May 28, 2021
It has been an incredibly busy week leading up to the holiday weekend. A lot of exciting news has been happening in the Legislature and from the governor’s office, including a major announcement about significant investments in K-12 education that will utilize a combination of federal funds and higher-than-expected state revenues (see below).
Unfortunately, there is also some sobering news on the education front. While Senate Republicans have agreed to pause the disastrous third grade reading law for this school year, they want to expand it for next year by not only holding third graders back, but now fourth graders too. The proposal is so bad, the Republican bill sponsor has asked for his name to be removed from it!
Continuing with the roller coaster of news, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also recently announced changes to Michigan’s COVID-19 emergency rules, as many people were able to return to work this week due to our vaccination rate. Be sure to check out that section below, as well, for all the specifics on who is still encouraged to wear a mask and who does not.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments or concerns about what’s happening in our communities and our state, please contact my office. You can call (517) 373-2417, or email me at SenRBayer@senate.michigan.gov.
I hope you and your family can enjoy a beautiful Memorial Day weekend! If you or a loved one have served our nation, I hope you will also see the section at the bottom of this e-newsletter about benefits for military members and their families. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES SIGNIFICANT INVESTMENTS IN EDUCATION FUNDING
On Thursday, May 27, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her funding priorities for K-12 education as the state readies for major investments in our schools and teachers.
Due to the American Rescue Plan and the recently announced state revenue increases, a surplus in funding now exists to make unprecedented investments in our schools, with enough funding to eliminate the funding gap that has existed between schools for many years.
The plan will utilize the surplus to propose over $1.7 billion in one-time funding and allocate more than $900 million for ongoing investments, representing Michigan’s most significant investment in public education to date.
Major highlights of the framework include:
Other notable pieces include:
In just a year, Michigan has gone from a nearly $3 billion deficit to a $3.5 billion surplus, with a state budget that is primed for investment. These are exciting developments that I look forward to getting signed into law!
THIRD GRADE READING PUNISHMENT LIKELY TO BE PAUSED
While the Republican majority has agreed to pause the utilization of the third grade reading law this year considering the pandemic, they are also pushing legislation to expand it for the next school year. Educators, school administrators, and especially students are under enough stress as it is. We need to be putting more time, effort, and funds into our schools — as the governor seeks to do — instead of punishing them for trying to make things work during this unprecedented time.
Listen to what my colleague, Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), a former teacher herself, had to say about Senate Bill 265 in committee on Wednesday:
Make no mistake: I stand with Sen. Polehanki and our students, educators and administrators, and I will continue to fight against this cruel legislation, even after the pandemic is over.
Universal Background Checks on Guns
Last week, my colleagues and I joined together to announce a bill package to expand universal background checks for guns to include all types of firearms.
Currently, Michigan law only requires background checks for pistols.
Given the violent displays of domestic extremism here in Michigan and across our country this past year, it should come as no surprise that our laws governing access to firearms are severely lacking. Our one job as legislators is to provide our communities with the safety and stability they deserve, and this includes amending the current laws so that people feel a sense of security in their homes, at work, in school, in houses of worship or anywhere they may be.
The bills would also update other Michigan laws to reflect the changes to universal background checks.
To hear more about what we’re up to, check out this highlights video from our press conference:
Protecting Homeowners from Dam Breaks
This week, I introduced Senate Bill 472 to ensure home purchasers are aware of all dams which could affect their property by requiring home sellers to disclose whether a home is in an inundation zone (the area downstream of a dam that could be temporarily inundated with water released by a dam failure).
Last year, the town of Midland was devastated when a dam broke open and wreaked havoc on nearby homes and businesses. My legislation ensures homeowners are also a part of our policy response.
Holding Police Accountable
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, Minn. police officer. While George Floyd’s story was able to be told, too many people of color have found themselves in similar horrific situations and their families have not received any kind of justice for the death of a loved one.
I’m proud of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle this week for introducing a 12-bill package of reforms, covering a wide variety of law enforcement issues from Use of Force to no-knock warrants, investigations, de-escalation training and the recruitment and retention of officers.
I look forward to offering my support on this overdue legislation to ensure law enforcement does all it can to protect its residents, rather than put them in harm’s way. We must work toward improving community-police relations, and this bill package is the start of that effort.
CHANGES TO COVID-19 EMERGENCY RULES, CAPACITY LIMITS
On Monday, May 24, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced updates to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) COVID-19 emergency rules as many employers return to in-person work. The governor also announced an updated Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) COVID-19 Gatherings and Face Masks epidemic order, eliminating outdoor capacity limits and increasing indoor social gatherings to 50% capacity, which is set to take effect on June 1.
Emergency rules update
Now that the state has reached the 55% vaccination threshold, MIOSHA has removed the requirement that employers must create a “policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.”
MIOSHA has also updated other aspects of the emergency rules to reflect the recent order from MDHHS and guidance from the CDC. Those changes include:
Visit Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety for additional information.
Capacity limit expansion
MDHHS also updated its COVID-19 Gatherings and Face Masks epidemic order, eliminating outdoor capacity limits and increasing indoor social gatherings, including weddings, conferences and funerals, to 50% capacity. Under the new order, effective Tuesday, June 1 through Thursday, July 1, masks will continue to be required indoors for individuals who are not yet vaccinated.
MDHHS continues to urge Michiganders to follow CDC guidance, even where not specifically required by an epidemic order, including masking up at schools, on the bus or train and in congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters. People who are not fully vaccinated are recommended to mask up outdoors in crowded settings like a baseball game or concert.
Organizations and businesses have the authority to put into place policies and guidelines that make sense for their operations, and for the safety of their employees and customers.
BEAUMONT OFFERING SPECIAL NEEDS CLINICS FOR COVID-19 VACCINES
While Beaumont works to vaccinate all who are eligible as quickly as possible, they recognize some patients and families — including individuals with sensory disorders, autism, anxiety, physical/development needs, medical needs, needle phobia, or other unique circumstances — may require special assistance during the vaccination process.
In response, they are offering special needs clinics by appointment. Visit their website on this matter for more information and who to contact.
FAMILIES TO RECEIVE MORE IN FOOD ASSISTANCE BENEFITS
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has announced that Michigan families eligible for food assistance because of the COVID-19 pandemic will receive an increase in their monthly amount. All households receiving benefits will see at least $95 extra in monthly benefits, including households that already receive the maximum monthly amount or are close to it.
The increased amount will now go to all households that receive benefits. Previously those who already received the maximum monthly amount did not receive an increase. An additional 350,000 families previously not receiving the increase in monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will now receive the increased benefit, bringing the total number of Michigan families helped to more than 700,000. Eligible families do not need to reapply to receive the additional benefits.
More than 1.3 million people currently receive food assistance in the state.
People can check Bridge Card balance online at Michigan.gov/MIBridges or call 888-678-8914. The customer service line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Spanish and Arabic services are also available. For those that are deaf, blind, hard of hearing or speech-impaired, you can call the Michigan Relay Center at 7-1-1.
REMINDER: MILITARY SERVICE MEMBERS ENTITLED TO SPECIAL BENEFITS
As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, the Michigan Department of Treasury is reminding current and former military members of the special benefits they may be entitled to receive, including:
To learn more about tax relief and other benefits for current and past military members, go to Michigan.gov/Taxes.
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