I hope this e-newsletter finds you and your family healthy and well. As we launch into another beautiful spring in Lansing, please continue to stay in touch with my office as we work together to make our city and state even better. I am excited to share more information with you about what my team and I have been working on, resources to help you and your neighbors and ways you can get more involved in our state government. Remember, you are welcome to reach out to my office at any time with questions, concerns or feedback about how we can better serve the Lansing community.
State Representative, 68th House District
Upcoming Virtual Coffee Hour
Please join us for a virtual legislative coffee hour on Monday, April 26, from 5-6:30 p.m. These community hours are a great opportunity to engage with my team and ask me questions directly about activity in the Capitol. Please RSVP by clicking here, and my office will email you the Zoom login credentials on the day of the event. I hope to see you then!
When: Monday, April 26, from 5-6:30 p.m.
How: RSVP by clicking here.
The past few months have seen progress on policy issues ranging from social justice to economic policy and health care. Below are a few highlights on bills I sponsored and important legislation I supported on the House floor. To read more about these bills and all of the legislation I have sponsored and co-sponsored, visit www.legislature.mi.gov.
MI CROWN Act
I was proud to reintroduce the Michigan CROWN Act in the form of House Bill 4275. This legislation would prohibit race-based hair discrimination in Michigan or the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles, including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots. The language specifies that hair is a trait historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” has been passed in 8 states with pending legislation in 32 other states. Last month, Ingham County made headlines as the first county in the state to pass the CROWN Act.
This form of racial discrimination impacts countless men, women and children every day. Our Michigan coalition of support is growing, and I am optimistic we will receive a hearing on HB 4275 this term. To learn more about our efforts, watch my press conference or visit www.micrown.org.
Removing Barriers for Veterans
On March 25, the Michigan House unanimously passed House Bill 4377. I proudly sponsored this bill as part of a bipartisan, bicameral legislative package to establish licensing reciprocity for veterans, active duty military and reservists, along with their spouses and dependents. My bill covers professions licensed in the occupational codes, ensuring members of the military and their families can hit the ground running when they come to Michigan if they have a license in good standing from another state.
Ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work
I recently joined a bicameral coalition of Michigan Democratic legislators to introduce a package of bills aimed at closing the glaring gender pay gap that persists in our state. My bill in the package, House Bill 4577, would require the written consent of an employee before an employer could garnish their wages.
I also sponsored House Resolution 64 declaring March 24, 2021, as Equal Pay Day in Michigan. While this day serves as a symbolic reminder of the gender wage gap, the disparities it represents have very real implications for Michigan’s women and our state’s economy. As women and working mothers increasingly become breadwinners for their households, too many are getting short-changed on their hard-earned wages, with lasting impacts on their ability to build financial security and overall wealth—not to mention drastically limiting their savings and retirement options. Women deserve equal pay for equal work, and I will not rest until we have achieved this important economic milestone for women.
Watch my full speech on the House floor here.
Putting an End to Prison Gerrymandering
I was proud to introduce House Bill 4276 that would put an end to the practice of prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners, for census purposes, by their pre-incarceration address. ‘Prison gerrymandering’ requires the state to count inmates in the region that prisons are located, rather than the community an incarcerated individual came from. This practice unjustly awards extra political and voting power to regions in which prisons are located, even though incarcerated individuals cannot vote or participate in the surrounding community. In Michigan, there are three communities where at least 40% of the city or village’s population is made up of incarcerated individuals, including St. Louis, Mich., whose population is nearly 50% incarcerated individuals. In 2018, the majority of our state cast a vote for districts to more accurately reflect the makeup of our communities. Accurate representation goes far beyond political party, and this legislation will ensure incarcerated men and women are not used as a springboard to further a political agenda.
Banning Child Marriage
For the last three years, I have been leading the effort in the state Legislature to end child marriage in Michigan. This is a very real and devastating problem for kids across the world, including right here in our state. Between 2000 and 2018, at least 5,259 children were married in Michigan alone, some as young as 14.
