I am glad to write to you once more as your state representative. I know this is a difficult time for everyone, and I hope that you will let me know if there is anything I can do for you or your family. If you are having issues with any part of the unemployment insurance application process, please fill out this form on my website so I can reach out to the UIA on your behalf and try to resolve them.
In order to represent you and your priorities, I rely on feedback from constituents. You can get in touch with me by phone at (517) 373-2577, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on my website, rabhi.housedems.com. I will keep you updated on developments in Lansing with this monthly e-newsletter. If you would like to unsubscribe, please email me at email@example.com.
I look forward to working together to move Michigan forward.
I hold two “Yousef and You” forums each month where anyone in our district can come to get an update on legislative issues, ask questions, and participate in open discussion. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these forums are being held virtually. I am hosting virtual Yousef and You discussions on the 2nd Monday and 4th Saturday of every month. I hope many of you will be able to join me. Please see the details below to learn how to sign up for these discussions for the rest of the year!
Zoom Registration links: We are conducting our discussions over Zoom until further notice. Please use the following links to register for the Monday and/or Saturday discussions. You only need to register one time for each.
Monday Discussions: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0ldu2hqD8pGtUfNghXbl4P8ynQr1hzdhUv
Monday, July 13 @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 @ 10 a.m.
Monday, August 10 @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, August 22 @ 10 a.m.
Monday, September 14 @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, September 26 @ 10 a.m.
Monday, October 12 @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, October 24 @ 10 a.m.
Monday, November 9 @ 6 p.m.
Saturday, November 21 @ 10 a.m. (held on 3rd Saturday to accommodate the Thanksgiving holiday)
Monday, December 14 @ 6 p.m. (last discussion of the year)
The fight for LGBT civil rights continues
LGBT Michiganders and allies celebrated Pride Month in June. We celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the Supreme Court marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26. However, many states, including Michigan, still have both same-sex marriage bans and discriminatory language on the books. In order to bring Michigan into compliance with the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, the Michigan Law Revision Commission has recommended amending the Michigan Constitution and dozens of statutes.
I am proud to announce that I have drafted a package of more than 50 bills and a resolution to remove Michigan’s multiple same-sex marriage bans and change gender-specific references to spouses and parents. More than 20 of my fellow Democratic representatives have joined me to sponsor bills in the package. This is the largest legislative package I have ever drafted, amending everything from the Michigan Constitution to “an act relating to potatoes”.
The marriage equality bans are a monument to prejudice enshrined in our laws and state constitution, and it is long past time to remove them. While our state’s discriminatory laws are not enforceable, they nevertheless threaten many families who would have to spend time and resources challenging them in court. For instance, no one whose spouse has died in a Michigan veterans’ home should have to worry about whether he will receive the veteran’s balance of funds because the law says those funds will go only to the veteran’s “wife.” And same-sex married couples should not have to adopt their own children conceived through assisted reproduction—their children should have the same secure rights to both parents as children conceived the same way in male/female couples.
This Pride Month also brought an important new US Supreme Court decision recognizing that the federal Civil Rights Act protects LGBT workers. Although this is a great victory for the cause of justice, it does not directly apply to many smaller workplaces or places of public accommodation. That is why we still need to amend Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to ensure that everyone is protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Yet another June has ended without the Legislature passing a resolution recognizing the contributions of LGBT Michiganders. However, I will continue to advocate year-round for fair treatment for people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. An ever-growing number of my colleagues have joined this struggle over the years, and we will not give up until the civil rights of all Michiganders are secure.
Protecting our environment by improving solid waste laws
At the end of May, I introduced House Bill 5814 as part of a bipartisan package (including HB 5812, 5813, 5815, 5816, and 5817) to comprehensively update our state’s solid waste laws based on recommendations from the Recycling Council and Solid Waste and Sustainability Advisory Panel. The legislation would ensure financial accountability for cleanups and promote composting and recycling. Currently, only about 15 percent of municipal solid waste is recycled; the goal is to double that in five years on the way to getting at least 45 percent of municipal solid waste recycled.
My bill, HB 5814, will increase the amount of financial assurance (insurance or bond) that landfill owners and operators have to provide in case environmental cleanup is needed. Requiring financial assurance upfront is a fair way to ensure that all owners/operators fulfill their responsibilities. Recovering costs from operators or owners is often impossible when landfill hazards appear after many years. Taxpayers are then on the hook to fix problems or just leave the facility to contaminate our land, air, and water. This bill increases the amount of required financial assurance, and for industrial landfills requires those to reflect real, site-specific costs for closure, monitoring, and cleanup. It also gives EGLE clearer authority to use the financial assurance to bring a waste facility into compliance, protecting the natural resources and people of Michigan.
The solid waste bill package has bills sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, and it is moving smoothly through the legislative process. After testimony and a favorable vote from the House Committee on Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation, it goes next to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Clean Slate: an important step toward criminal justice reform
Recent events have highlighted the deep inequities built into our criminal justice system. People with convictions on their records face serious difficulties accessing jobs, housing, and professional licenses. When combined with discriminatory conviction patterns, this stigma amplifies patterns of poverty and disadvantage in minority communities.
Michigan’s current system for expunging old convictions from a criminal record is a barrier for people trying to reintegrate into society because it is too limited, difficult and expensive. I have sponsored House Bill 4983 as part of a bipartisan package (HB 4980-85 and HB 5120) to expand the accessibility of expungement.
The bills would set up automatic expungement for certain convictions, revise the waiting periods before someone becomes eligible and expand the number and types of felonies and misdemeanors that can be expunged. Many traffic offenses (not DUIs) would be made expungeable for the first time. The package would also allow people to petition to set aside multiple previous marijuana convictions that are no longer considered crimes. It is particularly important to allow expungement of these marijuana offenses because the longstanding racial injustice in marijuana enforcement has led to disproportionate numbers of people of color being branded as criminals. Now that marijuana is legal for medical and adult-use, many people of color have been unable to participate in the legal industry due to past convictions for actions that are now legal.
I’m happy to report that the expungement reform package has been making good progress through the Legislature. It passed the House with overwhelming support and has recently gotten through committee in the Senate. I hope that Governor Whitmer will soon have the opportunity to sign these bills and lift the heavy burden of old criminal convictions from thousands of Michiganders.
Local Coronavirus Information
The Washtenaw County Health Department has an excellent selection of shareable graphics, videos, and information about COVID-19. Their website is the best source of information on local cases and where to get tested, and you can follow them on Twitter (@wcpublichealth) for updates. They also have printable signs in various languages for businesses and other buildings including information about masks and distancing.