Feb. 17, 2023 | This Week in Government: Fight Over Process Leaves Rebate Checks in Limbo in Tax Bill FightFebruary 17, 2023
Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.
Fight Over Process Leaves Rebate Checks in Limbo in Tax Bill Fight
A bitter Senate floor debate erupted Thursday as Democrats brought up and passed its tax proposal along party lines before stalling out until at least next week over the inability to obtain an immediate effect on the proposal.
The refusal to grant immediate effect by Republicans prompted a ramping up of partisan maneuvering by the Democratic majority, which delayed a reconsideration vote on immediate effect.
Rather than sending the bill to be enrolled, Democratic leadership dangled the threat over Republicans of removing the need for a record roll call vote on legislation moving forward through a change in Senate rules if they did not voluntarily provide the needed two-thirds vote via roll-call vote.
All of this leaves up in the air the possibility of Michigan taxpayers receiving a $180 rebate check from the state as part of the Democratic-negotiated tax plan until the immediate effect question is resolved.
Both sides appeared solidly dug in along party lines on HB 4001. The Senate passed the conference committee report on the bill 20-17 along party lines after a spirited floor debate over objections of Republicans, who called it unfair to many taxpayers and a move that will spur further inflationary increases in the state.
The delay on Thursday in moving the tax plan to the governor’s desk was not the first. Last week while Senate Democrats were still in caucus, Republicans took the gavel and adjourned session, infuriating the majority party and prompting the majority leader to state she was not taking changes to chamber rules off the table governing immediate effect to afford passage more easily (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Feb. 9, 2023).
While there was a delay, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer still praised the Senate’s action. She called it disappointing that Republicans blocked immediate effect but said she hopes they will work with Democrats to get rebate checks to taxpayers.
“Twelve years ago, the rug was ripped out from under our seniors and working families—the retirement tax was slapped on and the Working Families Tax Credit was gutted,” she said in a statement. “It was wrong. Now, we’re making it right, putting money back in people’s pockets in every community and every county. It proves that we can deliver real change that makes a difference in people’s lives.”
During Thursday’s session, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) took steps to hit back at Republicans over last week’s delay tactic by introducing SR 11 and SR 12. The first resolution, adopted along party lines, eliminates the position of associate president pro tempore under Senate rules, which was held by Sen. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe), who took the gavel last week and adjourned session.
Stakes for both parties are higher under SR 12, which would change Senate rules to say the chamber’s electronic voting system “may” be used rather than “shall” be used to determine a roll-call vote in the chamber. This could be used to enable the majority to more easily obtain immediate effect on legislation by gaveling through items by voice vote as is the custom in the House.
This would remove a significant guardrail for the minority party to slow or prevent the enactment of legislation with which it disagrees.
Brinks also punished two Republicans by stripping Bellino and Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), who serves as minority floor leader and made the move to adjourn last week, of two committee assignments. They each now serve on just one committee.
On Thursday, SR 12 was referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee, controlled by the majority leader. Brinks told reporters following session that SR 12 could be used to adjust Senate rules and could come up in committee “if we see a further need to address that.”
Brinks said the delay on HB 4001 would provide time for Republicans to consider whether any members might provide the votes necessary for immediate effect under existing Senate rules.
“If in the future we find that there are people who are getting in the way of doing things and working together well for the benefit of our state, we will consider action on that resolution,” Brinks said.
Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) ripped the Democrats in remarks to reporters after session for the introduction of SR 11 and SR 12.
Nesbitt said last week the Republicans used a legitimate tool at their disposal, given that neither the lieutenant governor nor any of the Democratic leaders who could take the gavel to make the move to adjourn were presiding.
As to possibly changing Senate rules for immediate effect, he said such moves break with decades-long precedent.
“You don’t change the rules in the middle of the game, or even after the game starts, and I think without a negotiation, without a sit-down, I think this is wrong,” Nesbitt said. “They’re trying to silence the voice of half the state.”
