Hello and welcome to my e-newsletter.
I would like to take this moment to thank you for allowing me to serve you in the 6th House District and act as your voice in Lansing. My team and I remain committed to helping constituents with their questions and issues, keeping residents up to date on new developments related to the pandemic, and providing useful resources.
As your representative, I am most effective at my job when acting on your input. I encourage you to reach out to me and my staff with any questions, comments or concerns you may have about issues in the district or legislation that will impact our state. You can contact me at (517) 373-0823, by email or through my website. Thank you for your commitment to the community we both call home; I look forward to hearing from you!
In This Edition:
- Budget Update
- Census Resolution
- Prescription Drug Reform
- Police Reform
- COVID Testing
On Sept. 23, the Michigan House of Representatives approved a finalized state budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Despite the ongoing challenges posed by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan House Democrats are as committed as ever to ensuring that the people of Michigan, and the priorities they care most about, are put first. The budget agreement approved today delivers.
We have long said that the choices and decisions we make now will determine how far into the future Michiganders will feel the effects of this crisis — this budget will provide support for those that need it most to keep families and our communities on their feet both now and long after our battle with COVID-19.
Investing in Education
- $66 per-pupil increase in school funding above current funding levels;
- $1 million to forgive outstanding student meal debt;
- $5.4 million for additional mental health counselors and student support;
- $27 million to expand eligibility for the Child Development and Care Program for lower-income families;
- $500 in hazard pay for teachers during the pandemic, along with addition of payments up to $250 for school support staff;
- $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect Program to provide a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to up-skill and earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree;
- $161 million in flexible per pupil spending to help districts address the increased costs of educating students in the midst of a pandemic;
- $5 million in incentives to attract and retain first-year teachers in districts across Michigan;
- An increase of $3 million to continue funding literacy coaches and expand resources to improve training for other educators in best practices of literacy learning;
- And $2 million in additional support to assist vulnerable students who are learning remotely, including special education students, students who are chronically absent, and children in need of care while their parents are working.
A Strong and Healthy Michigan
- $12.6 million for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to reduce infant mortality rates and racial disparities in birth outcomes
- $20 million in additional support for nursing homes for COVID-19-related cost increases
- $2.7 million one-time additional funding and $4.6M ongoing funding for the Lead Poisoning Loan Fund to protect families in Flint and throughout the state from the dangers of lead
- $26 million to expand access to childcare for families by increasing the income limit from 130 percent to 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, expanding childcare services to nearly 6,000 children
- $135 million to extend the $2/hour wage increase for direct care workers assisting the elderly and other vulnerable individuals during this especially tough time
- $20 million to support the state’s psychiatric hospitals so that Michiganders in need of mental health services have improved access and care
- $2.5 million to provide first responders with the mental health services they need, including treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder
Help with Basic Needs
- $14.3 million in grants to expand broadband internet access to underserved communities
- $24 million to support disaster response needs to communities impacted by recent flooding
- $4.2 million will be provided to begin implementing the pre-trial incarceration task force recommendation for crisis intervention and de-escalation training through the Michigan Coalition on law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), helping ensure law enforcement officers have the training and education they need to intervene successfully
Supporting Michigan Workers
- $40 million for increased wages for direct care workers
- $3 million to expand the Skilled Trades Pre-Apprenticeship Program to recruit and prepare those pursuing careers in skilled trades
- A total of $28.7 million will be provided for the Going Pro program to support job training grants for businesses to support training for current and new employees in high-demand, skilled trades industries
Preserving Our Environment
- $600K for grants to education and conservation on Michigan’s watersheds
- $600K to support the efforts to clean up the ‘green ooze’ in the closed Electro Plating Services building
- $1 million for low-interest energy efficiency project loans
- $5 million that will draw down significantly more in federal funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to reduce runoff of contaminants into Lake Erie and other watersheds
The Census Bureau’s ability to collect data from households has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially their ability to go door-to-door as they have in the past. The mission of the census is to ensure every single person is counted, so it’s only logical that we provide the time necessary to accomplish that goal. Unfortunately, Trump is either disinterested in ensuring everyone is counted or is actively attempting to exclude people. This has been far from a normal year and we have had to develop creative solutions to many problems. The census is no different.
