Welcome to my November Legislative Update. I hope that you and your families are well and enjoying the fall. I continue to work diligently on your behalf in Lansing, keeping your priorities in mind during every vote. Below you will find highlights of some of the things my colleagues and I have been working on over the past month. I continue to appreciate hearing from so many of you whether it be through emails, letters, phone calls, or at office hours. Your continued input helps me be a better legislator and to better represent the hardworking people of Southwest Michigan.
Updates you will find in this edition of my newsletter are:
Ø Eliminating Driver Responsibility Fees
Ø Resources for Veterans
Ø Office Hours Update
Ø Protecting Tax Dollars From Political Recount Requests
Ø Establishing a Foster Children’s Bill of Rights
Ø Creating Savings Opportunities for Community Colleges
Ø Increasing Penalties for Convicted Child Abusers
Eliminating Driver Responsibility Fees
Rep. Griffin supports a bipartisan bill package to put an end to driver responsibility fees and forgive outstanding debt in Michigan that was recently passed by the House. The fees resulted from legislation passed by a previous administration in 2003 scrambling to fill a hole in the state budget. Instead of responsibly budgeting available funds, the Legislature established the burdensome fees that have left many Michiganders at, or near, the poverty level.
Fees ranged from $100 for having seven or more points on one’s license to $500 for two years for drunken driving offenses. There was also a $1,000 fee for each of two years for the most serious driving offenses causing injury or death while driving. Those fees are on top of normal fines and court costs imposed by judges.
These fees haven’t made anyone a better driver. They simply force people to live under a cloud of debt, sometimes preventing them from gaining and keeping employment. It’s a nonsensical law that never should have been enacted.
Under the newly passed legislation, the fees will end Oct. 1, 2018. The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.
Resources for Veterans
Veterans Day is an important time to reflect on the tremendous debt of gratitude we owe to the brave men and women who have served our great nation. As the wife of one of these men, Rep. Griffin truly understands that we enjoy the blessings of freedom because of our veterans. When they return home, it is our duty as their fellow citizens to provide them with the resources and services they have so rightfully earned.
The Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center operated by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) is a great resource for veterans and their families and one that we wanted to make sure everyone knew about. MVAA, in conjunction with the Governor and Legislature, has been working over the last several years to ensure that veterans are able to more easily learn about, and access, the various state and federal benefits they have earned. Veterans and their families can reach the Veterans Resource Service Center by phone at 1-800-MICH-VET or 1-800-642-4838. The MVAA website at www.michiganveterans.com is also a great resource.
As a Navy wife, helping our active military members and veterans is a top priority for Rep. Griffin. While the state has made strides towards better programs and care for veterans, it is incumbent upon everyone, especially elected officials, to keep our commitment to our veterans and military personnel.
Office Hours Update
Regularly scheduled November office hours will take place on Monday, November 27th. Due to the fourth Monday of December falling on Christmas, there will be no regularly scheduled office hours in December. Please do not hesitate to contact the office in the interim if you need assistance with any state government issues or would like to schedule a meeting with Rep. Griffin.
Protecting Tax Dollars From Political Recount Requests
Michigan taxpayers shouldn’t be obligated to foot the bill for recounts in elections that are not closely contested. It happened in 2016 when presidential candidate Jill Stein requested a statewide recount despite losing by more than 2 million votes in Michigan, incurring millions of dollars in fees at taxpayers’ expense. We must update our laws to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Senate Bill 290 requires candidates who lose by a significant number of votes to pay an increased fee if they request a recount. A $250 per-precinct fee would be applied when the number of votes separating the winning candidate and the petitioner is more than 75 votes or 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the race, whichever is greater.
House Bill 5012 clarifies a candidate claiming to be “aggrieved” for the purpose of seeking a recount must be able to allege a good-faith belief that, if not for fraud or mistake, they would have had a reasonable chance of winning the election.
While everyone has the right to request a recount, something must be done to ensure taxpayer dollars are protected when the outcome of the election is clear and a recount is unnecessary.
Establishing a Foster Children’s Bill of Rights
All foster children should receive the highest standard of care throughout Michigan. The Children’s Assurance of Quality Foster Care Policy would be created by a package of bills introduced in October.
Children in the foster care system are already extremely vulnerable, often coming from situations of abuse and neglect. We owe it to them to ensure they receive the greatest quality of care without isolation from their friends and family.
The policy includes the following assurances:
- Placement with relatives and siblings, when appropriate.
- Ongoing contact and visits with parents, relatives, and friends, if permitted by the court.
- Timely enrollment in school with consistent placement in the same school, when possible.
- Access to religious and cultural activities.
- Regular contact with their caseworkers, attorneys, and advocates.
- Involvement in their own case plan development, including plans for their future and aging out of the foster care system.
- Protection of their privacy and confidentiality regarding their case.
Creating Savings Opportunities for Community Colleges
Michigan’s community colleges will now have another option when it comes to funding forward-thinking infrastructure and energy efficient development, thanks to legislation signed into law in October.
Lease-purchase agreements do not demand upfront full payments like bonding debts and act as a pay-as-you-go system. Money that community colleges save from energy-friendly improvements will help pay for the project or the implementation of others.
Current law allows local governments and school districts to enter into lease-purchase agreements, this new law allows community colleges to employ the same option. It’s a sensible option for community colleges that are strapped for funding.
Increasing Penalties for Convicted Child Abusers
All forms of repeated child abuse should be treated with increasing penalties. Legislation recently approved by the House Law and Justice Committee would protect children from criminals with multiple abuse violations.
The bill strengthens penalties starting with a second conviction, expanding possible prison time up to five years for a third-degree offense and two years for a fourth-degree violation, rather than two-year and one-year sentences for respective convictions as required by current law.
Under the proposed legislation, any prior child abuse conviction – regardless of degree – counts as a repeat violation and qualifies for harsher sentencing.
Regardless of the offense, abusive acts cause potentially lifelong detriments to children. This legislation gives our law enforcement and prosecutors another method to defend our kids.
The bills advance to the full House for further consideration.
You can also get updates from Rep. Griffin’s Facebook page, which you can find at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin
*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.
Monthly Coffee Hours
*Due to Christmas there will be no regularly scheduled December Office Hours.*
Monday, November 27th
400 S. Kalamazoo St, Paw Paw, MI 49079
561 Huron St., South Haven, MI 49090
Decatur Village Hall
114 N Phelps St, Decatur, MI 49045
Cooper Township Hall
1590 West D Ave., Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Michigan Legislature: www.legislature.mi.gov
Michigan House of Representatives: www.house.mi.gov
Michigan Senate: www.senate.mi.gov
Van Buren County: www.vbco.org
Kalamazoo County: www.kalcounty.com
Rep. Griffin’s Lansing Office
Physical Address: 124 N. Capitol Ave.
S-1085 House Office Building
Lansing, MI 48933
Mailing Address: S-1085 House Office Building
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514
Phone: (517) 373-0839
Toll Free: (800) 577-6212