Here is some information that I hope you will find helpful, including some updates and news from your state government.
But first, I want to express my condolences for the students lost during the senseless Feb. 13 shooting on Michigan State University’s campus. I wish the injured well as they continue to heal.
Democrats Introduce 11-Bill Gun Reform Package
Democrats in the Michigan Senate recently introduced an 11-bill package to help prevent accidents, suicides and violent shootings like the one that took place at MSU. Senate Bills 76–86 would require criminal background checks before the purchase of a firearm; require gun owners to safely store their firearms; and establish extreme risk protection orders, which allow the courts to temporarily remove firearms from those who pose a threat to themselves or others. A companion set of bills that I plan to co-sponsor will be introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives next week.
Legislation to Support Working Families
One of my first acts during this new session was to reintroduce two bills that would reduce financial strain on Michigan families. The Fair Scheduling Act (House Bill 4035) would create employee-scheduling standards for certain employers, including providing an estimate of earnings and a written work schedule 14 days before the work schedule begins. In addition to increasing financial stability, this legislation would allow employees to plan child care and make the most of their time away from work by pursuing their own education or by attending their children’s school or sporting events.
The Temporary Workers Bill of Rights (House Bill 4034) would require that temporary workers get the first chance at a permanent job if one becomes available. This legislation would bar employment agencies from sending temporary workers to a workplace where workers are on strike. It would also prohibit temp agencies from charging workers unfair fees to work and other exploitative practices.
These bills have been a passion of mine since I first joined the Legislature in 2019. This term, these improvements have the best chance of passing that they have ever had.
House Passes Bill to Repeal Retirement Tax, Raise Working Families Tax Credit
Earlier this month, House Democrats (minus one) and one brave Republican voted to:
- Repeal the retirement tax for public and private pensions, IRAs and 401(k)s. Total repeal will be implemented over four years for all but first responders’ pensions, which are immediately exempt.
- Raise the working families tax credit from 6% to 30% of the federal credit. This means more money in the pockets of people who work hard but who can’t get ahead. This change will benefit approximately 9,100 families in South Lansing and Holt! This change is retroactive for one year.
- Provide all tax filers with a $180 rebate on their personal income tax. This rebate will also benefit people who don’t pay income tax but who file for the home-heating credit or homestead exemption.
The bill has passed the Senate but failed to get enough votes to take immediate effect. Consequently, HB 4001 won’t go into effect until 90 days after this legislative term has ended. Unfortunately, this means that $180 tax rebates may not be sent out to tax filers.
Michigan Gets New Presidential Primary Date
The governor has signed legislation (Public Act 2) to move Michigan’s presidential primary to Feb. 27, 2024. This would make Michigan one of the first states to vote in the presidential primary. Details regarding implementation are still being worked on.
Gov. Whitmer Presents Fiscal 2024 Proposed Budget
Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer presented her fiscal 2024 budget at a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting. The total proposed budget is $79.4 billion, with $14.8 billion from the General Fund and $19 billion from the School Aid Fund.
Some of the highlights from the governor’s budget proposal include:
- $500 million for school infrastructure.
- $300 million to address health and safety issues in schools.
- $724.4 million for literacy grants and coaches, math intervention programs, tutoring, and other measures designed to address learning loss during the pandemic.
- $160 million to provide universal free breakfasts and lunches at K-12 public schools.
- $244 million to expand the Great Start Readiness Program.
- $140 million to temporarily expand the Michigan Reconnect program to students 21 and older.
- $210.1 million to raise wages for direct care workers by $1.50 per hour.
- $200 million to replace 30 more state and local bridges.
The governor’s proposal is the first step in the budget process. The House and Senate will each propose budgets, and negotiations will ensue. The budget should be completed by late spring.
Governor Signs $1.1 Billion Spending Bill, Funding for Affordable Housing
Gov. Whitmer signed the first act of the year on Jan. 31, which is the earliest a bill has been signed since 1947. This $1.1 billion supplemental includes:
- $150 million for the Housing and Community Development Fund.
- $100 million for the Revitalization and Placemaking Grants to transform unused business space into affordable housing or areas for outdoor dining.
- $75 million for blight elimination to demolish vacant residential, commercial and industrial structures.
- $75 million to support small businesses impacted by the pandemic.
- $25 million to expand apprenticeships for women, people of color, veterans, individuals with disabilities, individuals without the equivalent of a high school degree and those involved with the criminal justice system to earn credentials.
- $15 million to remove barriers to entering and staying in the workforce, such as transportation, child care and clothing.