Issues

Our environment is the legacy we leave our children, and our Great Lakes are no exception. A national treasure and one of the things that defines us as Michiganders, they represent one-fifth of the world’s fresh water and are the source of drinking water for 40 million people. In Michigan alone, more than 525,000 jobs are tied to the tourism and fishing industries that rely upon the lakes. We must do better to protect them and combat their threats, which is why I support renewed funding for the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) to clean up contaminated sites, incentivize recycling and improve water quality. As state senator, I will:

  • Work to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline
  • Lower the limits of acceptable polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our drinking water
  • Invest in clean, renewable, alternative energy sources that have lower carbon emissions, such as wind energy and solar energy
  • Raise our renewable portfolio standard (RPS) so that more energy is produced from renewable energy sources

Health care should be a right, not a privilege. Quality, affordable — and accessible — health care should be available to all citizens because the reality is that everyone gets sick. Recent figures show that Michigan citizens under age 65 have an uninsured rate of 7.4 percent, and the total number of uninsured people nationwide is projected to reach 52 million by 2026. Making matters worse, these numbers don’t account for individuals who are currently uninsured or can barely afford their existing premiums. While the U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other nation in the world, it only ranks 12th for best health care outcomes.

We all know someone who had to make a heart-wrenching decision to refuse care or sacrifice other necessities because they couldn’t afford medical treatment. Too many of our neighbors rely solely on their jobs for affordable insurance and access to health care, which isn’t right. People deserve better, which is why I:

  • Voted with seniors against cuts to the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program
  • Fought to increase staffing levels at veterans’ homes
  • Voted in favor of expanding Healthy Michigan to include an additional 600,000 Michiganders
  • Fought for increased funding to Macomb County Community Mental Health to address the growing mental health and substance abuse crisis in our cities and towns
  • Sponsored legislation to help more working people receive access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, without losing their jobs and their license to practice

As a firefighter and paramedic for more than 26 years, my top priority has always been the health, safety and well-being of our community members. It continues to this day as your state Representative, and I believe it’s imperative that our local towns have the proper funding for police, fire and emergency medical personnel. It’s with their help that our communities remain great — and safe — places for our families to live, work, play and prosper, which is why I:

  • Support increased revenue sharing that brings our local tax dollars back home to adequately fund police, fire, and emergency medical services without having to raise property taxes
  • Sponsored legislation to increase funding for first responder training so they can adequately prepare and react to health, environmental and active shooter situations
  • Voted to lower the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to crack down on impaired driving
  • Voted to implement the recommendations of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force to help curtail the growing opioid abuse crisis and provide better access to treatment for people suffering from substance abuse and addiction

As a proud father and grandfather, I understand the importance of making sure our children get a world-class education. Sadly, however, Michigan schools are lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to academics, ranking 41st in fourth-grade reading and 39th in eighth-grade math proficiency. This is unacceptable. We need to prepare our students with the skills they need to compete in the global economy. Sixty-one percent of employers say they can’t fill jobs due to a lack of qualified applicants, and 51 percent say our workforce doesn’t have the necessary skills for existing job opportunities. Our children deserve a top-notch academic environment in which they can learn, prosper and be successful, which is why I support:

  • Investing more in early childhood education
  • Creating smaller class sizes
  • Supporting K-12 and community colleges with additional funding
  • Increasing the local police presence to keep our children safe so they can focus on learning.

There is no doubt that Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance system needs to be reformed. Michigan drivers pay the highest auto insurance rates in the country. The average driver in Michigan pays 180 percent of the national average. A family should not have to choose between getting good coverage and paying less for insurance. That is why I support the bipartisan Fair and Affordable No-Fault Reform Package. I support legislation that would retain existing benefits while lowering costs by

  • Allowing seniors to opt out of catastrophic coverage
  • Mandating rate reduction for individuals who coordinate their personal injury protection coverage with their health insurance
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from increasing rates based on gender, credit score, and zip code
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from raising rates if you make a claim and you’re not at fault
  • Instituting a fee schedule to keep medical costs down
  • Extending the deadline for an injured person to file a claim
  • Forcing the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to justify its rates through independent auditing and subjecting the MCCA to both the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Acts
  • Create a fraud authority to crack down on system abuses

Michigan women face unique challenges, especially in employment and child care. Women are also
more likely to be survivors of sexual harassment, human trafficking, and sex discrimination.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn $0.78 for every $1.00 a man earns in Michigan. That is below the national average. African American and Latino women earn $0.63 and $0.58 cents on the $1.00 respectively.

Women in Michigan also make up 60% of all minimum wage workers and 2/3 of all tipped workers, who are often paid less than the state minimum wage and are more likely to live in poverty. Of the 1.7 million workers in Michigan, 44% of them cannot take time off to care for a sick child or family member without losing pay or fear of losing their jobs.

These women are our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. They deserve
better and we can do better. That is why I:

  • Support pay equity legislation that holds employers accountable for paying women less than
    their male counterparts
  • Support earned pay sick leave for both part-time and full-time workers so that mothers can take
    care of themselves and their children without fear of employer reprisals
  • Support eliminating the gap between tipped wages and the minimum wage
  • Support increasing the minimum wage
  • Voted to expand the statute of limitations in both criminal and civil sexual abuse cases.
  • Voted to ensure that the Department of Health and Human Services provides counseling and support services to survivors of human trafficking and helps reunify survivors with their families.

Michigan is now known not only as the Great Lakes State and home to the Motor City, it is now known for having some of the worst roads in the nation. The average driver pays a back-door tax in the form of needed car repairs to the tune of hundreds of dollars a year. This is not only bad for drivers, but it’s bad for business and it’s bad for job creation. One reason that Amazon did not locate its headquarters in Detroit was because of the poor state of our infrastructure.

For the last eight years, the Republican majority in Lansing, including the Governor, have broken their promise to adequately fix our infrastructure. I voted no on the Republican gas tax and registration fee increase, because it places an unfair burden on the already overburdened taxpayer and doesn’t solve the underlying problem. The way Michigan funds it’s roads was last updated in 1951, when Harry Truman was President. We in Macomb County, are a donor county to the rest of the state; we get less money back than we put in. This needs to change. We need to overhaul and reform our system of infrastructure funding. That is why I am fighting to:

  • Overhaul Public Act 51 which disproportionately allocates infrastructure funding outstate
  • Strictly enforce warranties and hold contractors accountable for substandard work
  • Require that municipalities implement a real asset management plan to extend the life of our roads and keep costs down.
  • Reduce truck weight limits
  • Fund roads based not on center-lane miles, but total lane miles, and adjust funding based on residential, commercial, and industrial traffic

It is well overdue that we finally eliminate gerrymandering or the partisan drawing of legislative districts. That is why we need to establish an independent, non-partisan, citizen commission.

We cannot rely on any politicians in power to fairly draw legislative districts. They will inevitably create districts that benefit themselves at the expense of the average citizen. Both Democratic and Republican majorities in other states do this. It is not unique to one party. Gerrymandering ultimately leads to fewer competitive elections, hyperpolarization of the electorate, and produces radical candidates on both sides of the political spectrum who are unable to work together and govern. The number of seats any party occupies in the legislature should be as proportional as possible to the aggregate number of total votes cast for a particular party statewide in an election.

For instance, if you add up all the votes of all house candidates from one party, and that party wins 51% of the total vote in the Michigan House, that party should roughly control 56 of the 110 seats (roughly 51%), giving them a razor-thin majority. Our system does not work this way, in fact, it is one of the most gerrymandered in the country, and it needs to end now for the health and stability of our democracy and to preserve the principle of “one-person, one-vote.

Where would we be without our seniors? Our seniors worked hard, built up our community, sacrificed and persisted through difficult economic times, and many served in our Armed Forces.

