Senate Democrats have been hard at work in Lansing, ensuring that we waste no time addressing the important issues that matter to the people of Michigan. We have organized our committees, appointed our chairs, finalized our agenda, negotiated between chambers, and begun to move policy forward at a record pace. In fact, when Governor Whitmer signed our $1.1 billion spending plan into law on January 31, it marked the first time in 75 years that Michigan legislation has been signed that early. Usually, it isn’t until March that we see bills being signed into law.
Make no mistake, we are being deliberative and measured about these changes – but we entered this year with a deep drive and a clear set of goals. We plan to continue making advancements all while addressing the issues that matter to the people who entrusted us with this leadership role.
I hope your 2023 has been off to a good start. As always, it’s my honor to work for you, the people of District 29, and deliver honest, diligent representation in Lansing on the issues that matter most.
Senate Majority Leader
In This Issue
- Spending bill signed into law
- 3rd Grade Reading Law
- Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act
- Presidential Primary
- Statement on Tyre Nichols’ Death
- Governor Whitmer Visits Economic Club of Grand Rapids
- MLK Day Community Events
- ICCF Ribbon Cutting
LEGISLATIVE AND GOVERNMENT UPDATE
Spending Bill Signed into Law
The Senate and House sent our first public act of the new year to the Governor’s desk in January — a $1.1 billion spending bill that utilizes Michigan’s unspent federal COVID relief funds. It makes critical investments in the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund to build and refurbish affordable housing for veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, and working-class families across our state. It funds the Missing Middle Housing Program, which aims to specifically build and rehabilitate properties for middle class families near where they work. The dollars will be used to help businesses, establish a water shutoff prevention fund, help workers with transportation and childcare costs, and encourage apprenticeship programs.
Repealing the 3rd Grade Reading Law
One immediate priority for Democratic leaders at the outset of this legislative session was to address the damaging portions of Michigan’s third grade reading law. Sen. Polehanki introduced Senate Bill 12, which would repeal the portion of that law that requires that third graders who are not reading on grade level to be held back and repeat the grade.
Senate Bill 12 will ensure students are provided with individualized reading support, evidence-based reading interventions, at-home reading plans, and early literacy coaching. This bill passed the Senate on Wednesday and will be presented to the House for their consideration.
Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights
Sen. Moss introduced Senate Bill 4, which would amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as categories that are protected from discrimination. Our state of is home to over 373,000 LGBTQ+ people who deserve the same protection and freedom from discrimination that any other Michigan resident can count on. This week, the bill passed out of the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee, the first time in 40 years a bill to include LGBTQ protections has passed out of a state legislative committee.
I look forward to supporting the passage of this bill when it comes to a vote on the Senate floor.
The issues that matter to Michigan should matter to the whole nation, and on February 2 we made great strides to ensure that Michigan’s voice would be elevated to a higher level of significance by ensuring we are among the first states to hold our presidential primary vote.
The legislature passed Senate Bill 13 to move up Michigan’s primary date. This would bring economic activity and enhanced voter engagement to our state, and I was glad to support Senate Bill 13.
Statement on Tyre Nichols Death
On January 28, 2023, I issued the following statement in reaction to recently released video footage showing Tyre Nichols being brutally beaten by Memphis police officers earlier this month:
“The footage released of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols is absolutely horrifying. My heart aches for his loved ones, particularly his mother.”
“Those whose duty it is to protect and serve clearly failed this young man, resulting in his needless and tragic death. Trust cannot and will not be restored until meaningful action is taken. That means ensuring swift legal action when officers act beyond the power of their badge, rooting out internal culture problems that fuel violence, centering policing policies around the human dignity of all involved, and putting Black and Brown voices at the front of these important conversations.”
Governor Whitmer Visits Economic Club of Grand Rapids
On February 6, 2023, Governor Whitmer spoke at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, highlighting the important work that Democratic leaders are doing to improve the state’s economy and bring well-paying jobs to our communities. Additionally, she signed an executive order that will transfer the administration of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from the Michigan Strategic Fund to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). This will help Michigan respond more urgently to the housing issues we are facing.
You can read more about the steps we have identified to address the housing crisis in the State Housing Plan.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Events
I was honored to start Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at the 23rd annual corporate breakfast hosted by the Urban League of West Michigan. Later that afternoon, I helped prepare food that would be delivered to Kentwood seniors at The Candied Yam for their annual day of service. I was happy to see several other legislators there, including State Rep. Phil Skaggs and U.S. Representative Hillary Scholten.
Every year, I’m grateful to be part of such a vibrant community where so many are committed to the vision that Dr. King had. There is so much work to be done as we strive toward equity and justice. I’m heartened to find so many dedicated, creative, and caring people who are working toward that goal in West Michigan.
ICCF Ribbon Cutting
Downtown Grand Rapids now has a new senior living center! My staff was proud to attend the ribbon cutting hosted by ICCF Community Homes for “The Southgate,” a beautiful new building on Division Avenue in the Southgate neighborhood. It includes 56 housing units, a gym, a library, and beautiful community spaces.
The project was funded in part through Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSDHA) Low Income Housing Tax Credits and dollars from the Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Plan. We know that there is an urgent need for more affordable housing for our seniors. This beautiful space will provide not only affordable living space, but also a dignified, safe, and truly beautiful place for seniors to call home.
New Text-to-911 Service Available
Ever wanted to text law enforcement instead of calling them? Now, residents in Kent County can text 911 if they are in trouble.
On December 20, 2022, the Kent County Sheriff Department and Grand Rapids Police Department announced the joint launch of the text-to-911 service. Both law enforcement agencies equally recognized that there are high-stress situations where a phone call is not possible or where texting can be safer.
Furthermore, this text-to-911 service can benefit community members who identify as deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired. The text-to-911 service can translate languages for non-native English-speaking individuals as well.
When texting responders, include your location and specific details. Keep in mind that photos and videos will not go through to responders.
Michigan Achievement Scholarship
The Michigan Achievement Scholarship application has opened for all high school seniors! This scholarship provides:
- Up to $2,750 if you attend a community college, per year
- Up to $5,500 if you attend a public university, per year
- Up to $4,000 if you attend a private college or university, per year
There is no deadline for this scholarship. Students have 15 months from either their high school graduation or high school equivalency completion to enter college and use the funds they are awarded.
High school seniors can get started by following these steps:
- File your FAFSA
- Create a MiSSG Student Portal account three to five business days after filing your FAFSA
How to Stay Warm This Winter
In our district, it’s important to watch out for one another. During our coldest months, local warming centers and shelters in the Greater Grand Rapids area are available for those who are experiencing homelessness or need a safe place to go:
The Office of Senate Majority Leader Brinks values input from all Michiganders but prioritizes District 29 constituent concerns. If you have questions or concerns, but are not a resident of District 29, I encourage you to reach out to your local State Senator. Click here to find who represents you in the Senate.
Comment on Legislation: You can stay updated on legislative advancements through my biweekly e-newsletters or by clicking here. Given the high volume of messages my office receives daily, please note that it may take time for your inquiry to receive a response.
If You Need Help: If you have a problem dealing with any department of state government, such as accessing unemployment benefits, my office is available to help 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 or organization for help.
You many always feel free to call my office at (517) 373-1801 or email me at SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov.