Happy Friday, District 9. My office and I have been very busy up in Lansing, and this week was no different. As we gear up for our upcoming fall constituent work period, I’d like to take a moment to update you on the legislation that was passed last week that I feel is important to District 9 residents.
Tuesday – Cleaning Up Asbestos Abatement
I voted to pass the final bill (HB 4771) in a package of bills that will require public entities to ensure that asbestos abatement contractors do not have criminal convictions related to environmental compliance. It is the hope that these bills (HB 4766–4771) will provide much-needed transparency to guarantee that repeat offenders are held accountable for harming our environment.
Wednesday – Making New Cars More Affordable and Increasing Government Transparency
(Content warning: sexual assault/harassment)
First, we passed a set of bills, HBs 4939 and 4940, that, together, exclude manufacturer rebates for the purchase, or lease, of cars from sales and use tax. This rebate will bring Michigan (home of course, to Detroit, the Automotive Capital of the World) in line with 21 other states that exclude manufacturer rebates from the sales and use tax, a much-needed catalyst for individuals to purchase or lease new cars, stimulating our state’s economy and supporting our automotive industry.
Next, we passed two bills, HBs 4920 and 5281, that collectively work to increase transparency around settlement agreements involving public officials by requiring public disclosure, upon request, of certain information included in settlement agreements regarding sexual harassment or sexual assault claims made against a legislator or another elected official. These bills include additional amendments that would protect survivors of assault from being inadvertently disclosed.
Thursday – Recording Government Meetings and Protecting Survivors
(Content warning: sexual assault and child abuse)
Continuing this week’s trend of increasing transparency, I voted to pass HB 4705, a bill requiring that all state public body meetings be recorded. This would provide greater access to state decision-making, as well as greater participation and input, hopefully leading to better and fairer rules. While public hearings are a required part of the rule-making process, it is rarely practical for most Michigan residents to be able to attend. Recording these meetings allows all Michiganders the opportunity to hear the discussions and see firsthand the decision-making process.
Next, HBs 4851 and 4852 work collaboratively to prohibit an individual from using their professional authority over another to prevent them from reporting crimes relating to sexual abuse and child abuse, as well as the reporting of sexual misconduct to Title IX Coordinators. This bipartisan package creates just one more tool to prevent the obstruction of justice in instances involving these crimes.
Finally, HB 4856 protects information revealing the identity of a sexual misconduct survivor proceeding anonymously in a civil lawsuit from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This bill strives to protect survivors from the risk of physical or mental harm from their abuser(s) or to simply preserve their privacy as it relates to a sensitive and personal matter.
While that concludes my report of beneficial bills that were passed last week, I must also touch on a bill that unfortunately came before me on the House floor. This bill is of course none other than HB 5097, a bill to prohibit the teaching of race or gender in our classrooms. This bill was passed without even acknowledging the voice of my black colleague, Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson, who had a right to speak on the controversial legislation. As House Democrats held their vote to allow Rep. Johnson a chance to speak, the Republicans closed the voting board. It was at that point that my Democratic colleagues and I decided to walk out of Session in protest — this move by Republicans was completely unacceptable, and I will not stand by and allow Black and brown voices to be silenced.
Other bills passed by the Michigan House of Representatives this week include: