Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
Meet & Greet
Please join me for an opportunity to come sit down, have a chat, ask me questions and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. I will be hosting sessions on Monday, Nov. 18, from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Forest Township Senior Center and on Friday, Dec. 20, from 3-4 p.m. at the Clio Area Schools Administration building in the board room. Hope to see you there!
Testimony on Lead Service Line Notification Bill
Last week, I was one of several legislators that testified in the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee about water quality legislation. Specifically, my bill (House Bill 4750) would require a water supplier to annually notify customers if their residence is served by a lead service line. Additionally, the landlord of the property would have to disclose any lead service lines to the tenant in the rental agreement or a separate disclosure statement.
This legislation seeks to improve disclosure and transparency by ensuring that homeowners and tenants alike are made aware of any lead service lines. I look forward to continuing to work on this legislation and improve water quality in our state.
Children’s Environmental Health Day
Recently, I introduced a resolution that would declare Oct. 10 as Children’s Environmental Health Day in the state of Michigan. This day celebrates the progress of the Children’s Environmental Health Movement and aims to showcase a strong network of child health advocates.
Children deserve an environment where they can play outside, drink clean water and be free of worry from the harm of pollution. By raising awareness about clean air and water, safe food and consumer practices, we can ensure that all children in our state are able to lead happy, healthy and successful lives.
Licensed Professional Counselor’s Rule Change
I was proud to vote in favor of legislation that will maintain the scope practice for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). LPCs are mental health service providers, trained to work with individuals, families and groups in treating mental, behavioral and emotional problems and disorders. LPCs make up a large percentage of the workforce employed in community mental health centers and agencies. There have been conflicts with state statute and rules promulgated from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) bringing into question whether LPCs are able to provide diagnoses and psychotherapy. Essentially, unclear wording in state statute meant that counselors have been practicing for years in violation of those rules.
House Bill 4325 updates and clarifies statute so that it reflects the actual scope of practice of LPCs, allowing them to continue diagnosing and offering psychotherapy. HB 4325 passed both the House and Senate, and will now advance to the Governor for her consideration.
As I am sure you are aware, negotiations surrounding the budget have been ongoing. Below you will find some explanations regarding some of the most important items affecting our communities in the budget. While I am glad that the Legislature was able to get these budgets passed in time to avert a government shutdown, many budgets left much to be desired. Gov. Whitmer issued 147-line item vetoes to help facilitate further talks with the Legislature. The governor presented her budget proposal in March, whereas the leadership from the majority party did not present their final budget language until September.
This presented minimal time before the fiscal year ended on Oct. 1 for budget negotiations and for compromise language and priorities to be agreed upon. The 16 budgets approved by the House and Senate did not seriously address Michigan’s toughest problems, which prompted Gov. Whitmer to utilize her executive power to line-item veto 147 items. I fully understand the importance of keeping funding accessible for the integral departments and programs in our state and will continue to work on behalf of the 48th District to ensure that our communities’ needs are being met.
School Aid No Vote
As a former teacher and administrator, I recognize how difficult it can be to create a school budget without knowing how much revenue the state is allocating. This was the reality for many of our schools until the School Aid budget was passed. However, I could not in good conscience vote yes on the School Aid budget as it was written. The budget that passed both chambers includes $304 million to provide increases ranging from $120 to $240 per-pupil. The minimum foundation allowance would increase from $7,871 to $8,111 (3.0 percent) and the state maximum guaranteed foundation allowance would increase from $8,409 to $8,529 (1.4 percent).
While I appreciate the willingness to move the budget in a positive direction by increasing per-pupil funding, it is nowhere near the level of funding needed to fully support our students. The School Finance Research Collaborative indicated that there is over a $2,000 per-pupil shortfall, which does not include additional costs for more expensive services needed by some students, including at-risk programs, special education and CTE courses. This budget does not keep up with inflation and continues to take a one-size-fits-all approach to educating our kids. I look forward to continuing conversations on how to improve school funding so that we finally put our students first in Michigan.
MDARD & Double Up Food Bucks
Although I voted in favor of the MDARD budget because of the good provisions it includes, I would like to see more support for Michigan’s Double Up Food Bucks program and believe there is room for improvement. Mainly, this budget does not maximize federal funding to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program in our state. Double Up Food Bucks is a program that increases the purchasing power of Michigan residents who receive Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by providing a dollar-for-dollar match—up to $20 per day—to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at participating grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
To leverage the full amount of private and federal funding, our state needs to be investing $1 million more annually for the next four years than this current budget does. Without this investment, we our losing out on millions of dollars of match funding. Stores that participate in Double Up Food Bucks are required to purchase 30 percent of their produce from local farms. This has allowed farmers to upgrade equipment, expand their facilities and participate in other agricultural programs that improve our state’s agricultural market here and abroad. Thus, this program boosts business for Michigan farmers and improves our local economy. I have high hopes of finding a way to make the necessary state investment in this program to maximize matched funding and expand it to all 83 counties.
Genesee County Public Safety Initiative
Over the course of budget negotiations, it was unclear whether $4 million in funding for the operation of the Flint City Lockup, a part of the Genesee County Public Safety Initiative, would make it into the final budget for the Department of Corrections. The Genesee County Public Safety Initiative, which covers the costs of operating the Flint City Lockup and sending inmates to other counties when the Genesee County jail is full, was created in response to overcrowding in the Genesee County jail.
Overcrowding often forced the Sheriff’s office to release inmates early or prevent them from being able to book criminals at all. This funding helps to ensure public safety and has played a large role in dropping Flint’s violent crime rate by 46 percent. Fortunately, this funding made it into the final Department of Corrections budget and was signed into law by the governor.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
State Rep. Sheryl Y. Kennedy, PhD
48th House District