Spring has sprung and many of us are anxious to get outside and plant those gardens, spruce up our lawns and do general spring cleaning. In Lansing, we are gearing up for the budget, and the holiday break gave us the opportunity to take more time to work in my district and connect with my neighbors. See you outdoors real soon and remember — I’m just a phone call or email away.
‘Community Conversations’ Last Virtual Events
Ronald S. Taylor, the president and CEO of the Detroit Area Agency on Aging (DAAA) was my guest presenter in March. He and his team walked us through all the services the DAAA provides, including nutrition, health care, home health care, long-term care, Medicaid and Medicare assistance, advocacy and much more. You can contact the DAAA for more info at (313) 446-4444 or on their website at www.detroitseniorsolution.com.
April was Financial Literacy Month, and we focused on getting a better understanding of the $70 million state budget with Robert Schneider, a senior research associate for state affairs for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. We also had a presentation from Cortez Diamond of Diamond Capitol Consulting Group. He tried his best to help us get a better understanding of crypto-currency like Bitcoin. It was eye-opening and confusing but necessary, as the financial world has started to really take this form of currency seriously.
As always, you can watch my virtual meetings in their entirety on my Facebook page.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and our Community Conversation was focused on mental health. You can find that recording on my Facebook page as well.
Public Safety Roundtable
Thank you to everyone who joined me for my Public Safety Roundtable on March 14. We had a great discussion with panelists Col. Joseph Gasper, the director of the Michigan State Police, Wayne County Sheriff Raphael Washington, Detroit Police Department 1st Assistant Chief Todd Bettison, Myra Gracey, Citizens Radio Patrol Coordinator for the City of Detroit and Arthur Edge from Detroit 300.
A.C. Todd Bettison gave a detailed and eye-opening explanation of how facial recognition technology is currently being used to solve violent crimes in Detroit. Col. Gasper shared the change his department is currently undergoing in light of the recent report on MSP’s traffic stop disparities. Wayne County Sheriff shared information about their community policing and recruitment efforts. Myra Gracey gave kudos to me as a radio patroller in Rosedale Park when I shared how I used my training to assist a resident having a mental health emergency. My good friend Arthur Edge shined a light on the fact that everyday citizens can help make our communities safer by being involved.
As always, you can watch my virtual meetings in their entirety on my Facebook page.
MSP’s five-point plan to address the racial report and ethnic disparities in the frequency and outcomes of traffic stops can be read here.
The Michigan State Police transparency webpage is a great place to find specifics about the racial and gender makeup of MSP. It breaks it down by gender, race and ethnicity, as well as by rank. It also includes MSP policies and traffic stop data.
Q: I am curious about the gun violence issue; has there been any progress regarding ghost gun manufacturing?
A: I know there was a substantial bust about nine months ago. As a member of the Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus, we introduced a package of bills in January designed to strengthen gun safety in the state following November’s shooting at Oxford High School. The bills do a number of things, but my colleague, state Rep. Lori Stone from Warren, introduced and I co-sponsored House Bill 5907, which addresses so-called “ghost guns.” The bill would require kit-built guns that consist of individual parts assembled by the buyer to have a serial number of the receiver of the firearm. Legislation is being worked on that would address untraceable guns made from a 3D printer.
Q: There was a case a few years ago when a black teenager was kicked out of a local business based on her being misidentified by facial recognition that was not used by the police. Is it being used by private entities?
The simple answer is yes, it is being used by private businesses. The MSP pointed out that it’s important to realize facial recognition does not identify anyone. It is a tool for the trooper or detective working a case to help find the suspect. As for private companies using facial recognition, if you have an iPhone and you used it to open your phone, that’s how easy it is to use and how widespread it can be.
The attendees also responded to polls during the presentation, and 78 percent said they found the roundtable very effective. The next question was, “Did you find this event to be informative?” and 80 percent said it was very informative.
Finally, we asked, “What topic would you like us to bring to the next round table?” The environment was the top choice at 40 percent, closely followed by infrastructure at 33 percent and education at 25 percent.
