In this e-newsletter:
- Coffee Hour with Rep. Rogers — Oct. 21
- Legislative Update
- Bill Introductions
- Youth Advisory Council Application Deadline Extended
- Veterans’ Day Ceremony at Rose Park
October Coffee Hour Discussion
Please join me for an informal in-person discussion of legislative and community issues at my next coffee hour:
Friday, Oct. 21
Walnut and Park Diner (newly open), 1324 Portage St. in Kalamazoo
While advance registration is not required, anyone who would like to RSVP or submit questions in advance may do so by sending an email to JulieRogers@house.mi.gov.
We will be following all CDC guidelines related to COVID-19. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, we ask that you please stay at home.
The Legislature passed a number of bills in just two active session days this month. Notably, we passed two large supplemental appropriations bills, one general and one specifically for education. We also passed several bills as part of an extensively negotiated package to enable clerks to pre-process absentee ballots, so that votes can be tabulated more quickly.
Supplemental appropriations bills make changes to the state General Fund or School Aid budget after the budget has already been enacted for that fiscal year. The budget for 2022-23 reserved a $7 billion surplus, which was mostly the result of federal aid and better-than-expected economic performance. Like the main budget, the supplemental funding bills were negotiated by a small conference committee and presented on the floor for an up-or-down vote.
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 844 to invest $1 billion, about 15 percent of that surplus, in economic development. Most of the funding will go to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, which funds site improvements, remediation and local and regional economic development projects. The SOAR Fund aims to develop the infrastructure and sites needed to attract and retain businesses in Michigan, rather than giving incentives directly to specific businesses. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will receive $72 million to support needs that include housing for kids in foster care and mental health services for first responders. The bill also includes a variety of infrastructure grants for local governments and $21.6 million to compensate Michiganders who were falsely accused of unemployment insurance fraud.
We also passed Senate Bill 842, which will provide $12 million to fund three years of literacy tutoring and enrichment services for K-12 students across the state. It also creates the Michigan Achievement Scholarship, which will provide yearly grant aid of up to $2,750 to students for community college, $4,000 for a private university in Michigan and $5,500 for a Michigan public university. Under the financial need criteria, 94% of community college students and 76% of public university students will qualify for the scholarship.
Both supplemental appropriations bills passed with bipartisan support. Gov. Whitmer has already signed the general supplemental into law, and she has said she will sign the education supplemental shortly.
Elections Administration Bills
The Legislature also passed a group of bipartisan election bills. The bills are designed to enable smooth and secure elections, given the changes to voting procedures in recent years. Senate Bills 311 and 8 enable service members stationed abroad to return their ballots electronically with military ID certification. Although these bills fail to allow service members’ spouses to return their ballots electronically (as other states provide), I voted for them because they are still an improvement in making voting accessible. The current system often disenfranchises service members because a significant portion of military ballots mailed back from overseas arrive too late to be counted.
House Bill 4491 streamlines the system by removing deceased voters from the Qualified Voter File, provides added security measures and documentation for absentee ballot drop boxes and allows clerks of larger municipalities to pre-process (but not count) absentee ballots. Absentee ballots require many additional steps before tabulation, including opening the envelopes and verifying signatures. Now that all voters are eligible to vote absentee, the volume of absentee ballots is much higher, representing more than half of ballots cast this past August. Clerks need time to pre-process absentee ballots in order to provide the sort of timely tabulation the public expects, and this is one of the main reasons I voted for HB 4491.
Lastly, House Bill 6071 allows polling locations to be placed on private property if suitable and accessible public or nonprofit locations were not available. Property owned by candidates or PAC sponsors could not be used. I voted against this bill when it was first in the House, because of concerns about language that appeared to allow increased consolidation of polling places for multiple precincts. Once it was clarified that the bill does not allow for combining polling places beyond current law, I supported the bill as part of the larger deal to improve election administration. The governor is expected to sign all four bills into law.
New Bill Introductions
I introduced five bills in September.
Protecting Servicemembers and Veterans from Housing Discrimination
House Bill 6414 amends the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to extend protections to veterans and service members in all types of real estate transactions, both rentals and home purchases. We all owe a special debt to those who serve in our armed forces. This bill will ensure they are treated as they deserve when looking for a home and that there is recourse if they encounter discrimination.
Federal law provides specific rights and protections against foreclosure and eviction to active-duty service members under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. But service members are not protected from discrimination on the basis of their military status itself. Adding military status as a protected category in the ELCRA would give the Michigan Department of Civil Rights the authority to investigate housing discrimination on the basis of military status and to enforce service members and veterans’ rights. Service members and veterans would also have their own rights to sue for discrimination under the ELCRA if HB 6414 becomes law. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security, where I serve as the Democratic vice chair.
