It has only been two weeks since our last update, but we have plenty of news to share! We just had our first town hall focusing on the challenges and solutions facing Michigan public schools – thank you to all who attended! We also kicked-off March is Reading Month with visits to Bernard, Bemis and Costello Elementary Schools. We have more than 10 schools remaining and plenty of children with attention spans that are no match for Dr. Seuss. A love of learning is a key facet of public education and fostering it is critical to our children’s future. It’s vital that our public schools have the resources they need for our children to get the best education, which includes literacy as the foundation, along with math, sciences and the arts.
Last month the governor laid out her vision for the state, and this month she presented the financial plan to get us there. Her proposal on March 5 is the start of our long budget process, including the start of the conversation on how we fix the roads and fund our schools. As Senate Majority Leader Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) said, “There’s no way we’re going to fix this problem that’s been 50 years in the making without coming up with new revenue for infrastructure.” And do we need ideas on how to start fixing things fast – our state’s future depends on it!
As always, we are here to serve you, so please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and comments on any issues that impact you or our community. Your opinion and voices matter. We welcome honest and respectful discourse. The office is reachable by phone at (517) 373-1783, by email at PadmaKuppa@house.mi.gov, or by attending one of our in-district events. Upcoming district hours and events are listed below – we would love to see you there!
It’s been an informative two weeks with lots of listening and learning, and my continued best efforts to represent your voices. We have updates from both the Energy and Local Government and Municipal Finance Committees, with an important vote on local control taking place in the latter.
In the Energy committee, we’ve been focused on listening and questioning stakeholders during the past two weeks. On March 3, the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council (MEIBC), delivered a presentation titled “Advanced Energy in Michigan.” Energy grid systems and technology are evolving, transitioning from centralized power plants — where coal and nuclear power is generated at large facilities — to a more complex grid with many distributed energy resources. Users will have the increased ability to produce their own energy, selling power back to the grid. Our appliances will have the ability to regulate usage, depending on energy rates at a particular time. A key point of the MEIBC presentation is the decreased cost of renewable energy over the last decade. The cost of wind energy has dropped 60 percent since 2008, and the cost of solar energy has dropped even further. The decreased costs are due to advances in technology and competition, and the fact that wind and sunshine are free for the harvesting! According to the MEIBC, it’s even possible for some independent power producers to build wind and solar facilities at a lower cost than utilities. With the rise of renewable energy, the ability to predict and store energy is vital to our modern infrastructure.
On March 13, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), an independent state agency, delivered a presentation outlining their role and priorities. The commission is responsible for “ensuring safe, reliable and accessible energy and telecommunications services at reasonable rates for Michigan residents.” One of their key priorities for the future is to modernize Michigan’s energy infrastructure. Between 2015 and 2025, Michigan will be losing 49 percent of its coal capacity, due both to plant failures and environmental regulations. With older plants retiring and an increasing number of smaller energy plants, the MPSC plays an important role in managing our supply and demand, and ensuring reliable power while we continue to make in energy needs prediction and storage technology.
Local Government and Municipal Finance
The House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance voted this week to approve House Bill 4095, which amends the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to increase the number of children allowed to live at a state licensed residential facility. Currently, residential facilities licensed under the Child Care Licensing Act are allowed to provide 24-hour care to 6 individuals. This bill overrides local zoning authority to create a state statute to increase a home to house 10 individuals if the facility is located on a parcel of land 20 acres or larger.
On the surface this bill may seem like it solves challenges to our foster care system, but the issue at hand is a local zoning issue and should be handled by the local zoning authority. The Committee has heard testimony from numerous stakeholders, and my office has received a torrent of communications in opposition to the bill. This legislation sets a dangerous precedent of an entity circumventing local government control, and the unintended consequences of doing so must be examined before making such an impactful decision. Good governance means thinking through every possibility before moving legislation forward, and unfortunately that did not happen with this bill. I hope that the necessary conversations take place before it moves any further in the process.
The Select Committee on Auto Insurance has been busy and we’ve been able to learn a lot from national expert Doug Heller. Through his presentations the committee has gained a better understanding of the non-driving factors that insurance companies are currently allowed to use when calculating our rates–despite them having no bearing on one’s ability to drive. At present, thinks like gender, marital status and credit history are all allowed to be taken into account. For example, compare a female lawyer who owns a home, has a graduate degree, and is currently insured who pays $972 a month for car insurance, to her male lawyer counterpart, who also owns a home, has a graduate degree, who pays only $810 a month. The same phenomenon applies to someone with a lower credit score. This needs to change. Car insurance companies need to quote people based off of their driving record instead of gender, credits scores, and other irrelevant factors.
Upcoming Time with Padma
Senior Coffee Hours
Monday, March 18 from 10:00. -11:00 a.m.
Troy Community Center, Room # 504
3179 Livernois Rd, Troy
In District Hours
Monday, March 25 from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
Troy Public Library
510 W Big Beaver Rd Troy, MI
In District Hours
Saturday, April 13 from 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Blair Memorial Library
416 N Main St, Clawson
Education and Economics Townhall:
Last Monday we hosted our first official town hall, focusing on Michigan’s public education system. The panelists, Tonya Allen of the Skillman Foundation; Rob Fowler of the Small Business Association of Michigan; Rick Joseph, 2016 Michigan Teacher of the Year and Doug Maibach, Executive Vice President at Barton Malow, were asked questions by Jen Hilzinger, local community leader and public school teacher. We discussed how education is critical to economic opportunity, the difference between equity and equality in education, the School Finance Research Collaborative which served as the impetus for the Launch Michigan initiative, and how the Governor’s values-based budget proposal is a small step towards achieving adequate and fair funding for Michigan’s public schools. The foundation for success – for both individuals and communities as a whole – is a world-class education. Education cuts don’t heal, and we’ve been taking from the School Aid Fund to fix other budget gaps. If we truly want to begin moving Michigan forward and building a stronger, more durable economy in the state, we need to start by properly funding our schools.
Eileen Fisher International Women’s Day Celebration at the Somerset Collection:
On March 9, the Eileen Fisher store at Somerset Collection hosted an event showcasing VoteRunLead, a non-profit providing support to women to run for office. The 4-piece collection features a special pattern that spells “the future is female” in Morse code. Senator Rosemary Bayer and I were joined by local leaders, community members, and shoppers to discuss our journey to the State Legislature.
Best Wishes and Congratulations to President and CEO Ara Topouzian
Best wishes to a great friend to the community, Troy Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ara Topouzian, as he ventures to Michigan Venture Capital Association! We will miss him here in District 41, and look forward to working with the Chamber’s new leadership and hardworking members to advocate in the best interests of our community!
Tax season is upon us! The Community Economic Development Association of Michigan and its program, the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition has developed a website where individuals can find free tax help resources. Here is the link to their free tax help website: http://michiganfreetaxhelp.org/
Troy Senior Expo:
The Troy Senior Expo promotes financial services, health, and housing options and other services available to seniors. They host around 75 vendors, showcasing products and services specifically available to seniors. The event is on Tuesday, March 19, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Troy Community Center.
State Rep. Padma Kuppa