Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! In addition to the usual information on state news, things to do and other community information. This week’s issue overview looks at a brief history of women’s suffrage in Michigan.
This week, I introduced a resolution to recognize 2018 the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state of Michigan. Michigan women played an instrumental role in achieving women’s suffrage both in Michigan and across the country. In 1918 Michigan’s voters approved a state constitutional amendment by nearly 55 percent of the vote, extending suffrage to Michigan women. A video of me speaking to this resolution on the House floor can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiLBx4yg_oM*
I recently co-sponsored HB 5440, which would prohibit certain entities from banning the display of a flag of the United States or a state flag of Michigan on private property. The proposed legislation would state that a homeowners or neighborhood association cannot adopt any kind of regulation that prohibits the display of either flag.
I also co-sponsored HB 5483, part of the Teachers for Michigan education plan — a 21st-century overhaul of the state’s K-12 schools — designed to prepare the best, attract the brightest and retain the finest Michigan educators. The 22-bill legislative package would be the first comprehensive investment in Michigan’s educators in more than a decade that seeks to foster, cultivate and keep teaching talent in the Great Lakes State. Under the Teachers for Michigan bill package, future teachers would be prepared with real classroom experience through several supportive measures. Also included in the package are several incentives to attract teachers who consider serving in economically disadvantaged schools.
Early Enrollment for Flint Registry Now Open
Residents of Flint who were exposed to lead-contaminated water from the city’s water system can now pre-enroll for the Flint Registry, an effort to connect residents to programs and other resources that serve to minimize the effects of lead on their health, while promoting wellness and recovery. During the pre-enrollment process, those interested in being part of the effort can submit their name and contact information and receive updates on when the formal enrollment begins, which is projected to be this fall.
The registry is part of the Centers for Disease Control’s ongoing efforts across the country to reduce and prevent exposure to lead as part of its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. The registry is voluntary and will link registrants’ data on exposure, health and key childhood developmental milestones with their participation in services through a referral network. People of all ages can participate including individuals outside the area who went to school, daycare or worked in Flint during the crisis.
For more information and to pre-register, visit flintregistry.org.
Wash Your Hands to Prevent the Spread of Norovirus
Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) reports a recent increase in norovirus. The viruses that cause gastrointestinal issues can be easily spread by food, person-to-person contact, coughing, sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. Individuals can reduce their risk of becoming infected through frequent hand washing using soap and warm water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Alcohol based hand sanitizers do NOT prevent the spread of norovirus. The Genesee County Health Department would like to make sure that everyone stays healthy and takes the proper precautions to protect themselves and others from illness. Norovirus, incorrectly known as “stomach flu,” is one of the most common causes of viral gastroenteritis in the United States, and it spreads quickly.
Norovirus is very contagious, can live on surfaces for a very long time, and can be easily spread from person-to-person, especially in group settings, such as gatherings, daycares/schools, restaurants, and nursing homes. Anyone showing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea should not go to daycare, school, or work until symptoms have subsided. Persons who work in nursing homes, take care of patients, or handle food should stay out of work for two to three days after symptoms end. Preventing contamination of food, drinks and surfaces is critical to preventing the spread of norovirus. Anyone with norovirus should not prepare or serve food until they have been symptom-free for three days. It is important to carefully wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them. The spread of norovirus can be prevented by disinfecting contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners and prompt washing of contaminated articles of clothing.
You can find norovirus fact sheets, information on to how to prevent the spread of norovirus, and additional prevention information at www.gchd.us.
Treasury: Individual Income Tax Filing Season Officially Begins
Michigan’s individual income tax filing season has officially began, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury). Effective immediately, Michiganders can start filing their 2017 tax year state individual income tax returns online or through the U.S. Postal Service. All individual income tax returns must be e-filed or postmarked by Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Choosing electronic filing and direct deposit is convenient, safe and secure. Last year, more than 4.1 million Michigan taxpayers e-filed, which is nearly 83 percent of state income tax filers. After Feb. 5, limited quantities of printed tax forms will be available at public libraries, northern Michigan post offices, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services county offices and Treasury Field Offices. For more information, please visit Michigan.gov/taxes.