Requiring Insurers to Cover Prenatal Lead Screening
I sponsored House Bill 6415 to require health insurance to cover lead screening during pregnancy. Lead screening in pregnancy is especially important because pregnancy can cause previously stored lead to be released into the bloodstream, exposing the developing fetus. If elevated lead levels are detected, treatment can improve pregnancy outcomes and prevent a baby from being born with lifelong health problems.
In 2010, the CDC first issued guidelines for screening for and managing lead exposure in pregnancy. Many adults have known lead exposure that would warrant lead screening during pregnancy. However, lack of insurance coverage or uncertainty about coverage often prevents patients from accessing this recommended screening. This bill will ensure that pregnant patients can confidently choose to get tested for lead to protect themselves and their families. HB 6415 has been referred to the House Committee on Rules and Competitiveness.
Improving Maternal and Infant Health
As a member of the Progressive Women’s Caucus, I was proud to sponsor a bill as part of a large package of bills aimed at improving maternal and infant health. My bill, House Bill 6442, would require Michigan to apply for a federal Medicaid waiver to eliminate the exclusionary 5-year post-immigration waiting period for Medicaid coverage for children and pregnant women who are lawfully present in the U.S. We all benefit when mothers and babies in our community have the care they need for a safe birth.
Joining the Interstate Compact on Occupational Therapy Licensure
House Bill 6446 would enter Michigan into the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact and enact the compact into state law. The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact currently comprises 22 other states and is intended to increase provider mobility, enable telehealth and protect consumers by sharing disciplinary information across state lines.
As a practicing physical therapist, I work hand in hand with occupational therapists to help people improve their health by building function and skills. I have seen the difference occupational therapy can make in a person’s life, but all too often, we don’t have the providers to meet those needs. Entering into this compact will improve Michiganders’ access to these vital professionals. HB 6446 will be formally read in and referred to a committee later this month.
Restoring the Adult Supervision Requirement for Minors with BB Guns
House Bill 6447 would require an adult to be present when minors use pneumatic guns such as BB, paintball and pellet guns outside their own home or yard. Allowing kids to use BB guns unsupervised can have tragic consequences. All too often, these guns are treated as toys. As with any other type of gun, it just makes sense to have an adult there to make sure kids are following safety precautions with pneumatic guns.
There was a tragic incident near Kalamazoo in 2021 where a 12-year-old boy, Deven Free, was shot with a BB gun while playing with other young teens. He ultimately died of his injury, and his family is working to raise awareness that BB guns are not toys.
Tens of thousands of Americans are injured by BB, paintball and pellet guns every year, and four out of five of those injured are under the age of 18. In cases where a child or teenager received a serious eye injury from a pneumatic gun, 89 percent were not supervised by an adult at the time. Until 2015, it was a misdemeanor in Michigan for a minor to use or possess a pneumatic gun outside their home or yard unless accompanied by an adult. House Bill 6447 would restore this requirement of adult supervision. The bill will be read in and referred to a committee later this month.
Deadline Extended: 60th District Youth Advisory Council
The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) will provide a forum for high school students who live in the 60th House District to meet with me to hear updates on what is happening in Lansing, ask questions and share their own thoughts, ideas or concerns. Participants will also work on legislative special projects, and those who complete the program will earn a certificate of recognition.
The 2022-23 YAC will run from October 2022 through May 2023. To be eligible, students must live in the 60th District (verify address with “Find My Representative”), submit a parental permission slip and be enrolled in grades 9-12. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m., Oct. 12. Apply online or by emailing JulieRogers@house.mi.gov for a printable pdf.
Veterans’ Day Ceremony
The Kalamazoo Veterans’ Service Office is holding a Veterans’ Day Ceremony at the Robert L. Cook Veterans Memorial Plaza at Rose Park (645 E. Michigan Ave. in Kalamazoo). The ceremony will be Friday, Nov. 11, from 2 to 3 p.m. All are welcome to attend.
Kalamazoo’s Holiday Parade
Once again, we will join our 60th District Service Office and march in the Kalamazoo Holiday Parade, which will take place in downtown Kalamazoo on Nov. 19 starting at 11 a.m. This year’s route has not yet been confirmed, but in past years it has been:
Start, Lovell & Jasper
Lovell to Park St.
Park St. to Michigan Ave.
Michigan Ave. to Pitcher St.
Pitcher St. to Lovell St., End.
As always, if you have ideas, questions or concerns please reach out to our office at JulieRogers@house.mi.gov.