Capitol Update - May 8, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Welcome to my e-newsletter. I hope you’ll find this information about important issues and legislation under consideration at the state Capitol and in our community useful. Please remember that I’m always available if you need my assistance. I can be reached toll-free at (888) 750-3326 or by email at email@example.com.
In this issue:
- House Versions of Education and General Budgets Pass
- Taking Health Care Away from Michiganders
- Keeping Young People Safe on Campus
- Michigan’s Water Belongs to Michiganders
- Discover Hansen Nature Trail
- Coffee Hours
House Versions of Education and General Budgets Pass
The House recently passed two omnibus bills dealing with the 2018-19 budget. All of the executive branch departments are combined in one bill (“the omnibus”), while the School Aid Fund budget is a separate bill (“school omnibus,” or “school bus”). I voted against both bills because I do not believe they would allocate funds in the best interests of the people of Michigan. Among other things, the general omnibus bill would cut revenue sharing to counties. Since 2001, the state has shorted local governments almost $9 billion in revenue sharing funds for local needs like roads and police and fire departments. The school budget bill takes money from K-12 schools to pay for universities and community colleges. Higher education is an important priority, and I am glad that we will be increasing funding again this year. However, we should not be robbing K-12 schools to pay for it.
My Democratic colleagues and I offered a number of amendments to improve the budget bills, but none of them were adopted. My amendments would have ensured that funds given to the state attorney general’s office would be used for their intended purposes, rather than spent on partisan or campaign purposes. For instance, they would have made sure that funds allotted for the school safety OK2SAY program could not be used by an attorney general to further his or her own personal political aims. The amendments also contained transparency measures to hold the attorney general’s office accountable for travel expenses, ensuring that any travel done by the attorney general or his or her staffers is done to help the people Michigan, and not for pleasure or to take part in a partisan gathering. Unfortunately, my amendments weren’t adopted. You can watch me speak in favor of my amendments here*.
These bills as passed are not the final word on the budget. The Senate will pass their own versions of the budget bills. Then next month, representatives from the House and the Senate will meet in a joint conference committee to resolve the differences between the versions of the bills in each chamber. The bills will also be adjusted to account for updated revenue estimates. Once the conference committee has agreed on all the changes, both the House and the Senate will have to pass identical versions before the bills go to the governor.
Taking Health Care Away from Michiganders
You may have already heard about Senate Bill 897, which would change Medicaid requirements in Michigan. SB 897 creates an estimated $25-$50 million in new red tape bureaucracy, while taking away health care from working Michiganders. Michigan families, children and seniors rely on health care to get ahead – this legislation only pushes them backward. Working Medicaid recipients would have to report workforce engagement requirements monthly and verify family income quarterly. Any changes would have to be reported within 10 days. If they fail to provide it in time? Families will lose their health care for an entire year. The bureaucracy the state would have to put in place to track this data is staggering, with no cost savings to the overall program. This bill will make it harder for people to show up healthy to work and to move onto jobs that provide stable incomes for their families.
No one should ever have to worry about having their health care taken away. Medicaid is a hand up to those who struggle, not a hand out. I’ve heard from many of you about your opposition to Senate Bill 897. Know that I stand with you and oppose this bill. We all deserve the security and dignity that health care provides, and I’m working hard in Lansing to ensure that those who need it, keep it.
As a small business-owner and a legislator, I also know that the best way to attract the best workers is to offer competitive wages with good benefits, not to take away someone’s health care. Senate Bill 897 masquerades as a measure that provides “work with dignity” to people who need health care, but the thinking is backward. People need to be healthy to work. This bill mandates that people work in order to stay healthy. There is no way I can support it in good conscience. Michigan needs good jobs with wages and benefits that enable workers to support their families, and that is what I will continue fighting for.
Keeping Young People Safe on Campus
In light of the revelations of systemic failures to address sexual abuse at Michigan State University, the Legislature is considering a number of bills related to sexual assault. The problem of sexual assault on college campuses is significant, with as many as one in four undergraduates reporting that they have been subjected to rape or attempted sexual assault at some point during their college years, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
That number is disturbing and unacceptable. As lawmakers, we owe it to the parents and students of Michigan to make sure that our college campuses are safe, and that the institutions that are supposed to protect our young people live up to their duty. I take my role as a legislator in this process very seriously, and I will be actively engaged in the process of making our college campuses safer places for our children to prepare for their future.
Michigan’s Water Belongs to Michiganders
Michigan is known as the Great Lakes State, and our water defines us. The shape of the Great Lakes makes the shape of our “mitten” and the Upper Peninsula, and draws millions of visitors annually.
Most recently, we’ve been defined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to let Nestlé withdraw massive amounts of water for next to nothing. Under their new permit, Nestlé can take 210 million gallons of water a year — enough to fill 1.9 million bath tubs — for just $200. That’s less than most of us spend on the annual water bill for our homes. Nestlé will be bottling up that water and selling it back to us, both here in Michigan and out of state.
The deal is even more galling because families in Flint are still dealing with a water system that isn’t safe, and many people there are still reasonably afraid to drink the water that comes from their kitchen tap. But instead of paying to replace their water lines — which were ruined when a governor-appointed emergency manager made the call to switch Flint’s water source — or even raising the funds to pay for their replacement by charging Nestlé a reasonable fee for taking our water, our state is just giving it away for almost free.
Michigan’s valuable resources belong to Michiganders, and they should never be given away freely like they don’t even matter. It makes no sense morally, it makes no sense environmentally and it makes no sense fiscally.
Discover Hansen Nature Trail
Discover! is free outdoor program on the Hansen Nature Trail at Millennium Park for visitors of all ages that includes a trail walk with hosted nature stations, a scavenger hunt, live animal presentations, free native plants and tote bags (while supplies last) and more. The event is scheduled for May 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Hansen Nature Trail at Millennium Park, corner of Butterworth Street NW and Riverbend Drive SW. Visitors will learn more about: Indigenous birds, mammals and pollinators; native and non-native trees and plants; unique ponds and wetlands; local wildflowers and native plants; history and lore of the area; reptiles, amphibians and birds of prey through live presentations. The Discover! program is sponsored by Kent County Parks and the Kent County Parks Foundation and is hosted by certified master naturalists with support from community businesses and organizations. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/DiscoverParksEvent*
I welcome you to join me at my regularly scheduled coffee hours. These informal events give you an opportunity to speak with me and my staff about any issue facing our state, or between you and our state government, that you find important. I hold my coffee hours on the first Monday of each month from 9-10:30 at our in-district office, 1551 Kalamazoo Ave. SE in Grand Rapids. The next coffee hour will be Monday, June 4, from 9-10:30 a.m. at 1551 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.
Representative, 75th House District
* The Michigan House of Representatives is responsible only for content submitted with House resources and in accordance with the law and House policy. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited
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