By state Rep. Joe Bellino
As the final months of the Michigan Legislature’s 2017-18 session approach, it’s a good time to review what’s been accomplished so far – and what remains to be done.
Eleven of my proposals already have been signed into law – including measures to eliminate senseless driver responsibility fees, deliver income tax relief for retired police and firefighters, and fix Michigan’s unemployment insurance system. Our new state budget will pump record resources into schools and road repairs, and through my initiative, taxpayer money will be returned home to support several important Monroe area projects.
Here are details on these accomplishments:
State budget: Our community will benefit directly from the new state spending plan. I helped secure $3.35 million to improve Stoney Creek Road, $200,000 to assist flood control at Estral Beach, $100,000 to benefit Paula’s House and its mission helping homeless women with substance abuse issues, $100,000 for the Arthur Lesow Community Center and $73,000 for the River Raisin Centre for the Arts.
Driver responsibility program: The fees charged in this ill-conceived program end Oct. 1, which was my part of the multi-bill package signed into law earlier this year. This program created debt for drivers and cost some their jobs due to lack of transportation when their licenses were taken away. Eliminating this program will save drivers money and help some return to work so they can provide for their families.
Unemployment benefits: I sponsored a new law to help in cases where employers don’t respond in a timely manner to unemployment claims or to information requests from the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Tax cuts: A new law I sponsored provides tax relief to hundreds of retired Detroit police and firefighters, as well as other first responders not covered by Social Security. I also supported new laws to preserve and increase personal exemptions for Michigan taxpayers and their dependents on state income taxes, potentially saving families hundreds of dollars overall.
Fighting drug abuse: My plan to combat the abuse of nitrous oxide – sometimes called laughing gas or whippets – was signed into law in May. The measure bans the sale of nitrous oxide canisters to minors and allows prosecutors to fine sellers who break the law. Another new law I sponsored requires health care providers to inform families about the risks of opioids and secure parental consent before prescribing the drugs to minors.
Fighting fraud: My measure signed into law in March allows consumers to freeze access to their credit reports for security purposes without fees. People shouldn’t face extra costs when all they’re trying to do is prevent criminals from impersonating them to get credit cards or loans.
Reducing bureaucracy: I initiated the removal of three unnecessary and outdated state laws, part of a broader effort to make state government cleaner, leaner and more efficient.
It’s been a productive session. But there is still work to do before this two-year legislative term ends in late December.
We must bring down the cost of car insurance for Michigan drivers, who currently pay the nation’s highest rates. And we must make state government more open and accountable by making the Legislature and the governor’s office subject to Freedom of Information laws.
I have proposed plans to help address both of these priorities, which would make the Legislature’s 2017-18 session even more successful.
(Rep. Joe Bellino represents portions of Monroe and Wayne counties in the Michigan House of Representatives.)