<![CDATA[Michigan House Democrats Site Feed]]> http://www.housedems.com <![CDATA[Reps. Lipton, Dillon: Kindergarten Kids Shouldn’t Have 100 Classmates]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/reps-lipton-dillon-kindergarten-kids-shouldn-t-have-100-classmates <p>LANSING – Rep. <strong>Ellen Cogen Lipton</strong> (D-Huntington Woods) and Rep. <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) are condemning the Education Achievement Authority for once again letting down Detroit’s children – this time by squeezing 100 kindergartners into a classroom at the Brenda Scott Academy of Theater Arts. It’s the latest example of how the EAA fails at-risk kids in high-poverty schools in Detroit, and gives more evidence as to why the EAA must be shut down rather than expanded, as Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative Republicans are trying to do.</p> <p>“Sending your 5-year-old off to the first day of kindergarten is a landmark day in any parent’s life,” Dillon said. “We send them off to that first day of school with hope and pride – and often with a few tears in our eyes. So how would you feel knowing that your kid kicked off his or her school years by being one of 100 students wedged inside a single classroom? If it sounds outrageous, that’s because it is, and we must demand better for our kids.”</p> <p>Education experts recommend a kindergarten teacher instruct no more than a dozen kids at a time. Teacher layoffs and school closings have often pushed the teacher-to-student ratio far beyond that, but the EAA is taking that trend to a terrible new level. With just three teachers and 100 kindergartners in a single room, the ratio at Brenda Scott is 1:33 – nearly three times the recommended level.</p> <p>Revelations about the crammed-in kindergarten class comes on top of other scandals involving the EAA, including:</p> <p>• Stagnant or declining test scores among students<br /> • Staff travel expense scandals involving more than $230,000<br /> • Safety concerns among students, and at least four staff or teacher firings or resignations following incidents where a student was pushed or harmed<br /> • Allegations that special-needs students aren’t accommodated as legally required<br /> • Massive disenrollment of more than 2,000 children as parents and students vote with their feet and choose to attend other schools<br /> • The resignation of former EAA Chancellor John Covington after these scandals were revealed</p> <p>“It should be obvious to everyone by now that the EAA doesn’t work,” Lipton said. “But the governor and legislative Republicans don’t get it. Instead of getting rid of the EAA, they want to expand it beyond Detroit and bring it to communities across the state. It’s not what our kids need, and it’s not what parents want. It’s time for school reform that works.”</p> <p>Lipton and Dillon have introduced House Bills 5268 and 5269, respectively, to improve Michigan’s challenged schools. Lipton’s bill calls for comprehensive turn-around plans tailor-made for each struggling school that involve input from teachers, administrators, education experts, community members and parents. Dillon’s bill would require the state to determine the true cost of education, realizing that different districts have different strengths, needs and challenges, so that schools can be adequately funded.</p> <p>“The EAA was an experiment, and it failed,” Dillon said. “I urge our colleagues in the Legislature to take a stand against a school reform model that has hurt our kids and demand better for all of Michigan’s children.”</p> <![CDATA[Prison Escape Report: Reduced Staffing Endangered Public Safety]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/prison-escape-report-reduced-staffing-endangered-public-safety <p>LANSING – House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) and state Representative <strong>Andrew J. Kandrevas</strong> (D-Southgate) are calling for action after a report from the Michigan attorney general showed that unmanned guard towers may have contributed to the escape of a prisoner from the Ionia Correctional Facility earlier this year. Cuts to the Michigan Department of Corrections’ (MDOC) budget forced the prison to reduce staffing.</p> <p>&#8220;Republicans in Lansing have shown for years that they put corporate profits and cutting services ahead of people, and, this time, their obsession with cutting corners at prisons to save a few short-term bucks led to the escape of a convicted murderer,&#8221; Greimel said. &#8220;Now, even the Republican attorney general is suggesting that we need to reverse these funding cuts for the safety and well-being of our citizens, and I believe we should follow that recommendation.&#8221;</p> <p>According to the report, MDOC eliminated the use of guard towers on the prison perimeter in 2013. Since then, there have been two escape attempts, one of which was Michael Elliot’s successful escape in February. The report states, &#8220;Many of the correctional officers who were interviewed saw the elimination of the use of guard towers as a contributing factor to the escape.&#8221; The report also called for the need to have manned patrols in our prisons.