders to join the state organ donor registry by indicating their willingness to do so on their state income tax forms with the goal of adding 1 million people to the registry. With over 2,400 Michigan patients waiting for an organ transplant and the lack of growth of the state donor registry over the past few years, I’m so proud to offer this legislation with state Reps. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint) and Natalie Price (D-Berkley) and Gift of Life Michigan, our state’s only federally designated organ and tissue recovery program.
One of the only opportunities Michiganders have to join the organ donor registry is during in-person driver’s license and state ID renewal appointments at Secretary of State offices. Due to the pandemic and statutory changes, we are not going into the Secretary of State office as often as we once did. This has led to many Michiganders renewing their IDs online, where they can easily disregard or skip over this question. The Check Your Heart Act would provide an opt-in option for individuals to participate in the organ donor registry when filing taxes, and, in turn, create more opportunities for Michigan residents to add their name to the organ donor registry and save lives. I’m thrilled to share that all three bills passed nearly unanimously in the House and will now head to the Senate for further consideration. If we can get this legislation signed into law in the near future, Michiganders will be able to join the donor registry on their tax forms as soon as the next tax cycle.
Bills to Ban Conversion Therapy Reintroduced
Last week, I reintroduced legislation to ban conversion therapy in Michigan with my colleagues state Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), the first openly-gay person of color in the state legislature, and Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak). Conversion therapy and the idea that it is predicated on — that one can be “cured” of their sexual orientation — have been overwhelmingly disavowed by experts and organizations in both the medical and mental health communities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Association of Social Workers.
Studies show that young people who have participated in these programs have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower levels of self-esteem. According to the Family Acceptance Project, kids whose parents try to change their sexual orientation attempt suicide at more than double the rate of their LGBTQ+ peers; the suicide rate has nearly tripled among youth who deal with intervention from therapists, as well. Yet, this harmful practice is frequently offered to children during the most vulnerable, formative years of their lives when they are growing up and figuring out who they are and how they fit in with the world around them.
Twenty-one states and D.C. have already banned conversion therapy, including New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie signed the ban into law in 2013, and Washington state, where Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed the ban into law in 2018. We firmly believe it is our responsibility to eliminate this harmful practice by taking this important step towards protecting our youth. House Bills 4616 (Brabec) and 4617 (Hoskins) and Senate Bills 348–349 (McMorrow) have been referred to their respective House and Senate Health Policy Committees.
Gun Violence Prevention Bills Signed Into Law
As the newly named chair of the Michigan Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus (MFSPV), I am thrilled to share that all three gun violence prevention bill packages have been signed into law! Universal background checks, safe storage and, most recently, extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) are now state law and will officially go into effect next year. I was proud to sponsor and lead the House safe storage legislation both this term and last, and I’m so glad it received the support needed to become law.
During Gov. Whitmer’s signing of the ERPO legislation on Monday, I presented a tribute on behalf of the Michigan Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus to Oxford High School’s student-led gun violence prevention organization No Future Without Today. Despite living through the horrific 2021 Oxford High School shooting that took the lives of four of their classmates and wounded seven others, the courageous members of No Future Without Today have used their experience as survivors of a school shooting to advocate for sensible gun reform and additional mental health resources. The advocacy, testimony and advice of these survivors was instrumental in passing the first significant gun safety legislation in Michigan in 40 years, and I am incredibly grateful for their activism and service to the Oxford community and the entire State of Michigan.
Telehealth Bills Introduced
Earlier this month, I joined state Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley) in sponsoring House Bills 4579–80 to help ensure that medical patients still have access to telemedicine visits. Under the COVID-19 public health emergency, Medicaid and private insurers were given more flexibility to expand telemedicine coverage. However, with the expiration of the federal public health emergency, access to telemedicine is at risk. Our legislation will ensure that insurers will continue to cover telemedicine as an option to help maintain, if not increase, access to health care in Michigan.
