Legislative Update: June 2023
Safe Patient Care Act
I was the lead sponsor of a three-bill package known as the Safe Patient Care Act that protects both nurses and patients. House Bills 4550, 4551 and 4552 would:
- Set safe limits on the number of patients nurses can be assigned.
- End the rampant use of dangerous forced overtime.
- Require hospitals to be transparent about their actual nurse-to-patient ratios.
Health care is in crisis because of years of hospital nurse understaffing. Working conditions are driving nurses away from the bedside, and patients are dying. The only way to fix the problem is to improve working conditions.
House Passes Budget
The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed its recommended fiscal 2023-24 budget. It includes the largest investment in education in Michigan’s history, including free lunch and breakfast for every student and affordable pre-K for all, as well as substantial investments in workforce recruitment and retention, small businesses, and public safety. Other highlights include:
Support for Mental Health
- Mental health investments in schools: $300 million over two years.
- Behavioral health recruiting and retention: $5 million to fund scholarships and other recruiting tools to attract and support people interested in training to become behavioral health providers.
- Mental health courts: $1 million for increased investment in mental health problem-solving courts.
- Behavioral health services and support: $64.2 million for various behavioral health services and supports, including certified community behavioral health clinic expansion ($9 million); multicultural integration funding ($8.6 million); first responder mental health funding ($5 million); Families Against Narcotics ($5 million).
Support for Crime Victim Rights
- Victim support program: $1.9 million of ongoing allocations to make the Victim Support Program permanent.
- Crime victim rights funding: $24.4 million, with a $20 million restricted deposit from the newly created Crime Victim’s Rights Sustaining Fund, to increase funding for crime victims’ support programs to supplement federal Victims of Crime Act awards and the Crime Victims’ Rights Fund.
- Crime Victim’s Rights Sustaining Fund: $60 million for a fund deposit over three years.
Support for Higher Education
- Community colleges operations funding increase of $15.3 million, a 4.5% increase over fiscal 2022-23.
- Career and Education Navigators for Adult Learners: creates a $5 million fund for counties to apply for to supplement career and education navigators for adult learners.
- Higher education operational funding increased to almost $1.7 billion, a 6.4% increase in operations funding.
- $30 million to fund one-stop-shops for students at universities and community colleges to access public benefits and grants, specifically food, housing and mental health.
Support for Roads and Bridges
After decades of detrimental underfunding, our budget prioritizes funding critical upgrades to our local roads and highways. Highlights include:
- Local road funding: $400 million increased investments.
- Local disaster relief fund: $20 million
- Highway maintenance: $22.3 million additional funding for the division towards state trunkline road and bridge maintenance performed by state and private contractors.
Pretrial Fairness Package Introduced
I was the lead sponsor of a bipartisan, eight-bill package of bills known as the Pretrial Fairness package that frees up precious judicial resources by requiring pretrial release without money bail for low-level, non-assaultive, non-domestic violence and non-sexual offenses.
House Bills 4655-4662 will eliminate the injustice of thousands of inmates sitting behind bars as they await a criminal trial simply because they don’t have the money to post bail. Bail reform bills have been introduced in previous sessions, but it is now gaining the support of judges, defense attorneys, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and criminal justice organizations on both sides of the aisle.
Michiganders who can’t afford to make bail face serious consequences for minor offenses. They may lose their jobs while sitting in jail for a non-violent offense, and ultimately their housing. If they are unable to care for their children while in jail, Child Protective Services may step in; even parents awaiting trial for a non-violent traffic charge can risk losing custody.
Two-thirds of people housed in Michigan jails are awaiting trial, have violated parole or probation, or are delinquent on child support payments. Just one-third are serving sentences for charges that have been adjudicated.
The bills were referred to the House Committee on Criminal Justice, of which I am a member.
Crime Victims’ Rights Package
The Criminal Justice Committee took testimony on a bipartisan four-bill package addressing the rights of crime victims. My bill, House Bill 4421, requires the visual image of a victim to be blurred if the court proceeding is made available to the public by streaming over the Internet or other means. The remaining bills in the package will:
- HB 4422 expands the list of crime violations considered a “serious misdemeanor” under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) thus allowing the victims of these crimes’ protection under the act.
- HB 4423 allows victims to provide their impact statement remotely.
- HB 4420 allows a police officer or a prosecuting attorney to provide a domestic or sexual violence victim’s contact information to a domestic or sexual violence service provider agency under certain situations.
Foster Care Education Bill Introduced
I introduced a three-bill package, along with my colleague, state Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe), aimed at improving education for children in foster care.
We have been failing many of our youth in the foster care system, particularly as it relates to their education. Too often, foster youth have taken classes at residential facilities, only to later learn that those classes did not count toward graduation. Moreover, they have been forced to repeat grades or classes because they did not have access to their transcripts. Nationally, only about 54% of children in foster care earn a diploma or GED certificate by age 19.
Among the things House Bills 4676-78 will do include ensuring that children placed in foster care are provided an education that prioritizes meeting the graduation requirements of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. It also requires that foster care youth have the same access to their educational records as other students.
The bills also require the Michigan Department of Education to regularly review educational programs provided in residential facilities to ensure that the program complies with all rules and regulations, and require the Department of Health and Human Services to provide a report to the legislature on the educational outcomes of foster care youth.