Perhaps you’ve noticed it has been a while since I’ve sent out an e-news update. That is not because there isn’t anything going on around the district or in the Legislature. The Michigan House of Representatives actually bars legislators from sending mass communications to constituents for the period 30 days prior to an election. This rule is a matter of fairness to non-incumbent candidates. I agree with this rule: elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to use the power of their office to influence elections. But now that the blackout period is over, I want to take this opportunity to catch you up on recent happenings in Lansing and the community.
As always, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. If my staff and I are unable to help you, we will direct you to someone who can. Please watch your email box and check my website at Peterson.housedems.com for future updates before the next blackout period begins on Oct. 7.
DHHS Public Comments
Although many of my colleagues and I fought against it, Senate Bill 897 was signed into law by the governor, which will impose arbitrary benchmarks for people to hit in order to receive health care. As part of the process of implementing this law, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is holding a public comment period until Aug. 12 and will have to address any concerns that are raised through those submissions. If you’d like to learn more about this public comment period, you can find more information here.
I have submitted my own comments, which are included below:
Senate Bill 897 — now Public Act 208 of 2018 — threatens hundreds of thousands of Michiganders throughout our state who rely on the Healthy Michigan Plan for their health care. The people I represent in the city of Ypsilanti and the townships of Ypsilanti and Superior deserve to have access to the care they need to keep themselves and their families healthy and well.
The requirements imposed by this law create cumbersome and harmful bureaucratic red tape that will prevent Michiganders who fail to meet certain arbitrary criteria from maintaining their health coverage. These requirements are not only unnecessary, but they violate the very mission of the state’s Healthy Michigan program which is to improve access to health care for uninsured or underinsured low-income Michigan residents.
In direct violation of those principles, this law will do nothing more than hurt the most vulnerable among us, leading to poorer health outcomes and more expensive costs for care. Often, many individuals who receive their health care through Medicaid are already working, but their employers do not offer health insurance. Those who are seeking work but can’t find a job will now have their coverage threatened. Michiganders who work in seasonal or low-wage jobs and have no control over their schedule may now have their coverage taken from them, despite holding a job. And people with disabilities, substance use disorders and other medical conditions who are supposedly “protected,” will struggle as the process for validating these exemptions may be too complicated and bureaucratic for them to navigate. In other words, those for whom the Healthy Michigan program was developed and designed will be put at risk, and as many as 400,000 could be impacted.
For Michiganders to live healthy, successful lives — and for our economy to get on the right track — we must preserve access to the Healthy Michigan Plan. This plan has helped more than 683,000 working people in our state access critical health care services. PA 208 poses a dangerous threat to hundreds of thousands of people in our state, and on behalf of my constituents in House District 54, I urge the Department of Health and Human Services to reconsider the implementation of such a reckless and irresponsible law. I would also ask that my comments be published on the state’s waiver website as part of the public record.
HirED Opportunity Act to Provide Debt-Free Community College for All
Increased educational opportunity builds economic opportunity for Michigan families. Yet, over the last few years, funding for higher education has declined, pricing many of our young people out of the training they need for the job and life they want. That is why I am working closely with the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED), Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and the American Center for Mobility to capture portions of the $59 million in grant funding offered through Michigan’s Marshall Plan. According to TED’s website, the Marshall Plan is a “partnership between educators, employers and other stakeholders to transform Michigan’s talent pipeline and redesign the ways we invest, develop and attract talent in our state.” Employers seek out areas with a well-trained workforce when they consider where to locate or expand their businesses. I want to make sure that Eastern Washtenaw County residents have the opportunity to receive training for these skilled jobs that are in ever-increasing demand.
I am also supporting the House Democrats’ innovative plan to provide debt-free community college to all qualified Michigan residents. The average Michigan college graduate begins their career with more than $30,000 in student loan debt. The HirED Opportunity Act slashes the cost of higher education by providing full-tuition scholarships to qualified individuals.
Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, recent high school graduates who enroll full-time in a community college program would be eligible to receive a Community College Opportunity Scholarship for debt-free tuition under the HirED Opportunity Act. To maintain eligibility of the last-dollar scholarship, students would participate in a mentorship program, give back to their community through a community service component, and maintain a 2.0 GPA and continuous academic enrollment for up to two years. Alternatively, adults seeking to return to school to earn a new credential, receive skills training or fulfill a degree program would be eligible for debt-free tuition through a new career program focused on high-demand or emerging industries. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation to ensure all of our young people have the opportunity they need to create the life they want.
Standing Up Against Drug Immunity Laws
This summer, I was proud to co-sponsor the House Democratic plan to repeal a 1995 law that protects the profits of pharmaceutical companies who knowingly manufacture or distribute harmful drugs. Michigan’s last-in-the-nation law prevents Michiganders, or the state itself, from holding pharmaceutical companies accountable when their dangerous products harm or even kill people. In the midst of the opioid crisis plaguing our nation and state, drug companies should not be immune from legal action for selling certain prescription drugs that are the gateway to addictions. The Democratic plan laid out in House Bills 6224-6226 not only repeals the backward corporate protections, but it makes the repeal retroactive, providing Michigan families and communities with a new tool to hold wealthy drug companies accountable.