Legislative Update Summer 2021

Dear Neighbor,

As we begin fall and a season of reflection, I want to take a moment to update you on some work my staff and I have been doing on behalf of our community at the State Capitol. We have worked hard to deliver vital resources and key policy initiatives benefitting the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

While there is plenty of work to be proud of, there is always more work ahead of us to make our neighborhoods even more wonderful in which to live, work, and play. Sharing updates with you, hearing your perspectives, and ensuring your voice is heard in Lansing is the most important part of my job.

I am humbled to serve as your State Senator, and I hope you stay engaged with my office on issues most important to you by calling me at (517) 373-1801 or by emailing me at SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov.

Warm regards,

Winnie Brinks
State Senator
29th District

Website: SenatorBrinks.com
Email: SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov
Toll-free: (855) 347-8029 | Phone: (517) 373-1801
Click here to review the PDF version of newsletter

Michigan Departments

There are 17 major departments along with the Executive Office in the state Executive Branch.

Governor’s Office ……………………………………(517) 373-3400
Lieutenant Governor’s Office…………………….(517) 373-6800
Department of:
Agriculture and Rural Development ……….(800) 292-3939
Attorney General…………………………………(517) 335-7622
Civil Rights ………………………………………..(800) 482-3604
Corrections………………………………………..(517) 335-1426
Education ………………………………………….(833) 633-5788
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy……(800) 662-9278
Health and Human Services………………….(517) 241-3740
Insurance and Financial Services…………..(877) 999-6442
Labor and Economic Opportunity …………..(517) 241-6712
Licensing and Regulatory Affairs……………(517) 335-9700
Military and Veterans Affairs …………………(517) 481-8001
Natural Resources ………………………………(517) 284-6367
State ………………………………………………..(888) 767-6424
State Police ……………………………………….(517) 332-2521
Technology, Management and Budget…….(517) 241-5545
Transportation ……………………………………(517) 241-2400
Treasury ……………………………………………(517) 335-7508

Recognizing Women Veterans & Our Craft Beer Industry

Every year, each member of the Senate has the ability to offer commemorative resolutions that celebrate or bring awareness to issues important to them and their districts. So far this year, I’ve offered the following resolutions.

Senate Resolution 63 – Women
Veterans Recognition Day
Women are the fastest-growing
subset of the veteran population, serving in every branch of the military and in multiple occupational specialties and roles. Women have been serving in the military since the creation of the Army Nurse Corps in 1901, but they have not always been considered qualified for veteran status for the purpose of receiving benefits from the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DVMA).

It wasn’t until the late 1970s and early 1980s that many of the contributions made by women in World War II were formally recognized through laws granting them veteran status, thus opening the doors for them to take advantage of programs, opportunities, and benefits from federal and state government, the DVMA, and other veteran service organizations.

In June, the Senate unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 63 to recognize June 12, 2021, as Women Veterans Recognition Day in the State of Michigan.

Senate Resolution 71 – Craft Beer Month

This June, I offered Senate Resolution 71, which recognizes July 2021 as Craft Beer Month in Michigan. While Grand Rapids has earned the title of “Beer City, USA,” our state has craft breweries in every region, with more than 400 statewide. They produce more than 100 distinct styles of flavorful beers, whose quality and diversity have made Michigan the envy of many states.

Michigan Craft Brewers are a vibrant affirmation and expression of our state’s entrepreneurial traditions and, operating as community-based small businesses, they provide employment for more than 21,000 full-time workers. They are vested in the future, health, and welfare of our communities and our state, and have committed

to supporting a broad range of vital community institutions and philanthropic causes — ranging from not-for-profit housing development associations and chambers of commerce to humane societies, athletic teams, and medical research.

Senate Resolution 71 was adopted unanimously.

Contact me!

Website: SenatorBrinks.com
Email: SenWBrinks@senate.michigan.gov
Phone: (517) 373-1801 | Toll-free: (855) 347-8029

Wins for Senate District 29: Distilleries, Jobs, and Housing

Relief for Small Business Distillers

Senate Bill 142

Earlier this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan package of bills into law, one of which I sponsored, that eases the tax burden on Michigan distillers working to get ready-to-drink canned cocktails to market.

This legislation-turned-law allows our small businesses to distribute new products to people all over Michigan. Grand Rapids may be known as “Beer City,” but we have many innovative craft distilleries that contribute to our economy and culture in West Michigan, too. Now that many national companies are selling seltzers and canned cocktail drinks, it’s only practical we give our local businesses a fair chance to get their products in front of consumers easily and quickly.

Advancing Innovative Cancer Treatment in Grand Rapids

Senate Bill 440

Earlier this year, I introduced legislation that would help BAMF Health, headquartered in Grand Rapids, stay on track with the construction of their innovative cancer treatment facility on the Medical Mile, as well as enable the purchase of a state-of-the-art whole-body PET scanner. This solution helps them comply with important regulations and minimize the impact of delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while maintaining the integrity of Michigan law.

