This month’s Coffee with Christine will be held at the Oshtemo Township Building, 7275 W. Main St., Kalamazoo, MI 49009 on July 21 at 10:30 a.m. Note that the date is a change from our regular schedule due to a scheduling conflict. We will return to the fourth Thursday of the month again in August. Also, starting this month, we will move the start time to 10:30 a.m. for the rest of the year. I always look forward to meeting constituents face to face, answering questions and hearing your concerns directly.
My colleagues and I worked in a bipartisan fashion to deliver a timely, responsible budget that ensures federal funding stays in Michigan. This budget reflects Michigan’s values by making the largest investment in education in the state’s history, providing free breakfast and lunch for every public-school student, expanding the accessibility of pre-K for 4-year-olds, and making substantial investments in workforce recruitment and retention, water infrastructure, and public safety.
This was my first time serving on the Appropriations Committee, and it was a big learning experience for my staff and me. It was an honor to have such a hands-on role with the 2024 budget. As promised in last month’s newsletter, I wanted to include several highlights. For my district, I was proud to secure the following:
- $4 million for the Western Michigan University Autism Center of Excellence to expand services for children with severe needs.
- $2.2 million infrastructure grant for Texas Township to help address long-term flooding issues on local lakes.
- $1.75 million for the city of Portage to build a new farmers market.
In total, myself, state Sen. Sean McCann and state Rep. Julie Rogers were able to secure $32.2 million in enhancement grants for the Kalamazoo area. You can read our joint press release here to learn about some of the other projects included.
As many of you know, I am serving as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. Chairing this budget was a huge honor but also a monumental task. In all, this budget totals $35.7 billion and makes up about 40% of our state’s General Fund dollars. We included local projects that will touch health care systems in every part of the state, provided record funding to improve our juvenile justice system, and made historic investments in improving maternal and infant health outcomes. In addition, some portions of the budget that I would like to highlight are:
- $120.2 million to support an additional $0.85 per hour wage increase for direct care workers.
- $10 million for the Michigan Agricultural Surplus System to purchase additional surplus agricultural products to be distributed to food banks throughout the state through the Food Bank Council of Michigan.
- $279.7 million to include 19 additional Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics organizations/sites. These provide 24-hour crisis services, screenings, treatment planning, outpatient behavioral health services, outpatient primary care, target case management, psychiatric rehabilitation and peer support.
- $10 million to implement a statewide foster care respite network to provide temporary, occasional relief to existing foster parents with the goal of keeping existing foster homes open.
- $30 million for Crime Victims’ Rights Sustaining grants.
While we are in the summer months, moving legislation tends to slow down since we are away from Lansing. However, right before we moved into our summer in-district work period, Sen. McCann and I reintroduced legislation to expand the bottle deposit law. Among other reforms, the bills would:
- Require universal redemption, allowing consumers to take any recyclable containers to a large store while allowing smaller stores to maintain smaller takebacks.
- Create a bottle-handling fund to reimburse distributors and dealers on a per-bottle-basis.
- Make funding available for audits and fraud enforcement.
- Provide $25 million each year to address contaminated sites.
Since the original bottle deposit law was a ballot initiative, this legislation will require a three-fourths vote in both the House and Senate. I look forward to working with Sen. McCann and stakeholders to help make any changes needed to help this legislation pass. By updating our current bottle return system and adding additional incentives, we can continue to solidify Michigan as one of the leaders in our nation when it comes to bottle returns.
Kalamazoo Job Fair
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Kalamazoo Job and Resource Fair for Individuals on Parole and Probation. This event was a collaboration of the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) and Michigan Works! Southwest. MDOC Director Heidi Washington joined the event and highlighted the commitment by MDOC to help produce better outcomes for those in the criminal justice system. Events like these are critical to giving second chances, lowering recidivism rates, and supporting our workforce across the state. I was proud to see such a high turnout by both employers that are hiring and those seeking employment.
The goal of MDOC is to rehabilitate those that enter the system so once they leave, they can return to their communities and stay out of the criminal justice system in the future. As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, I was proud to support funding that increased investments in higher education opportunities for inmates, continued funding for MDOC’s vocational village, and several other programs that support individuals once they have been released from prison. This funding aligns with MDOC’s goals and will have a positive impact on individuals that utilize these resources.
Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Listening Tour
As chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I was proud to include $6.8 million in this year’s budget to help fund an Office of Community Violence Services and a community grant program. With this new funding, I wanted to visit communities that are currently working in the CVI space to learn about the services they provide to the areas that they serve. This will help me to learn what aspects of CVI are working and where we can improve. I plan to have a few stops around the state, one of which will be in the Kalamazoo area. More details will be available in the coming months.
Thank you all for staying connected with my updates. As always, please feel free to reach out to my office at any time should you have questions or concerns about any legislative or local issues. My office can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 373-8670, and any friends or neighbors who wish to join my mailing list can do so here.
House District 40