On the Issues

Jobs and the Economy


Defending Bargaining Rights It's a fact that unionization built America's middle-class. It's also a fact that as union membership has decreased, income inequality has increased. There has been a concerted effort between Republicans and big business to break unions through misleanding efforts like "Right-to-Work" (RTW) laws, which the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called a "law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights." I believe it would be fair to say that such laws are an effort to move us toward an era of slave wages. As a Michigan State Representative, I will be an unwavering ally of Michigan workers, fully supporting their right to collectively bargain in the private and public sector. I will work with anyone willing to repeal the wage-killing RTW law and will support and encourage efforts to place bargaining rights into Michigan's constitution. A Living Wage As President Obama said in 2013, no one in America who works full-time should be living in poverty. Yet millions of full-time workers still struggle to make ends meet because of the stagnant wages they are forced to accept through the alliance of the Republican Party and the super-rich. In 2014, the Republican leadership in Lansing passed the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act to slowly raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.25 per hour. However, they didn't do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They did it to stop debate about raising the minimum wage to a more livable wage. But that debate has only intensified in the ensuing years, and rightfully so.

A 2017 study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a full-time worker in Michigan would have to make $16.24 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental home. With the current unlivable wage imposed by Republicans in Lansing, a parent would have to take on two jobs and sacrifice valuable time raising their children in order to clothe, feed, and house their family. Therefore, I fully support the fight by workers for a living wage of $15 per hour. Pay Equity The wage gap is a real and prevalent problem that many women face and the federal government, now controlled by the Trump Regime, looks even less likely to address it than they did with administrations that were friendly to the idea. So, where the federal government fails, or refuses, to act, states must act to protect the rights of their residents. I will push for laws that address the inequality that women face in the the workplace, inequalities, by the way, that women of color face at even greater levels. I support legislation that requires equal pay for equal work as well as legislation that will guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave so that parents are punished for choosing to have a family. Job Creation The wage-killing RTW law has failed to produce the positive economic effects to which Republicans claimed it would lead. Industries aren't swarming into Michigan offering good paying jobs to our workers as a result of this law, and Michigan workers are increasingly having to depend on low-wage jobs in retail to survive. Meanwhile, our streets, highways, and freeways are pock-marked hellscapes where commuters risk their lives on a daily basis to get to and from work. Knowing that our roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair and replacement, the State of Michigan could be employing Michigans workforce in long-term, good paying jobs to get our state moving again if only our lawmakers would do the job that they're being paid to do. A state with a crumbling, collapsing infrastructure is not a state that will attract new business. It isn't even a state that will long keep the businesses that it currently has. It's going to require a committment from elected officials to allocate any and all funds needed to not just patch roads, not just make short-term repairs, but to make long-term investments on a roadway system that has been neglected through multiple state administrations. But it's also going to take leadership. We need people in Lansing that aren't afraid to rock the boat. We need people who think more about the job they were elected to do and less about how they're going to get elected again in two to four years. I'm committed to pushing forward infrastructure legislation that will finally get Michigan's roads and bridges to a level that will make them safe to drive to work on and safe for children to go to school on. This will not only put many Michiganders to work in good paying jobs fixing those roads, but instill confidence in businesses to move to our state and employ even more Michiganders in good paying jobs.




Infrastructure


It's the worst kept secret in the state that Michigan's infrastructure is in such a bad state that some third-world countries look better by comparison. From the pock-marked hellscape that is Michigan's roads and bridges to the deplorable catastrophe that is the Flint water crisis, Michigan is in desperate need of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment. Currently, we hear our elected officials pay lip service to and throw what amounts to pocket change at the problems—especially when they're up for reelection—but we see no real movement toward long-term efforts to address the problems. Couple this with the Republican-controlled legislature's ideology that rarely believes in the government doing anything for its people and the limits placed on the ability to raise revenue in Michigan's constitution, and you have an enormous problem that cannot be solved through business as usual. Roadways Anyone who has driven down a Michigan street, highway, or freeway knows the pain that is being a Michigan driver, and that pain is often more costly than being jostled around. Replacing rims and tires—sometimes on a monthly basis—can be extremely expensive, especially for those living paycheck to paycheck. And dodging or hard-braking to avoid enormous potholes can often lead to dangerous and expensive auto accidents. And while drivers suffer, Lansing bickers.