When it opens its doors in 2022, BAMF Health will diagnose and locate cancer and other serious diseases earlier and more accurately than any other current methods. Their application of intelligence-based, precision medicine means state-of-the-
art treatment for cancer — especially end-stage cancer – can be delivered more efficiently, effectively, and with fewer side effects.

I’m honored I could play a role in bringing this cutting-edge medical technology to Grand Rapids and all who will benefit from their work.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 440 into law on June 24, 2021. It is now Public Act 35 of 2021.

Lending a Hand to New Homeowners and Renters

Senate Bill 362

In April, I introduced legislation called the Attainable Housing and Rehabilitation Act, which was included as part of a bicameral, bipartisan bill package aimed at addressing the state’s housing crisis through a series of initiatives.

A broad coalition of legislators and stakeholders focused on creating and expanding tools for local governments to support the development and rehabilitation of housing that is attainable to more Michigan residents with a variety of income levels.

The common principles around the proposed initiatives include:

Local control and flexibility: Local units of government will be able to decide many of the terms of proposed programs, including affordability requirements, length of any credits and where assistance can be applied (e.g., allowing up to 120% of area median income and program term lengths). In short, this legislation allows housing tools to be applied based on local conditions and need.

• Workforce housing: These bills would provide tools that provide the most benefit for residents who have difficulty obtaining market-rate housing but have more income than would allow them to qualify for “affordable housing” assistance.

These proposed solutions will be immensely valuable for communities in and around Grand Rapids. This legislation offers a great set of tools to help residents, whether they’re longtime Grand Rapidians or new neighbors, find a safe place to call home at a price that works for them.

As of July 19, this legislation awaits a hearing in the Michigan House of Representatives.

What I’m Working On: Maternal Health Care, Opioids, and IDs

Ending the “Tampon Tax” (Senate Bill 153)

In February, Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) and I introduced Senate Bills 153 and 154 to repeal Michigan’s taxes on feminine hygiene products.

These taxes create a hardship for those who already have difficulty making ends meet, and it’s something only those who menstruate are forced to pay. It is estimated that, over the course of a lifetime, an individual could use about 17,000 tampons and sanitary napkins. These products are a necessity, and the federal government agrees: Last year, through the CARES Act, Congress confirmed feminine hygiene products are qualified medical expenses for payment or reimbursement with a Health Savings Account (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA).

So far, 20 states exempt menstrual hygiene products from sales and use taxes. Canada has also eliminated what was commonly referred to as the “tampon tax.” It’s time to add Michigan to the list.

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic (Senate Bill 578)

This summer, I worked across the aisle to introduce legislation aimed at combatting the opioid epidemic. Together, our bills expand the availability of treatment in emergency departments for substance use disorders (SUDs), and access to Naloxone, the lifesaving drug that can reverse overdoses, to community-based organizations.

The progress that we’ve seen fighting the opioid epidemic has been impeded, in part, due to the public health crisis of COVID-19. It’s important that we continue working to help those suffering from SUDs, as well as their loved ones, despite barriers created by the pandemic. This legislation is critical to Michigan’s fight against SUDs, as this ongoing public health crisis affects far too many families statewide.

IDs for All and Safer Michigan Roads (Senate Bill 434)

Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and I have introduced the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bill package that would allow all Michigan residents an opportunity to obtain state identification cards or driver’s licenses.

This legislation would apply to everyone living in Michigan who meets the definition of having a residence here, including those who are unable to prove their lawful presence. The bills would also help the elderly — such as 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, foreign adoptees, and those who lack certain legal documents.

Immigrants are a critical part of Michigan’s economy, touching a multitude of industries from agriculture and manufacturing to hospitality, health care, construction and more.
The least we can do to honor their vital role is to permit them a pathway to a state identification card or driver’s license upon meeting certain requirements. This policy has proven beneficial in other states by boosting local economies and increasing public safety. Michigan must address this issue, too.

Expanding Pregnancy-Related Maternal Medicaid (Senate Bill 252)

More than half of maternal deaths are deemed preventable. The U.S. has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world — just behind Russia — and Michigan ranks in the bottom half of all 50 states. Unfortunately, outcomes are substantially worse for people of color and those whose Medicaid eligibility ends 60 days after delivery.

However, the good news is that the U.S. does have the ability to prevent two-thirds
of maternal deaths during, or within a year of pregnancy, if we make some policy adjustments. That’s why, earlier this term, I introduced Senate Bill 252 to expand the pregnancy-related Medicaid program, known as Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies, from
60 days to one year postpartum, ensuring new mothers will not have to weigh costs when making postpartum health care decisions. Pregnancy-related Medicaid is usually only available to individuals whose income levels are just over the limit for Healthy Michigan Medicaid, but not at a level where they can afford a private health insurance plan.

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More news:

Senate District 29 Update Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus Introduces Reproductive Health Package Sens. McMorrow, Brinks Applaud Movement on Tampon Tax Repeal

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