I recently introduced House Resolution 304 to urge the restoration of an extended deadline for census data collection, which the Trump Administration is attempting to shorten. The extended deadline is intended to make up for time lost when stay-at-home orders were in effect. My colleagues and I have launched an aggressive public awareness campaign to ensure everyone completes the census on time.
This Spring, the Census Bureau extended data collection until Oct. 31 to compensate for time lost during stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in August the Trump Administration abruptly changed their opinion on the deadline extension and announced that data collection would cease a month early on Sept. 30. HR 304 would oppose that deadline and urge the federal government to honor its commitment to extend data collection until Oct. 31.
A judge recently issued an injunction to extend the window for data collection, but continued litigation offers no assurances that this decision will hold.
Prescription Drug Reform
This summer I introduced House Bill 5943 as part of a bipartisan package to increase transparency and lower prescription drug costs for all Michiganders. This legislation was recently approved by the House Committee on Health Policy and now awaits a hearing in the House Committee on Ways and Means. Among other things, this package would:
- Require hospitals to post the cost of all procedures on the hospital’s website.
- Prohibit an insurer from requiring a patient to pay a copay that is more than the cost of the prescription drug.
- Require the licensure and regulation of Pharmacy Benefit Managers.
- Prohibit drug manufacturers from giving gifts to a prescriber that have a value of $63 or more each year.
I am proud to have introduced House Bills 6264 and 6265 to mandate reporting of all instances of “use of force” and misconduct by law enforcement officers to a statewide database and make certain law enforcement disciplinary records available to the public. As a former law enforcement officer, I believe that first and foremost, our criminal justice system must provide equal justice for all of us regardless of our ZIP code, social, economic, gender or race. These bills would be another step on the long road toward that goal.
My colleagues and I also recently held a press conference to announce legislation to clarify qualified immunity in instances of the use of unreasonable force by law enforcement. As part of House Democrats’ Equal Justice for All criminal justice reform plan, this legislation will clear an avenue to hold bad actors accountable.
Qualified immunity prevents law enforcement from being liable for the death or serious injury of civilians if they are acting within the scope of their duty. As a result, law enforcement officers are rarely, if ever, held accountable if their actions cause serious harm. These violent encounters with police disproportionately affect Black and Brown communities, and qualified immunity contributes to an inequitable criminal justice experience that can have life and death consequences.
Those who promise to serve and protect are essentially given a free pass when they abuse their power, especially in our Black communities. The law applies to police officers, too. When they break the law, even in a minor offense, they should be held accountable. When a life is lost as a result of their neglect or abuse, they must assume liability so justice can be brought to the victims and their families.
The legislation will amend Michigan’s Governmental Tort Liability Act to remove immunity for law enforcement offices and bar immunity for governmental agencies in unreasonable use of force cases. Courts will be left to determine the reasonableness of force on a case by case basis.
Michigan’s existing expungement process traps Michiganders in a never-ending cycle of punishment and creates barriers to reintegration into society. Michiganders with past criminal convictions struggle to find housing and employment, putting them at a higher risk for homelessness and recidivism.
Our bipartisan plan addresses this by making the following changes:
- Expands the eligible number of people who qualify for expungement to up to three felonies may apply to have all their convictions set aside.
- Establishes automatic expungement for certain offenders who would otherwise qualify for expungement via petition if certain criteria are met.
- Streamlines the expungement process for individuals who have past misdemeanor marijuana convictions that would be permissible under current law.
- Allows forgiveness for multiple acts committed during “one bad night.”
- Permits traffic offense expungement, excluding driving under the influence or operating while intoxicated and other traffic offenses causing serious injury or death.
- Shortens the eligibility period for misdemeanor expungement from five years to three years, if no other crimes have been committed.
- Establishes the rights of all parties after a misdemeanor marijuana conviction is expunged.
State Representative, 6th House District