Welcome to my monthly Legislative Update. As I begin my second year as your State Representative I wanted to thank all of you who have contacted me and attended local meetings to share your thoughts and concerns. Hearing directly from you helps me better represent you in Lansing. I look forward to another busy year of working for you and fighting for efficient, effective, and accountable state government. In this update you will find information on:
Ø Helping to Protect Students from Opioid Abuse
Ø Continued Focus on Career Technical Education
Ø Providing Tax Relief to Michigan Families
Ø Improving Michigan’s Unemployment Agency
Ø Local Recreational Grant Recommendations Announced
Ø Veteran Resources
Ø House Report a Step Forward in Improving Local Mental Health Services
Ø February Office Hours
Helping to Protect Students from Opioid Abuse
Rep. Griffin’s legislation to help protect minors from opioid addiction was signed into Michigan law by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at the end of December.
Part of a package focused on combating the opioid drug epidemic, Rep. Griffin’s legislation requires the Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission to develop recommendations for student instruction addressing the risks associated with prescription drug abuse. Her legislation also instructs the Michigan Department of Education to develop a model program of instruction on prescription drug abuse that is grade and age appropriate based on the commission’s recommendations.
We cannot expect our young people to educate themselves about the risks and potential for dependence when using opioid medications. This epidemic isn’t going away any time soon. It is important that we work to protect our next generation from the life-threatening ramifications of addiction.
Other bills in the package increase access to opioid addiction treatment, and require doctors to educate patients about the potential hazards of opioids prior to prescribing them.
House Bills 4406 and 4407 are now Public Acts 254 and 255 of 2017.
Continued Focus on Career Technical Education
At the end of 2017, Rep. Griffin joined her colleagues in the House in voting again to enhance skilled trades education in Michigan schools. The House approved a bipartisan five-bill package that will provide important opportunities for Michigan’s students.
Continuing to ensure that we match our children’s education with the careers and jobs that are out there today is critically important to their success and the future of our state. This type of legislation and continued investments in CTE and skilled trades through the budget will ultimately help our state’s students, while giving them better access to post-high school programs and careers.
The legislation was developed from the recommendations of the Michigan Career Pathways Alliance, which includes state K-12 educators and local employment leaders working together to help strengthen Michigan’s future. This legislation will give our local school districts more course flexibility, better access to experienced instructors, and the ability to work closely with local business owners. Ultimately, these bills give more opportunities to Michigan children to learn skilled trades and participate in CTE programs.
- Creates a K-12 model program that emphasizes career learning and themes for each grade level, while focusing on engaging with parents, community businesses, and industry interests.
- Provides continuing education and professional development credit for teachers who spend time engaging with local employers and professional trade centers.
- Allows proprietary schools, community colleges, and skilled trade employers access – with parental consent – to high school pupil directory information for the purposes of recruitment and career opportunities.
- Permits schools to more readily hire professional trades instructors to teach classes that align with their expertise.
The bills in the package were House Bills 5139-5142 and 5145. They now advance to the Senate for consideration. As we move into 2018 enhancing CTE and skilled trades programs will remain a priority for Rep. Griffin.
Providing Tax Relief to Michigan Families
Rep. Griffin joined her colleagues in the House last week in voting to approve a package of bills aimed at providing income tax relief for families and seniors.
The bills continue and increase personal exemptions for Michigan taxpayers and their dependents on their income taxes, while providing additional relief for senior citizens.
The three-bill package that will enable people to keep more of their hard-earned money received overwhelming bipartisan support.
This is a win for all of the taxpayers in Southwest Michigan. The state budget is in good shape and our economy continues to grow. The time is right to ease the tax burden and put more money back into the pockets of Michigan families.
The technical fix related to the federal reforms saves $172 per person on state income taxes each year, or $688 for a family of four. Raising the personal exemption provides an additional $102 in relief for a family of four.
The legislation, House Bills 5420-5422, will:
- Ensure Michigan taxpayers can continue claiming personal exemptions on income taxes after federal tax reforms signed into law last month, and
- Increase the state personal exemption from the current $4,000 to $4,300 for the 2018 tax year, with gradual increases reaching $4,800 for 2020;
- Certify taxpayers in Michigan cities with an income tax will continue to be able to claim exemptions; and
- Help senior citizens in addition to the personal exemption increase by providing a $100 income tax credit for a single filer age 62 or older – or $200 for joint filers.
House Bills 5420-5422 now go to the Senate for consideration.