I reintroduced this important legislation through House Bills 4226, 4227 and 4229. Taken together, the bills would ban marriage for anyone under the age of 18—no exceptions. The bills have been referred to the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors.
Watch our PSA about the dangers of child marriage here.
Supporting Michigan’s Corrections Officers
In March, we received hearings on two bills I sponsored to change policies related to state corrections officers. The first bill, House Bill 4119, establishes the same accountability and transparency standards for corrections officers as we have in place for other types of law enforcement. Specifically, the bill would ensure personnel records are handled in a professional and appropriate manner in the event of an employee separation due to misconduct. The second bill, HB 4468, creates a framework and independent board for wellness and mental health services for corrections officers. The goal is to ensure they have the professional support and mental health care they need to effectively do their jobs and lead full, productive lives.
Corrections officers carry out an essential service in our state, yet unfortunately, their hard work and sacrifices are often overlooked. Both HB 4119 and 4468 have bipartisan support and are part of broader efforts over the last few legislative sessions to ensure corrections officers are afforded not only the same level of professionalism and legal protections as other members of law enforcement, but also the same level of oversight and accountability.
House Passes Health Care Reform Package
One of my top priorities as your state representative is to ensure all Michiganders have access to high-quality, affordable health care. That’s why I am excited to share more information with you about a bipartisan 14-bill health care reform package that was recently passed by the House. The package seeks to address many health care concerns in Michigan, including curbing the costs of prescription drugs, increasing transparency of pricing for prescription medication, eliminating conflicts of interest in the pharmaceutical industry and capping the copay for insulin.
The Health Care Reform Package includes provisions that would:
- HB 4345: Require insurers to give insured individuals credit for cost savings when they purchase certain less expensive drugs from an out-of-network pharmacy.
- HB 4346: Cap the copay for a 30-day supply of insulin at $50 for each prescription.
- HB 4347: Require drug companies to file a report with DIFS within 30 days of increasing the wholesale acquisition cost of qualified prescription drugs by 15%+ in a given year, or 40%+ over a 3-yr period.
- HB 4348: Address licensing and regulating pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs).
- HB 4349: Require hospitals to post online or otherwise make available a written or electronic copy of its charge description master (list of standard charges).
- HB 4350: Amend the Health Care False Claim Act to modify the exceptions to the general prohibition against kickbacks, bribes and rebates for furnishing health care goods, services and benefits.
- HB 4351: Prohibit a PBM from reimbursing federally designated 340B entities for pharmacy-dispensed drugs at a lower rate than that paid for the same drug to pharmacies that are not 340B entities.
- HB 4352: Prohibit gag clauses in PBM contracts.
- HB 4353: Require that all payments made by or on behalf of an insured person go toward a patient’s deductible and out-of-pocket costs.
- HB 4355: Allow a health professional licensed in another state to practice that health profession through telehealth in Michigan without obtaining a license.
- HB 4356: Allow certain eye examinations and evaluations (contact lens renewals) to occur via telemedicine, under certain circumstances.
- HB 4357: Prohibit drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors from offering or giving a “gift” ($63 per month) to a prescriber when engaged in a sales, promotional or other marketing activity for a prescription drug.
- HB 4358: Prohibit an insurer from forcing a patient to change medications for non-medical reasons, except under certain circumstances.
- HB 4359: Allow a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) to provide anesthesia without physician supervision, under certain circumstances.
To read these bills in their entirety, you can visit www.legislature.mi.gov.
All Michiganders age 16 and up are now eligible to receive a vaccine. You can register to receive your vaccine through the Ingham County Health Department or through any of the systems below:
Residents who don’t have access to the internet or who struggle to use a computer can call the state’s COVID-19 Hotline at (888) 535-6136, which is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also call United Way at 2-1-1 for help with scheduling at vaccination clinics.
The number of COVID cases in Michigan continues to rise, so please continue to wear your mask, stay socially distanced and remain vigilant.
COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) Program
The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is administering a new program with the assistance of nonprofit agencies across Michigan to help those facing the threat of eviction. The COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) Program can provide support to those who are struggling to cover both rent and utility bills, so they can retain their housing stability. Renters and landlords can get more information by clicking here.
As you may know, Gov. Whitmer released her executive budget recommendation for fiscal year 2021 back in February. Below you will find some highlights from her recommendation. I hope to see many of these priorities funded in the House recommendation which we expect to see in the coming weeks:
Education and Children
The executive budget recommendation provides the resources needed to help students across the state recover from the pandemic. The proposed investment would decrease disparity among districts across Michigan, help address any learning loss experienced during the pandemic and provide greater funding equity for students.
- $203 million increase in base foundation allowance
- $14.1 million increase in additional weights
- $32.2 million for the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP)
- $3.5 million in supports for children in foster care
- $126 million for the governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund
- $200 million for school districts grappling with declining enrollment through the pandemic
- $2.9 million to address educator shortages
- $55 million for Filters First program to begin statewide implementation of drinking water fixture replacements in schools
- $70 million to help colleges and universities with COVID-19 measures
- $37 million to increase operations funding for universities and community colleges
The executive budget recommendation would strategically invest one-time resources to kick-start infrastructure improvement in Michigan by repairing and replacing crumbling bridges, protecting surface and ground water resources and mitigating hostile cybersecurity threats, including:
- $300 million one-time down payment to repair or replace approximately 120 local bridges out of an estimated 1,000 that will need repair within the next 5 years
- $290 million for the MI Clean Water Plan to support numerous grants that will target various wastewater infrastructure projects
- $20 million to mitigate advanced persistent cyber threats to the State of Michigan by supporting vulnerability assessments and testing, enhanced cloud security, and expanded monitoring, management and analytical tool capabilities
In order to keep Michiganders healthy, the budget recommendation would build investment around maintaining critical benefits extended during the pandemic, addressing disparities in health care highlighted by the ongoing public health crisis, and investing in the physical and mental health of our children and seniors, including:
- $360 million to maintain the $2/hr wage increase for direct care workers permanently
- $8.4 million to reduce racial and economic health disparities
- $2.1 million to create a Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office within MDHHS
- $6.7 million for a sickle cell disease initiative
- $19.1 million to expand the MiChoice Program
- $7.4 million to expand infant home visiting services
- $91 million for behavioral health
- $26.5 million for integrated behavioral health services for adults in Michigan
- $15 million for critical maintenance and repair of the state’s five psychiatric hospitals
- $37.5 million for nursing homes ot address lost revenue during COVID-19 emergency
- $10 million for the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund
Clean Energy and the Environment
Gov. Whitmer’s budget recommendation calls for funding to protect the environment, including:
- $40 million in grants to local governments for high water and resilient infrastructure needs
- $15 million for the Dam Safety Emergency Fund
- $20 million for contaminated site cleanup
- $5 million to support energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at state facilities for the Green Revolving Fund
- $5 million for the Michigan Saves Green Bank
Supporting Working Families and Businesses
The budget recommendation calls for funding to bolster economic recovery efforts and support for working families and businesses, including:
- $120 million for the MI Reconnect Program, which I was a proud legislative sponsor of
- $60.4 million for the Futures for Frontliners Program
- $6 million for MI Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners wraparound services pilot
- $3 million for a statewide pre-apprenticeship program
- $25 million for a new statewide collaboration advancing the future of mobility
- $15 million increase for Going Pro training grants
- $370 million to expand child care options
- $2 million in supports for child savings accounts and improve financial literacy
- $5 million for a home health and safety pilot program
To build thriving, sustainable communities, the executive recommendation funds these priorities:
- $15.4 million in constitutional revenue sharing payments
- $9.7 million in one-time revenue sharing increases for counties, villages, cities and townships
- $70 million in relief to city governments for overcoming income tax revenue losses as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
- $5 million for first responder recruiting and training grants for local governments
- $5 million to create a safer Capitol Complex
The budget recommendations recognize the important bipartisan work on justice improvement efforts done in partnership among all 3 branches of state government. It provides:
- $31.4 million increase for the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission
- $29.1 million to implement the “Raise the Age” changes
- $20.1 million to implement the legislative package for criminal record expungement programs
- $10.2 million for de-escalation training for law enforcement
- $325,700 to support the work of pretrial reform efforts
- $200,000 for the Michigan Legal Help program
The House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees are in the later stages of putting together their budget recommendations for each section of the state budget. While I no longer serve on the Appropriations Committee in the House, please know I remain highly engaged in the budget process and will continue to fight for the priorities of the capital region.
