Welcome to my latest Capitol Update! As your state representative, one of my most important jobs is to keep you updated on issues at the state Capitol and in our community. My staff and I are always ready to answer any questions about state government and provide any help you need in contacting state departments. I also look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on how to make state government work better for you.
You can also reach me at (517) 373-0159 or by email at email@example.com. You can also visit my website at sowerby.housedems.com to find up-to-date information and news on my work in Lansing. I hope you find my updates useful and informative.
In this issue:
- Upcoming Coffee and Conversation
- Creation of Michigan High-Speed Internet Office
- Strengthening Asbestos Regulations
- Budget Update
State Representative, 31st House District
Upcoming Virtual Coffee Hour
On Monday, June 28, from 2 to 3 PM, please join me for coffee and conversation via Zoom. We will be discussing COVID relief assistance, state legislation, and other issues of the day. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas, and concerns that you may have. Please use the link below to join and feel free to share with any residents who might be interested. I hope to see you there!
Creation of Michigan High-Speed Internet Office
This week, Governor Whitmer created the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MI-HI) to make high-speed internet more affordable and accessible across the state. With high-speed internet becoming a necessity in our educational, professional and personal lives, the new office will be dedicated to coordinating and advancing the state’s efforts to ensure that every home and business in our state has access to an affordable, reliable high-speed connection that meets their needs and the skills to use it effectively. MI-HI will be responsible for developing the state’s high-speed internet strategy and coordinating its funding and implementation.
During the Whitmer Administration, Michigan-based companies have secured significant federal grant funding, including $363 million through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, $4.8 million through the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, and $32.6 million through the United States Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program. $25 million in funding provided by the CARES Act was used to support device purchasing and distance learning, and another $29.75 million to establish an educational equity fund.
Strengthening Michigan Asbestos Regulations
Last month, I was proud to see the House Committee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation favorably vote on two of my bills, as well as four other bills sponsored by my colleagues, that would collectively strengthen Michigan’s asbestos regulations to ensure Michiganders are protected and that bad acting contractors are held accountable.
House Bill 4769 would require asbestos contractors to publicly disclose any convictions or administrative punishments for failing to follow asbestos regulations before entering into a contract with a public body and prevent the public body from purchasing the services of any contractors with convictions in the past five years. Individuals who fail to properly follow the law should not be hired with taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, House Bill 4771 would align the asbestos policies of Michigan’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (MIOSHA) to be the same as the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Currently, MIOSHA can reduce asbestos fines by more than allowed by the federal OSHA and can only look at a violator’s history going back three years, rather than the federally allowed five. MIOSHA should not be giving bad acting contractors more leniency than their federal counterpart.
These bills, as well as House Bills 4766, 4767, 4768 and 4770, which further improve Michigan’s asbestos regulations, all passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation unanimously and are now before the full House of Representatives for consideration.
The Michigan House passed a series of fiscal year 2022 departmental budgets last month in what is the next step of Michigan’s budget process. I voted no on these budgets as they included 75% budget cuts to many departments and appropriated only enough money to function for a quarter of the next year. Furthermore, these budgets did not invest in key programs designed to help Michiganders improve their quality of life. The majority party voted down nearly every amendment offered by House Democrats. These amendments would:
- Undo the 75% budget cuts to DHHS, EGLE, MDARD, AG, SOS, LEO, Treasury, LARA, DIFS and the Department of Education.
- Restore funding to Futures for Frontliners and MI Reconnect.
- Strike partisan language, which prohibits the mailing of absentee voter applications.
- Restore funding to support farmers and the Double Up Food Bucks program.
- Outfit all State Troopers with body cameras and expand police recruitment and training grants.
- Invest in Michigan’s broadband infrastructure.
- Fund efforts to reduce racial health disparities.
I’m disappointed that my colleagues did not support these amendments, but I’m hopeful that we can still improve the budget during the next step in the process as negotiations continue. A joint conference committee between the House and Senate has been created to address differences between the budgets passed in each chamber.