Improving Michigan’s Unemployment Agency
As you may have heard in the news, the current state of Michigan’s unemployment agency (UIA) lacks clarity, integrity, and accountability. There are glaring deficits within the system which are costly for both employers paying out the benefits and people looking to use them. Specifically, the UIA computer system failed causing tens of thousands of Michigan residents to be falsely accused of fraudulent claims. Because Michigan’s penalties for fraudulent claims are among the highest in the nation, these innocent people were charged astronomical fees.
The House took bipartisan action to fix these deficits affecting Michigan’s most vulnerable residents by hosting a workgroup made up of legislators and experts. The workgroup’s findings were compiled to craft a plan to improve the system’s claim process and protect claimants who have overpaid and been falsely accused of fraud.
- Ensures claimants don’t get charged interest on overpayments due to agency failure;
- Gives those accused of fraud access to an advocacy program;
- Allows the reopening of a fraud case by the agency within three years with good cause;
- Improves the process for determining the validity of an unemployment claim; and
- Clarifies the eligibility for hardship waivers and the agency’s process for ruling on applications for a waiver.
The workgroup spent almost 900 hours working to restore integrity to the Unemployment Insurance Agency. The plan was approved unanimously by the full House and signed into law by the governor last month.
Local Recreational Grant Recommendations Announced
Rep. Griffin is pleased to announce that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommended two recreational development grants for South Haven.
The board recommended funding for improvements at Black River Park and Riverfront Park. Funding for the projects is comprised of revenue from the lease of state land and is designated on an annual basis in partnership with local governments.
These two improvement projects are important to families and boating enthusiasts in the South Haven area. We are blessed with an abundance of beautiful natural resources in our community, and every effort should be made to make them easily accessible to everyone.
The projects are:
- A $300,000 development at an area of city-owned Riverfront Park in South Haven to include construction of a splash pad. The new water feature will be located near public restrooms, parking, the beach and the downtown area. It will provide a safe alternative for water recreation users, especially young children, when Lake Michigan conditions are unfavorable. The splash pad is also designed as an educational tool for the local Maritime Museum as elements of the splash pad are designed to reflect the “Friends Good Will” historic vessel owned by the museum.
- Construction to replace skid piers at the Black River Park in South Haven, at a cost of $37,500.
As a reminder, the Michigan Veteran Resource Service Center operated by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) is a great resource for veterans and their families. 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. Veterans and their families are also encouraged to contact Rep. Griffin’s office directly if they ever need assistance.
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.
House Report a Step Forward in Improving Local Mental Health Services
A report released earlier this month by the House’s mental health task force creates a blueprint to help improve mental health services in Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties.
The House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force spent five months taking part in public meetings and site visits across Michigan, reviewing areas where vulnerable residents are lacking in care and resources and collecting feedback to learn how best to deliver meaningful solutions. In particular, the panel focused on five key elements: Community, Access, Resources, Education, and Safety (C.A.R.E.S.).
“The report addresses many of the problems plaguing our local communities. It details the need to improve care in our criminal justice system, including training for first responders, better services for victims, enhanced court and diversion programs, and more treatment options during and after incarceration.
Additionally, the task force looked at ways to improve services in areas that lack access to mental health care, a problem experienced by many residents of rural areas.
The task force has made some solid recommendations to help address staff shortages in mental health-related services and promote teamwork across county, regional, and state boundaries to help citizens who need assistance. Rep. Griffin is looking forward to seeing this plan put into action in the coming months.
The House C.A.R.E.S. report will not only serve as a blueprint for policy changes and legislation to be introduced in the next several months, but also establish a framework to further enhance mental health services in the future.
The full report is available to review at www.house.mi.gov/CARES.
February Office Hours
Rep. Griffin will continue to host monthly office hours throughout the 66th District in 2018. In an effort to be more accessible to people throughout the district, monthly office hours will occur at a variety of locations and times.
Times and locations will be updated via this newsletter and also on Rep. Griffin’s website (www.repgriffin.com), and on her official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin). You can also contact the office directly via phone or email.
Being accessible to members of our community remains a top priority for Rep. Griffin. If you know of any events or meetings you would like her to attend throughout the year, please let us know.
February Office Hours – Monday, February 12th
8:30am – 9:30am — Biggby Coffee, 400 S. Kalamazoo Street in Paw Paw
10:30am – 11:30am — South Haven Library, 314 Broadway Street in South Haven
1:00pm – 2:00pm — Decatur Village Hall, 114 N. Phelps Street in Decatur
3:00pm – 4:00pm — Cooper Twp. Hall, 1590 West D. Ave.
You can also get updates from Rep. Griffin’s Facebook page, which you can find at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin
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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
Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency: www.michiganveterans.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
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