Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
I recently co-sponsored several pieces of legislation. Please see short summaries of each below:
- A bill from state Rep. Holly Hughes that would allow retired teachers to return to the classroom in a substitute role or instructional coach role and earn up to one third of their final average compensation without losing their retirement benefits. Retired teachers can also return to teach in a critical shortage subject for up to three years and not lose their retirement benefits.
- A bill from state Rep. Andy Schor that would allow individuals who graduate from Michigan colleges and/or universities with a bachelor's degree to be eligible for a tax credit if they remain and work in Michigan after earning their degrees. Specifically, eligible individuals will be able to claim an income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the amount of qualified student loan payments made during the tax year for which the credit is being claimed (up to 20 percent of the average yearly tuition for Michigan's public universities). We know that Michigan has some of the best higher education institutions in the nation, but we know, too, that too many leave our state after earning their diplomas. I hope this bill will allow us to avoid the brain drain and keep our talent right here in Michigan.
Health and Human Services Committee Appointments
Last week, I was appointed to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Health and Human Services Committee. The committee is charged with protecting states’ interests in federal decisions regarding various programs including Medicaid, aging services and child welfare, along with many other programs that provide critically important services. In addition to the NCSL appointment, I have also been appointed to the Council of State Governments’ Health and Human Services Committee, a council that collaborates with other states throughout the Midwest. As a part of this appointment, there is an annual CSG Midwestern Legislative Conference, where legislators from member states gather and share ideas.
Health care and social services are among the most important issues being addressed in Congress and in state Legislatures across the country today, including here in Michigan. I look forward to working with legislators from around the country, not only in sharing my own experience from Michigan, but also in learning what other states have done successfully that could be applied here at home. I am honored to represent the Michigan House of Representatives on these national committees, and I appreciate House Speaker Tom Leonard’s confidence in my abilities to do so.
Nestlé Waters Informational Session and Public Hearing
Several constituents have voiced their concerns to me regarding Nestlé’s application to increase its pumping capacity from 250 to 400 gallons per minute. The Department of Environmental Quality has announced that a public informational session will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 12, at the University Center on the Ferris State University campus in Big Rapids. Following that session, there will be a public hearing from 7 to 9 p.m. at that same location.
The public comment period for Nestlé’s request to increase its groundwater pumping in Michigan has also been extended until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Written comments must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to MDEQ, Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, Environmental Health Section, P.O. Box 30421, Lansing, MI 48909-7741.
Home Heating Credit and Tax Tips
With tax season in full swing, Consumers Energy is encouraging eligible Michigan residents to claim thousands of dollars in assistance by filing for the Michigan Home Heating Credit and federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The average Home Heating Credit that Consumers Energy customers received in 2015 was nearly $150, and the federal EITC is another benefit for working people with low to moderate income. Free tax preparation services are available statewide by dialing 2-1-1.
Now available in my office is the 2017 Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide, a resource for the 2016 tax year that may assist you in filling out your state income tax form. It contains information on Michigan property taxes, homestead property tax credits, individual income taxes, farmland and open space tax relief and the home heating credit program. If you live in the 48th House District, we will gladly mail you a copy for free.
Leave Wildlife in the Wild
Spring is here, bringing warmer temperatures and the next generation of wildlife. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds those who are outside, enjoying the experience of seeing wildlife raise its young, to view animals from a distance so they are not disturbed. It's important to remember that many species of wildlife hide their young for safety and that these babies are not abandoned. They simply have been hidden by their mother until she returns for them. “Please resist the urge to help seemingly abandoned baby animals,” said Hannah Schauer, wildlife communications coordinator for the DNR. “Many baby animals will die if removed from their natural environment, and some have diseases or parasites that can be passed on to humans or pets.” Schauer added that some animals that have been picked up by people and do survive may become habituated and may be unable to revert back to life in the wild. The only time a baby animal may be removed from the wild is when you know the parent is dead or the animal is injured. Please remember, a licensed rehabilitator must be contacted before removing an animal from the wild. Licensed wildlife rehabilitators must adhere to the laws and have gone through training on proper handling of injured or abandoned wild animals.
National Nutrition Month
The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) challenges you to Put Your Best Fork Forward, this year’s theme for National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign in March created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Choosing healthier foods can help you and your family stay healthy, manage weight and be physically active. In Genesee County, this is especially important as healthy eating is one of the best ways to alleviate elevated lead levels caused by the Flint water crisis. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups assures the body receives the nutrients needed. GCHD wants you to know that healthy diet recommendations from the Academy include:
- Fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products.
- Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts.
- Keeping your diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
To alleviate the effects of lead exposure, eat foods that are high in calcium, iron and vitamin C. Eating a healthy diet and foods rich in these three nutrients helps to limit the absorption of lead in the body. Foods containing these 3 nutrients include:
- Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, green leafy vegetables, tofu, canned salmon (with bones)
- Iron: lean red meats, fish, chicken, iron-fortified cereal, dried fruits, beans
- Vitamin C: oranges, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, kiwi, strawberries
DNR Seeks Public Comment on Inland Trout Management Plan
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released its draft inland trout management plan and is seeking public comment on it. The plan, available online at michigan.gov/fishing under Angler Alerts, focuses on the ecology and management of populations of inland trout in rivers and inland lakes of Michigan. The intent of the inland trout management plan is to provide an overview of inland trout habitats in Michigan, the biology and ecology of inland trout populations, and management activities directed toward inland trout and their habitats. This information provides a basis for understanding the role of inland trout in current and future management of fisheries in Michigan’s inland lakes and streams. Public comments may be submitted via email to DNR-FISH-ManagementPlans@michigan.gov by Friday, April 14. Written public comments also will be accepted at Marquette Fisheries Research Station, attention Troy Zorn, 484 Cherry Creek Road, Marquette, MI 49855.
“[Michigan] is one of the prettiest places in the world.” –Henry Ford, 1920.
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.