Thursday’s partisan fight was over the fate of a tax bill that would reduce taxes on retirement income and fully exempt public safety officials from taxes on retirement income. Under the proposal, the Earned Income Tax Credit would be raised to 30% of the federal credit.
Taxpayers would be provided a one-time $180 rebate check while money would also be shifted to economic development funds.
The bill would also shift $800 million in Corporate Income Tax revenue from the 2021-22 fiscal year to a new fund to be distributed by the Department of Treasury. It would also provide a way to move Corporate Income Tax revenue directly to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund.
By moving the $800 million and distributing rebate checks, the state could block a potential reduction in the state income tax rate, which is the main bone of contention for Republicans.
The minority party also said the bill is unfair to taxpayers by trading a permanent tax cut for a one-time check. They also ripped the process through which it was adopted, having been pushed quickly through the conference committee without amendments or testimony.
Brinks, prior to the vote, said the tax plan before the chamber was the product of years of conversations with voters across the state and in the halls of the Capitol.
“Does this offer real solutions to real people and fix real problems? I can tell you exactly that it does,” Brinks said. “It helps seniors who have carefully budgeted for their golden years and deserve to keep more money in their pockets. It helps everyone who has felt the sting of inflation and it helps those working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet.”
She said it provides several provisions, including input and suggestions from Republicans.
“This plan is rooted in deeply-held core values that I would hope we all share,” Brinks said. “Values like fairness, honesty, pragmatism and making sure every Michigander has a shot at financial security and all the good things that come with it.”
Nesbitt contrasted those comments prior to the vote by calling the plan a “big government scheme that picks winners and losers.”
“The reason our immediate and ongoing tax relief was rejected is because our governor has some big spending plans,” Nesbitt said, referencing the governor’s budget proposal that, if enacted, would drain the state’s estimated $9 billion surplus to a few hundred million.
To the proposed rule changes, stripping of his caucus members’ committee assignments, and the overall process used by Democrats in pushing the bill, Nesbitt did not mince his words.
“You don’t punish people for following the rules, especially after using those same rules to avoid hearings and silence debate,” Nesbitt said. “I hope we can hit the reset button and go back to operating this chamber as it was intended and has been operated for decades now, through discussion, open debate, and professional courtesy.”
Republicans lined up to express their opposition prior to the vote, while Democrats sought to refute their arguments in their turn.
Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township) said what she found “most reprehensible” in HB 4001 was what she called three classes of people created among residents based upon their source of retirement income, all taxed differently.
“I find it ironic that those that tout themselves as champions of equity have put before us a plan that is patently unfair and not equitable,” Johnson said. “Only a small fraction of people will get the full benefit of this bill.”
Sen. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) said the bill would maintain the existing income tax rate rather than allow the rate to drop and help residents who are being hit by inflation.
“If this automatic income tax rate rollback is thwarted, the people of Michigan will lose money in the long run,” Albert said.
Albert added the bill would also continue what he called reckless government spending, further driving up inflation.
Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) alluded to the MSU shooting Monday night, saying he was appalled the tax legislation was even coming up for a vote this week.
“I ask for a no vote on this bill because it isn’t policy: it’s a press release. It’s not tax policy, it’s a tax hike, and it won’t help family budgets,” Damoose said.
Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) ripped Democrats for forcing the bill through in weeks via conference committee without testimony or amendments, with virtually no details provided to members prior to it being reported from conference committee.
“Michigan taxpayers deserve transparency in their legislation process rather than secrecy, especially when they are about to be cheated out of a universal tax relief already promised by law,” Daley said. “I have served in the minority before and yet I have never seen anyone legislate like this. It is my hope that we can get back to the traditional open legislative process that has served Michigan … well for so very long.”
To the argument of timing this week, Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said a vote could have been taken last week, “but our colleagues on the other side of the aisle decided to pull a cute trick instead,” a reference to Republicans adjourning session last Thursday prior to a pending vote on HB 4001 while Democrats were still in caucus.