We have also seen special supplemental funding passed this spring focusing specifically on COVID-19 relief. Governor Whitmer signed House Bill 4047 into law on March 9, 2021. Now Public Act 2 of 2021, the legislation appropriated $2.3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds for vaccinations, testing, food assistance, emergency rental assistance and support for businesses that have been hit the hardest by this pandemic. While I hoped this bill would include a larger amount of federal relief funding for Michigan, I voted yes on this bill because the people of our state cannot afford to wait on this relief funding any longer.
House Bill 4048 was also signed into law, although Gov. Whitmer line-item vetoed certain provisions added by the Republican majority that would have limited the state’s ability to implement important public health and safety guidelines. The bill on the whole would have allocated roughly $840 million of state and federal funds for schools to return to in-person learning, prepare summer school programs and develop other programs to help students catch up on their academic losses from the pandemic. I voted against this legislation because the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a very real threat to the people of this state, and we should keep all tools at our disposal to keep Michiganders safe.
Despite these gains, the legislative majority in the House left $4 billion in federal funding on the table by failing to allocate all of the funds available for Michigan. This money could have paid for extra supports for our schools and frontline workers, additional testing and vaccine distribution to help combat the current surge of COVID-19 cases. This is not a matter of politics—it’s a matter of safety and providing for hardworking Michiganders as we work to navigate this persistent public health crisis. Our state deserves better, and I want you to know that I will not stop fighting until you see the relief you need.
Youth Advisory Council
The spring 2021 Youth Advisory Council (YAC) is well underway. The YAC is made up of twelve emerging leaders in the Greater Lansing region. Throughout the spring, my team and I will virtually meet with YAC members to discuss ways we can better serve young people in Lansing and learn more about state government. I have been very impressed with the ideas they have shared so far and I look forward to continuing to get to know them better as the program continues. Keep an eye on my Facebook page to learn more about each member in the coming months!
State, Federal, Local Tax Deadlines Moved Back
State of Michigan and federal individual income tax annual returns are now due on May 17, 2021, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. More information about e-filing is available at michigan.gov/mifastfile. The deadline for city of Lansing income tax returns has also been moved back to June 1, 2021.
MI Reconnect Program
You may have heard about the recent launch of the Michigan Reconnect Program, a state-administered program creating a tuition-free pathway to community college for Michigan adults.
To be eligible, you must:
- Be at least 25 years old when you apply
- Have lived in Michigan for a year or more
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have not yet completed a college degree (associate or bachelor’s)
To receive the Reconnect scholarship, you must complete four steps:
- Apply online for Michigan Reconnect. The application takes less than five minutes to complete and can be done on a mobile phone. If you are having difficulties on your mobile device, it is recommended to use a different browser or computer.
- Apply to community college. All community colleges and tribal colleges in Michigan qualify. If you’re already a community college student, this step is completed. If you’re not, remember your tuition is free at an in-district community college, but that Reconnect only pays part of the tuition if you attend an out-of-district community college.
- Submit your FAFSA. This is financial aid provided by the federal government.
- Enroll in an eligible program and start classes. You must be in school at least half time and stay enrolled continuously through graduation.
Learn more and apply at Michigan.gov/reconnect.