I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. Today, I want to give a special shoutout to the nurses and EMS workers in our community. Last week, May 6-12, was National Nurses Week, and this week, May 15-21, is National EMS Week. Nurses, EMS workers and other frontline workers have made countless sacrifices over the past two years throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. My office is grateful for their continued hard work to protect our communities.
On a personal note, my mother is a registered nurse, so I have a special place in my heart for the sacrifice of our health care workers. Please join me in sharing your appreciation for our nurses, EMS workers and other health care professionals!
As always, if our office can ever be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to reach out.
State Representative, 21st District
Proudly serving Belleville, Canton and Van Buren Township
In this Edition:
- Upcoming Time with Ranjeev
- Legislative Update
- What We’ve Been Up To
- Unemployment Update
- COVID-19 Update
UPCOMING TIME WITH RANJEEV
Our next coffee hour is May 23, in Canton at the Village Arts Factory. I hope you will join us!
Community Coffee Hour
May 23 at 6 p.m.
Village Arts Factory, Common Room (50755 Cherry Hill Road, Suite 10, in Canton)
Legislative Term Limits and Financial Disclosure Ballot Proposal
The Legislature took a historic vote Tuesday morning to send the first significant changes to the state’s 30-year-old term limits law to the November ballot. The joint resolution contained much of the language being pushed by the coalition Voters for Transparency and Term Limits.
Under Michigan’s current term limit laws, House lawmakers are currently capped at three, two-year terms of service. Senate lawmakers, on the other hand, can serve for up to two, four-year terms. This means an individual can currently serve up to a total of 14 overall years in the state Legislature. The ballot proposal would reduce the total time a legislator could serve to only 12 years. However, an individual would now be free to serve all 12 years in a singular chamber.
In general, term limits restrict legislators’ abilities to form meaningful relationships with each other and to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to create and pass the best legislation, due to high turnover rates. This leads to lobbyists and outside interest groups having an increased influence on our state policies. This ballot proposal could potentially help negate some of these negative effects, but it would not eliminate them entirely.
The proposal also would require financial disclosures from officials for the first time. It specifies that by April 15, 2024, the Legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state and the attorney general must electronically file an annual financial disclosure report with the Department of State. This is a great step toward more transparency and accountability from our state’s elected officials.
The disclosure would require a description of assets and sources of unearned income, sources of earned income, description of liabilities and positions currently held. That would include a position held as an officer, director, trustee or employee of any business enterprise, nonprofit, labor organization, or institution other than the state itself.
The positions required for disclosure would not apply to positions held in any religious, social, fraternal, political entity or positions that are solely of an honorary nature.
Additional disclosure requirements would include:
- Agreements or arrangements with respect to future employment, a leave of absence while serving as a legislator or state officer, continuation or deferral of payments by a former or current employer other than the state or continuing participation in an employee welfare or benefit plan maintained by a former employer;
- Gifts received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent, as prescribed by state law;
- Travel payments and reimbursements received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent as prescribed by state law; and
- Payments made by lobbyists or a lobbyist agent to a charity in lieu of honoraria.
Michigan voters will have the opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to adopt this measure during the general election this year. This proposal will not go into effect unless it passes with a majority vote in November. State lawmakers simply moved to ensure this measure would be on the ballot.
WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO
As you have likely seen, a draft of a Supreme Court opinion reveals the court could be on the verge of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that recognized the right to an abortion under the U.S. Constitution. The official decision has yet to be released. However, if that official ruling follows the legal arguments in the draft, the legality of abortion would be up to individual states. Under a previous 1931 law that would be revived should Roe fall, Michigan would become one of 22 states with an existing abortion ban on the books.
This news is extremely troubling. Please know that I am working diligently with other state officials to protect abortion access in Michigan. Last year, Michigan House and Senate Democrats introduced the Michigan Reproductive Health Act (HBs 5542–5548) which would guarantee individuals’ freedom to make decisions about their own reproductive health, including having an abortion. On May 4, state Rep. Pohutsky, chair of the Progressive Women’s Caucus, made a motion to discharge HB 5542 from the Committee on Health Policy so that it could be voted on immediately. As of now, House Republican leadership has not agreed to allow for a vote on this bill package. I will continue to urge my Republican colleagues to pass this legislation. It is imperative that Roe be codified into Michigan law as soon as possible.
Additionally, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has recently filed a lawsuit asking the Michigan Supreme Court to recognize the constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution. Attorney General Dana Nessel has also indicated that she would not enforce the 1931 ban should Roe fall.
As your state representative, I will continue to fight to ensure all Michiganders have access to safe medical care and ensure we empower them to determine if, when and how to pursue a pregnancy.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced on May 4 that over 55,000 claimants will not have to pay back about $431 million in overpayments of federal pandemic unemployment benefits that the agency previously determined to have been improperly awarded. To date, the UIA has waived over $4.3 billion in overpayment debt for more than 400,000 claimants with more to come.
Additionally, roughly $11 million will be refunded to claimants who had been paying back their federal benefits overpayment, or it will be applied to any outstanding debt a claimant may have.
UIA has notified claimants who received waivers by posting messages to their Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) accounts. Letters will also be mailed in the coming days confirming the MiWAM notification.
Waivers will not be applied to claims where UIA has determined fraud is involved and the agency will continue to vigorously pursue restitution of any stolen benefits. The waivers are, instead, for individuals who were improperly awarded benefits due to errors by the UIA, not by any fault of their own.
The waivers will apply to federal benefits received before Sept. 4, 2021, the end date for pandemic unemployment benefits programs under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and its extensions. The programs were Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), Mixed Earnings Unemployment Compensation (MEUC), and federal reimbursement for the first week of benefits.
The U.S. Department of Labor authorized a pause on certain collection activity through May 7. The UIA has requested an extension of that pause while they identify and process waivers for other populations and is in the process of providing additional information to support the request for extension.
Claimants with questions about this announcement are urged to call UIA’s Customer Service at (866) 500-0017. Claimants also can schedule an in-person, phone or online appointment.
COVID-19 cases are once again steadily on the rise. Two weeks ago, average daily cases were just over 2,000 in Michigan. As of May 11, average daily cases are now nearly 4,000. Many counties across the state, including Wayne County, have now moved from being considered low risk to medium risk by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. One county in northern Michigan, Grand Traverse County, is now even considered high risk. It is likely COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout Michigan in the coming weeks.
My office is urging constituents to continue masking-up, social distancing when possible and staying up-to-date on all COVID-19 vaccinations. You can find more information on up-to-date COVID-19 policies and case data here.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Our office is always here to answer any questions, concerns or listen to any thoughts you have on any particular issue. The best way to reach us is by email at RanjeevPuri@house.mi.gov. Our team is working hard to respond to every email and voicemail left with our office in a timely manner. We appreciate your patience as we experience increased communications!
We also hope you will join us for upcoming coffee hours so that we can meet and I can hear what is on your mind.