Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Welcome to my e-newsletter. I hope you’ll find this information about important issues and legislation under consideration at the state Capitol and in our community useful. Please remember that I’m always available if you need my assistance. I can be reached toll-free at (888) 750-3326 or by email at email@example.com.
In this issue:
I’d like to invite you to a town hall I’ll be holding to discuss criminal justice reforms, including my proposal to reform Michigan’s cash bail system. Under the current system, many people wait for trial in county jails for weeks or even months for no other reason than they can’t meet bail. As they wait, they may lose their jobs — and therefore their homes or cars — even if they are eventually found innocent.
There’s a better way. There will be more justice in our justice system when we find a way that allows more people to be released from jail pending trial while still keeping our communities safe. My plan would make releasing someone on their own recognizance the standard, unless someone is found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others, or if they are unlikely to return to court for future appearances. If bail were to be set, the judge would have to take the defendant’s financial situation into account, giving the defendant a realistic chance of making bail. This plan could save Michigan’s communities as much as $100 million a year or more.
The event will be held at the GRPS Administration Building, located at 1331 Franklin Ave. SE from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on April 9. I hope to see you there.
The opioid crisis has taken a toll across the country, including right here in Kent County. That’s why I was glad to do my part to support legislation that will help curb the crisis across our state and in Grand Rapids. Several pieces of legislation have either recently been passed or are under consideration that would make it more difficult for illegitimate users to be prescribed opioids and assist those who are addicted to find help and get into substance use and recovery programs.
One of those new laws requires a doctor to be in a bona fide doctor-patient relationship in order to write anything longer than a three-day prescription for schedule II-V drug, which includes opioid drugs. The intent of this bill is to help keep drugs that find their way onto the street from finding their way into the wrong hands, while making sure that the patients who need these drugs for legitimate health concerns still get them.
While that’s a step in the right direction, there was still a concern that it this new law didn’t take certain situations into consideration. For example, a hospice patient in a home care setting might not know the doctor who prescribes their pain killing medication. House Bill 5678, which I co-sponsored, would direct the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to create rules that allow for exemptions for hospice patients and other special scenarios.
The bill now goes to the governor for signing.
I’m proud to support the House Democrats’ Building Opportunity plan for 2018. Building Opportunity outlines our key priorities for this year, including a new focus on working families, legislation that would drive the state economy forward and give Michiganders the freedom to build the life they want, with a good-paying job they need to support their family and retire in dignity.
House Democrats outlined four major initiatives for the year:
· Building an economy that works for everyone — increased training for workers to learn the 21st century skills they need for the good-paying jobs they want, putting Michigan workers and companies first, supporting the small neighborhood businesses that fuel our local economies, and fighting for a better deal on taxes that ensure everyone pays their fair share.
· Making health care affordable — supporting families by tackling skyrocketing prescription drug costs, protecting seniors by ensuring they are able to retire with dignity and protecting the Healthy Michigan Plan.
· Supporting student success — providing quality education through the support of great educators, reining in classroom sizes and giving students the freedom to choose their path in life by offering a community college promise to all Michigan residents.
· Building quality infrastructure — fixing our local roads while creating good-paying jobs, expanding and strengthening broadband access for families in every corner of the state, and holding corporations that pollute our natural resources accountable.
In 2017, House Democrats released plans to lower skyrocketing prescription drug costs, protect seniors and people with pre-existing conditions from health care cuts coming from Washington, and to give Michigan-owned businesses and their workers a fair shot at contracts with state and local governments. In the coming months, my House Democratic colleagues and I will introduce legislation to support our Building Opportunity agenda, including a community college promise, tools to support small businesses, protection for Healthy Michigan and an infrastructure plan that actually fixes Michigan roads while creating thousands of good-paying jobs and driving the economy forward.
Civil asset forfeiture — the ability of law enforcement officers to confiscate property believed to have been used in crime — was originally intended to be used as a lever to control the war on drugs. While police departments across the country have used civil asset forfeiture to seize the assets used in the commission of crimes, they have also confiscated the cars, cash and other property of citizens who were found to have done nothing wrong at all. And more troubling yet: in many cases, these assets were not returned to the citizens who were found to be innocent.
Several bills in the state Legislature would change how civil asset forfeiture works in Michigan:
· House Bill 4158 would prohibit the forfeiture of property unless a person is convicted of a crime.
· HB 5702 would require the county prosecuting attorney to review and obtain a court order for forfeitures when assets totaling $50,000 or less are seized.
· HB 5703 would require Michigan law enforcement to complete training on the civil asset forfeiture process.
· HB 5704 would prohibit local units of government from adopting or enforcing civil asset forfeiture processes that are more stringent than state law.
All of these bills are awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
If you are interested in discussing these bills, I invite you to join me at my criminal justice town hall, which will be held at the GRPS Administration Building, located at 1331 Franklin Ave. SE from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on April 9.
The deadline for filing state and federal income taxes is nearly here, but there’s still time to get free help for those who qualify. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to Kent County individuals who earn $27,000 or less, or families who earn $57,000 or less. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (616) 871-6147 or visit https://taxhelp.davenport.edu/.
In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with nonprofit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
Before going to a VITA or TCE site, see IRS Publication 3676-B for services provided and check out the what to bring page to ensure you have all the required documents and information the volunteers will need to help you.
For a list of free tax preparation locations and times, click on this link: https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.
Representative, 75th House District