Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
In recent years, Michigan’s state government has fallen to the bottom of the list when it comes to ethics and transparency, leaving our government largely unaccountable. Unchecked, state departments have silently cost taxpayers millions of dollars in inefficient contracts with private companies. In the worst cases, the state pays more money for lower-quality services, which lead to injury and lawsuits, needlessly costing taxpayers more money. One of the most concerning parts of this process is the fact that the state does not have to justify the new contract. State employees are fired and replaced without any kind of assurance that the move will benefit the state. I recently introduced House Bill 4018 to require that departments complete a cost/benefit analysis before awarding contracts to private companies. This bill would bring common sense to the forefront when awarding state contracts while increasing transparency and accountability of state government.
I also recently co-sponsored several pieces of legislation, including:
- A bipartisan package of legislation to improve government ethics in Michigan. It is our responsibility to fight the secrecy that has plagued our government in recent years. In order to increase government transparency, this bill package will subject the legislative and executive branches to open records acts. This would include creating a new Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) and adding the governor and lieutenant governor to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Michigan is one of two states in the nation where the governor and the lieutenant governor are not subject to FOIA requests.
- A bill to restore the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) citizen oversight commissions for air and water quality. Citizen oversight commissions serve to increase accountability and encourage strong and thorough processes in the department to protect our environmental quality. MDEQ has received a large amount of public scrutiny in recent months because of its dealings both with the Flint water crisis and air quality concerns in Detroit during the public comment period regarding the Marathon Refinery permit, which would be helped by a commission.
- A package of bills to increase firework safety. The first bill would prohibit a person, firm, partnership or corporation from the sale, possession, transfer, transportation, use or explosion of a class of fireworks including, but not limited to, sky lanterns, firecrackers, bottle rockets and/or fireworks of a similar construction, etc. Another bill would specifically prohibit the sale, ignition or release of a sky lantern. Sky lanterns are a type of firework where a self-contained luminary device uses a balloon to become airborne, and while airborne has an open flame or other heat source. The National Association of Fire Marshalls has specifically called for a ban on sky lanterns due to the outsized and unique threat they pose to public safety and property.
- A resolution to memorialize the Congress of the United States to pursue humane and responsible immigration policies and oppose discriminatory policies and practices in immigration enforcement.
MAE Home Heating Credits Now Being Processed
The Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) noted that the Michigan Department of Treasury is now processing Michigan Home Heating Credits (HHC) for the 2016 tax year. The credit assists low-income customers with winter energy bills. The average credit in 2016 was $132. Instruction booklets and forms have been mailed out by the Department of Treasury. For those people who file a tax return, the Michigan Department of Treasury encourages them to e-file their returns because it speeds up processing and reduces errors for the HHC. To find an authorized e-file provider and information on free e-file services, visit Treasury’s website at MIFastFile.org. Individuals may apply for the HHC even if they do not file a tax return.
In addition, forms will be available at many libraries and post offices and Department of Health and Human Services branch offices across the state. Heating assistance information is available at michigan.gov/heatingassistance.
MAE’s BeWinterWise website provides additional information: michigan.gov/bewinterwise.
Importance of Vaccinations
The Genesee County Health Department would like to remind county residents of the importance of immunizations and the role they play in ensuring public health. The state of Michigan is reporting an increase in pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Pertussis is a vaccine preventable disease that can be a very serious or even fatal illness. At most risk are infants and the very young who have not been fully immunized against pertussis. Adults, who usually have more mild symptoms, can easily spread the disease to those who are most vulnerable. For more information, please call (810) 257-3612.
The Genessee County Health Department has issued a warning regarding the increase of the norovirus. Norovirus, incorrectly known as “stomach flu,” is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the United States, and it spreads quickly. Norovirus is NOT related to the flu (influenza), which is a respiratory illness caused by a different virus. The viruses that cause gastrointestinal issues can be easily spread by food, person-to-person contact, aerosolization (of vomited material), or contaminated surfaces and objects. The Genesee County Health Department would like to make sure that everyone stays healthy and takes the proper precautions to protect themselves and others from illness. For more information, please call (810) 257-3612.
Mid-Winter Michigan Roads
Unseasonably warm temperatures provide a nice break from Michigan’s long winter. Unfortunately, this also means the roads that have been frozen begin to thaw from the surface downward, and the melting snow and ice saturate the ground. The roadbed, softened by trapped moisture beneath the pavement, is more susceptible to damage during every significant thaw, creating more potholes. Potholes are most prevalent during freeze/thaw cycles, when water penetrates the pavement surface and refreezes, pushing the pavement up. If you spot a pothole on an I-, US- or M- route, you can report it to the MDOT Pothole Hotline at (888) 296-4546, by going online to MDOT’s “Report a Pothole” website at https://goo.gl/x6Rgo9 or by calling your local MDOT Transportation Service Center (TSC) or region office.
Special Needs Activity Club and Support Group
Davison Township has started GOAL, a group to give kids with special needs and their families an opportunity to enjoy acitivities without the demands of leagues and competition. It also provides all who come with support from others living with special needs. GOAL meets on Thursdays, with new activities planned for every meeting. All equipment and supplies are provided. Pre-scheduled meeting dates are below, with other adventures being added throughout the year. GOAL meets from 6-9 p.m. at Robert Williams Nature and Historical Learning Center – North House, at 10069 E. Atherton Road. For more information, please visit www.DTParks.com.
Session #1: Thursday, Feb. 16: Candles, fourth grade and under ONLY
Session #2: Thursday, Feb. 23: No goal, all ages welcome
Valentine’s Day Cookie Decoration
The Montrose-Jennings Library will be hosting cookie decorating on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 1-2 p.m. Pre-registration is required. Please go to the Genesee District Library website for details.
“… a place where the past, present and future are all tied up in a hard knot.”
-Bruce Catton, Michigan History Magazine
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
State Representative Pam Faris
48th House District