There are new ideas being proposed by some candidates for governor, such as cannabis legalization and tax revenue being used for road repairs, and I fully support that. There are many ways that Michigan can raise revenue that are being completely ignored, and we need to look at those options. Whether they can be done directly at the legislative level, or whether voters have to approve them, we need leadership in Lansing to champion such measures so that we can finally solve the problems that Michiganders care about.




Environment


No event in Michigan is a clearer example of how important our environment is to our health than the water crisis in Flint. Poisoned water has caused some Flint residents what will likely be lifelong health problems, and many other residents in Detroit and other municipalities are in simpler danger from the pollution of our water, air, and soil in the name of corporate profits. It is a moral responsibility for all of us to be good stewards of the earth, and everything in it, and so we cannot put the profits of multi-billion dollar corporations ahead of the welfare of our people. I believe that access to clean drinking water is a human right, a right that was violated in Flint, and a right that is being violated every year in Detroit. Right now, we have bottled water companies pumping clean Michigan water out of the ground to export around the world to enrich themselves with little to no benefit to the people of Michigan. It is imperative that we ensure that everyone in Michigan has access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water.

We must also protect our air, which we need to breathe, and our soil, which we need to produce food. Increasingly, corporations are seeing opportunities to pollute our air and soil more because they can profit more from dumping pollutants into the soil and groundwater and pouring them into the air than to use proper disposal and prevention methods. We must take every step necessary to ensure that these corporations are following the laws already in place, prevent them from bribing or threatening public servants into weakening those laws, and, if neccessary, strengthen the laws.




Criminal Justice


Prison System and Mass Incarceration Michigan's prison system has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years with over 71 percent of the public safety budget going to prisons. It costs roughly $35,000 per year to house an inmate. With so many problems that need addressed in Michigan, one has to wonder if imprisonment for petty offenses like writing a bad check, breaking a parking meter, or possessing a small amount of marijunana is the best use of Michigan's budget. I say it isn't. Aside from the financial aspects of such out-of-control spending on prisons—places that should primarily be used for murderers, rapists, and other violent offenders—ripping fathers and mothers away from their families for small offenses, something that happens disporportionately to people of color, often destroys families and ruins communities. Placing nonviolent offenders in prisons with hardened criminals only serves to institutionalize people and condemn them to a life of repeat offenses that can end in violence. Places that call themselves "correctional facilities" rarely seem to focus on correction and rehabilitation.

Mass incarceration is one of the greatest moral failings of our time, and it's time that Michigan looks for other solutions for nonviolent offenders. Whether those solutions come from other states or other countries doesn't matter as long as they're proven to work. I support transitioning away from using incarceration as a first option for nonviolent offenders. In truth, it should be the option of last resort for offenders who don't benefit from alternative correctional options.

Policing Reform

The purpose of police departments are to serve and protect the community. It is a dangerous profession that often requires split second decisions that can mean life or death for the officer or a citizen. Officers have the ability to take freedom and take lives. Because of the important role they play in society, and because of the tremendous power we place in their hands, we cannot have less than the best of the best on our police forces.

Both in our current forces and for any new recruits, we must mandate the most stringent training possible to ensure that officers make every effort to de-escalate potentially volitile situations, view every citizen equal without respect for race, creed, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other feature. We must also mandate that certain tactics are absolutely forbidden for police including holds that can lead to death, shoot first policies, use of military grade weapons and vehicles, and gasses were are even illegal to use in warzones.