</p> <p>&#8220;Our corrections officers know that armed guards in towers could have stopped a killer from roaming the streets,&#8221; Kandrevas said. &#8220;As legislators, our top priority must be keeping Michiganians safe. We need immediate action by MDOC to ensure the security of our prisons, and as the AG report points out, there are both technological and staffing solutions which must be implemented immediately, including better physical perimeter monitoring.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[Lawmakers Demand Hearing on Women’s Health Rider Repeal Bills]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/lawmakers-demand-hearing-on-women-s-health-rider-repeal-bills <p>LANSING — Senate Democratic Leader <strong>Gretchen Whitmer</strong> (D-East Lansing) and State Rep. <strong>Sarah Roberts</strong> (D-St. Clair Shores) delivered letters to Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Insurance Committee Chair Rep. Pete Lund to request hearings on Senate Bill 1010 and House Bill 5697, their legislation to repeal the discriminatory and dangerous women’s health care rider law passed in December 2013. Whitmer and Roberts introduced their legislation last month, but have received no indication that the Republican majorities in either body plan to take up the legislation.</p> <p>“When this appalling ‘rape insurance’ law was passed, Republican legislators not only circumvented Michigan voters but the legislative process as well, passing the legislation without a single committee hearing or any opportunity for public testimony,” Whitmer said. “We are only asking our colleagues that ignored the innumerable men and women, business owners, legal experts, doctors and nurses who opposed this law when it passed to listen to them now on its repeal.”</p> <p>SB 1010 and HB 5697 repeal the controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during various complications during a pregnancy or an abortion even in cases of rape, incest or when the woman’s health is in jeopardy. While it requires women to buy the added insurance, however, few insurance companies – just seven of 42 health insurance companies in Michigan – are even selling it. And the companies that do sell the rider are only making it available as an add-on to an existing employer-offered health plan. It’s not available to any woman who pays for insurance herself, or who shops for it on the state’s health care exchange.</p> <p>“There are many things wrong with the women’s health rider law, from the way it unfairly punishes women who planned their pregnancy and are facing miscarriages due to fetal abnormalities to the lack of medical expertise sought when the language of the law was written to the way it was rammed through the Legislature with no testimony from those who will be directly – and adversely – affected by it,” Roberts said. “These letters are simply asking for a fair review of the law. If Republicans and Right to Life of Michigan are as proud of this law as they claim, then they should be willing to hear from those it harms and defend it.”</p> <p>Republicans passed the law prohibiting insurance companies from offering comprehensive health insurance after Right to Life of Michigan gathered signatures for a citizen’s initiative. Legislators had a choice to adopt the measure or put it to the vote of the people. Despite the public outcry, Republicans caved to special interest pressure and passed it into law without a single committee hearing, thereby allowing 3 percent of the state’s population who signed the petition to dictate health care for Michigan women and their families.</p> <p>The Republican-led Legislature has been at recess for more than four weeks since these bills have been introduced. HB 5697 has been assigned to the House Committee on Insurance, chaired by Lund. SB 1010 has not been assigned to a Senate committee yet, but Whitmer sent a letter to Richardville asking for prompt action on assigning the bill to a committee and holding a hearing on the legislation.</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Invite Republicans Back to Lansing to Find Road Fix Solution]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-invite-republicans-back-to-lansing-to-find-road-fix-solution <p>LANSING – After walking off the job to take a three-month vacation last week, House Republicans are being invited to return to the state Capitol to finish the task of finding a road funding solution that will fix Michigan’s dangerous roads and bridges.</p> <p>“Michiganders are angry that they have to drive on some of the worst roads in the country just to get to work each morning while their elected leaders take an extended, paid summer vacation,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “For Republican legislators to vote to adjourn for the summer without a road funding solution wasn’t just irresponsible, it was unacceptable. I invite legislative Republicans to correct their mistake and join us in Lansing until we find a way to fund road repairs, because Michigan’s leaders should work as hard as the people who voted them into office.”</p> <p>Even though Republicans hold the governor’s office, a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, they were unable to devise a plan to fund Michigan’s past-due road repairs. Instead of staying to find a solution, House Republicans voted to adjourn last week over the objections of House Democrats, who are ready to come back to the state Capitol at any time to finish the task.