Infrastructure Listening Tour Gets Public Input
I had the privilege to participate in an infrastructure listening town hall hosted at the Livonia City Hall by state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky. Bridges, roads, water infrastructure and other ways to spend the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds made for great discussion.
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law last November. It promises to deliver billions of dollars for Michigan that will help us make large-scale positive investments and create good-paying jobs. If you haven’t already, please complete the infrastructure survey and let your voice be heard.
House Dems Introduce Election Protection Bills
House Democrats introduced a package of bills in the continuing efforts to protect the right to vote. Elections are the foundation of a representative form of government, and it’s frustrating and disheartening that there are still efforts to undermine that foundation. The nine-bill package addresses things like early voting, ways to track your ballot, request an absentee ballot online, prohibit petition signature gatherers from making false statements and more. My bill addresses voting safety and peace of mind by banning the open carry of a firearm within 100 feet of any polling location, with the exception of uniformed on-duty police officers.
Voter intimidation during Jim Crow was a major barrier to keep people who look like me from voting. The presence of persons who openly carry firearms posted at the entrance of any voting location is intimidating and discouraging in letting our voices be heard at the ballot box.
Time for Spring Cleaning
The Easter Break was an excellent opportunity for residents and students to pitch in to improve our communities. The annual University of Michigan Detroit Partnership Day was one of those opportunities and it was another huge success. A special thank you to all the students and residents who helped with the spring cleaning in Historic Rosedale Park at Rosemont Acacia Park. A special thanks also to the city of Detroit for picking up all the accumulated trash and yard waste.
Celebrating Reading Month
March is one of my favorite months because it’s also National Reading Month, a time to celebrate and accelerate children’s interest in reading, writing and literacy. I celebrated by reading to classes at elementary schools across the district. Like much of what we do these days, it was a mix of virtual and in-person.
I read to the students at David Ellis Academy via Zoom and we also held a coloring contest with the students. I had the privilege of reading in person at Cooke STEM Academy and at Edison Elementary School.
Bills Address Worker Shortage
My bill that addresses the worker shortage, House Bill 5696, was passed by the full House. This bill would amend Michigan’s Liquor Control Code and allow people who are at least 16 years old to display, stock or mark the prices of sealed alcoholic beverages without a salesperson license in a business that manufactures or sells alcohol.
It came out during testimony before the House Regulatory Reform Committee that teens under the age of 18 have been doing this work for years. Several members of the committee didn’t know it was illegal based on current law. HB 5696 is part of a three-bill bipartisan package of bills that would help these teens legally perform their job, earn their own spending money and provide another option for businesses struggling to find employees amidst an extreme worker shortage. The bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate committee on Regulatory Reform.
Legislators Tour STEM Center
I joined my House colleagues to tour the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Teaching and Learning Facility at my alma mater, Michigan State University. The building opened last September and it represents the first time in nearly 50 years that MSU has built a new academic building with state funding. Designed with students in mind, the 21st-century classrooms and labs are geared toward gateway courses in biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, engineering and physics.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing at 24 percent, while other occupations are growing at just 4 percent. STEM degree holders have a higher income even in non-STEM careers.
Bill Package Puts Workers First
I joined the Michigan Labor Caucus in supporting a bicameral, 34-bill package known as the “Workers First” package. This package would restore collective bargaining and workers’ rights. My bill, House Bill 5823, requires restaurants and bars to post information explaining that tipped employees have the right to receive the standard minimum wage when their tip wage and tips are lower than the standard minimum wage level. The bill was referred to the Committee on Commerce and Tourism for consideration.
We all know there are individuals and organizations that deserve special recognition for the tremendous work they do to serve the people of our communities and our state. If you know an individual or organization that has truly gone above and beyond for their neighbors, fill out the form on this page to request an official state tribute so we can show our full appreciation for their efforts.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to call me at (517) 373-3815 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEPHANIE A. YOUNG