“It would be irresponsible to consider a permanent tax cut that does not factor in one-time spending that makes permanent cuts to necessary resources to our schools, to our health services, to the things that the very people that we should be helping the most need,” McMorrow said.
Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) called the move to block the income tax cut from going into effect “the old shift and shaft” by Democrats to prevent a lowering of tax burden on residents.
He pointed to other states having growing populations while Michigan continues to slowly lose population, saying the state ought to be trying to grow its population and be a destination for people to live.
“The Democrats’ newest shift and shaft scheme is just the latest in a long saga in the history of Democrats’ tax schemes to swindle Michiganders out of their hard-earned tax dollars and grow the size of government on their backs,” Runestad said.
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) responded by saying the bill does not raise taxes despite the arguments made by Republicans, adding taxpayers will know this to be the case when they see their next tax statements after passage.
“A reduction in the income tax is the most regressive way we could possibly provide tax relief to those who need it,” Moss said. “Even a modest reduction in the income tax helps those who make very little, very little, and those who make a lot, a lot.”
Brinks, prior to adjournment Thursday, stripped both Bellino and Lauwers from two committee assignments: the Senate Energy and Environment Committee
and the Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee. For the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, Damoose was named the new minority vice chair in place of Lauwers. On the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) was named minority vice chair, replacing Bellino as vice chair. He will still serve on the committee.
Bellino, in a statement following session, called the moves by Democrats “an absurd abuse of power by the new majority and beneath the dignity of this historic chamber in which we all serve.”
“They can strip me of whatever pro tempore title they wish, but I will not remain silent as they work to silence my voice in this chamber,” Bellino said. “I will not remain silent about the impact of their decisions on the people and the entire state.”
When asked about the move on committee assignments, Brinks said if those she removed from various committees have “demonstrated that they’re willing to work together in a productive and professional way, there’s an opportunity for reconsideration of that.”
Nesbitt lamented to reporters where the Senate found itself Thursday, stressing that the division over the issue of taxes did not have to be this way.
“There could have been some big bipartisan wins on these tax votes, but they refuse to take that,” Nesbitt said.
State OKs $1B in Incentives for Ford Battery Facility in Marshall
A $3.5 billion battery cell manufacturing facility is set to be built in Calhoun County, and the state has approved more than $1 billion in incentives to help make it happen.
Ford Motor Company announced it would invest the money to build a lithium iron phosphate battery plant in Marshall, moving on a site near the intersection of I-94 and I-69 that has long been seen as a potential development mega site. The facility will support the company’s goal of producing two million electric vehicles annually by 2026. The investment will construct and equip a new 2.5 million-square-foot facility to manufacture batteries that will go into several of the company’s key electric vehicles. Ford anticipates the project will create 2,500 jobs during the next several years.
The facility is expected to be up and running by 2026.
“We’re going to make electric vehicles top to bottom right here in the great state of Michigan, and I am grateful to Ford, an American icon, for believing in Michigan,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a press conference in Romulus announcing the project Monday afternoon. “We’re competing, and Michigan is winning against other states and nations because of … our top talented workers, the willingness to work with anyone who wants to get things done and we’re going to keep our foot on the accelerator, because we’ve got talent and momentum.”
The Michigan Strategic Fund board approved just more than $1 billion in funds for the project during a special meeting on Monday.
The board unanimously approved a $250 million performance-based critical industry program grant and designated a Renaissance Zone that will reduce real and personal property taxes for 15 years with a waiver of the PILOT requirements, valued at an estimated $700 million. The board also approved a $36 million Michigan Investment Fund MSF Loan for the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance to purchase, improve and convey Marshall site parcels in and around Calhoun County.
“Support through the SOAR fund is critical to its viability, and we’re committed to working in partnership with bipartisan legislative leaders to see this project receive full support and come to life in the Marshall Community,” said Josh Hundt, chief project officer and executive vice president of strategic accounts with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
The project is expected to require additional appropriations from the state for land acquisitions and site development, added Otie McKinley, media and communications manager for the MEDC.
The House passed legislation last week that could set up a permanent funding mechanism for the SOAR Fund to attract and support projects like the Marshall battery plant (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Feb. 9, 2023).
The SOAR Fund was created in December 2021 by Whitmer, the Legislature, labor leaders, economic development agencies, and business groups through a package of economic incentives intended to give Michigan a competitive edge in attracting long-term economic development. The fund was created shortly after Ford announced in 2021 that it would invest $11 billion to build facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Bill Ford, executive chair of Ford Motor Company, said on Monday that his company was “transforming to innovate, lead and remain the beating heart of American manufacturing well into the future.”
“This is what we’ve done since our founding and this is what we will always do because I believe that Ford success and America success are one and the same,” Ford said.
The project site is located south of Interstate 94 on rural land that is zoned for industrial development, Hundt said.
“This is wonderful news not only for the city of Marshall but for all of Calhoun County. A project of this magnitude will create further investments and job opportunities as businesses and other infrastructure springs up to support the plant and its employees,” Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek said in a statement issued Monday. “This victory is the direct result of the economic development work Democrats in the Legislature have done in the last few years, and I am so proud to see it come to fruition.”
The development will be known as Blue Oval Battery Park, and the investment is expected to have a positive effect on the supply chain. Batteries require special materials to build, and Michigan has a growing supply chain producing the components. As a result of the increased demand from the Marshall facility, the state will have opportunities to attract new investment, according to an MEDC analysis.
“Landing this investment will continue bringing the supply chain of electric vehicle batteries to Michigan,” Whitmer said. “It’ll make sure that production lines aren’t stalled by global shops or shipping delays. We’ve been identified as one of three states that will dominate battery manufacturers by 2030, and we’re working to make Detroit the next Silicon Valley. We’re the number one state for engineers per capital, the number one state for energy sector job growth.”
Lithium iron phosphate batteries, which will be made at the plant, are durable and use fewer high-demand and high-cost materials, which is expected to make electric vehicles more accessible and affordable for customers.
“The automotive industry is in a full-fledged transient to electric propulsion, the impacts of which are transformative and the projects like the one today demonstrates that Michigan continues to be the center of the North American automotive industry,” Hundt said.
The project is expected to create jobs that pay between $20 and $50 an hour, and its supply chain impact is expected to create $29.7 billion in new personal income over the next 20 years.
There was multi-state and multi-national competition for this project, officials said.
Ford chose the Marshall site because of the state’s economic development tools, such as the critical industry grant and the renaissance zone, said Gabby Bruno, the company’s economic development and government relations director.
“This industry is at a critical crossroads, which drives the necessity to focus on the most cost-competitive locations for future investment, and public private partnerships like the one we’re discussing here today are important to keep Michigan at the forefront of automotive manufacturing,” Bruno said. “These jobs and investments wouldn’t be possible without the support of state and local government.”
John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, criticized the investment during the MSF board meeting on Monday. The Center for Economic Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works for transparency, accountability, and marketplace reform on state and local economic development programs across the country.
“Stop throwing billions of dollars in a shrinking industry that has done nothing but abuse the generosity of Michigan’s taxpayers for decades by providing yet another massive subsidy for a massive automotive manufacturer,” he told the board. “You are supposed to be guarding against politicians and powerful interests capturing the mechanisms of state government for their own benefit at the expense of taxpayers. You’re supposed to be representing the interests of the people of the state of Michigan, but for 30 years, this body and its predecessor have rubberstamped some of the greatest corporate welfare boondoggles in American history.”
The state has secured $13 billion in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing projects and announced nearly 13,000 new automotive jobs this year, according to a report from Bridge Michigan. In January 2022, the state secured a $7 billion investment from General Motors, which included a $2.5 billion investment in a battery cell plant in Delta Township outside of Lansing.
Ford is expected to use technology and services from the Chinese battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd. (CATL). The company is the world’s largest producer of electric vehicle batteries and has 13 factories in Europe and Asia.
Ford will completely own the Marshall facility, Bruno said.
Last month, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said his administration stopped pursuing the automaker’s investment due to concerns about the Chinese Communist Party’s influence on the project.
“This is not a joint venture,” Bruno said. “The Ford subsidiary will have full control of this plant.”
The project has not been universally popular in the city of Marshall, with residents opposing development in the area, citing concerns over the potential for pollution, loss of historic farmsteads, and a desire for the area to remain rural agricultural land, according to The Battle Creek Enquirer.
Bruno said that Ford is already working with local government and community leaders in Marshall to “ensure that resident and business voices are being heard” throughout the process.
“We believe that continued job creation and job growth of this type will continue to enhance the vibrancy of downtown Marshall and the surrounding region and continue to make Marshall and Calhoun County as a whole the type of community that people want to live and raise their families,” Hundt said.
Marshall City Manager Derek Perry said the development is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for the city.
“It will create economic opportunities while allowing us to preserve our unique local culture, character and way of life,” he said.
Perry also said the project would provide young people an opportunity to remain in Marshall or move to Marshall for jobs.
“This kind of opportunity does not come along often,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose it to other communities or other states.”
Whitmer Talks State of State Highlights, Emphasizes Investments For All
DETROIT – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at Detroit’s MotorCity Casino highlighted her State of the State address with the Detroit Regional Chamber on Monday, discussing how the budget is targeted toward every Michigander regardless of age.
Whitmer outlined the state’s achievements during the past year and the current legislative term, including the House and Senate fiscal agencies announcing the state had a $9.2 billion surplus, the $1 billion supplemental that allocates $150 million for affordable housing, and multi-million dollar investments from auto companies such as Ford Motor Company and General Motors.
Whitmer said the goal of 2023 is to put money back in people’s pockets and help lower their living expenses.
“We can ensure every child has got an opportunity and a great public education setting. We can build more housing and advance projects that are turning old factories into commercial and residential spaces,” Whitmer said. “We can help tens of thousands more Michiganders get the skills and education they need to land the good paying jobs that are growing in Michigan. … And we can compete with anyone because that’s what Michiganders do.”
Dan Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, acted as a moderator during a pre-vetted question and answer session. He told the governor he thought the budget was multi-generational, catering to three different generations. Loepp asked how this budget would make the state more competitive.
“I think every employer in this room, every person in this room, is thinking about how we make sure that Michigan’s competitive and how we attract talent into Michigan and keep talent here,” Whitmer said.
The governor shared that one of her daughters is a lesbian, and she wants her to live in a state where she can be her true self and has full protection and rights under the law. The Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee recently reported SB 4, which would expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Right Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as a protected class. Whitmer spoke briefly about Ford Motor Company’s $3.5 billion for a new electric vehicle factory in Marshall, Michigan. The Michigan Strategic Fund board recommended the state allocate $210 million from the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve fund (see separate story).
The SOAR fund has been somewhat controversial, with some Republicans calling it a slush fund for multi-billion-dollar companies. However, it was created under the GOP-led Legislature last term.
“We don’t have a lock on the future of mobility, we have to compete, and we have to win,” Whitmer said. “Economic development was not my forte before I became governor, and now that I’m in a position where I see what we are up against, I see what other states are offering, Michigan is one of only two states of the country that can’t throw cash at a company.
The governor said Michigan can instead have “great partnerships, we can have sites that are ready.”
Loepp asked Whitmer about affordable health care, mentioning that both she and President Joe Biden discussed it during the State of the State and State of the Union addresses, respectively.
“We’re just trying to make sure that every person can improve the quality of their health through greater access to the medicines that they need to live,” Whitmer said. “We are not the healthiest state in the nation, and we’ve got work to do and whether it’s education or accessibility or ensuring that there’s equitable opportunity … for jobs and for income, all of these things are related.”
When asked about the big investments the budget plans to make, Whitmer said the dollars can be used to make improvement over time, helping businesses of all sizes across the state.
Senate Democrats Introduce Gun Bills in Wake of MSU Shooting
One day after the mass shooting on the Michigan State University campus Monday night, legislative Democrats vowed to introduce legislation that they said would address state firearms laws to help prevent further shootings from occurring.
Democrats followed through two days later on that vow, introducing legislation that would enact universal background checks, safe storage laws for firearms, and a “red flag” law, which would allow someone to petition a judge to have a person’s firearms confiscated, at least temporarily, if that person is a danger to themselves or others.
Introduced Thursday dealing with the three topics, Democrats have said the following bills will be their first steps in addressing gun violence: SB 76, SB 77, SB 78, SB 79, SB 80, SB 81, SB 82, SB 83, SB 84, SB 85, and SB 86. All or nearly all 20 Democratic senators signed on to each bill in the package, with the entire package being referred to the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee.
Earlier Thursday, before the bills were introduced, members of both parties delivered floor speeches expressing their horror at the MSU shooting while calling for action.
Democrats said legislative action in the form of firearms law changes was necessary after years of proposals not being taken up when Republicans were in the majority. GOP members who rose expressed their condolences and urged bipartisan work to find solutions, stressing a need to enforce existing laws properly.
Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) told the chamber how she was in contact with her daughter every 20-30 minutes on Monday night, scared about her safety and figuring out if her friends and roommates were safe.
“Throughout our state tens of thousands of parents were living that same nightmare,” Brinks said.
Brinks spoke about meeting with MSU student organizers before a sit-in protest demanding action to address gun violence took place on the Capitol grounds and could see their pain and shock. But, as a mother, she said she wanted to embrace them all and say things will be OK.
“But as the Senate majority leader, I know that we have a duty to meet this moment with action,” Brinks said. “To those who say it is too soon, that we have to let people mourn and heal first, that we shouldn’t be talking about legislation yet, I reject the notion that we cannot do both simultaneously.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), whose district includes the MSU campus, called Monday’s events the most difficult moment of his career and a horrible moment for the city where he resided 34 years.
“It pains me to watch the university that I love, the students, the faculty, the staff, being in such pain,” Singh said.
Singh urged members to listen to the survivors as they come to the Capitol in the coming weeks when legislation comes up and to open their office doors to them.
“They want to be seen. They want to be heard,” Singh said. “They don’t want to be lectured. They don’t want to be told what can be done, what can’t be done, they just want to be heard.”
Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor), whose district includes Oxford High School, told members she was almost at a loss for words after this week’s shooting. She said the victims’ friends and families, the survivors, their families, and staff will never be the same.
“Kids in Michigan now are afraid all the time. They’re taught from the time they were 4 years old what to do when there’s a shooter in their school,” Bayer said.
She said with the introduction of the bill package Thursday, members have a chance to take some steps to reduce the odds of gun violence taking more lives in the state.
“There is much to do. There is no one silver bullet. This is a big, pervasive problem for us,” Bayer said. “But with all of us working together we can take steps; we can take as many steps as it takes to fix this. It is our job. Let’s do it now.”
Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) offered his condolences to the victims’ families and all those impacted at MSU. He added his mother, wife, and oldest daughter all went to MSU, so his ties to the university are deep.
“This carnage cannot continue. Our great collective challenge, of course, is to determine how to stop it,” Runestad said. “I do believe and hope that a starting point for common ground here in the chamber can be stronger enforcement of our existing laws.”
Sen. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills), an MSU graduate, said he cannot imagine the thoughts going through the minds of students barricading themselves indoors and waiting for Monday’s events to be over.
“I share your grief, I share your pain and I share your anger for the irreversible physical and mental damage inflicted by an evil man,” Webber said. “We must resolve to work together in a bipartisan fashion to offer solutions to help solve this problem. We must take a holistic approach. This can be the first thing that we truly work on as a Michigan state Senate this session together.”
For her remarks, Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) praised the Ingham County dispatcher who coordinated the response, saying she is owed a huge debt, as well as others who helped respond to Monday’s shooting.