</p> <p>“Michigan’s infrastructure is in a state of crisis, and when a crisis arises, real leaders don’t turn and walk away,” Rep. <strong>Jim Townsend</strong> (D-Royal Oak) said. “I’m ready to dodge potholes every day on my way into Lansing until we find a way to fund these road repairs. I urge legislative Republicans to do the same, so that we can roll up our sleeves, get to work and get the job done.”</p> <![CDATA[Legislation Introduced to Repeal Controversial Abortion Law]]> http://www.housedems.com/multimedia/videos/legislation-introduced-to-repeal-controversial-abortion-law <p>State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) and State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) introduced bills today that would repeal a controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during a miscarriage or abortion even in cases of rape and when the woman’s health is in jeopardy. The law restricting women’s access to vital health care was passed by Republicans in the Michigan Legislature in December 2013 and took effect in March. House Bill 5697 and Senate Bill 1010 would repeal that law.</p> <![CDATA[Legislation Introduced to Repeal Controversial Abortion Law]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/legislation-introduced-to-repeal-controversial-abortion-law <p>LANSING - State Representative <strong>Sarah Roberts</strong> (D-St. Clair Shores) and State Sen. <strong>Gretchen Whitmer</strong> (D-East Lansing) introduced bills today that would repeal a controversial law that forces women to buy additional health insurance coverage for necessary medical care during a miscarriage or abortion even in cases of rape and when the woman&#8217;s health is in jeopardy. The law restricting women&#8217;s access to vital health care was passed by Republicans in the Michigan Legislature in December 2013 and took effect in March. House Bill 5697 and Senate Bill 1010 would repeal that law.</p> <p>&#8220;This regressive law hurts women when they are most vulnerable and puts unreasonable barriers between them and the health care they need,&#8221; Roberts said. &#8220;A woman experiencing a miscarriage should have the peace of mind of knowing that she will receive safe and necessary medical care. This law instead injects politics into an already difficult situation, while potentially forcing a family to incur thousands of dollars of debt for care that had been traditionally covered by insurance. Prohibiting insurance companies and employers from doing what&#8217;s best for the women they serve and care for is wrong and must be stopped immediately.&#8221;</p> <p>Republicans passed the law prohibiting insurance companies from offering comprehensive health insurance after Right to Life of Michigan, a special interest group, gathered signatures for a citizen&#8217;s initiative. Legislators had a choice to adopt the measure or put it to the vote of the people. Despite the public outcry, Republicans caved to special interest pressure passing it into law, thereby allowing three percent of the state&#8217;s population who signed the petition to dictate health care for Michigan women and their families.</p> <p>&#8220;Rather than upholding democratic principles, Republican legislators sold out the people of Michigan to one of their key special interest groups and let 3 percent of the population dictate the health care needs of 100 percent of Michigan women,&#8221; Whitmer said. &#8220;It&#8217;s downright insulting to expect Michigan women to anticipate and financially plan for rape, incest or a miscarriage. This law should never have been enacted in the first place, and wouldn&#8217;t have if it had gone to the voters of Michigan, but the time to repeal it is now.&#8221;</p> <p>Gov. Rick Snyder and former Gov. John Engler vetoed identical legislation as being too extreme and wrong for Michigan. Governor Snyder even cited the law&#8217;s lack of exception for rape or incest. Additionally, doctors warn the law is poorly worded and therefore may prevent women from getting necessary care for a miscarriage unless they have the foresight to purchase the additional insurance rider.</p> <p>&#8220;The law requires women to buy an extra insurance rider to get comprehensive health coverage, but it doesn&#8217;t mandate that insurance companies make these policies available,&#8221; Roberts said. &#8220;Of the 42 health insurers in Michigan, only seven offer this rider. In addition, women who buy insurance on their own are not able to get it because it&#8217;s only available through employer health plans.&#8221;</p> <p>Whitmer and Roberts called the new law cruel and unnecessary, and said they would fight to restore women&#8217;s full access to health care.</p> <p>&#8220;We can&#8217;t sit idly by as women see their rights and their ability to get critical care stripped away from them,&#8221; Whitmer said. &#8220;Rep. Roberts and I heard the outcry from women around the state when this law passed in December and every day since, and we vowed then that we would work tirelessly to repeal it. I urge women and their families across the state to demand this law be undone, and that women&#8217;s right to health care be honored.