Genesee County Tax Assistance & Financial Services Coalition returns more than $600,000 to Genesee County
United Way of Genesee County supports the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This is a volunteer run program in partnership with the IRS that prepares and e-files tax returns for low to moderate income wage earners for free.
To view the schedule and locations of the 2018 tax preparation sites, please visit: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kCTKJkcoyuafipWHGhiRiIN0IWi1BGU0/view
Free Tax Help
Seniors and individuals with special needs may qualify for free tax preparation help from IRS-trained volunteers or Tax Counseling for the qualified preparers. For information about free tax help, go to www.michiganfreetaxhelp.org or dial 2-1-1.
To learn more about Michigan’s individual income tax or to download forms, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes. For more information about e-filing, go to www.mifastfile.org.
Treasury: Resolve to Be Ready for Tax Scams in 2018
As the state of Michigan begins a new year and the state income tax filing season approaches, the Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers to resolve to be ready for tax scams in 2018. Cybercriminals typically increase their activity in the first part of the year through phone scams and email phishing schemes. These scammers try to obtain personal information using different tricks and tactics so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers. Some scammers may also allege a taxpayer owes taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.
Treasury will never:
- Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
- Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, Treasury will first send a bill through the U.S. mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
Taxpayers who have received a call or email from a scammer should report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling (800) 366-4484. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.
DNR Conservation Officers Offer Snowmobile Safety Tips
With Michigan’s snowmobile season in full gear, Department of Natural Resources conservation officers remind riders that safety is key to enjoying their sport.
“Snowmobiling is a great way to spend the winter months,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, DNR recreational safety programs supervisor. “But when operating a snowmobile or any type of vehicle, safety comes first. This includes riding within your own abilities, operating at safe and appropriate speeds for the terrain, always wearing a helmet and proper clothing, and never operating your machine while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
Other safety tips include:
- Always keep your snowmobile in top mechanical condition.
- Wear insulated boots and protective clothing, including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
- Only ride in designated areas and trails.
- Check weather conditions before riding and be aware of changing trail conditions.
- Pick safe places to stop off the trail and never park or stand in the trail.
- Exercise additional caution when riding on an unfamiliar trail, or when riding at night.
- Never ride alone; use the “buddy system.”
- Keep headlights and taillights on at all times and keep them clear of snow, ice or other debris.
- Be alert to avoid fences and low-strung wires.
- Use caution when approaching a trail intersection, come to a complete stop when required, and look both ways for traffic before proceeding.
- Stay clear of trail groomers, if possible. Never follow groomers, and give them the right of way.
- Avoid crossing frozen bodies of water, when possible. If you must cross, never do so while riding in single file.
- Wear a life jacket if operating on frozen bodies of water.
- Don’t trespass. If you don’t know whose property you are on, you probably don’t belong there.
Snowmobile safety education training and online safety courses are recommended for all snowmobile operators and are required for those who are 12 to 16 years old. Snowmobilers also should learn the rules and regulations for snowmobiling in Michigan, as well as the universal snowmobile trail signage developed by the DNR to help ensure safety on the trails. A valid snowmobile registration from the Michigan Secretary of State, or another state or province, is required for all snowmobiles. Snowmobilers also must purchase a trail permit, which is valid for one year (Oct. 1 to Sept. 30), when operating on public trails.
Learn more about snowmobiling in Michigan at michigan.gov/snowmobiling.
DNR Ice Safety Tips
Things to consider before you go out:
- Ice conditions vary from lake to lake. Find a good local source — a bait shop or fishing guide — that is knowledgeable about ice conditions on the lake you want to fish on.
- Purchase a pair of ice picks or ice claws, which are available at most sporting goods stores.
- Tell a responsible adult where you are going and what time to expect you back. Relaying your plan can help save your life if something does happen to you on the ice.
What to know about ice:
- You can't always tell the strength of ice simply by its look, its thickness, the temperature or whether or not it is covered with snow.
- Clear ice that has a bluish tint is the strongest. Ice formed by melted and refrozen snow appears milky, and is very porous and weak.
- Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.
- If there is slush on the ice, stay off. Slush ice is only about half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom.
- Be especially cautious in areas where air temperatures have fluctuated. A warm spell may take several days to weaken the ice; however, when temperatures vary widely, causing the ice to thaw during the day and refreeze at night, the result is a weak, "spongy" or honeycombed ice that is unsafe.
