In this e-newsletter:
- Upcoming Coffee Hour: Oct. 20
- Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit Introduced
- Morrow Dam Bill Voted out of Committee
- Affordable Care Act Bills Pass the Senate
- Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Extends Public Comment Period for Air Quality Actions at Graphic Packaging Intl.
- Halloween Traffic Safety
Friday, Oct. 20
9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. (please note the time)
Anna Whitten Hall on campus at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, 202 N. Rose St. in Kalamazoo
While advanced registration is not required, anyone who would like to RSVP or submit questions in advance may do so by emailing JulieRogers@house.mi.gov.
Research and Development Tax Credit Introduced
On Oct. 5, I joined four of my colleagues in introducing legislation to create a tax credit to support research and development (R&D) investment here in Michigan. More than 35 other states have these credits, and Michigan risks losing out on the economic benefits of investment in emerging technologies without this economic development tool. My bill in the package, HB 5101, would create a refundable tax credit for businesses with fewer than 250 employees who drive innovation by conducting R&D into promising products and processes. Small businesses conducting innovative research need long-term stability for planning multiyear investments. In Kalamazoo, we have an example of this kind of business, Genemarkers, which conducts research into pharmaceutical drugs and genetics. This package is forward-thinking and designed to provide the support necessary for long-term investments in the rewarding but often cost-prohibitive research into new science, engineering and manufacturing projects. Other bills in the legislative package include:
- HB 5099 (Hood) creates the eligibility factors for businesses to qualify and defines what activities constitute research and development.
- HB 5100 (Martus) allows for larger businesses with over 250 employees that invest in qualified R&D projects to qualify for the tax credit.
- HB 5102 (Puri) recognizes the important part our universities play in supporting R&D projects and provides an additional credit for projects which have expenses in developing innovative R&D.
I am hopeful that these bills will be taken up in the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee in the very near future!
Morrow Dam Bill Voted out of Committee
I testified alongside the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council on my bill, HB 4832, in the House Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation on Sept. 21. This bill would ensure dam operators are held responsible for manmade ecological emergencies they create. It gives the EGLE director the power to issue emergency orders to direct owners of structures on lakes and rivers to clean up environmental messes they make.
As you may recall, almost four years ago, the operator of the Morrow Dam on the Kalamazoo River lowered water levels around the dam to make repairs deemed necessary by federal regulators. Before beginning work, the company failed to share its plans and collaborate with EGLE resulting in 400,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment being released downstream into the Kalamazoo River. This sediment remains and is causing ongoing damage to the river’s ecosystem of fish, wildlife and vegetation.
Dam owners and operators should not be able to choose when or if they need to take responsibility for a human-created natural disaster. This bill ensures EGLE has the tools and authority to ensure responsible parties clean up after themselves.
After a great reception from committee members at the hearing, I worked with stakeholders to make some minor changes and am happy to report that it was voted out of committee and sent to the House Floor on Oct. 12! After years of work, we are one step closer to ensuring no other community will be left to clean up an ecological disaster caused by someone else.
Affordable Care Act Bills Pass the Senate
This month, the Senate passed five House bills (HB 4619-4623) which are part of the eight-bill package to codify the most popular and important consumer protection provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into Michigan law. Federal court cases in recent years have posed a threat to these vital protections; specifically, required coverage for preventive services is under threat by a decision in the case Braidwood Management v. Becerra. Michiganders have come to rely on the protections afforded under the ACA including prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage of individuals with preexisting conditions, guaranteeing that dependents up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health insurance and ensuring coverage for critical preventive care services.
My bill, HB 4619, would prohibit discrimination in offering health insurance based on gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation and prohibit charging a different rate based on race, color, creed, marital status, sex, national origin, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, resident, location of risk, disability or lawful occupation of risk.
HB 4620 was amended and sent back to the House for concurrence, but all other bills are headed to the governor’s desk for her signature. I expect the Senate Bills in the ACA package, SBs 356-358, will be voted out of the House very soon.
EGLE Extends Public Comment Period for Air Quality Actions at Graphic Packaging Intl. LLC
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Air Quality Division is extending the public comment period for two air quality related actions at Graphic Packaging International. LLC (GPI) until Oct. 31. This follows a public hearing and information session on Oct. 5, which was recorded and can be viewed here. I submitted comments to the department urging it to place GPI on a more stringent and frequent inspection schedule with additional monitoring as well as increased penalties in light of repeat violations. I encourage everyone in the community to submit comments so that the Air Quality Division understands the impact on our neighborhoods and residents.
You can submit comments on the proposed air permit and enforcement action in the following ways:
- By email to EGLE-AQD-PTIPublicComments@Michigan.gov.
- By voicemail by calling 517-284-0900.
- In writing to: Permit Section Manager, EGLE, AQD, P.O. Box 30260, Lansing, Michigan 48909-7760.
Additional information about the proposed permit and enforcement action is available on the Michigan.gov/EGLEPublicNotice website. Scroll down to the section on Graphic Packaging International LLC.
Halloween Traffic Safety
It’s that time of year again when our little ones are preparing to trick-or-treat and the potential for deadly interactions between vehicles and pedestrians increases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of deaths among young pedestrians (ages 5-14) is four times higher on Halloween evening than any other evening of the year.
AAA of Michigan has the following tips to keep Halloween safe for everyone:
- Drive slower through neighborhoods. Driving five miles per hour slower than the posted speed limit will give you extra time to react to children who dart out in front of you.
- Avoid distractions while driving, such as checking social media, sending a text message and talking on the phone.
- Drive sober. Over 40% of fatal crashes on Halloween night involve a drunk driver. Always designate a sober driver if you plan to drink any alcohol. Visit PreventDUI.AAA.com to learn more.
Parents and Other Adults Caring for Children
- If using social media, post pictures and updates before or after you go trick-or-treating. Avoid checking your phone while walking or supervising children.
- Walk with your children as they go door to door. Be sure to show them safe places to cross the street.
- Have children carry a glow stick or flashlight to help them see and be seen by drivers.
- Cross the street using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look both ways before crossing, and keep an eye on the road while you are crossing.
- Always walk facing traffic if there are no sidewalks available, and stay as far to the left as possible.
- Wear light-colored clothing or costumes with reflective material or tape for the best visibility.
- Stay in familiar neighborhoods. Only visit homes that have the porch light on, and never go into a stranger’s house.