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[House Dems: Legislative Republicans’ Spectacular Road Funding Failure Betrays Michigan Voters]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-legislative-republicans-spectacular-road-funding-failure-betrays-michigan-voters <p>LANSING – Legislative Republicans’ stunning decision to leave for summer vacation rather than stay in Lansing to find a solution for Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges is nothing short of a betrayal of Michigan citizens, House Democrats said Thursday night.</p> <p>“Despite naming infrastructure repair as a top priority for three consecutive years – and despite holding the governor’s office, a House majority and a supermajority in the Senate – Republicans proved themselves to be unfit for the task of leading our state,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “Democrats in the House worked hard on a bipartisan road funding package last month that would have kickstarted repairs to our dangerous roads, but Republicans couldn’t agree to pass the bills and get the job done. This is a stunning lack of leadership, a dereliction of duty, and an absolute betrayal of the public trust.”</p> <p>The Republicans’ failure means Michigan drivers and businesses won’t get the road repairs they demand anytime soon. House Democrats were willing to stay into the night, return tomorrow and next week to get the job done, but Republicans instead opted to end negotiations and leave town for a two-month summer vacation.</p> <p>“Hardworking Michiganders know you don’t just get up and leave when there’s still work to be done,” said Greimel. “It’s been said that voters get the government they deserve, but nobody deserves what we’ve seen here today. The failed leadership displayed by the governor and legislative Republicans is staggering. I know that voters deserve better than this from those they elect – and voters know it, too.”</p> <p>House Democrats objected to the premature adjournment of the legislative session Thursday, but Republicans opted to leave their job undone. It’s not clear when, or if, they will return to solve the problem of funding Michigan’s past due infrastructure repairs.</p> <p>Rep. <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser), the Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, introduced House Bills 5143 and 5456 as a way to, at the very least, protect the roads from overweight trucks, and to ensure that motorists aren’t hit with higher insurance costs because of car repairs from pothole damage. House Bill 5143 would halve certain truck weight limits from 164,000 pounds to the federal standard of 80,000 pounds. House Bill 5456 would prevent insurance companies from raising auto insurance rates when a driver submits a claim from pothole damage to their vehicle. Those bills were referred to committees and haven’t yet come up for a vote.</p> <p>“My bills are not answers to our road problems, but they will give motorists some relief from problems created by the majority’s inability to pass a long-term fix for our roads,” said Lane. “By passing my bills, we can at least prevent damage to our roads from overweight trucks going forward, and prevent our constituents from having to foot the bill for the majority’s negligence. We shouldn’t let insurance companies profit from the fact that they couldn’t agree on a plan to fix the roads.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Oppose Bill That Protects Deceptive Insurers]]> http://www.housedems.com/multimedia/videos/house-dems-oppose-bill-that-protects-deceptive-insurers <p>Members of the House Democratic Caucus expressed their outrage and disbelief at the passage of House Bill 5558, legislation that erodes even further the rights of residents under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Oppose Bill That Protects Deceptive Insurers]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-oppose-bill-that-protects-deceptive-insurers <p>LANSING &#8212; Members of the House Democratic Caucus expressed their outrage and disbelief at the passage of House Bill 5558, legislation that erodes even further the rights of residents under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. When a Michigan veteran tried to exercise what rights remained in the law by suing a deceptive insurer, legislative Republicans rushed to the defense of the corporation.</p> <p>&#8220;It&#8217;s appalling the extent to which insurance companies are willing to go to avoid being accountable to their customers,&#8221; said state Representative <strong>Phil Cavanagh</strong> (D-Redford), Democratic vice chairman of the House Judiciary committee, where the bill originated. &#8220;This bill is just the latest in a line of attacks on Michigan consumers, who used to have the best protection in the nation.&#8221;</p> <p>Tina Dell was in the Army National Guard and four days away from duty with the active Army when she was catastrophically injured, as a pedestrian, in a car accident. In 1987, her insurer told Dell&#8217;s mother that her insurance didn&#8217;t cover attendant care. More than 20 years later, Dell&#8217;s family found out that was false. They sued their insurer for unpaid benefits, and a jury awarded $2 million in damages. Jim Burnett, a lawyer with Burnett and Kastran PC in Allegan that tried the case, said that despite claims from Republicans that the bill is simply clarifying the law, HB 5558 is a &#8220;direct response&#8221; to the verdict.