Equality


LGBTQ Rights "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The civil and human rights of every Michigander deserves to be protected. It is a moral obligation that I take extremely seriously. I'm proud to be a resident of Detroit, a city that has guaranteed protection in employment, housing, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation since the year of my birth—1979—and gender identity in 2008. The State of Michigan, however, has yet to follow suit. It is still legal to discriminate in our state and that must change. I am committed to fighting to ensure that no one in our state is discriminated against for any reason. It's a fight that I'll proudly engage in not just as a gay Michigander, but as a decent human being who believes in the immortal declaration that all are created equal. Pay Equity "Join the union, girls, and together say Equal Pay for Equal Work." —Susan B. Anthony Over one hundred years ago, Susan B. Anthony was calling for equal pay for equal work. We still haven't achieved that goal. The wage gap is a real and prevalent problem that many women face and the federal government, now controlled by the Trump Regime, looks even less likely to address it than they did with administrations that were friendly to the idea. So, where the federal government fails, or refuses, to act, states must act to protect the rights of their residents. I will push for laws that address the inequality that women face in the the workplace, inequalities, by the way, that women of color face at even greater levels. I support legislation that requires equal pay for equal work as well as legislation that will guarantee 12 weeks of paid family leave so that parents are punished for choosing to have a family.




Common-Sense Gun Safety


When 20 first grade children and 6 adults were murdered in 2012, the country was heartbroken, I was heartbroken with them, and President Barack Obama shed tears on national television. But the heartbreak and the tears are things that too many parents in Detroit know all too well, and have for decades. Gun violence is an epidemic plague that infected the soul of out nation, yet Michigan has done little to address it even as the tear-stained faces of Detroit families who have lost loved ones to guns appear on local news every week. Gun proliferation advocates argue that putting more guns in more hands is the best way to keep people safe. Detroiters know that is a ludicrous lie. Mass proliferation of guns has scarred Detroit deeply, and many of the wounds may take a lifetime to heal. That is why I support common-sense legislation that will protect Michigan's children, legislation that will set the bar and lead the way for the rest of the country. Other nations have been scarred by gun violence and acted to prevent further violence. It worked and it didn't unduly infringe on the abilities of those who had legitimate reasons to own firearms from doing so. If we are to protect Michiganders from the gun violence that has become so frequent in our nation, we have to act as well, taking any and all measures that the US Constitution will allow. I support banning weapons of war like the AR-15, which its own creator admits wasn't designed for civilian use. I also support banning large magazines and modifers like "bump stocks" that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire at a rate much faster than designed. Michigan must also have a red flag law in place so that those who show warning signs of preparing to hurt themselves or others can be temporarily restricted from firearms possession. This one law could go a long way to preventing tragedies like the mass shootings that we are seeing in increasing numbers.




Auto Insurance


The national average for auto insurance is $122 per month, yet Michiganders pay an average twice that rate. For Detroiters, it’s even higher, with rates that can reach $412 per month. When Michigan’s No-Fault Insurance Act took effect on October 1, 1973, those who passed the act did so with noble intent. Denial of benefits, underpayment for serious injuries, extensive payment delays, and cases of discrimination were routine before the law took effect. However, the lawmakers who passed it didn’t anticipate the problems that the law itself would cause.

In 1978, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that there were unconstitutional elements within the No-Fault Act. Specifically, the law made insurance compulsory—every driver had to have it—but didn’t provide for fair and equitable rates. Forty years later, the rates still aren’t fair and equitable, and lawmakers in Lansing do nothing but bicker and back into their respective corners with their special interests, refusing to compromise to relieve the burden of excessive insurance rates from drivers.

The issues that are causing Michigan’s auto insurance to skyrocket are many, and all need to be addressed.

Allow Michigan drivers to choose the amount of coverage that they want for themselves and their family rather than forcing them to pay excessive rates for insurance that they don’t want. If a family chooses to continue paying today’s rates for unlimited lifetime benefits, that’s their right. If a family wishes to choose a lesser amount of coverage, they should also have the right to do so, being given full knowledge of what that would entail, such as future costs being covered by health insurance and the deductibles that may go along with it.

