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Legislative Update


State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton
July 6, 2012

Greetings friends and neighbors,

Welcome to the latest issue of my e-news, where I aim to update you on happenings in Lansing and in our community. During this in-district work period, I will continue to attend local events and speak with constituents at coffee hours. I hope everyone had a very happy Fourth of July holiday this week. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend some time together with friends and family, but also to remember how fortunate we are to have the freedoms we enjoy as a country. Enjoy, and stay safe!

In This Issue:

Legislative Update: Michigan Fireworks Safety Act, Kindergarten Entry Age, Voter Suppression Legislation and Robocall Regulation Bill

Legislative Update

Fireworks Safety Act

Many have heard and seen fireworks in their neighborhoods recently, especially this holiday week. Senate Bill 193, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, was approved by the Governor late last month and is now Public Act 257 of 2012. The bill would amend the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act to increase penalties for people who sell consumer grade fireworks without a license from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. This bill also prohibits minors from being in possession of consumer grade fireworks and increases penalties on those who sell this grade of firework to minors. Senate Bill 193 would also allow the state fire marshal to issue a citation up to 90 days after a completed inspection or investigation, if the fire marshal believes the person is in violation of this act. I voted for this legislation and believe it will increase the safety of our residents and neighborhoods.

Kindergarten Entry Age

A controversial piece of legislation recently signed by the Governor is Senate Bill 316, which moves up the minimum age requirement for a child enrolling in kindergarten. Under this act, a child would have to be five years of age by Sept. 1, rather than Dec. 1 (as is current law), in order to be counted in membership for the purpose of calculating school aid. The requirement would be phased in over three years, starting in the 2013-14 school year. As a strong advocate for public education, I did not support this bill. I believe it will likely lower enrollment and pupil membership counts for school districts, further reducing the amount of school aid going to individual schools at a time when our classrooms are already facing cuts. Teachers and students have been expected to do more with less, and it’s time we focus on adequately funding our public schools, instead of passing legislation which will result in lower revenues for our school districts. Also, I believe this decision should be left to parents, in consultation with the school, who can best assess the needs of a child.

Voter Suppression Legislation Vetoed

Over my strong objections, Republicans in the legislature recently passed House Bill 5061 and Senate Bills 751 and 803, which would add unnecessary barriers to the voting process and could suppress the vote in Michigan. These bills could have had very serious implications for all voters, but seemed to most directly endanger the voting rights of the elderly, disabled voters, students, people of color and the poor by adding potentially costly obstacles to voting in Michigan. Fortunately, this past Tuesday, Governor Snyder vetoed these bills. In doing so, the voting process for citizens has remained protected and functional. HB 5061 sought to require absentee voters to provide identification, as well as answer a checkbox question about the citizen status. Both items already verified by the Secretary of State when one registers to vote. SB 803 would have required registered voters to affirmatively state they are U.S. citizens on an application prior to voting. SB 754 sought to hinder citizen volunteers who participate in voter registration drives across the state by requiring training by the Secretary of State or county clerks at expense of taxpayers. With this veto, we can preserve what makes our nation great, the power of the people and the power of the vote. I am proud that the voices of Democratic legislators, voting rights activists, and community organizations were heard.

Robocall Regulation Bill

Many residents have raised concerns over the growing number of anonymous robocalls that flood our community in the weeks and month leading up to an election. These calls can sometime be informative, sometimes misleading, and sometimes outright false. While everyone has a right to be heard, voters have a right to know who is spending large sums of money in an attempt to influence our electoral process. HB 4236, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Brown, would require any robocall to state who has paid for it. This bill would protect the integrity of our elections by ensuring voters no exactly who is funding these efforts and by making candidates, individuals, and organizations publicly accountable for their actions. As the legislative session resumes I will continue working with Rep. Brown and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see that this bill becomes law.

The House is scheduled to meet for voting on July 18. At this point no agenda has been shared.

Contact me

I truly value hearing your thoughts on the issues that matter to you and your family. Please feel free to contact me any time toll-free at (888) 347-8027, email me at ellenlipton@house.mi.gov, or visit my website, www.house.mi.gov/elipton.

Sincerely,

State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton
27th House District