September Legislative Update

Categories: Runestad Op-Ed

A legislator represents their district, but it is the people who should feel empowered to identify the solutions to our states’ greatest challenges. I’ve made it a priority to focus on making our community an even better place to live for all of us. This starts by listening. I want to thank everyone who has attended my coffee hours or called my office to inform me on critical issues.

Legislative accomplishments are made possible by the work and support of the people of this great state. Our 2017-18 fiscal year budget prioritizes spending, pays down debt, and ramps up funding for roads, school districts, and career-oriented education programs. School funding will stabilize as we continue to pay down debt and make financially sound decisions that support our teachers and students.

No citizen should have to wait on hold for hours and get redirected multiple times before getting the assistance they need from a state department. A bill I passed last year aims to fix that problem. By January 2018, all state websites are required to include organizational charts, supervisor contacts and contact emails for each state department. Once these updates are in place, citizens will be able to communicate with departments more efficiently and effectively.

This summer my bill became Public Act 43 of 2017 mandating that public employees convicted of felony charges for embezzlement will have a portion of their pension forfeited. The portion of the pension that was paid by the employer from the time the first criminal act was committed will now be paid back to the employer. Previously, when judges ordered forfeiture, cities and schools were not fully reimbursed. Under the new law, employers will be able to recoup embezzled funds by reclaiming portions of the convicted employee’s pension and 401k plan. Felony convictions will also be mandatory for employers that accept a felony level bribe or have embezzled more than $1,000. With stiffer penalties and tighter guidelines in place, we hope to deter the theft of our hard earned tax payer dollars.

My bill providing guidelines for the use of body worn camera programs for law enforcement, became Public Act 85 of 2017. The legislation will protect privacy by limiting public access to footage taken inside a person’s home while providing clear guidelines for retention, storage and access in the courts and under the Freedom of Information Act. The Oakland County Sheriff and the Michigan State Police played a vital role in contributing to the development and passage of solid policy that will become a national model.

Other legislative initiatives are still in progress this term. Under legislation, the governor and lieutenant governor will be subject to the Freedom of Information Act and all state representatives and senators will be held accountable to the Legislative Open Records Act.  I supported these bills and hope to see them pass in the Senate making government more accountable.

Additionally, House Joint Resolution C is in the Senate and would require warrants to access a person’s electronic communications and data. This protection is needed at the state level as federal rulings do not apply to all electronic communications and devices.

Finally, I am committed to continue working on solutions to end our family court wars. Children deserve parenting time with loving and fit parents. We can’t keep funneling their inheritance into traumatic court battles when we can develop clear guidelines for judges to follow.

Read legislation and track bill status online at www.legislature.mi.gov. Thank you for reading this update and staying involved with your government.