The challenges we faced in 2020 were unlike any other as we dealt with the impact of COVID-19 in our communities. I hope this newsletter finds you and your families safe and healthy as we embark upon another year.
I am proud of the work Team Chang did in 2020. We passed several bills, had others make their way through the legislative process, hosted numerous virtual events, and helped solve problems for hundreds of residents in District 1. In this newsletter, you will find updates about legislation and resources related to COVID-19 that I hope you find helpful.
Every letter, email, and call to our office has helped me to better serve you, and I hope to continue hearing from you as 2021 begins. If you would like to share your ideas or need assistance, please contact my office. I also invite you to sign up for my e-newsletter to receive our regular updates at SenatorStephanieChang.com.
Stay safe and be well,
Toll-free: (855) 347-8001
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Join Me Online for Coffee
I always enjoy the opportunity to hear directly from Senate District 1 residents on the issues YOU care about! My favorite way to do that is to host coffee hours, which I’ve been doing online to keep everyone safe. We have virtual coffee hours coming up on Friday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. and Friday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m. For more information, visit SenatorStephanieChang.com.
Check my website for other upcoming dates and times for coffee hours and town halls, and sign up for my e-newsletter!
In June 2020, the House and Senate passed an amended version of Senate Bill 690, a supplemental budget bill that appropriated $850 million of the state’s federal CARES Act funding to provide relief for areas impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. In December, the legislature appropriated $465 million more in COVID-19 relief. I am glad this funding will help many Michiganders, but I will keep fighting for more relief.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Our health care professionals and public servants have been hard at work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure that everyone has access to important information and resources. Do your part to stay safe and stop the spread of this virus by wearing a mask when you go out, staying at least six feet apart from others, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and washing your hands often.
Visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus to find the latest information, a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and testing sites near you or call the COVID-19 Hotline at (888) 535-6136.
For more information specific to Wayne County, contact the Wayne County Health Department’s COVID-19 Public Information Line at (734) 287-7870 or visit WayneCounty.com/COVID19.
For more information specific to Detroit, contact the City of Detroit Health Department’s COVID-19 Hotline at (313) 876-4000 or visit detroitmi.gov.
For more information about the vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine.
Four of my bills were signed by the Governor in “lame duck” in 2020!
Senate Bill 73: Address Confidentiality Program. Part of a bill package to create an Address Confidentiality Program for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, this bill requires the Secretary of State to issue a corrected driver’s license to a program participant and mail it to the participant’s designated address.
Senate Bill 195: MDOC Family Advisory Board. Creates a Family Advisory Board within the Michigan Department of Corrections that is tasked with advising MDOC on policies and programs that support family reunification and enhance communication between MDOC and families.
Senate Bill 241: Water Shutoff Protection Act. Codifies Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-144, which provided for a moratorium on water shutoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic until March 31, 2020.
Senate Bill 1049: Criminal Justice Reform. This legislation was part of a package of bills based on the work of the Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force and will expand access to the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (HYTA) to offenders who are 24- and 25-years old.
I also worked hard on several other bills that were signed by the Governor in 2020:
Senate Bill 920: Emergency Prescription Refills. Introduced by my colleague, Sen. Peter MacGregor, this bill provides access to emergency refills of up to a 60-day supply of prescription drugs and codifies an earlier Executive Order to protect the public health during a pandemic. My team and I worked with Sen. MacGregor and local disability justice advocates on this bill.
Senate Bill 1234: Poverty Exemption Extension. I worked with my colleague, Sen. Jim Runestad, housing experts, and various municipal stakeholders on extending the poverty exemption from property taxes for low-income residents. Under this bill, local governments can decide to grant a poverty exemption for up to 3 years and, to better protect people during the COVID-19 pandemic, they can grant the exemption for 2021 based on prior qualification.
COVID Legislation Update
Risky Hazmat Provision in Supplemental COVID Relief Bill
On Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, the Senate passed Senate Bill 748, which allocates $465 million in state funding to address needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis. While I appreciate the many important items and critical programs covered by this bill, I could not — in good conscience — support it.
My priorities are always to protect the health and safety of Senate District 1 residents, and so I was extremely disappointed and angry to find included language in this bill allowing hazmat materials to be transported across the antiquated 91-year-old Ambassador Bridge. This decision ignores facts, neglects our community’s health and safety, and forces the Michigan Department of Transportation to rely on a rejected 2012 draft study that did not adhere to federal standards and that received strong opposition from community members.
That opposition still exists today. More than 400 residents who live in and near our district signed a community petition in opposition to the request for hazmat materials to be transported across the bridge. I, too, remain strongly opposed to such types of transport, as it simply jeopardizes the health and safety of our residents — and puts our Great Lakes at risk — and I find it wholly unacceptable. I was extremely glad that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer struck this text from the bill before she signed it into law in late December.
This past fall, Gov. Whitmer signed a budget for Fiscal Year 2021 that funds shared priorities such as education, economic development, public health, public safety, and the environment.
I was thrilled to have secured $250,000 for air filtration systems in Detroit Public Schools Community District schools in environmental justice communities and $2 million for Detroit Public Television virtual learning initiatives! Both are critical for children and families in our district. Among other budget highlights were:
$30 MILLION to fund the Michigan Reconnect program, which provides a tuition-free pathway for adults looking to earn a postsecondary certificate or associate degree
$12.6 MILLION for the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program to ensure women are given the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy
$26 MILLION to expand access to child care for families by increasing the income limit eligibility from 130% to 150% of the Federal Poverty Level
$14.3 MILLION in broadband funding to help expand Internet access across the state
This budget is proof that when we work together, we can deliver results for Michigan students and their families.
Last year, the bipartisan Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration issued its report on how to expand alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay, and improve Michigan’s justice system.
I was proud to introduce a package of legislation with a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to expand officers’ discretion to issue a citation for low-level offenses, increase the use of alternatives to jail for low-level crimes, and incentivize compliance with probation conditions. Additional bills introduced in the House reduce driver’s license suspensions for violations unrelated to dangerous driving, eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences, and decriminalize a variety of low-level traffic offenses — policy changes also recommended by the Task Force.
These bills — which were signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late December 2020 — are a step in the right direction of making a difference for families who have lost a loved one to a system that overly, and inconsistently, prosecutes people of color and the poor. We still have more work to do.
In July 2020, the Senate Democratic Caucus introduced a comprehensive plan to boost Michigan’s unemployment system to expand benefits for unemployed individuals. Senate Bills 453 and 995-1005 would increase the length and quality of benefits received by Michiganders as the pandemic continues to threaten many livelihoods and create financial stress.
Senate Bill 995 would increase the maximum weekly benefit to $602 per week and, paired with Senate Bill 453, unemployed Michiganders would receive that money for 26 weeks instead of the current 20 weeks.
Highlights of other bills in the package included:
• Allowing those who are unemployed to access loans and grants while they wait for unemployment payments (Senate Bills 996 and 997)
• Allowing workers to collect unemployment during pandemics (Senate Bill 998)
• Lowering the earnings eligibility requirement and increasing the weekly benefits amount (Senate Bills 999 and 1000)
• Expanding the definition of workers who can file for unemployment (Senate Bills 1001-1003)
• Requiring employers to keep track of declared tips and include them on reports to the unemployment agency (Senate Bill 1004)
• Expanding cost-sharing by ensuring only the separating employer will be used to determine non-monetary disqualification for benefits (Senate Bill 1005)
Independent Redistricting Commission Gets to Work
On Aug. 17, 2020, the Michigan Department of State randomly selected 13 Michigan citizens to serve on our state’s first Independent Redistricting Commission. The new commissioners — four who affiliate with the Democratic Party, four who affiliate with the Republican Party, and five who do not affiliate with either major political party — are charged with redrawing the boundaries of Michigan’s state and congressional districts for the next 10 years using finalized data from the 2020 Census.
The selection of the commission members was able to happen thanks to the passage of Proposal 2 in 2018, when voters overwhelmingly approved this constitutional amendment. I continue to fully support this much-needed, nonpartisan commission that will ensure people choose their politicians, and not the other way around.
Visit RedistrictingMichigan.org to learn more and view their schedule of meetings, which can be watched live at Facebook.com/RedistrictingMI.
Why should redistricting matter to YOU? Redistricting determines how you and your community are represented politically at a state and national level. Ensuring district lines are drawn fairly means YOUR voice will be heard and will allow for political leadership that is responsive to the needs of you and your community.
We can build safe, healthy communities by ensuring people who made a mistake have a chance to make things better and thrive.-Sen. Chang
Law Enforcement Reform
In the new legislature, we must prioritize police accountability and transparency. In 2020, I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1162, to enhance partnerships between social workers and law enforcement, and worked with colleagues on other bills that, among other things, would have:
• Required law enforcement training on de-escalation and implicit bias.
• Required independent investigations of police misconduct.
• Made clear that law enforcement officers have the duty to intervene.
• Provided training to help police safely deal with people who struggle with a mental illness.
• Created opportunities to weed out ‘bad apple’ cops.
• Reduced potential high-intensity police stops triggered by 911 calls that are based on a person’s race, rather than the actual suspicion of a crime.
• Strengthened our laws regarding use of force policies.
We will reintroduce these and other bills in 2021 and I am committed to seeing them signed into law.
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought financial havoc on many. It has magnified the systemic sexism and racism in housing and has the potential to leave millions of people — especially women and their families — homeless. The unfortunate reality is that we have had a housing crisis for decades, but COVID-19 has exacerbated it.
I spearheaded a five-bill package comprised of Senate Bills 1128-1132 that was introduced on Sept. 22, 2020, with the intent to deliver housing justice to people faced with increasing rent and eviction notices, and relief that is particularly needed by seniors and those with disabilities.
In June 2020, Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills), Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), and I introduced Senate Bills 948-950 to protect major waterways and public health. The legislation would ensure statewide risk assessments would be conducted and a public database of findings be made available regarding contaminated properties along major waterways, require inspections of commercial and industrial docks, and require notification regarding spills into our waterways.
In the Great Lakes State, there should be no reason for our residents to be left in the dark about potential hazards on the waterways around them. Ensuring that we have public access to comprehensive information we need about the contaminated sites along our waterways is important, especially given the growing concerns about our water quality, as well as rising water levels.
Addressing Sexual Assault, Harassment
While I’m disappointed that Senate Bills 216-220 and House Bills 4370-4378 and 4383 were not considered by the full Senate for the second term in a row, we will reintroduce the bills and work hard to pass them in 2021. These were bipartisan bills that aimed to prevent sexual assault by changing the culture around sexual assault through education in schools, addressing sexual misconduct under the guise of medical treatment, requiring training for mandatory reporters, and prohibiting officials from using their position of authority to prevent someone from reporting sexual misconduct.
We must all do our part to protect children from sexual assault by changing the culture in our state around this topic.-Sen. Chang
It was great to reconnect with many of you at our Outdoor Resource Fair in October where more than a dozen agencies provided critical resources regarding housing, food, utilities, and health — including flu shots. We look forward to hosting more safe, socially distanced events in 2021!
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