By state Rep. Matt Hall, of Marshall
We’re only a month into 2020, but the new decade has started off at a rapid pace legislatively. A significant amount of legislative action has taken place – here in Michigan and nationally.
As your state representative, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update on the work happening in Lansing and Washington D.C.
Gov. Whitmer’s second State of the State address
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently delivered her second State of the State address where she highlighted the fundamental challenges facing our state and outlined her personal priorities for the year.
At the surprise of no one, the focal point of her address was Michigan roads.
Rewind to just last year when the governor put forth the most wildly unpopular policy proposal in the history of our state: A massive 45-cent per gallon gas tax increase – one that would cost many Michigan drivers up to $10 more each time they fill up at the pump.
The proposal was doomed from the get-go – and rightfully so. Not even the governor’s own party could rally behind it. Given Plan A’s failure, a lot of pressure has accumulated – the people of Michigan were waiting to hear what the governor’s next move would be.
Gov. Whitmer used her address to unveil Plan B: Borrowing $3.5 billion. Through utilizing the State Transportation Commission, the governor’s plan to increase the state debt by $3.5 billion does not require approval from the Legislature, or the taxpayers of Michigan.
This is not an unfamiliar approach. Michigan has borrowed money in the past, through the issuance of bonds, to repair the state’s roadways. It is a financing method no different than taking out a loan; the state has immediate access to funding, but the debt must be paid off.
Michigan is still paying down a billion dollar deficit from funds borrowed nearly two decades ago, and will not finish paying it off until 2037.
Funds made available through bonds can only be allotted to state-owned roads such as I-94 and I-69. This means local, secondary roads – the roads a majority of Michiganders use every day – are left out of the equation and will continue to deteriorate.
The governor’s “solution” is a short-term fix with long-term consequences. The taxpayers of Michigan – both current and future – will be left paying down the debt created by the Whitmer administration for many years.
Rather than Whitmer’s philosophy of tax and spend, we should be using the money we already have to fix the roads. It is not a matter of whether Michigan has the funds, it is a matter of spending it more efficiently.
Joining President Trump for historic U.S.-China trade deal signing
While Gov. Whitmer likes to take credit for Michigan’s thriving economy, I believe credit is due elsewhere, specifically at the federal level where much progress has been made to help Michigan workers.
I was honored to recently join President Donald J. Trump in Washington D.C. as he signed Phase One of the trade agreement with China. As we all know, China has taken advantage of the United States through unfair trade barriers and practices that have cost many Americans – including Michiganders – their jobs.
By remaining tough throughout negotiations and keeping an America-first mentality, President Trump secured a trade deal that helps Michigan’s automotive and agricultural industries – two of our biggest job providers.
Under the trade agreement, China will dramatically increase the amount of agricultural and manufacturing products it imports, generating more rural economic activity and job growth here in Michigan. The deal also protects American intellectual property and prevents China from manipulating its currency.
There’s no doubt this is a major victory for Michigan.
Better protecting Michigan’s vulnerable children
After conducting a thorough 2018 performance audit of the state’s Children Protective Services (CPS) division, the Auditor General found multiple shortcomings within the agency’s operations.
The audit findings called into question the effectiveness and efficiency of CPS, raising valid concerns Michigan’s most vulnerable children were not being best protected from dangerous at-home environments.
As chair of the House Oversight Committee, I found the audit results to be unacceptable. At my direction, the committee hosted a series of hearings to better understand the problems identified by the Auditor General. After gaining more insight of the agency’s flaws, I spearheaded a bipartisan effort to provide CPS with solutions to ensure the agency responsible for protecting children across the state has the right tools to do so.
Part of a broad, multi-bill package, my legislation specifically requires CPS to commence investigations within 24 hours of suspected child abuse or neglect. The first 24 hours are the most critical – it’s not enough to simply open a case file. When time is of the essence, looking into the safety of children must be top priority.
House Bill 4705, along with the rest of the plan, garnered unanimous support in the Michigan House and now awaits approval in the Senate.
Sports betting legalized in Michigan
Sports betting is now legal in Michigan after Gov. Whitmer signed a plan I sponsored into law. It is my first bill to become state law since taking office, and I was honored to attend the bill signing ceremony and alongside council members from the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe and representatives from FireKeepers Casino and Hotel.
My new law was part of a wide-ranging legislative package that provides the necessary regulatory framework for sports betting to move forward in Michigan, recognizing a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing for the legalization.
What’s this mean for Michigan? Residents of age may soon safely place sports wagers legally through regulated websites and applications operated by Michigan casinos. Consumers will have the peace of mind knowing they’re protected against identity theft and fraud – two consequences frequently associated with illegal, unregulated mediums.
A portion of revenue will be directed to communities where participating casinos are located. That means communities with casinos – such as Emmett Township in Calhoun County, where FireKeepers is located – will reap the benefits from revenue generated from internet-wagering.