It is an honor to write to you again as your representative in Lansing. Your input on issues in state government helps me to represent you better, so I hope you will contact me about the issues that are important to you. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my website at rabhi.housedems.com. Additionally, I will send these e-newsletters monthly to update you on legislation and community news. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me at email@example.com.
I look forward to working together to move Michigan forward.
Immigration policy has been a prominent topic of debate across the country particularly since November 2016. Federal and state elected officials emboldened by the outcome of November 2016 have prioritized extremist anti-immigrant policy including executive orders issued to limit immigration from specified countries in the Middle East and expand the power of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Many local communities have responded to this increase in hostility toward the immigrant population by enacting local ordinances, but now politicians in Lansing and Washington are trying to erode local control on this important issue.
Many communities have come together to establish or re-affirm their commitment to fostering an open and welcoming society. This includes passing ordinances to limit local involvement in federal immigration issues, allocating dollars to support marginalized groups of community members, and issuing statements of solidarity and unity. These local actions ensure that each person — no matter what they look like, who they are, or where they come from — is able to live with the respect and dignity they deserve as a community member.
In Michigan, some legislators have expressed their opposition to what they are defining as local “sanctuary” policies. House Bills 4105 and 4334 were introduced this year to prohibit and render unenforceable any local ordinance, law, policy, or rule that limits local participation in federal immigration law enforcement activities. Additionally, it would provide courts the ability to fine local elected or appointed officials who enacted or enforced the ordinance up to $7,500.
I believe HBs 4105 and 4334 run contrary to our values as Michiganders and Americans. By forcing local governments to participate in federal immigration enforcement activities, these bills only serve as another example of “big brother” policies that undermine our local communities and amplify the strength of our federal government. State government should respect local control and support each community’s efforts to recruit and retain talent, grow their economy, and create welcoming neighborhoods. Furthermore, forcing local governments to help in federal law enforcement becomes just another unfunded mandate leaving already limited local budgets on the hook to do the federal government’s job.
I am the son of an immigrant, a lifelong resident of Ann Arbor, and American citizen. Any success in my life is because I was raised in a welcoming community and open society. Instead of meddling in the affairs of local government by forcing locals to do someone else’s job, I believe that we should be working to create a welcoming state where we honor human dignity. Our economy and our cultural diversity is only enhanced by our immigrant neighbors, friends, and relatives. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to approach this issue differently and find ways to harness the many positive contributions that immigrants make. As a state, we deserve better than government overreach that attacks our neighbors, friends, and relatives. We deserve better than HBs 4105 and 4334.
Teacher and School Employee Retirement
The Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) was changed from a pension plan to a pension/401(k) hybrid plan in 2012. Although this seemed to be a settled issue, many legislators are looking to further erode how teachers and school employees will save for their future.
House Bill 4647 and Senate Bill 401 were recently introduced in their respective chambers to transition new teachers and school employees from the current hybrid system to a 401(k)-style plan. The bill sponsors claim that changing to this new system will save Michigan money. However, the non-partisan House and Senate Fiscal Agencies — which are similar to the Congressional Budget Office on a state level — reports that the transition charges alone would cost the state and our local school districts $410 million in the first full year of implementation, FY 2018-19, and an estimated $46.4 billion over the 40-year amortization period covered by the bill.
Years of reducing public school staff and having unreasonable assumptions increased pension costs to the school aid budget. According to the House Fiscal Agency, privatized school services, charter schools, lower teacher pay, and less members have contributed to increased pressures on the pension system and ballooning up an unfunded accrued liability, which the state is responsible to pay. Closing the system to new teachers and other school employees would heap billions of dollars in additional costs on top of what the state is already paying since the pension system would have to manage its investments more conservatively to ensure it can keep its promises.
Closing MPSERS to new school employees could also have dramatic impacts on the long-term fiscal health of the pension fund if term limited legislators fail to properly fund the transition. If the state cannot find the additional billions of dollars HB 4647 and SB 401 would require, then cuts would likely have to be made to classroom funding.
In addition to the fiscally irresponsible nature of these bills, there will be a significant impact on our schools and the quality of education for our children. Offering public school employees a plan that is likely to be substandard and subject to an unstable market will do little to attract and retain talented teachers particularly given the already low wages for school employees. Instead of talking about how to cut teacher benefits, we should be facing the ongoing shortage of teachers and substitutes by actually offering competitive salaries and benefits.
I strongly oppose the proposal to dismantle MPSERS. The only type of changes that I would support would be for the state to strengthen the long-term fiscal stability of the pension fund by continuing to pay down its current share of the costs. Instead of destroying pensions for school employees and jeopardizing existing retirees in the system, we should be looking at ways to strengthen and improve the viability of MPSERS so that we can continue to attract and retain the very highest quality teachers and school employees for our children and for future generations of Michiganders.
University of Michigan Bicentennial Anniversary
On May 17, I introduced and the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 98 to honor the University of Michigan on its bicentennial anniversary. As the state’s oldest higher education institution, it is important to reflect on our state’s founding intent to create a public education system for all.
The University of Michigan was founded as part of a broader vision for Michigan to foster comprehensive primary, secondary, and higher education institutions. The founding of the Catholepistemiad in 1817 — which later became the University of Michigan — was the start of Michigan’s tradition of commitment to the public support of education.