No-Fault was instituted so that victims didn’t have to go through litigation after an accident, yet many are finding themselves having to sue their own insurer to get them to honor what they’ve been paying premiums for. When first-party lawsuits against insurers take up two-thirds of the lawsuits in the state, the No-Fault law is clearly not working as intended. We must focus on legislation that makes it easier for victims to have their claims addressed and benefits paid in a timely manner, thereby avoiding costly litigation.

We must also address the outrageous medical costs that accident victims are charged. If you’re cleaning the gutters and fall from a ladder, hitting your head, you’ll likely get charged between $700 and $1,000 for an MRI. If you hit your head in an auto accident and go to the same hospital for the same MRI, it shouldn’t cost five times more just because it’s easier to get that exorbitant amount from an auto insurer. That’s price gouging, and I’ll support laws to prevent and severely punish those who do it.

Michigan has a law in place forbidding solicitation of accident victims within the first thirty days of an accident, yet the law isn’t being enforced with any consistency, if at all. Many victims are contacted within hours of an accident and solicitors receive no punishment. They encourage people with minor injuries to exaggerate them, they send them to doctors that they’re connected with to give false diagnosis to insurance companies, and then they file expensive lawsuits that clog the court system and raise rates on everyone else. This must end, and lawyers who engage in these predatory practices must be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

I’m also advocating a fraud watchdog to be put in place for no-fault auto insurance claims. It’s a measure that should have been in place long ago considering Michigan’s generous unlimited, lifetime no-fault benefit scheme. Fraud is a large driver of costs in any industry and Michigan’s auto insurance is no exception. A watchdog department specifically dedicated to monitoring no-fault insurance has the potential to dramatically cut rates for long-suffering Michigan motorists.




Education


It's no secret that the current secretary of the US Department of Education—Betsy DeVos—has had a vendetta against Michigan's public education system for decades. Under the guise of "school 'choice'," DeVos and her husband have tried to ensure that Michigan families have no choice but to rely on substandard and unaccountable schools whose primary goal is how many Michigan children they can stuff into a classroom and how much money they can make off of them. Thanks to the DeVos family, and their bought-and-paid-for pawns in Lansing, school districts like Detroit's public school system have been so starved for funding that they've faced building and safety problems that have permanently closed some while others have had to rely on charity to reopen. And educational outcomes for Michigan schools are ranking at the bottom nationwide, especially for African-American children. If Michigan expects to compete in the 21st century, we we need to return to our roots. Michigan was once a national leader in secondary and higher education; Michigan State was the first land-grant college and Kalamazoo set the national standard for how high schools would be funded. We in Michigan need to fight the DeVos destruction of public education and again set the standard for the nation so that every child has not only a chance but a guarantee of high-quality education from pre-K through college. Universal Pre-K I will fight to expand pre-K throughout our state to ensure that Michigan children are given every opportunity for success, as studies have shown that children start learning long before the arbitrary age of five that's set for kindergarten. Ensuring that every three and four year old has the opportunity to attend a high-quality pre-K program will give young Michiganders the jumpstart that will propel then through the rest of their lives. In addition, providing high-quality pre-K will substantially ease the financial burden on families, greatly reducing the time that they would need to use childcare while working. Increasing Funding for K-12 If the last eight years have shown us anything, it's what a disaster it can be for the entire state when you demonize and attack public education. Students being left behind and companies choosing not to move into the state are just a couple of examples of what the Republican cabal funded by the DeVos family and led by Rick Snyder has done to Michigan children and families. We must start investing in our schools in a way that prepares young Michiganders for the jobs of the future. I will fight to support higher funding of public education and ensure that at-risk regions are given the focus that they have been denied in recent years, because high-quality education shouldn't be determined by zipcode.





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