Dear Neighbor,

As the first year representing you in the Michigan Senate comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the progress we’ve made and the opportunities ahead.

This year, I’ve fought to move Michigan in the right direction — from progress on what could become the nation’s strongest PFAS standards to working toward more equity in how we fund K-12 schools.

I’ve worked hard to represent you with accountability, honesty and integrity every day, to be accessible and listen to your priorities in the district as well as at the Capitol.

In all I do, I aim to put the hardworking people of Michigan first in every decision.

If you’d like to be more informed about my work at the Capitol and in-district activities like coffee hours and town halls, consider signing up for my biweekly email updates online and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

As always, it’s an honor to serve as your senator and a pleasure to hear from you.

Winnie Brinks
State Senator, District 29


Cleaning Up Our Drinking Water

Thornapple River over flood stage, Ada, Michigan, as it passes beneath the covered bridge.

Every community should be able to trust that their drinking water is safe. That is why when it comes to PFAS and other contaminants, it’s critical that we clean up and protect our drinking water for future generations.

The first bill I introduced this year would set the strongest standards for PFAS detection in the nation, and I was pleased when the governor echoed the call by ordering the Department of Energy, Great Lakes, and Environment to develop science-based standards by April 2020. I will keep fighting to enact laws that hold polluters accountable and make sure communities already impacted by toxic chemicals like PFAS receive the help they need.


Changing Michigan’s
No-Fault Auto Insurance

On Friday, May 24, the majority in the legislature rushed through a final version of Senate Bill 1 to overhaul Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system. Less than a week later, the bill was signed into law, making dramatic changes to your coverage as a driver. While having the option to buy less coverage may appear to save families money, it’s not a real rate reduction if costs are shifted to health insurance bills.

Simply put, this legislation is not a good deal for our state because of four main issues:

  1. Coverage: The lifesaving insurance that auto accident victims need may collapse when people leave the unlimited system. People who choose less coverage don’t also get to choose which accidents they get into. Coverage shouldn’t be compromised for those who need it.
  2. Relief: The promised rate reduction is not on your full bill, only the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) line item. In fact, it’s not even specific to your bill, only the state’s average for consumers who are purchasing the same amount of PIP coverage. Depending on the cost of your insurance under the old system, you may experience little or even no rate reduction.
  3. Cost Shifting: While there’s a slim chance your monthly premium may go down a few dollars or cents each year, this new plan is projected to increase taxpayer-funded Medicaid costs by an estimated $72 million over 10 years. Why? Currently, your car insurance provider must pay for all auto accident related medical bills and treatment. Under Senate Bill 1, those who are Medicaid eligible can purchase no-fault coverage for only $50,000. Once that $50,000 cap is exhausted, any remaining expenses will fall upon the health insurance provider. That means increased burdens on Medicaid and private health insurance plans.
  4. Redlining: The legislation outlaws discrimination in pricing based on ZIP codes. However, it will still allow certain territorial zones to exist — areas which could be drawn even more narrowly to discriminate in pricing.

Senate Bill 1 encourages Michigan drivers to strip themselves of robust medical coverage current plans provide after an auto accident, leaving essential care behind once a victim’s expenses exceed their chosen PIP level of coverage. After speaking with constituents who have personally been affected by catastrophic auto accidents, it was clear to me that I could not leave our most vulnerable residents — the individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet — without the health care coverage they need in the event of a serious accident.


Senator Winnie Brinks speaks at the perinatal mood and anxiety rally May 8, 2019.

Standing with Women

From protecting access to women’s health care to ensuring support for domestic violence survivors, I am proud to stand with women across our state by supporting several bills and legislative packages this year.


Protecting Access to Health Care

Every Michigan resident should have access to quality, affordable health care — from preventative care to mental health care.

As Democratic Vice Chair of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee, I worked with colleagues across the aisle to usher House Bill 4325 through the Senate. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that currently licensed professional counselors can continue to diagnose and treat patients. Thank you to those of you who reached out to my office to make your voice heard on this.

I continued my efforts to improve funding for direct care workers to make sure health professionals who work tirelessly for our friends, family and neighbors can also make ends meet in their own households. Those who care for people with disabilities and our elders deserve our respect and the dignity of fair compensation for their important work.


Investing in K-12 Education

When I talk with people throughout our district, education continues to be one of the issues West Michigan residents care about most. Every child deserves access to a world-class education.

That’s why this year, I supported funding and legislation that would give our kids the support they need to succeed in the classroom and ensure they have multiple pathways to a good-paying job.

I also voted to increase the number of literacy coaches in our schools, fund early childhood education programs and move away from a one-size-fits-all funding model. No two schools and no two students are alike when it comes to the funding they need.

It’s also time we fix Michigan’s third grade reading law to make sure students and teachers have what they need to meet the goals the legislature initially intended. That’s why I co-sponsored a bill that would eliminate mandatory retention while keeping important literacy support intact.

To fulfill our commitment to our children, I continue to push the legislature to do a better job of investing equitably in their education, reducing class sizes, and attracting and retaining talented teachers.

Sen. Winnie Brinks reads to students at C.A. Frost Academy in Grand Rapids on March 18, 2019.

Why you might want 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 counts! When you want to show that you support or oppose a bill, writing a letter or an email is often the most effective way to communicate.

Learn About Coffee Hours: I host informal coffee hours around the district to meet as many residents as possible and listen to your ideas and concerns regarding state government. Dates and locations are updated regularly on my website and Facebook page.

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.


COFFEE HOURS IN THE DISTRICT

Friday, Jan. 10 | 9 to 10 a.m.
The Bitter End Coffeehouse
752 Fulton St. W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Friday, Jan. 24 | 9 to 10 a.m.
LINC UP
1167 Madison Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507

IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS

Michigan Attorney General – Consumer Protection Division (877) 765-8388
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (855) 275-6424
Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Services (517) 481-8001
Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (800) 803-7174
Michigan Office of Services to the Aging (517) 241-4100
Michigan Taxpayer Advocate/Assistance (517) 636-4759
Pure Michigan Talent Connect (888) 522-0103
Social Security Administration (800) 772-1213
Unemployment General Info (866) 500-0017

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