Welcome to our Summer e-newsletter!
Included in this edition are some important legislative updates, community events and other resources I hope will prove helpful. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office by telephone at (517) 373-0820 or by email at FeliciaBrabec@house.mi.gov for questions about these or any other state-level issues.
Felicia A Brabec
33rd House District
Conversion Therapy Ban Signed Into Law
I’m so proud to announce that my bill package (HBs 4616–17) to ban licensed mental health professionals from performing conversion “therapy” on minors has been signed into law! I’ve been testifying in House and Senate committees for months alongside the legislation’s other sponsor, state Rep. Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), to protect Michigan children by getting these bills passed. After nearly a decade of futile introductions in a Republican-led state Legislature that wouldn’t even give the bills a hearing, this important legislation has finally become law under the new Democratic majority.
The outpouring of support this legislation has received from state and national mental health and LGBTQ+ organizations has been overwhelming and absolutely phenomenal. My background in clinical psychology has shown me the dangers behind this harmful practice, and I strongly believe we should be affirming our LGBTQ+ youth instead of trying to change who they are. Thankfully, no more Michigan children will be subjected to conversion “therapy” practices while under the care of a licensed mental health professional.
Check Your Heart Act Signed Into Law
In my last e-newsletter, I shared that the Check Your Heart Act to allow Michiganders to join the organ donor registry by indicating their willingness to do so on state income tax forms passed nearly unanimously in the House. Since then, the bills not only passed in the Senate, as well, but have been signed into law by Gov. Whitmer!
This act (HBs 4362, 4363 and 4364) provides an opt-in option for individuals to participate in the organ donor registry when filing taxes and, in turn, create more opportunities for Michigan residents to add their name to the organ donor registry and save lives. With the signing of these bills earlier this month, we can expect to see the Check Your Heart checkbox on state tax forms as soon as next year. I am so grateful for the hard work and collaboration of my colleagues, state Reps. Cynthia Neeley (D-Flint) and Natalie Price (D-Berkley), and of Gift of Life Michigan on this instrumental legislation. We did it, folks!
Committee Testimony on Fire Authority Legislation
I testified in the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance in support of my bill, HB 4360. This bill is the result of an issue brought to my attention by the Saline Area Fire Department. Last session, this bill was championed by then-Leader Donna Lasinski. Saline is home to a multi-municipal fire department that serves Saline, Lodi and the northern end of York Township — while the southern end of York Township is covered by the Milan Fire Department. This split in York’s coverage is due to the fastest response times, which is incredibly important in a case of an emergency, especially in more rural areas like York.
The issue comes about when we look at fire authorities and funding. Under current law, the Saline Fire Department is not allowed to become a fire authority in York Township without serving that township in full. That means the fire department’s increased funding needs within the fire authority would be applied to the entirety of York township, even though they only serve half of it. This bill would allow multi-municipal fire departments, like Saline’s, to become a fire authority without serving that township in full. This allows the fire authority to only increase funding from communities that they provide service to. Michigan is home to several fire departments that serve two or more communities, and these departments should be able to become a fire authority without increasing costs for those they don’t serve.
Returning Citizens Initiative Bills Pass the House
I am so proud to announce that the Returning Citizens Initiative bill package (HBs 4191, 4192, 4193 and 4194) has passed in the House! This legislation will codify an existing Secretary of State program that provides those recently released from prison with a driver’s license or state ID upon their release to help these returning citizens reintegrate into their communities. The Secretary of State will issue an official state personal identification card to the prisoner when eligible, and then deliver it to the Michigan Department of Corrections if the prisoner has not yet been released or to the address listed on the identification card if the prisoner is already released on parole. This important legislation is now in the Senate and has been referred to the Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety, where I hope to testify in support soon.
Successful reentry into society reduces the taxpayer burden and supports the community. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, formerly incarcerated people face homelessness 10 times more than the general public. This increases the likelihood of criminal recidivism and costs the taxpayers $50,000 per recidivism incidence. State IDs are necessary to find housing and employment, open bank accounts, and access public benefits that are crucial for reintegrating parolees into society. Successful reentry for returning citizens results in reduced child poverty rates, better cognitive outcomes for children, and better physical , behavioral, and mental health. It’s time to codify this tremendously successful program into state law.
Committee Testimony on Mental Health Parity Bill
I testified in the House Committee on Insurance and Financial Services in support of my bill to improve access to mental health and addiction treatment (HB 4707). Data shows that half of adult Michiganders with a mental health condition did not receive treatment in the prior year, and over 6 in 10 high school students with major depression went without treatment. Additionally, in 2021, around 11 Michiganders died every day by suicide or an opioid overdose. Without clearly defined standards in state law, children and adults can be denied or cut off too early from clinically appropriate mental health and substance use treatment.
When people are untreated or undertreated for mental health and substance use disorders, they are at increased risk of unemployment; housing insecurity; school absences and school failure; interactions with law enforcement; child welfare involvement; avoidable emergency department visits and hospitalizations; and early deaths from overdoses, suicide and untreated comorbid medical conditions. Our mental and physical health are inseparable, and our health care insurance should cover them the same.
My bill would amend state statute to require health plans to:
- Make coverage decisions consistent with generally accepted standards of care and based on transparent, publicly available treatment guidelines and service intensity or level of care tools developed by relevant clinical specialties.
- Cover treatment that addresses the underlying condition and not limit coverage to short-term acute symptom reduction.
- Close gaps in the continuum of care by ensuring parity with physical health for mental health emergency services, as well as intermediate levels of behavioral health care, such as residential behavioral health services and intensive outpatient therapy.
This important policy step will level the playing field and provide certainty for health plans, while also providing peace of mind for individuals and families who struggle with mental health and substance use conditions. Four states — California, Georgia, Illinois and Oregon — have already done so, and Michigan should follow suit. The bill will now head to the full House for a vote.
Child Marriage Ban Passes the House
On its fourth introduction in the Legislature, bills to ban child marriage in Michigan (HBs 4293-4302 and SBs 209-17 and 246) have finally become law. Previously, under Michigan law, children aged 16 and 17 could enter marriages with written consent of a parent or legal guardian. Children under the age of 16 were also permitted to enter marriages with permission from a judge and written consent from a parent or guardian. Unfortunately, even with these barriers, child marriage continued , often between young girls and men who were significantly older. Banning child marriage was long overdue.
Last year, Michigan’s child marriage laws contributed to our state receiving an “F” from Human Rights Watch for failing to protect children from exploitation and abuse. In the past three sessions, these bills were introduced in a Republican-led legislature, where my colleagues on the other side of the aisle refused to even give the bills a hearing. I’m proud that, with the new Democratic majority, we now had the ability to end this abuse once and for all.
Hate Crimes Act & Institutional Desecration Act Pass the House
In June, I was proud to vote YES to create the Michigan Hate Crime Act (HBs 4474–75). The FBI recently released its 2021 Hate Crime Report, which showed that, when compared to data from previous years, hate crimes are on the rise both statewide and nationally. Hate crimes are attacks against people because of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age. These attacks serve only one purpose — to terrorize and instill fear in every member of those communities.
Currently in Michigan, crimes that target someone on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability, or age are not considered hate crimes. For the first time in 35 years, we are updating hate crime laws to include these previously unprotected classes. This is an important step to protect all Michiganders and ensure those who commit these crimes are held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Additionally, houses of worship and communal institutions are woefully under-protected in Michigan, which is why I also voted to create the Michigan Institutional Desecration Act (HBs 4476–4477). Hate crimes including vandalism, defacement and desecration targeting houses of worship and cultural centers have increased in recent years, and it’s important to note that attacks against houses of worship terrorize all Michiganders of faith. Now is the time to be proactive to stop hate crimes and acts of violence fueled by fear and hostility.