Welcome to our February 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
State Representative, 33rd House District
Virtual Coffee Hour
Please join me for our next Coffee Hour! This is an opportunity to chat, ask me questions and share how I can best represent you in Lansing. I will be hosting my Coffee Hour virtually this Saturday, Feb. 25, from 9-10 a.m. It will be streamed via Zoom and my Facebook page. We hope to see you there!
School Counselors Bill & Resolution
Earlier this month, I introduced a bill (House Bill 4081) that would require at least one school counselor to be employed by a school district, intermediate school district or public school academy for every 250 students enrolled. Last term, I introduced a version of this bill to require one school counselor for every 450 students. However, research shows that smaller ratios lead to better achievement outcomes for students and help counselors manage their caseloads more appropriately. That’s why, this year, my bill follows the national model recommended by the American School Counselor Association and requires one counselor for every 250 students.
According to recent data released by the American School Counselor Association, Michigan had the third-worst student-counselor ratio in the country for the 2021-22 school year with one counselor being responsive to 615 students. School counselors are charged with providing critical guidance and support on students’ current academic classes, career and technical education, post-secondary education, admissions and preparation for careers. They also work with students to address struggles with mental illness, stress and bullying. School counselors are crucial to the success of students’ educational experience.
Michigan lags behind in recommended student-counselor ratios and is well below the national average. This legislation is a great first step in addressing the counselor shortage facing our students and schools. Along with HB 4081, I also introduced a commemorative resolution (HR 32) declaring Feb. 6-10, 2023, as National School Counseling Week in the state of Michigan. The resolution was adopted, and HB 4081 was referred to the House Health Policy Committee for further consideration.
Fiscal 2024 Executive Budget Recommendation
Gov. Whitmer recently presented her fiscal 2024-25 executive budget recommendation during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, which I took part in as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. It was exciting to hear firsthand how our governor plans to guide Michigan toward becoming a state where everyone can afford to live, work and raise a family.
The executive recommendation highlights key areas, including public safety, higher education, infrastructure and lowering costs for Michiganders. Some of my personal favorite recommendations from the governor are:
- Expanding access to behavioral health care programs.
- Increasing funding for Indigent Defense Commission grants.
- Boosting the working families tax credit.
- Free breakfast and lunch for all public school students.
- Creating a Juvenile Justice Services Division within the State Court Administrative Office.
- Increasing access to affordable insulin by manufacturing it here in Michigan.
- Pre-K for all.
I look forward to working with Gov. Whitmer and my colleagues in the Michigan Legislature to deliver on these goals. Read the complete FY24 executive recommendation here.
Senate Gun Violence Prevention Bills Introduced
Last week, my Democratic colleagues in the Senate introduced an 11-bill gun violence prevention package following the tragic mass shooting at Michigan State University that took the lives of three young students and critically injured five more. I will be introducing identical bills with my colleagues in the House next week. This legislation is years in the making, and it tackles three huge gun reform priorities: universal background checks (SBs 76, 77, and 78), safe storage requirements (SBs 79, 80, 81, and 82), and extreme risk protection orders (SBs 83, 84, 85, and 86).
Twenty-one states, including Michigan, have some sort of background check law regarding the purchase of firearms. However, current Michigan law only requires background checks on the purchase of pistols and other handguns but does not require them on the purchase of long guns. With the Senate legislation, Michigan could join 14 other states, along with the District of Columbia, that have already implemented universal background checks for all firearm sales. Universal background checks have wide support in Michigan and are one of the most basic steps we can take to diminish the gun violence we’ve witnessed in our state and throughout the nation.
Secure storage requirements have been a personal priority of mine since I was first elected to the House. While many responsible gun owners do lock their firearms up properly, still, every year, nearly 350 children under the age of 18 unintentionally shoot themselves or somebody else in this country. We have a chance and a responsibility to change the culture around keeping guns responsibly and securely stored. Moreover, secure firearm storage requirements can also help us curb the tide of school shootings in our state, preventing any potential mass shootings before they are even planned. Some 80% of shooters in school shootings under the age of 18 used a firearm from their home or from the homes of friends or relatives. By keeping guns properly stored, we prevent even the potential misuse of those weapons by young people looking to do harm.
Finally, creating extreme risk protection orders would allow a court to prohibit someone from buying or possessing a gun if they are exhibiting behavior that would make them a threat to themselves or others around them. Police officers, family and school personnel can petition a judge to stop someone from buying or possessing a gun if they have probable cause. If a judge grants a temporary extreme risk protection order, a hearing will occur within three to six days to determine if the order is necessary. The goal of this legislation is to decrease the frequency of both mass shootings and suicide. Suicide by firearm makes up two-thirds of all deaths by firearm and 50% of all suicides. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, more than 67% of all veteran suicides are by firearm. This legislation works to address all of these concerns.
Ice Storm Power Outages
The Michigan State Police are reminding citizens to use extreme caution as recovery efforts are underway after a winter storm brought snow, wind, and ice, leading to power outages, downed trees, and power lines.
As of Thursday morning, Consumers Energy and DTE are reporting more than 680,000 customers without power. The Michigan State Police’s Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division is working with local emergency management partners to ensure communities have all the resources they need to respond and recover. Citizens who have lost power are encouraged to remain vigilant and patient as utility companies work to restore power. Below are some reminders on how to stay safe during a power outage:
- Stay at least 25 feet from any downed lines and assume that every line is “live” and dangerous.
- Call 911 to report a downed power line.
- If clearing trees or limbs, make sure they are not in contact with a power line. Trees and branches can conduct electricity and electrocute you on contact.
- Report outages to your utility company.
- Never run a generator indoors. Place it is outside, far away from windows or any other area where exhaust can vent back into a living area. Carbon monoxide can cause injury or death.
- Check on elderly and disabled neighbors to ensure they are safe.
- Use battery-powered lanterns, if possible, rather than candles to light homes without electrical power. If you use candles, make sure they are in safe holders away from curtains, paper, wood or other flammable items. Never leave a candle burning when you are out of the room.
- Use extreme caution when driving. If traffic signals are out, treat each signal as a stop sign. Come to a complete stop at every intersection and look before you proceed.
Winter Warming Centers & Temporary Weather Havens
The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County is providing emergency shelter for homeless individuals until March 31. No pre-registration is necessary for daytime warming centers, but individuals must call Housing Access of Washtenaw County ((734) 961-1999) to obtain a referral to the Delonis Center’s overnight warming center. For those seeking shelter after 5 p.m., there will be onsite assistance provided at the Delonis Center (312 W. Huron St. in Ann Arbor). For more information about Washtenaw County’s warming centers, click here.
In addition to many warming centers, Washtenaw County also has 16 temporary weather havens for those needing to temporarily escape adverse cold conditions. The locations include several libraries, malls and the Washtenaw County Human Services building. Find more information about our temporary weather havens here.
Detroit St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Join thousands of Michiganders for one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the country at Detroit’s 65th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 12, at 1 p.m. The parade, typically attracting 80,000-100,000 people, will begin near Sixth Street and Michigan Avenue and will continue west to14th Street in Corktown. Hosting the parade since 1958 is the United Irish Societies (UIS), which includes more than 35 Irish organizations across Metro Detroit. Funds brought in from the parade will support the UIS-selected charities the Pope Francis Center and Mary’s Mantle.