- The DNR does not recommend the standard "inch-thickness" guide used by many anglers and snowmobilers to determine ice safety. A minimum of four inches of clear ice is required to support an average person's weight on the ice, but since ice seldom forms at a uniform rate it is important to check ice thickness with a spud and ruler every few steps.
Venturing out on the ice:
- The DNR does not recommend taking a car or truck out onto the ice at any time.
- If you are walking out onto a frozen body of water with a group, avoid crossing ice in a single file.
- Never venture out alone without telling a responsible adult on shore your plans.
- Test ice thickness with an ice spud before you settle on a spot.
- If you are with a group, avoid standing together in a spot. Spread out.
- Wear a life jacket and bright colored clothing.
- Take a cell phone for emergency use.
- Look for large cracks or depressions in the ice and avoid those areas.
- Remember ice does not form with uniform thickness on any body of water. Underwater springs and currents can wear thin spots on the ice.
If you fall through:
- Try to remain calm.
- Don't remove your winter clothing. Heavy clothes won't drag you down, but instead can trap air to provide warmth and flotation. This is especially true with a snowmobile suit.
- Turn in the water toward the direction you came from – that is probably the strongest ice.
- If you have them, dig the points of the ice picks into the ice and, while vigorously kicking your feet, pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice.
- Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling on the ice will distribute your weight to help avoid breaking through again.
- Get to shelter, heat, dry clothing and warm, non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.
- Call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering, or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia (the life-threatening drop in the body's core temperature).
Experience #MiFreeFishingWeekend Feb. 17-18 and enjoy the outdoors
Grab a fishing rod and enjoy some of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer during the 2018 Winter Free Fishing Weekend Saturday, Feb. 17, and Sunday, Feb. 18. On those two days, everyone — residents and non-residents alike — can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.
In addition, during #MiFreeFishingWeekend, the Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas. Several locations also may be hosting official 2018 Winter Free Fishing Weekend events that are perfect for the whole family.
Michigan has been celebrating winter’s #MiFreeFishingWeekend every year since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state's vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a perfect match.
Official winter #MiFreeFishingWeekend activities are being scheduled in communities across the state to assist with public participation. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations, including constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of these events can be found online at michigan.gov/freefishing.
100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Michigan
As previously mentioned, this week I introduced a resolution to recognize 2018 as the 100th Anniversary of the passage of Women’s Suffrage in the state of Michigan. The effort for women’s suffrage was a long battle fought by passionate and determined Michiganders. The 63-year effort to gain women’s suffrage in Michigan began in 1855 with a petition campaign. In 1866, Michigan's first bill to extend the right to vote to women was defeated by one vote in the Legislature. Shortly after, the Michigan State Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1870 in Battle Creek. That same year, a women’s suffrage bill was passed by the Michigan Legislature, but vetoed by Gov. Henry Baldwin of Detroit.
The women of Genesee County were very involved in gaining women’s suffrage. In 1884, the Michigan Equal Suffrage Association was formed in Flint, and Mary Doe of Bay City served as the first president. Eva Belles of Flint also fought for the right to vote. In 1889, The Michigan Supreme Court upheld the right of Eva Belles to vote in school board elections, after she was refused that right in 1888. Belles vs. Burr was the court case that showed women deserved to have a say in their community.
The journey for women’s suffrage reached every corner of the state. Without the activism of these individuals, Michigan would not have been on the right track for women’s rights. In addition to activism, women all over Michigan were working to advance themselves, their cause and others. Women were achieving many firsts, opening small businesses, teaching at universities, becoming pilots and founding professional societies.
Michigan women played an instrumental role in achieving women’s suffrage both in Michigan and across the country. In 1918 Michigan’s voters approved a state constitutional amendment by nearly 55 percent of the vote, extending suffrage to Michigan women. The National Suffrage Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919. Michigan was the second state to ratify the amendment on June 10, 1919, under Gov. Albert Sleeper.
To view a complete timeline of the battle for women’s suffrage in Michigan, please visit http://www.michiganwomenshalloffame.org/womens_history_timeline1.aspx or http://lwvannarbor.org/files/timelineofwomen.pdf
State Representative Pam Faris
48th House District