It is an honor to write to you again as your representative in Lansing. Your input on issues in state government helps me to represent you better, so I hope you will contact me about the issues that are important to you. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my website, http://rabhi.housedems.com. Additionally, I will send these e-newsletters monthly to update you on legislation and community news. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me at email@example.com.
Community Discussions: Yousef and YOU
I look forward to the chance to meet many of you in person, and to discuss your priorities for our state. To that end, I will be holding open forums in Ann Arbor twice a month. My next three constituent events will be:
Saturday, April 22 (please note this was rescheduled from the following weekend)
1155 Rosewood St.
Monday, May 8
Mi Compadre Restaurant
2111 Packard Road
Saturday, May 27
1155 Rosewood St.
Forum on Redistricting Reform: Exploring Ways to Draw Fair Lines
The way electoral districts are drawn has profound and often overlooked effects on our representational democracy. In Michigan, the Legislature draws the lines after each 10-year census. The participation of legislators in drawing their own districts is inappropriate. Switching to an independent commission would create a fair redistricting process. Voters should pick politicians; politicians shouldn’t be able to pick their voters.
Many other states have innovative models for redistricting, and computerized tools for optimizing districts have become very sophisticated. There is no reason we have to stick with our old system in Michigan, especially since that system was the result of a court ruling and not the original design of our state constitution. In order to foster discussion, I am hosting a town hall forum on redistricting reform. Special guests include former Democratic Congressman Mark Schauer, former Republican Congressman Joe Schwartz, and League of Women Voters representative Dan Rubenstein.
Monday, April 24
Multipurpose Room, Downtown Ann Arbor District Library
343 S. Fifth Avenue
Campus Sexual Assault Reporting
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee and a member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, I am glad that a sexual assault reporting requirement has been added to the House version of this year’s Higher Education budget. We as policymakers will be more effective in addressing the problem of sexual assault on campus if we fully understand its scope.
Public universities are already required to report about sexual assault to the federal government under Title IX, but state-level decision-makers need that information, too. The “boilerplate” language included in the House budget would require universities to send copies of their reports to the state as well. The extra state reporting will be a minimal administrative burden for the universities, since they are already generating the reports. I am hopeful that this reporting requirement will make it into the final budget.
Expanding the Freedom of Information Act
Our state’s weak FOIA laws featured prominently in the Flint water crisis, as citizens and journalists were unable to get information unless the governor’s office chose to release it. Michigan ranked last in transparency and ethics laws among all the states in a 2015 assessment. Reforming our FOIA laws would be an important step in addressing this problem.
Legislation to extend Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to cover the governor and the Legislature recently passed the House and is now being considered in the Senate Committee on Government Operations. House Bills 4148-4157 would allow citizens to find out about the work of their legislators and governor, with safeguards to protect sensitive constituent information. I voted for these bills because I believe that in a democracy, voters have the right to know what their decision-makers are doing. I am glad that FOIA extension legislation passed with bipartisan support in the House, and I hope my Senate colleagues will also understand the need for action on government transparency.
Out and About in Ann Arbor
I recently had the opportunity to congratulate Ann Arbor’s Boy Scout Troop 4 on its centennial anniversary at a ceremony held at the First United Methodist Church. One hundred years of serving our community and developing leadership skills is certainly a remarkable accomplishment.
Community Note: Home Toxics Reduction Program
The Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Home Toxics Reduction Program provides county residents with a disposal option for flammable, poisonous, toxic, and corrosive materials. Saturday collection events have resumed and will continue through November. Free, regular collection events are held at 705 N. Zeeb Road on the first three Saturdays of the month 9 a.m. to noon, except for holiday weekends. If you can't make it to a Saturday collection, please call (734) 222-3810 to schedule a weekday or winter drop-off appointment.
The Home Toxics program has collected and properly disposed of a cumulative total of 3.6 million pounds of toxic materials since 1995, preventing them from reaching the landfill and from impacting public health and the environment. Please consider using the Home Toxics drop-off in order to dispose of unwanted materials responsibly. We all benefit from keeping toxics out of our soil and water.