At the beginning of every session of the legislature, we recite the pledge of allegiance, ending with the words, “… with liberty and justice for all.” While I’ve always recognized these as ideals toward which we strive as a nation, this year it is especially clear that these words reflect our aspirations rather than our reality.
Every decision I make in the legislature – whether on education, economic opportunity, health care, the environment, or criminal justice – is an opportunity to recognize the intersectionality of the challenges we face and to take action to advance equity. Every day, I work to make our community a place where every person is safe, has their essential needs met, and can enjoy the freedom to achieve their goals.
In this newsletter, you will see the actions we have taken to better the lives of all Michiganders and some goals we continue working on for the remainder of this legislative session.
I believe the many challenges of 2020 provide opportunities to build a state and a nation that keeps its promises of liberty and justice for all. I say those words with more courage, conviction, and determination than ever before.
Senator Winnie Brinks
Senate District 29
Toll-free: (855) 347-8029
Fighting for Every Michigander
Justice, Equality & Opportunity
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI. 48909
CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
How to protect yourself and what to do if you are sick
cdc.gov | 1-800-232-4636
|SENATE DISTRICT 29 RESOURCE|
Information from my office about COVID-19
|SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES |
Michigan Economic Development Corporation
|CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL How to protect yourself and what to do if you are sick |
cdc.gov | 1-800-232-4636
|REPORT CONSUMER SCAMS |
Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection
|TESTING LOCATIONS |
and more information on Michigan’s response:
|MI HELP LINE |
For health-related questions Available every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
|KENT COUNTY COVID RESOURCES accesskent.com | 616-632-7590|
HEALTH CARE alliancehhcs.com 616-965-0514
Unemployment: If you are experiencing an issue with the Unemployment Insurance Agency, please visit my website at senatedems.com/brinks/unemployment to get more help. Filling out this form is the most efficient way for us to help you resolve those issues. Please be sure to include your name and address.
RACIAL HEALTH DISPARITIES
Addressing Maternal Health Disparities
In July, Governor Whitmer announced Executive Directive 2020-7, which directs the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to begin making rules to require implicit bias training as part of the knowledge and skills necessary for health professionals’ licensing and registration in Michigan.
Maternal mortality rates in the United States, specifically, are already staggeringly worse than other developed nations and they have been consistently worse for Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) mothers.
Black and AI/AN women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy- related causes than white women – and this disparity increases with age. Even in states with lower pregnancy-related deaths, and among women with higher levels of education, significant differences persist, suggesting the disparities in pregnancy- related deaths for Black and AI/AN women are not only related to socioeconomic factors, but systemic racism within the health care system.
Tragically, when it comes to prenatal and postpartum care, women, and Black women especially, report they do not feel heard and do not feel as if they are being counseled appropriately. They also feel left out of the decision-making process when it comes to family planning.
We cannot and should not allow this to be the norm. Many studies show there is much more the United States can do when it comes to postpartum care, which is why I’m proud to have introduced legislation to expand maternal Medicaid coverage from 60 days postpartum to one year after childbirth.
There are many other ideas on how to improve maternal mortality, but I believe this is a good start. I hope to provide further updates on this matter as the legislation moves through the legislative process.
Racism as a Public Health Crisis
COVID-19 has laid bare some of our country’s most troubling truths when it comes to health disparities. Latinx and Black Americans are three times more likely to become infected with COVID-19, and nearly twice as likely to die from the virus as white people.
These alarming disparities do not begin, nor do they end, with COVID-19. People of color are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, asthma, and diabetes, among many other chronic illnesses, largely due to systemic racism that has plagued these communities for generations.
In June, I joined my colleague, Sen. Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit), in calling for the State of Michigan to declare racism a public health crisis.
The call for change has reached a fever pitch, and rightfully so. Centuries of policies, laws, and attitudes that perpetuate racism are deeply ingrained in American culture, and it is our responsibility to not only acknowledge the harm they have caused, but to change them.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
Expanding Criminal Record Expungement
A package of bills expanding criminal record expungement is making considerable progress in the Senate and it is my hope it will get signed into law by the end of this year.
This legislation is a monumental step forward to remove barriers to employment, housing, and other opportunities for people with criminal records.
According to a 2019 University of Michigan Law School study, only 6.5% of people who qualify for expungement in Michigan have their records cleared within five years of becoming eligible.
This reform will provide critically needed changes to the expungement process, such as:
• Allowing automatic expungement and criminal convictions to be set aside after 10 years for certain minor crimes without filing an application.
• Creating a process for setting aside traffic offenses (not including DUI- related convictions or reckless driving which caused serious injury or death), as no traffic offense is currently eligible for expungement.
• Allowing misdemeanor marijuana convictions to be set aside.
• Expanding eligibility for setting aside felony and misdemeanor convictions to those with no more than three felonies, so long as no more than two of the convictions are for an assaultive crime.
• Allowing individuals with multiple convictions stemming from the same incident to have those convictions treated as a single felony for purposes of applying for expungement.
Law Enforcement Reform
I cosponsored Senate Bill 945, introduced by my colleague, Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), which requires that all Michigan police officers complete mandated training in violence de-escalation, implicit bias, mental health screening, and procedural justice as part of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards training.
Since 2015, more than 77 individuals have been fatally shot by police officers within the state of Michigan. Nearly 50% of these fatalities were non-white individuals and close to one-third were suffering from documented mental illnesses. Providing police with the knowledge and training on de-escalating a situation or identifying mental health crises gives officers more tools, and it helps build trust among the community.
While it’s encouraging that some local law enforcement agencies already provide some training of this type, this bill would require that all new officers receive this training at the beginning of their careers.
In 2019, I also introduced Senate Bills 501 and 502, which aim to improve diversity in local law enforcement agencies.
The two-bill package would establish statewide matching funds for local government scholarships aimed at increasing access to law enforcement career opportunities for women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups. It is important the law enforcement agencies protecting our communities reflect the people they serve.
State Identification Cards and Driver’s Licenses for All
In October 2019, I joined Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Reps. Alex Garza (D-Taylor) and Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) in introducing a package of bills that would allow all Michigan residents the opportunity to obtain a state identification card or driver’s license.
This legislation, known as the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bills, apply to Michigan residents who maintain a home and meet the definition of a having a residence in Michigan, including those who may not be able to prove their citizenship or immigration status. These beneficiaries would include the elderly — particularly those of rural origins whose births may not have been properly recorded or whose records were lost — as well as U.S. citizens born abroad to American families and foreign adoptees.
Immigrants contribute more than $3.3 billion to the Kent County economy alone, and foreign-born workers would have the potential to contribute even more to our communities if eligible for a state identification card. Foreign-born entrepreneurs own and operate businesses of all kinds, and nearly half of the workers in our agriculture industry are immigrants. It’s time we make this change for the sake o our communities and their families.
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