</p> <p>The bill is a &#8220;direct attack on one of our veterans who was catastrophically injured as a result of her involvement in a motor vehicle collision,&#8221; Burnett said. &#8220;The bill would reward and insulate any Michigan no-fault insurance carrier who engages in misrepresentation, lies, cheats and denies benefits to a catastrophically insured customer. I can&#8217;t imagine anyone with even half of a heart wanting to support this legislation.&#8221;</p> <p>Amendments to Michigan Consumer Protection Act to deny consumers the right to sue companies that are regulated by the state, such as insurers, went into effect in 2001. The bill didn&#8217;t apply the new rules retroactively, however. HB 5558 would apply retroactivity to the law and pre-empt lawsuits filed for actions that took place before 2001. It was amended today to exempt court actions filed before the current bill becomes law. While Dell&#8217;s award might remain intact, others in Michigan will lose out.</p> <p>&#8220;Michigan consumers have lost their last recourse to compensation when corporations treat them unfairly. This is the nail in the coffin for the Consumer Protection Act,&#8221; said state Rep. <strong>Jeff Irwin</strong> (D-Ann Arbor). &#8220;Time and again, Republicans show they will side with corporations and special interests over regular people.&#8221;</p> <p>Last month, House Democrats unveiled a package of legislation that would put consumer protection back into the law. The bills hold insurance companies accountable by prohibiting unfair or deceptive practices and allowing consumers to file a lawsuit when companies don&#8217;t comply. They make insurance more affordable by making it harder for companies to charge excessive rates. Finally, the bills increase transparency by encouraging whistleblowers to come forward when they see misconduct from the inside.</p> <p>&#8220;This bill attacks consumers for the benefit of corporations. The people of Michigan sent us to Lansing, and that&#8217;s who we need to work for,&#8221; said state Rep. <strong>Theresa Abed</strong> (D-Grand Ledge), who sponsored a bill in the Democrats&#8217; package forcing insurers to act in good faith when a customer files a claim. &#8220;The legislation my colleagues and I introduced will make insurance affordable, accountable and transparent, and we will continue fighting for Michigan consumers, not special interests.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[Michigan House Dems Support Pay Raise for Minimum Wage Workers]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/michigan-house-dems-support-pay-raise-for-minimum-wage-workers <p>LANSING — House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said a bill passed by the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday will bring self-sufficiency to many hardworking Michigan families. Senate Bill 934 will increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by 2018, a 25 percent increase over the current minimum wage of $7.40 an hour. Beginning in 2019, the minimum wage will then increase with the rate of inflation up to 3.5 percent per year.</p> <p>“Michigan families are working harder than ever, and they deserve a raise,” Greimel said. “I’m thankful for the groundswell of grassroots support for a minimum raise increase, which spurred the Legislature into action. This will go a long way to bringing relief to families who have been struggling for years to make ends meet. This bill moves us closer toward making economic security a reality for Michigan families.”</p> <p>The minimum wage increase will have a major effect on households headed by women, who disproportionately make up minimum-wage earners. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, women make up 53 percent of the state’s low-wage workers, even though they comprise just 48 percent of Michigan’s workforce.</p> <p>“Passing an increase to the minimum wage will give a financial boost to Michigan’s working women and their families,” Rep. <strong>Rashida H. Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) said. “While I had introduced a proposal to lift the minimum wage to $10 an hour, I see this increase as a good first step. Now, we must work even harder to bring even more relief to Michigan families.”</p> <p>House Democrats have introduced additional bills that would benefit working families, including a tax relief package that would restore the Homestead Property Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to previous levels, bring back the $600 per-child deduction and get rid of the new retirement tax that seniors have been struggling to pay. Those bills – introduced more than a year ago – have yet to receive any committee hearings.</p> <p>“I’m proud to have helped give Michigan’s working families a pay raise, but our work here is not yet done,” said Rep. <strong>Jon M. Switalski</strong> (D-Warren), who had previously introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour. “We need to deliver tax fairness to Michigan families, so that fewer of their hard-earned dollars will go to pay for those increases levied on them over the past three years.”</p>