They deserve more than just our gratitude; they deserve a secure and dignified retirement. Most seniors live on a fixed income, and for some, Social Security is their only source of income. No senior should have to choose between food and medicine. They should have the peace of mind to know that when they are in need, we will be there for them, as they were for us for so many years. That is why I support:

  • Repealing the pension/retirement tax
  • Protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from cuts
  • Creating a Prescription Drug Consumer Protection Board to keep prescription drug costs down and hold drug companies accountable for price gouging
  • Allowing seniors with Medicare to opt-out of catastrophic auto-insurance coverage
  • Prevent auto-insurance companies from raising rates based on advancing age
  • Bringing tax dollars home from Lansing to fully fund our local police, fire, and emergency medical services to keep our community safe
  • Cracking down on phone, mail, and email scams and prosecuting those responsible to the full extent of the law

Although government has a role to play in our society, it is not the solution to all our problems.
Some regulation is necessary and some is essential, but never should regulations be arbitrary,
unnecessary, or overly burdensome. It also is not the government’s role to unnecessarily crowd
out private investment or intrude upon the personal lives of its citizens. Government similarly
should show restraint in its spending.

The government should not use our hard-earned tax dollars as its personal ATM for pet projects, or to reward campaign donors, because after all, it’s your money, not the governments. As a member of the Appropriations (Budget) Committee and as Minority Vice-Chairman of the Military and Veterans and Community Colleges subcommittees, I have demonstrated such restraint. That is why I support:

  • A balanced budget
  • Zero-based budgeting in which all expenses must be continuously evaluated and justified
  • Eliminating wasteful programs that don’t demonstrate need or meet stated objectives
  • Dedicating more revenue to our Budget Stabilization Fund (Rainy Day Fund) to improve our bond rating, encourage business investment, and provide a hedge against cyclical/structural economic downturns
  • Eliminating gratuitous subsidies and corporate welfare that don’t create jobs or provide a positive return-on-investment (ROI)
  • Banning earmarks or pork-barrel spending in our state budgets
  • The Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act, which establishes
    statewide financial standards to help municipalities cope with legacy costs and
    establishes metrics to prevent local governments from becoming overleveraged
    by debt.

Over the past eight years, the average Michigan worker has been under attack. They have seen their income taxes increase by 32%, while corporations have seen their taxes decrease by 83%. On top of this, our vehicle registration fees and gas tax have increased, health insurance premiums are rising, and auto-insurance premiums and property taxes are going up. Although unemployment is low, wages are stagnant, too many people are still out of work, and many who are working are underemployed. That is why I support:

  • Cutting taxes for middle-class and working families
  • The right to collective bargaining
  • Cracking down on employee misclassification by employers
  • Repealing right-to-work
  • Restoring prevailing wage
  • Protecting worker’s pensions, retirement, and health benefits
  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • Earned-paid sick leave for all workers
  • Reinstituting the earned-income tax credit

It is often repeated, and rings just as true today, that “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Our veterans, more so than anyone else, have paid that price to protect the freedoms and liberties we enjoy today and too often take for granted. We must also recognize the personal sacrifices that the spouses, parents, children, and families of servicemen and women have made for our nation’s benefit. We are forever indebted to their service. It is tasked upon us to repay that debt, by ensuring that we don’t just pay lip service to our veterans, but take care of them when they come home, and take care of their families, when they do not. That is why I:

  • Support hiring preferences, job training, and civilian adjustment programs for veterans to ensure they can find work when they come home
  • Introduced House Bill 4111 to expand the property tax exemption for 100% disabled veterans who rent their homes
  • Support legislation that allows the widows of disabled veterans to keep an existing property tax exemption
  • Supported increased funding for Operation Northern Strike at Camp Grayling. It is the largest reserve component training site in the country, which hosts members from all branches of our armed forces throughout the United States to conduct simulations and exercises in military preparedness and responsiveness
  • As Minority Vice-Chairman of the Military and Veterans Appropriations Subcommittee worked to streamline the partnership between the MVAA and VSOs to better deliver the benefits and services that our veterans have earned and deserve
  • Worked to crack down on abuses at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home and helped the home become Medicare certified
  • Support expanding veteran treatment courts to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse who get in trouble with the law, stay out of jail, and get the treatment they need
  • Support increased funding for mental health services to help reduce the growing rates of suicide amongst vets
  • Worked to create a new veterans home in Southeast Michigan, where the highest concentration of veterans in our state reside