The University of Michigan moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in the same year that Michigan was admitted to the Union in 1837. For 200 years now, the country’s premier public higher education institution has been able to boast of its achievements because of the state’s investment in education. The University consistently ranks among the top schools in the United States, with undergraduate and graduate programs consistently earning one of the top ten rankings in the national reviews.
The University has played an integral role in shaping the culture and character of Ann Arbor. But the true scope of the University’s impact is felt through alumni on every continent and research projects that continually reshape communities across the globe. The passion for education and quality of instruction would have been unattainable without the support of public investment through taxpayer dollars.
For nearly 50 years, the funding for institutions of higher education has shifted from state support onto the backs of students and parents. Prospective Wolverines are responsible for more than 70 percent of the cost to maintain this global institution. High tuition resulting from state budget cuts now hampers social mobility and leaves our graduates with crippling debt.
On the 200th anniversary of the founding of the University of Michigan, let us reflect on the future of public higher education in Michigan and remember the pivotal role that our investments have played in the advancement of humanity. Let us consider what public higher education will become in the next two centuries if we continue this troubling trend of disinvestment. As we look to the future let us recommit ourselves to a public education system that is public, accessible, and affordable to all.
Democratic Health Care Bill of Rights
Last week the House Democratic Caucus introduced a new plan to protect health care in Michigan — a resolution to create a Health Care Bill of Rights. Defending your access to quality and affordable health care is important to me. We were elected to serve you and fight for things that matter. I know that ensuring every person’s right to quality and affordable health coverage — regardless of age, current health status, or past medical history — is a priority for the people of the 53rd District. At the end of the day, House Democrats and I want you to know that we are listening and looking out for you.
The Democrats’ Michigan Health Care Bill of Rights keeps critical parts of the Affordable Care Act in place in the state in the event that the American Health Care Act is passed. Our plan would:
- Protect People with Pre-existing Conditions: The Health Care Bill of Rights prevents people with pre-existing conditions from losing their protections, as is the case currently under the ACA.
- Stop the “Age Tax”: Seniors and other vulnerable adults who aren’t eligible for Medicare will be protected by banning insurance companies from increasing their rates. Under the GOP’s plan, seniors would be forced to pay five times more than what other people pay. Millions of people would also lose tax credits, causing their rates to skyrocket even more.
- Prevent Massive Rate Hikes: The Health Care Bill of Rights stops insurance companies from being able to raise the rates of people who get sick and need treatment or add coverage caps, which leave people with massive out-of-pocket costs.
- Protect Essential Health Benefits: Insurance companies won’t be able to deny Michiganders coverage for maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs, substance abuse services, preventive care, pediatric services, and hospitalization and emergency services.
Democrats will also fight back against the plan to cut almost $1 trillion from Medicaid, which would strip hundreds of thousands of Michiganders of health insurance. Such cuts could force people out of nursing homes and also force the closure of rural hospitals across Michigan.
Community Notices and Events
Keep cool this summer at one of Ann Arbor’s four public pools. Ann Arbor’s outdoor pools are at Fuller Park, Buhr Park, and Veterans Memorial Park. They opened on Saturday, May 27. The indoor pool at the Meri Lou Murray Recreation Center is now open as well. The Mack indoor pool is closed for the season.
Open Swim Hours (valid through June 18):
Buhr Park: Monday-Friday, from 3:30-7 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are noon-7 p.m.
Fuller Park pool and waterslide: open from 1-8 p.m. daily
Veterans Memorial Park pool and waterslide: Monday-Friday, 3:30-7 p.m. Weekend and holiday hours are noon-7 p.m.
Admission for the city pools is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and children. Children under 3 enter free with a paid adult. For information about season passes, go to http://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/play/Pages/Swimming.aspx.
Admission for the pool at the Meri Lou Rec Center is $8 for adults and $6 for youth. Children under 3 enter free. Summer passes are $80. For more hours and more information, go to http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/parks_recreation/mlm/meri_lou_murray_home.html.
Saturday June 3-22: Annual African-American Downtown Festival
A celebration of the contributions of African Americans to the development of Ann Arbor, held in what was once the city's African American business district. Features sales of food, art, beauty products, and collectibles by local African American businesses. Wellness screenings available onsite. Children’s games and interactive activities, including face painting, a bounce house, and much more. Entertainment by local bands, featuring gospel, jazz, rock, soul, and R&B ensembles.
9 a.m.-9 p.m., on Fourth Ave. between Ann & Catherine. Free admission. Contact my office for more information.
Saturday, June 3: Live on Washington – Neutral Zone
Fifth annual outdoor teen music and arts festival, curated and planned by teens, with two stages, street art activities, food vendors, and more. Full schedule at is available on Neutral Zone’s website.
3-10 p.m., E. Washington Ave. between 5th and Division. Free admission. Contact my office for more information.
June 9-16: Annual Green Fair: Office of the Mayor/Washtenaw County
Friday June 16-23: Annual Juneteenth Celebration
Celebration of the anniversary of the first reading in Texas of the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865 – more than 2 years after it was signed by President Lincoln. Entertainment TBA. There will also be activities for children.
Noon-6 p.m., Wheeler Park, N. Fourth Ave. at Depot St. Free admission. Contact my office for more information.