As the Michigan Legislature meets again for the fall legislative session, I am honored to represent you in Lansing. In order to understand your priorities and views on the issues we face as a state, I rely on your input. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at YousefRabhi@house.mi.gov, or by attending one of my Yousef and You constituent hours (details below). I send these updates and notices about events periodically as a service to constituents. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me.
I look forward to working together with you to move our state in the right direction.
Join me for a Yousef and YOU Discussion
I will be holding my regular “Yousef and YOU” Constituent Hours where anyone in our district can come to get an update on legislative issues, ask questions and participate in open discussion. I hope you will be able to join me there!
The next Yousef and You Constituent Hours will be:
Saturday, Sept. 23
RoosRoast Coffee, 1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor
Monday, Oct. 9
Café Zola, 112 W. Washington St. in Ann Arbor
Saturday, Oct. 28
RoosRoast Coffee, 1155 Rosewood St. in Ann Arbor
Money in Politics
Most constituents I have spoken with believe we need less money in politics, not more. But it seems Michigan’s legislative majority does not agree. Republican-sponsored Senate Bills 335 and 336 change the campaign finance rules mid-election cycle to allow super PACs to raise unlimited funds from corporations and special interest groups. These unaccountable super PACs would be given unprecedented ability to share resources with candidate committees and would allow candidates to raise unlimited dollars for the super PACs, a practice that even the Citizens United ruling did not permit. Unlike candidate committees, super PACs can accept corporate money, which is very hard to trace to its original source. I fear that as a result of unlimited corporate and special interest super PAC donations, overwhelming amounts of money will be funneled into our state’s political system, drowning out individual citizen voices.
The shocking speed with which these bills moved through the legislative process demonstrates how quickly government can act when the majority wants to get something done without a lot of debate. The bills were pushed through the Senate on Sept. 14. The next session day, the House voted the bills out of committee in the morning and voted to approve the bills that afternoon. The next day, Gov. Rick Snyder signed both bills into law.
I was proud to join all of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate and House in voting against these bills.
In a democracy, the value of someone’s voice and vote should not depend on the size of their bank account. I know that many of you share this view, but it is harder for citizens to weigh in when controversial legislation is advanced so rapidly. As your representative, I try to be your voice in situations like this. You can watch a video of my remarks opposing the bills on the House floor at https://housedems.com/rabhi/videos.
Health Care for All
The federal health care debate has underscored how important it is for Michigan to have our own health care system to safeguard access for everyone. No matter what happens in Washington, no one should have to go without necessary care or bankrupt themselves or their families. That is one of my top priorities this fall is working on a universal single-payer health care plan for our state.
My MICare plan is based on the model developed for Vermont with a few significant fixes. It would channel health care spending into a single payment system that would have the negotiating power to bring down prices. It would also eliminate the costs associated with excessive insurance bureaucracy and profit-seeking. Financing does not have to be an insurmountable obstacle to an equitable, high-quality universal health care system. The problem with our health care system today is not a lack, but a misallocation of resources. All other developed countries spend far less and get better outcomes.
Little policy tweaks aren’t enough to help struggling Michigan families. Our state needs ambitious and transformative proposals that present a clear alternative to our present path. If we can find the political will, we have the power to make sure that health care is treated as a right and not a privilege.
Health Insurance Enrollment More Challenging this Year
With all the proposals to change health insurance laws on the federal level, many people are confused about what options are available. To compound the problem, the federal funding for outreach programs has been cut 90 percent, and the enrollment period has been shortened this year. However, you can still enroll in Marketplace (exchange) plans from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 at www.healthcare.gov.
So far, Congress has not changed the Affordable Care Act, and subsidies for Marketplace plans are still available for families making up to 400 percent of the poverty level. Families making up to 138 percent of the poverty level qualify for Medicaid under Michigan’s Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion.
If you would like free assistance in signing up for Marketplace coverage, Medicaid, Medicare, or the Washtenaw Health Plan, contact the Washtenaw Health Plan at http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/public_health/whp/ or (734) 544-3030.
Help Available to Pay for Heat and Food
The trees are just starting to turn, but it’s already your last chance to apply for the Michigan Home Heating Credit. The credit helps people with modest incomes pay for winter energy bills. Thanks to the Heat and Eat program, getting the credit also helps people who get food assistance qualify for higher levels of benefits. You can apply even if you are not required to file an income tax return. The deadline to apply for the 2016 credit (last tax year) is Sept. 30.
For more information, visit the Treasury website at http://www.michigan.gov/taxes/0,4676,7-238-43513_66852-330928–,00.html.
I have a variety of free publications available for constituents. Many of them are useful for both individuals and organizations. Popular titles include Services for Seniors, Your Child, Tenants and Landlords, and A Student’s Guide to the Legislative Process. If you would like hardcopies delivered, please contact my office to let us know how many you would like. A full list of titles and electronic copies are available at https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(q30j10quz0wpactjbjwklvot))/mileg.aspx?Page=Publications.