“We appreciate the work that you did to help us navigate such a tumultuous time,” Anthony said.
Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) spoke of the 1993 murder of his uncle by a gunman while he was headed to a party store to purchase a few items. He said there has been pain in his family members’ eyes his entire life whenever his uncle is mentioned to this day.
“That same pain has now fallen on another set of Michigan families,” Camilleri said.
Camilleri spoke of how he participated in active shooter drills growing up, watched the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook massacres occur, and as a teacher, had to lead students for years in active shooter drills. He said political leaders have not adapted to the reality in which people now live.
“Residents and students have changed everything; they have changed everything about how they have lived. Our leadership has been unwilling to meet the challenges of our times and enact laws that will keep our families safe,” Camilleri said. “Instead, they are stuck in this debate over freedom. But what is freedom when you can’t go to a grocery store or school and feel safe? What is freedom when you can’t leave your house without worrying about a stray bullet?”
Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), an MSU graduate, spoke about his time on campus and attending classes in Berkey Hall, where some of the students were shot on Monday night. He also spoke of helping organize a vigil on campus after the Virginia Tech massacre.
“Each time we have pushed for reform in this room, we were told by the previous majority that this debate would disturb a community in grief, and then nothing happened,” Moss said. “Now we are the community in grief. … I refuse to live in grief without any action, and this new majority will act.”
Multiple organizations praised Democrats for the introduction of legislation and urged quick movement in statements.
“For too long, Michigan’s leaders failed to respond to the call from their communities to enact commonsense, lifesaving legislation,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, a gun violence prevention group led by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, who was shot and nearly killed in a 2011 mass shooting. “It’s a new day in the Great Lakes State. Its new leaders have met the moment by stepping up and fighting to ensure that firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
Great Lakes Gun Rights, which opposes making changes to state firearms laws, said gun control does not work and failed those attending MSU. In a statement, the group’s executive director Brenden Boudreau said the proposals are unconstitutional, and innocent residents would be harmed by those who ignore the law.
“They title these bills heroic sounding names, but let’s title them what they really are: no due process gun confiscation, universal gun registration, and lock up your safety while home,” Boudreau said. “If passed and signed into law, Michigan will rank as one of the worst states for gun rights – and criminals will see our state as a safe haven for their demented acts.”
Kris Brown, president of gun violence prevention group Brady, thanked the bill sponsors for quickly introducing legislation.
“After many mass shootings, policymakers often say, ‘never again,’ and this legislation demonstrates that the Michigan Legislature is committed to ending gun violence in the state,” Brown said. “We stand ready to work with them to ensure these bills become law and keep Michigan communities safe.”
Medicaid Beneficiaries to Renew Eligibility in June
After a federal COVID policy ended that allowed for all Medicaid agencies to continue health care coverage for beneficiaries regardless of eligibility, the Department of Health and Human Services told Medicaid beneficiaries Wednesday they must renew their coverage as early as June.
“MDHHS is strongly committed to ensuring Michiganders who are eligible for Medicaid coverage remain enrolled,” DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “More than three million Michiganders, including one million Healthy Michigan enrollees, have benefitted from keeping their Medicaid coverage without redeterminations on eligibility during the COVID-19 pandemic. MDHHS is preparing to assist residents who will be affected by changes in their coverage.”
Renewals are expected to begin in June 2023 and run through May 2024. The department said in a release that it will send monthly renewal notices three months before June. In addition, those who do not qualify will receive additional information about other health care options available.
Beneficiaries who will be up for renewal should make sure their address, phone number, and email address are updated; report changes regarding their household or income; and upon receipt of a renewal packet, fill out all forms and return them by the due date.
“The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) is committed to working with MDHHS and our partners nationwide to help impacted Michiganders get the affordable, comprehensive health insurance they need,” DIFS Director Anita Fox said in a statement. “DIFS stands ready to answer questions about purchasing a health insurance plan. Call DIFS at 877-999-6442, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visit Michigan.gov/HealthInsurance to learn more.”
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