Here is some information that I hope you will find helpful, including some updates and news from your state government.
Governor Vetoes Unconstitutional Legislation Funding Private Schools
Last week, Gov. Whitmer vetoed four bills (HB 5404, HB 5405, SB 687 and SB 688) that would have created so-called “student opportunity scholarships” by diverting money from public schools. Individuals would have been able to give income tax-deductible donations of up to $500 million per year to these scholarship accounts. The funds could be used for any educational purpose, including funding private schools and private services.
I voted no on these bills. Opponents of the legislation have called it a voucher system in disguise. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency projected that these bills would create up to $500 million of general fund revenue loss, with possible increases of 20% yearly. Aside from very real funding concerns for our public schools, our state constitution specifically prohibits giving tax benefits directly or indirectly the use of public money to support private education.
Even though it clearly violates Michigan’s constitution, the conservative group Let MI Kids Learn is working on ballot petition language that would accomplish the same goals as this bill package. If they can get the required number of signatures (just 8% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election), the Legislature can bypass voters and make this law without the governor’s signature.
Pfizer Vaccine Approved for 5- to 11-Year-Olds
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has now been approved for children ages 5 to 11 years old. This means that everyone age 5 and older in Michigan is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to the Ingham County Health Department, Sparrow Health Systems, Rite Aid, Walgreens and other pharmacies are administering the vaccine.
Child Care Grants Will Provide Workers With Bonuses
Applications opened Monday, Nov. 8, for the Child Care Stabilization Grant Program. Child care providers in Michigan can apply for bonuses of up to $1,000 for their staff. The application is open until Dec. 8, and funds will become available on Jan. 10, 2022.
Eligible providers include licensed child care centers, licensed family homes and group homes, and tribal-based child care. Head Start and Great Start Readiness Programs that provide tuition-based child care are also eligible. This is not a competitive grant, so all eligible providers should apply. Find more information and apply here.
Firearm Deer Hunting Season Begins Nov. 15
Firearm deer hunting season begins Nov. 15. If you hunt, remember to treat every firearm like it’s loaded; be aware of your surroundings; obey “no trespassing” signs; wear as much hunter orange as possible; unload firearms when crossing obstacles or getting in or out of a tree stand; and obtain landowner permission to retrieve game that has wandered onto private property. More hunting safety tips and resources can be found at Michigan.gov/HuntingSafety.
Mental Health Listening Tour Available Online
Last week, my office hosted a stop on the Michigan House Democrats’ Mental Health Listening Tour. This informative panel discussion focused on the current state of Michigan’s mental health system, barriers within the system and ideas for improvement. A recording of the event is available to watch here.
The goal of this statewide tour is to facilitate a discussion among local mental health stakeholders and constituents to come up with recommendations for our state mental health system. Recommendations could include revising departmental policies, establishing new programs or continuing discussions through workgroups. Once the tour is complete, we will use the recommendations and data to pursue new legislation.
Thank a Veteran on Nov. 11
Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor all of our veterans who have sacrificed so much to protect our country. Thank a veteran for their service on Veterans Day, which is Thursday, Nov. 11. Also note that Veterans Day is a state and federal holiday, meaning many government offices will be closed.
Medicare Enrollment Period Open Through Dec. 7
The Medicare open enrollment period began Friday, Oct. 15, and goes through Dec. 7. During this period, you can shop for your Medicare 2022 Prescription Drug Plan or make changes to current Medicare coverage. Coverage for newly selected plans begins Jan. 1, 2022. Even if you are happy with your current plan, it is recommended to take the time to compare and make sure you are receiving the best possible coverage.
The Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) offers Medicare beneficiaries and their families assistance with understanding the eligibility process, enrollment, coverage, medical bills, Medicare supplementals and long-term care insurance. To get connected with a MMAP Counselor near you, call 1 (800) 803-7174 or go to https://mmapinc.org/ and click on “Get Started.”
Please don’t hesitate to contact my office at (517) 373-0587 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can help.