We’re right in the middle of an important month for West Michigan – Hispanic Heritage Month! With a local history that goes back more than 100 years, our Mexican, Puerto Rican, Guatemalan, Cuban, and Dominican communities are strong in the Grand Rapids area, each contributing to the diverse fabric of West Michigan.
Whether you were born and raised in West Michigan or consider yourself a newcomer, the variety of cultural traditions we have in our area have helped us build stronger families, neighborhoods, and networks.
I’m so proud of the ways Grand Rapids communities respect and celebrate one another in our affinities and our differences. Together, we make our city and the surrounding areas powerful, beautiful, and a whole lot of fun. I hope you’ll take some time this month to appreciate the many contributions that are made by those who have Hispanic heritage.
Today and every day, I am proud to serve as your State Senator in Lansing. I thank you for sharing thoughts and concerns with me, and let’s continue to make our community better together.
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In This Issue:
Surrogacy Bills Introduced
This week, my colleague Senator Curtis Hertel, Jr. and I introduced Senate Bills 1177-1180, which would require Michigan Courts to recognize gestational surrogacy contracts and provide a method for parents’ names to be added to their newborn’s birth certificates.
One family from our district gained national attention when their twins, born weeks early via a gestational surrogate, were forced to go through the formal adoption process —including home visits, and evaluations — because of Michigan’s outdated laws surrounding surrogacy. Having babies in the NICU is stressful enough! No family should have to go through the adoption process at the same time due to a legal loophole.
It is well past time that our laws reflect the advances in assisted reproductive technology that allow Michiganders to have the freedom of fulfilling their dreams of becoming parents and raising their families through surrogacy.
‘Filter First’ Bills to Protect Children’s Drinking Water
Lead doesn’t belong in the water our kids drink. That’s why I proudly voted yes on the ‘Filter First’ legislation. These bills would require every childcare center and school to have NSF-approved filters for taps and drinking fountains.
We know that ingesting lead has lifelong consequences for kids. As our schools and pipes age and school water systems lay dormant over the summer, the best way to be certain that the water kids drink during the day is free of toxins and contaminants is filters.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D–Flint) along with Senator Curt VanderWall (R–Ludington) reintroduced the legislation in the Senate, and it passed last week and will be moved to the House for their consideration.
On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Michigan House and Senate passed two budget supplemental bills that make key investments in Michigan’s economy and support good-paying jobs.
Senate Bill 844 sends nearly $1 billion in funding (from the state’s $7 billion surplus) to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). Of that, $846.1 million is being directed into the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, including $250 million for site development and $100 million for landfill cleanup.
Senate Bill 842 amends the state School Aid Act and routes $12.2 million of General Fund money into the School Aid Fund, with $12 million targeted to providing literacy tutoring services and enrichment programs, with a pilot program in three geographically diverse districts. It also invests $200,000 into Square One to host robotics programs and competitions for K-12 students, and creates two new scholarship programs:
The two new scholarship programs would begin in the 2023-2024 academic year.
IN THE DISTRICT
Water Town Hall
This week, I hosted a tele-town hall to discuss the critical issues Michigan faces when it comes to protecting our water. I was pleased to welcome Rep. David LaGrand and community advocate, Wesley Watson, from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.
Over the course of an hour, we covered topics like PFAS — how responding quickly and decisively to the contamination that was discovered in Kent County has led to Michigan leading the nation in our regulation of harmful PFAS chemicals. We also discussed lead in children’s drinking water, holding polluters accountable for contamination that they cause, and the role of state agencies like Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in protecting Michigan’s water and residents.
It’s always good to hear from residents like you — your priorities and concerns matter greatly, and hearing your stories and perspective about protecting our water helps me continue to do this work well.
Affordable Housing, Placemaking Grants Awarded in District 29
I can’t stress enough: we need more affordable housing in our community. That’s why we put $100 million of ARPA funds in the 2022 state budget to address this issue.
So, let’s celebrate! $9 million in grants were recently awarded by The City of Grand Rapids for local affordable housing. Those projects will happen in Roosevelt Park, Boston Square, Downtown GR, Madison Square, Fulton Heights, Southwest Area, and along Division Avenue. These projects will benefit families, seniors, and people across the income spectrum.
In addition, we will soon see vacant, underutilized, blighted, and historic structures revitalized in our area, thanks to the investments we prioritized in the 2022 state budget. The Right Place is announcing the six regional placemaking projects that were awarded $3.6 million in grant funds, including the Grand Rapids Public Museum North Lawn Park, Eastown Public Art & Safety Project, and the Heartside Linear Plaza. It’s my hope that these new, innovative ideas will reactivate spaces that have gone unused, and be investments that pay off for our whole community.
Infrastructure is the kind of thing you don’t think about — until it’s not working! Luckily, there are plenty of local folks who think about it all the time, so you don’t have to. I was happy to host a group of them this week to introduce them to the Michigan Infrastructure Office, which is coordinating dollars that come from the federal government to help us improve things like broadband, transportation, roads and bridges, and more.
Honoring Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action
On September 16, the Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids hosted a commemoration to honor our nation’s Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. The symbolism of this table, with its empty place setting, draws to mind the families who suffer grief and unanswered questions when their loved one does not return home from war. We are grateful today, and every day, for our veterans — and remember those who are still missing.
MDHHS Urges Michigan Residents to Get Flu Vaccine
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging Michiganders to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible to protect themselves and their communities from flu this season.
Getting a flu vaccine is critical because flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will likely be spreading simultaneously. Residents can get their COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as their flu vaccine.
Flu vaccines are available now at local health departments, physician offices and pharmacies around the state. Find a location near you using the Vaccine Finder. Visit michigan.gov/flu for more information or visit ivaccinate.org to find answers to your vaccine questions.
Treasury: Don’t Forget to File Individual Income Tax Returns
Taxpayers who requested an extension to file their individual income tax returns have less than a month to file a complete and accurate return, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
Individual income tax returns due under an extension must be received by Treasury on or before Oct. 17, 2022. Returns can be sent through the U.S. Postal Service or e-Filed. For the convenience of taxpayers, the extension deadline is th
Taxpayers who have yet to file their individual income tax return should consider:
Taxpayers with questions about their state income taxes are encouraged to use Treasury eServices. The online platform enables taxpayers to ask state income tax-related questions when convenient and avoids the extended wait times for calls this time of year. To get started with Treasury eServices, go to Michigan.gov/IncomeTax and click on “Access eServices.”
Childcare Entrepreneurs Can Now Apply for “Our Strong Start”
This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the new “Our Strong Start” program to make it easier for entrepreneurs to open new childcare programs, get licensed faster, and expand access to high quality, affordable childcare for working families.
Entrepreneurs can connect with Our Strong Start at Michigan.gov/MIchildcare. If an entrepreneur would like to meet with a navigator, they can complete a simple form and a navigator will connect with them within 48 hours.
Families can also visit Michigan.gov/childcare to see if they qualify for low-or-no-cost childcare, as well as qualifying income levels for larger families.
Here are a few reasons to contact my office:
Comment on Legislation: If you want to express your opinion about legislation or learn more, my office can answer your questions and keep me informed of your comments. Your opinion matters!
If You Need Help: If you have a problem dealing with any department of state government, such as accessing unemployment benefits, my office can help you resolve it. While we usually cannot assist with local or federal issues, we will always do our best to help direct you to the appropriate person.
There’s No “Wrong” Reason: Any comment, question or concern is welcome. If your issue would be more appropriately addressed by a different unit of government, I will help direct you. Remember, I am here to serve YOU and your family.
I have other questions. Are you and your office still available?
To keep you and my staff healthy and safe, we are working remotely until further notice. Please call our office at (517) 373-1801 or send me an email at SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov, as you normally would, and we will do our best to avoid any interruption of service.