The bills will also require both Medicaid and private insurers to reimburse providers for telemedicine visits at the same rate as traditional in-person visits. While studies have shown that the costs of administering and monitoring telehealth systems results in little to no overall savings when compared with in-person visits, telemedicine is often perceived as a less expensive option than traditional doctor visits. This has created barriers for patients covered by insurance that doesn’t adequately reimburse providers for telehealth visits. The use of telemedicine has skyrocketed over the past few years, and it’s absolutely crucial that we maintain telehealth coverage for Michigan patients.
Testimony on Returning Citizens Initiative Legislation
Last month, I gave testimony on legislation that would help returning citizens reintegrate into their communities by providing them with a driver’s license or state ID upon their parole. The bills will codify an existing Secretary of State program to ensure prisoners have access to state identification when they are released from incarceration. The bills require the Secretary of State to issue an official state personal identification card to the prisoner when eligible and deliver it to the Michigan Department of Corrections if the prisoner has not yet been released or to the address listed on the identification card if the prisoner is already released on parole.
Successful reentry into society reduces the taxpayer burden and supports the community. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, formerly incarcerated people face homelessness 10 times more than the general public. This increases the likelihood of criminal recidivism and costs the taxpayers $50,000 per recidivism incidence. State IDs are necessary to find housing and employment, open bank accounts and access public benefits that are crucial for reintegrating parolees into society. Successful reentry for returning citizens results in reduced child poverty rates, better cognitive outcomes for children, and better physical, behavioral, and mental health. I am so excited to continue to advocate for this important legislation!
House Passes Fiscal Year 2023-24 Budget
Earlier this month, the Michigan House passed its recommended fiscal 2023-24 budget. It includes the largest investment in education in Michigan’s history and substantial investments in workforce recruitment and retention, infrastructure, and public safety. Hundreds of millions of dollars would go toward local road repairs throughout the state.
The budget includes major investments in lead line remediation and water infrastructure upgrades totaling nearly half a billion dollars. The budget would also provide grants for renewable energy facilities, supporting job creation and climate resiliency, while devoting millions to help communities recover from flooding and other climate disasters.
The School Aid budget includes a transformative investment in the Great Start Readiness Program to make preschool accessible for every student and provide free breakfast and lunch to every student in the state. It also supports the MI Kids Back on Track program, which provides tutoring to help kids catch up following the pandemic, and mental health funding to address the youth mental health crisis.
Speaking of mental health, our budget will improve mental health support for students, provide support for first responders exposed to trauma on the job, and increase the number of mental health professionals in our state. People seeking help for their mental health often face long wait times to meet with a new mental health care provider, and our budget will help address this by recruiting new professionals to the field.
I’m also happy to share that the budget for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy earmarked $2 million for a new water treatment facility in Saline. With almost 9,000 people in Saline, these funds would continue to bring clean drinking water to the area and its people. With the community’s opportunity for a new water treatment plant, the residents of our district can be more confident with the quality and safety of their tap water. I will continue to support this funding throughout the budget process and will always advocate for my district.
Community Events: Pride Festivities
Our neighbors in Ypsilanti and Milan are hosting two Pride celebrations this June. Ypsi Pride 2023 will be held on Friday, June 2, from 4-10 p.m. in Depot Town, and the 2023 Milan Pride Parade will be held on Saturday, June 10, with a rally at Tolan Square at 3:45 p.m. and the parade from 4-5 p.m. beginning in the West Main Street parking lot.
Additionally, the city of Saline Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will be hosting a pride flag raising ceremony at Saline City Hall on Saturday, June 3, at 11:30 a.m. and a Pride Picnic at Tefft Park on Saturday, June 24, from 1-3 p.m. Each of these events offer great opportunities for the public, alongside local businesses and organizations, to support inclusion and the local LGBTQ+ community!
African American Downtown Festival
Visit downtown Ann Arbor on Saturday, June 3, from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. for the 26th annual African American Downtown Festival (AADF)! This FREE event will take place in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor at East Ann Street and North Main Street.
AADF was founded by Lucille Hall Porter, who was also the founder and director of the Community Leaning Post, a nonprofit organization that helped disadvantaged youth and families. The festival was organized to help remember the contributions of those Black business leaders and is held in Ann Arbor’s Historic Black Business District.
This year’s event will feature live music, mascot characters, vendors, a Kids Korner and more. All ages are welcome to come and enjoy AADF!