I am writing to you today to invite you to my upcoming coffee hour, Friday, July 23, from noon to 1 p.m. These events provide an excellent opportunity to receive updates on my work at the Capitol and discuss any other questions or concerns you may have.
We are hoping to meet in-person next month, so watch my Facebook page and E-News updates for more information!
As of Tuesday, June 22, indoor capacity limits and the statewide mask mandate have been lifted in Michigan. While we all breathe a collective sigh of relief, there are individuals who remain vulnerable to COVID-19.
If you’re eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, go to Kalamazoo County Health Department’s website to learn more or check out other vaccination sites. If you need help navigating the vaccine scheduling process, call the COVID-19 hotline at (888) 535-6136 (press 1).
New Sponsored Legislation
This month, Michigan House Democrats introduced a bill package to increase broadband access to Michigan homes and businesses. My bill, HB 5039, appropriates resources towards broadband mapping. Currently, broadband mapping is done by internet service providers, limiting government access to accurate data to determine areas most in need of high-speed internet. Using resources appropriated in HB 5039, we can determine which communities need broadband access to bring high speed internet to more Michigan homes, schools and businesses.
Respect Educators Bill Package:
It was a privilege to stand with my colleagues to announce the Michigan House Democrats’ “Respecting Educators” bill package. Teaching is a vital, challenging profession, but rarely is it treated with the dignity our educators deserve. Many teachers pay out of pocket for classroom supplies while struggling to make ends meet at home.
As part of this package, I introduced HB 5110, which would eliminate the out-of-pocket expense teachers pay to certify or recertify throughout their career and will instead be paid for by the state.
Last week, Michigan House Republicans gutted a bipartisan bill (HB 4434) designed to require the Unemployment Insurance Agency use “plain language” in correspondence with individuals filing claims so information and instructions are clear and concise. I was disheartened when Republican legislators used this helpful bill as a vehicle to end the $300 a week unemployment benefit for families financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming from a body with the privilege of receiving a steady paycheck and health benefits throughout the COVID-19 crisis seems especially hypocritical and cruel. I rescinded my co-sponsorship of HB 4434 along with my House Democratic colleagues.
A return back to “normal” does not mean the devastating effects of COVID-19 go away. For many Michiganders, the effects of job loss will linger for quite some time. We must work to empower Michigan business and workers to get back to work, not by ripping the rug out from underneath them and expecting them to thrive.
Many of you are likely aware of the 39-bill “election reform” package in the Michigan Senate that would severely limit voting access. Last week, the senate passed three of these bills that now await a vote in the House Committee on Elections and Ethics.
The first, SB 285, requires voters requesting an absentee ballot include a driver’s license number, state ID number, the last four digits of their Social Security number or a photocopy of their ID. If the voter does not provide this information, they will be issued a provisional ballot, meaning further steps have to be taken for their ballot to be counted.
Republican Senators also voted to pass SB 303, legislation that eliminates voters without an ID on Election Day to sign an affidavit. Instead, the voter would be issued a provisional ballot.
The third bill, SB 304, changes the verification process of a provisional ballot. Under this legislation, a voter would have to present to the local clerk their ID within six days of the election and an additional personal document like a utility bill if their ID does not have their current address. The current law allows a local clerk to verify the identification of a voter ensuring a provisional ballot without action from the voter.
This blatant attempt to restrict voting access has the potential to significantly increase the number of rejected ballots by placing multiple hurdles in the way of voters and their ballot.
I was eager to work with my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do one of the most important jobs our communities sent us to Lansing to do: pass a budget on time to fund vital programs that Michiganders rely on every day. Unfortunately, Republican leadership left town before the job was completed.
Recently, I voted yes on bills providing over $78 million in federal funding for our school districts to help battle the effects on education caused by COVID. In addition, I voted yes on our regular school funding, which will provide an additional $17.6 million in per pupil funding, bringing the total estimated per pupil funding in the district to over $291 million across HD 61.
Other budget highlights include:
- $30 million to fund Reconnect Program – which offers two years of free college/career training.
- $105 million for childcare program – the child development and care program (CDC) to increase funding for childcare providers.
- $100 million for MEDC Business Attraction & Community Revitalization program, which provides grants and loans for business development.
- Includes $500,000 to implement an Address Confidentiality Program to protect survivors of abuse.
- $10 million for Lead Poisoning and Prevention programs.
- $29 million to implement “Raise the Age” reforms to keep juveniles out of the adult prison system.
- $1 million for Focus Hope non-profit for youth development and workforce programs in Detroit.
- $28.6 million for MEDC Going Pro program, which provides workforce training.
- $100 million for nursing homes.
- $160 million for hospitals.
- $26 million for Community Behavioral Health Clinics to develop innovative programs to integrate physical and behavioral services.
- $10 million to increase funding for EMS ambulance services.
- $43,000 to guarantee health coverage for spouses and dependents of first responders who died in the line of duty.
- $1 million for the Search & Rescue Firefighter program.
- Adds $1.2 million in emergency grants to veterans.
- $3.5 million increase for nutrition assistance for seniors through programs like ‘Meals on Wheels’ (on top of the ~$43M current funding level).
- $10 million to the help communities recover from the devastating flood damage from last weekend’s storms.
Volunteer with Team Morse!
My staff and I are starting to knock doors and make phone calls to check in on the HD 61 community and learn about their concerns and top priorities. Can you join us this summer?
If you are interested in volunteering with my office to help us connect with constituents, sign up here.
We’d love for you to join us!
State Representative, 61st House District