In this e-newsletter:
- Upcoming IN-PERSON Coffee Hour – Aug. 19
- “Sergeant Ryan J. Proxmire Memorial Highway” Bill Signed into Law
- 2023 Budgets Approved
- Resolution Introduced to Help Spur Access to Cutting-Edge Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD for Veterans
- Protecting Reproductive Freedom
- July Recap
Upcoming IN-PERSON Coffee Hour – Aug. 19
My coffee hour for the month of August will be on Friday, Aug. 19 from 9-10 a.m. This will be an IN-PERSON coffee hour at Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Anna Whitten Hall in Room 128 (on the main floor). The site address is 202 N. Rose St. in Kalamazoo (downtown parking applies).
I will be providing a legislative update and offering an opportunity for residents of the 60th House District to share their thoughts and perspectives. While advanced registration is not required for the August coffee hour, individuals who would like to RSVP or submit questions in advance may do so by sending an email to JulieRogers@house.mi.gov.
We will be following all CDC guidelines related to COVID-19. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, we ask that you please stay at home.
“Sergeant Ryan J. Proxmire Memorial Highway” Bill Signed into Law
My Bill, House Bill 5720, to designate a portion of U.S. 131 as the “Sergeant Ryan J. Proxmire Memorial Highway” was officially signed into law. Kalamazoo County Sheriff Sgt. Ryan Proxmire was killed in the line of duty on Aug. 14, 2021. Sgt. Proxmire’s longstanding history of service to the Kalamazoo community is one of many reasons his memory is more than deserving of the “Sergeant Ryan J. Proxmire Memorial Highway.” While nothing can ever truly express our grief and gratitude, we will honor his life for years to come by establishing this memorial highway in his name. He was a hero, and this dedication will help others learn about the sacrifice he made while protecting our community.
2023 Budgets Approved
I was proud to support the 2023 fiscal year general and school aid budgets, which make significant investments in education, our communities and the environment. The fiscal year 2023 (FY23) budget is balanced, does not raise taxes, pays down billions in debt and shores up our rainy-day fund (Budget Stabilization Fund). It also makes game-changing investments in every student and classroom, empowers working families, connects communities, grows Michigan’s economy and empowers its workforce, and protects public health and public safety.
The FY23 budget totals $76 billion, including a general fund total of $15.2 billion and a school aid budget totaling $17.5 billion. It provides a significant amount of one-time funding while maintaining balance in future years and does not utilize one-time funds for ongoing purposes. The budget also makes a $180 million deposit to the Budget Stabilization Fund.
Also included in the general budget is $1 million for affordable housing in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood and $550,000 for the Asylum Lake Policy & Management Council for a treatment system designed to effectively address pollution from stormwater run-off.
We are in the midst of a housing crisis, and people are struggling to find quality, affordable housing. The funding for the Northside neighborhood will help cover the increase in construction costs and ensure that these homes are affordable for low- to moderate-income Kalamazoo residents. This allocation will help fund a multi-year construction plan to build new affordable, high-quality single-family homes.
Protecting our natural resources from pollution is essential. I proudly fought to include funding in the general budget that will protect Asylum Lake from pollution-laden stormwater and repair some of the damage that’s already been done. The council will work with Western Michigan University to monitor outcomes, which will help provide solutions for mitigating impacts to water systems throughout Michigan.
I’m also pleased that the school aid budget continues our work of investing in our schools by including a 5 percent increase to the foundation allowance, bringing per-pupil funding to $9,150. Our schools have been underfunded for far too long. This budget shows that we intend to continue investing in our schools for a brighter future for everyone in Michigan.
Resolution Introduced to Help Spur Access to Cutting-Edge Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD for Veterans
I recently introduced House Resolution 330 to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to facilitate FDA-approved research on hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to better serve the veteran population. The resolution was introduced with bipartisan support and referred to the House Committee on Health Policy.
As a physical therapist, I have firsthand knowledge of this sort of treatment, and it has shown many promising results. I am especially optimistic about what this could mean for our veteran communities. It is predicted that treating brain wounds with hyperbaric oxygen therapy will help address more of their complex needs.
As the Democratic vice chair of the Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee, earlier this year I partnered with the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs on a statewide veterans’ issues listening tour. During the listening tour, I heard from veterans and veteran service organizations on a wide variety of topics impacting service people. One theme that continued to surface was the need to ensure veterans have access to health services, including mental health services.
