By Rep. Andrea Schroeder of Independence Township
This has been a year like no other – and to get through it to better days ahead, we must work together like never before.
I have strived to put aside partisan politics and simply do what’s best for Oakland County and the state ever since I became your representative in the Michigan House. In 2020 – with COVID-19, and partisan political bickering that never seems to end – a collaborative approach is especially important. That’s why I am constantly looking for ways to bring together Republicans, Democrats, the Legislature and the governor to achieve common goals.
The Legislature recently accomplished this with a state budget for the new fiscal year that won more bipartisan support than is typical even in the best of times. Despite how COVID-19 has damaged our economy and impacted tax revenues, we figured out a way to protect funding for schools and the local public services people depend on every day.
When the Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that the governor’s extended use of COVID-19 executive orders was unconstitutional, Republicans and Democrats came together to overwhelmingly approve measures extending unemployment benefits and putting other important COVID-related measures directly into state law.
And this year, I personally have sponsored five new state laws approved with broad bipartisan support and signed by Gov. Whitmer.
Safe schooling for students and teachers: I was pleased to sponsor one of the measures in the ‘Return to Learn’ plan helping students get back to school safely – with flexibility to allow in-person, online, or hybrid instruction methods based on local needs. The law allows local school districts to determine the best course of action for their own students and families. The plan includes oversight measures to keep learning on track, and also provides additional financial support. The measure was signed by Gov. Whitmer in August after winning bipartisan legislative approval. House Bill 5912 is Public Act 148 of 2020.
Preventing teen suicides: Earlier this month, after unanimous approval from the Legislature, the governor signed my measure aimed at preventing teen suicide and helping young people when they need help the most. As early as next academic year, the ‘Save Our Students’ law will require schools that issue identification cards to include a 24-hour crisis and suicide prevention hotline on each card for students in grades 6 through 12. The suggestion for this reform came from grieving Oakland County parents – Kris and Joe Miller – who lost their 15-year-old son, Nikolai, to suicide last year. The new law also calls for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide information materials for schools related to suicide prevention, depression, and anxiety. House Bill 5482 is now Public Act 211 of 2020.
Protecting children: Also this month, Gov. Whitmer signed my legislation allowing Children’s Ombudsman investigators to quickly dedicate more resources to cases where child abuse is suspected. These important reforms will better focus resources where they can do the most good, and make government more accountable to the people – especially the children – that it serves. House Bill 5249 is now Public Act 186 of 2020.
Improving local roads: In September, the governor signed my legislation giving local governments more flexibility to prioritize their road repair schedules. House Bill 4966 – now Public Act 153 of 2020 – is part of a reform allowing counties, cities and villages to focus more attention on fixing the community roads residents travel every single day.
Helping first responder finances: After winning unanimous bipartisan support in the Legislature, my proposal to protect local emergency response providers from unexpected fees assessed by the state was signed by the governor in March. This change involves proper notification about a fee intended to cover the cost of participation in Michigan’s Quality Assurance Assessment Program, which helps fund the state’s Medicaid program. This bill changed the notification process to help stabilize budgets. The improvement was inspired by retired Waterford Township fire chief John Lyman, who brought the issue to my attention. House Bill 4830 is now Public Act 35 of 2020.
All of these reforms were made with state government working the way it should – relying on bipartisan collaboration to help the people of Michigan. I am hopeful these examples will serve as inspiration for more partnership in the months and years to come.
Rep. Andrea Schroeder today was appointed to a special Michigan House committee that will help shape a broad range of policy initiatives during the Legislature’s 2021-22 session.