As the weather gets warmer, a lot is happening in the Michigan House. We are in the midst of the budget season, and I am fighting every day to make sure our District has a state budget that is fair and equitable for all. With so much happening, our office would like to provide an update about what is going on here in Lansing, and in our community at home.
The House finalized its budget about two weeks ago, which left many gaps in funding for critical programs around the state. In fact, House Republicans passed some budgets that only funded state departments 25 percent at a time. To correct this, I, along with other House Democrats, introduced nearly 70 amendments to help fill these holes in our budgets and give our state departments the funding they need to serve the citizens of Michigan. Unfortunately, all but two of these amendments were struck down. However, I am proud to say that my amendment restoring $250,000 in funding to the Conductive Learning Center right here in the 76th District was passed, as well as my amendment to (insert other here). These are important wins for our Grand Rapids community.
In addition to the regular state budget, we continue to appropriate funds sent to us through the American Rescue Plan. This supplemental bill was also passed out of the House last week. While this bill offers progress, such as providing premium pay to frontline workers, it falls short in critical investments in already underfunded departments such as the Unemployment Insurance Agency. Again, House Democrats introduced amendments to rectify this, but many were shot down. Notably, however, my amendment to ensure all of those working at our own Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and at the other Veterans Home on the East side of the state receive premium pay for their selfless service to our veterans was adopted unanimously—another win for our community.
It was also announced last week that the Governor and Republican leaders in the legislature reached a budget compromise. In the coming weeks and months, the House, Senate and Governor’s team will work to finalize this budget and send it to both legislative chambers to concur in. I am hopeful that this compromise delivers a fair, equitable and just budget to the citizens of our community.
Recently, I, along with my colleague from the 102nd District, introduced HB 4715 to expand community solar here in Michigan. This bipartisan bill package will help expand renewable energy here in our state and allow more people to invest in this growing technology.
Earlier this month, I was part of a bill package with Senator Brinks, Senator Chang and Representative Kuppa to expand eligibility for obtaining a driver’s license. These bills would help immigrants be more productive members of society, contribute to the economy and improve their quality of life. Additionally, it would also make it easier for farmers to hire, easier for students here to obtain a license and easier for those with disabilities to obtain their license. We are hopeful that this bill will move through the committee process soon.
Auto No-Fault Reform
I am a proud co-sponsor of HB 4486, which aims to fix a loophole in the previously passed no-fault legislation that would deny coverage to those needing lifetime care. It would also ensure rehabilitation facilities are able to be reimbursed for their treatment of these patients at a 100 percent rate as opposed to what will become a 55 percent rate. This bill is critical to make those fixes before the previous bill goes into effect on July 1.
With cases falling and vaccination rates rising, our world is beginning to look more normal once again as we can finally see some light at the end of this dark tunnel. In fact, recently, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals–that is, those who have waited two weeks after their final vaccine dose—can remove their masks in most situations, inside and out. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to mask up until they have completed their vaccination regimen or the emergency health orders are lifted on July 1. Additionally, private businesses may still require masking for their employees and customers if they see fit.
If you have not yet been vaccinated, I sincerely encourage you to do so. While I know there are folks with a lot of questions, I would encourage you to talk with your doctor, get the facts about these safe and effective vaccines, and get your shot if it is right for you. You can find vaccination appointments at www.vaccinatewestmi.com.
Income Tax Filing Information
The deadline to file state income taxes for 2020 was May 17, 2021. If you missed this deadline, it is still very important to file your return as soon as possible to limit interest charges and late filing fees, as well as ensuring you receive your tax return. If you have filed your return and subsequently received a notice or tax bill that you are unable to pay, there are options available, such as entering payment plans, submitting an offer-in-compromise, or requesting waiver of fees and interest to prevent a tax debt from creating broader financial issues. Please contact our office if you have a state tax issue, from filing to payment, and my staff will be glad to connect you with the resources to help you resolve the issue.
Thank you for taking time to read this legislative update. As always, our office is here for you. If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at (517) 373-0822 or via email at RachelHood@house.mi.gov.