Michigan is home to nearly 568,000 veterans, and it is estimated that a significant portion of these veterans suffers from TBI and PTSD. Studies have shown that brain injuries can negatively impact mental health, and suicide rates in veterans have increased.
It is important that we implement every available tool to help ensure that our veterans have access to proper health care. This research could lead to an approved treatment which could improve the quality of life for those who served and help military families and communities.
Protecting Reproductive Freedom
The majority of Michiganders agree that abortion is a decision for an individual to make in consultation with a medical professional they trust. No two pregnancies are the same, and no one needs or wants politicians making decisions for them. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned a 49-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade, leaving it up to individual states to determine legality.
Unfortunately, Michigan still has an oppressive law on the books from 1931 that criminalizes abortion WITHOUT exceptions for rape or incest. It is a repressive artifact of the culture and worldview of 1931. While I am thankful that Attorney General Dana Nessel said she would not prosecute, it still means that radical county prosecutors may go after abortion providers for performing abortions — even on a survivor of rape or incest. It is also possible that prosecutions will be extended to those who have had an abortion. While this may seem like a dystopian reality, it is a very real possibility that we must be prepared for.
This is why, in November 2021, I proudly joined the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus to introduce the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), a comprehensive bill (House Bill 5542) that would put the right to abortion and other reproductive health care into state law. The RHA would guarantee individuals’ freedom to make decisions about their own reproductive health, including to have an abortion. The RHA was introduced with six companion bills (House Bills 5543-5548) that would further update sections of state law to comply with changes the RHA would require once enacted.
However, the Republican majority in Lansing have chosen to block the RHA from a vote. As such, I am extremely appreciative of the unprecedented steps that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has taken to protect the 2.2 million women in Michigan who would lose the right to control their own bodies.
In April, Gov. Whitmer filed a lawsuit and used her executive authority to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s Constitution protects the right to abortion. Yet, an Aug. 1 decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals cleared a path for county prosecutors to use Michigan’s extreme 1931 abortion ban to prosecute doctors and nurses and jail them for doing their jobs. As this news broke, Gov. Whitmer immediately filed for a temporary restraining order, and thankfully, the Oakland County 6th Circuit Court has approved her request. The temporary restraining order granted by Judge Cunningham can be viewed here.
I am also thankful for the organizers for the Reproductive Freedom For All petition who gathered more than 750,000 signatures, more than any other ballot initiative in Michigan history, to enshrine the right to an abortion in the Michigan constitution. This speaks volumes about how Michiganders feel when it comes to bodily autonomy. With these signatures, we are one step closer to voters having their say on the issue.
Again, for Michiganders, this issue is beyond settled. According to a poll from January 2022, 67.3% of Michiganders support Roe and 65.7% support repealing Michigan’s 1931 trigger ban on abortion. Over 77%, believe abortion should be a woman’s decision. A sizeable majority of Michiganders agree that abortion is a decision to for a woman to make in consultation with a medical professional she trusts.
July was a busy month! ICYMI — below are a few exciting things that happened last month.
- On July 14, I volunteered with the 60th District Service Office at the National Day of Summer Learning event at Bronson Park. This was a great event organized by the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network. Now more than ever, summer learning is so important to our students!
- On July 15, I met with a delegation from Global Ties Kalamazoo to discuss international relations and diplomacy. I enjoyed sharing experiences and perspectives from our different governments.
- On July 23, I attended Western Michigan University’s Occupational Therapy Department’s 100th anniversary gala and presented a celebratory tribute with Sen. Sean McCann.
- On July 27, I attended the grand opening of Westgate Commons. This project represents a successful coordinated effort between the Kalamazoo County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the city of Kalamazoo’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department and Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The beautiful apartments and commercial space will certainly help enhance the area.
- On July 28, I visited the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport for the announcement that, starting on Oct. 26, Avelo Airlines will begin flying direct from Kalamazoo to Orlando on Fridays and Mondays! The new routes will operate on a Boeing Next-Generation 737.
- Also on July 28, The Michigan Supreme Court sided with Attorney General Dana Nessel and affirmed that the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of an individual’s sexual orientation. This was a historic and long overdue moment for the LGBTQ+ community and their families, and I was proud to join AG Nessel at the press conference announcing the ruling!
- On July 29, I joined Disability Network Southwest Michigan to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!