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Dear Michigan LCV Family, 

Welcome to the April 29, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. This week’s Three Things include an introduction to new Michigan LCV team members and a big welcome back to someone who’s been out on maternity leave; the latest from Lansing in regards to the State budget and our work to help invest in the future of the planet; and some key updates on important upcoming events.

1. Welcoming Michigan LCV team members, new and old, into the fold

The past several weeks have been exciting for the Michigan LCV team as a number of new members have joined our team.  I like to introduce you to our three new colleagues: 

Kim Phinnessee, our new Southeast Michigan Regional Organizer

Kim is a native of Detroit and an experienced organizer.  As part of the Political & Outreach team, Kim’s work will be focused in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties, with an emphasis on air quality, climate change and clean, safe, affordable drinking water, all with an eye to elected official accountability at the local, state and federal levels.  You can read Kim’s full bio here

 

Natalie Hayes, our new Part-Time Northern Michigan Organizer

Natalie is based in Traverse City and her work, like Kim’s, is focused on community organizing with an eye to water quality (PFAS contamination), Great Lakes protection (i.e. Line 5) and the climate crisis.  In addition to her time with Michigan LCV, Natalie is pursuing a degree in legal studies. You can read Natalie’s full bio here

Samantha Schubert, our new Creative Content Manager

Based in Grand Rapids, Samantha brings extensive communications and, notably, videography skills to the Michigan LCV team.  You may have already caught some of her amazing videography work on social media or YouTube over the past month. Most recently, Samantha produced a video of our staff doing an Earth Day reading of Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, a project we partnered on with Avalon International Breads. You can read Samantha’s bio here

The team is also overjoyed to have our Strategic Partnerships Director, Lauren Mallas, back from a well-deserved maternity leave! While we have been celebrating the arrival of little Isabel (Izzy), we have sorely missed Lauren’s dedication and leadership over the last couple months. 

With all aspects of our work picking up speed (work in Lansing, Washington and at the local level on everything from clean water and climate change to voting rights and redistricting), we are really happy to have Lauren back in the fold.

2. Budgets are a clear sign of priorities — what’s the Legislature doing to invest in public health and the future of our planet?

In February, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced her executive budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Her budget recommendations feature important investments to protect our health, now and into the future, with major investments in water infrastructure, safe water for kids at school, electric vehicles, climate resiliency, and clean energy solutions. (Read our blog post breaking it down here)

Unfortunately, the legislative majority in Lansing does not share the Governor’s sense of urgency to address our state’s largest problems nor her clear climate change priorities.  

In an unprecedented move, the House majority proposed quarterly budgets, rather than annual budgets, suggesting that the State plan and oversee funding for important programs in three month increments.  This proposal makes no sense and, thankfully, the Senate did not follow suit. Representative Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) captured the absurdity of this situation well in a Gongwer article: 

“Do we stock a quarter of streams in the state? Do we only work on certain trails and certain watershed programs? And how would that be determined? How would that be prioritized over the course of time? How are you expecting that these departments are to adjust to an entirely new process?”

While all this was taking place related to FY 2022, both the House and Senate introduced long-awaited large supplemental appropriations that included both regular State of Michigan general fund dollars and Trump 2020 (last year!) federal COVID relief money.  As noted in prior Three Things, the legislature has, to date, refused to move and allocate the totality of federal funds awarded through the 2020 COVID relief bills, so this was a step in the right direction. 

On Wednesday, the Senate passed the bulk of that remaining funding and, if the House does the same, lawmakers and the Governor can then turn their focus to another massive wave of federal funding headed to Michigan from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.  Gov. Whitmer has already carved out her priorities for the $18.8 billion in funds coming to Michigan. Some of her focus includes water and transit infrastructure investments, assistance for people behind on their utility bills, small business aid, support for public health agencies, childcare and transitioning kids back to in-person learning, among other priorities. 

While the ongoing partisan division and endless Legislative-Executive power struggle in Lansing remain concerning, the focus of our work has been, and remains, on the opportunities before us to facilitate change and protect the future of our planet. 

Governor Whitmer’s February FY 2022 budget recommendations remain on the table and, as noted above, has a clear emphasis on initiatives that will make a real difference when it comes to addressing safe drinking water, contaminated site cleanup, advanced mobility and climate change. Here’s an update on where we stand following the legislature’s response: 

The Good:

  • The House included a $25 million recommendation for contaminated site cleanup at non-petroleum spill related sites – a $5 million boost from what the Governor proposed earlier this year
  • The House recommended an extra $50 million for PFAS site remediation (including a specific carve out for municipal airports) and costs associated with supplying safe drinking water for affected communities
  • The House included the Governor’s recommendation for $40 million for High Water Infrastructure projects, a portion of which can go to local governments for climate resiliency planning
  • The Senate and the House both included $15 million for dam safety in their recommendations
  • The House included $103.2 million in federal funding for the Low Income Homeowners Energy Assistance Program (LiHEAP). LiHEAP funds can not only be used to directly help homeowners pay their energy bills, but 3% can also be used to weatherize low income homes -> Michigan LCV would like to see that increased to 15% the allowable federal max.

The Bad:

  • The House and the Senate did not include proposed staffing increases at EGLE or the DNR. Additionally, the Senate declined to extend the sunsets on some permitting fees, reducing the amount of money that the departments have to operate their current programs, which Michiganders depend on.
  • The House and the Senate did not include the Governor’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, though the House did recommend their own, contracted version of the plan. Overall, water infrastructure could miss out on $40 million to $250 million in funding
  • The House and the Senate did not include the Governor’s recommendation for the Mobility Futures Initiative, which would help the state become a leader in electric vehicles

What We’re Still Watching:

  • The Senate included a $100 placeholder for the Green Revolving Fund, a pilot program that would help spur energy efficiency projects in state owned buildings
  • The House included a $100 placeholder for the Home Health and Safety Fund, a pilot program to pre-weatherize low income homes so that energy efficiency projects can be completed safely
  • The House included a $100 placeholder for shoreline erosion infrastructure projects

3. Important upcoming events hosted by the Michigan LCV team

As COVID rages on, keeping all of us from in-person meetings, the Michigan LCV team continues to pull together much-needed, innovative and compelling events in communities all across the state.  

Tonight, in fact, we are hosting a virtual town hall event focused on toxic PFAS contamination, and we have two webinar events on Line 5 and the legislative redistricting process, respectively, next week. These upcoming events illustrate the depth and breadth of our work at Michigan LCV. Here are more details on each event and how you can register: 

  • This evening at 7:00 PM, our Political & Outreach team will be hosting a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the PFAS contamination recently discovered in and around Traverse City, notably in the drinking water of the Pine Grove neighborhood near East Bay. The event will feature PFAS activists and experts in a discussion about what must be done to address the contamination and how to facilitate more communication–and transparency!–between the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and area residents. There is still time to register for the “Grand Traverse PFAS Town Hall”  — reserve your spot now!
  • The next installment of our People, Planet, Public Health webinar series will take place on May 4, 2021 at 5:00 PM.  This event will focus on “Line 5: Shutting Down the Ticking Time Bomb” and is perfectly timed as the May 12th deadline for shut down approaches.  You can register for this webinar here
  • Next week Thursday, May 6th at 6:00 PM, our Democracy For All team is hosting a webinar entitled “Your Guide to Michigan’s Redistricting Process and How to Get Involved”.  The brand new, first-ever Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is in place and overseeing the process with input from citizens, rather than behind closed doors as in years passed.  The Commission’s public meeting schedule kicks off May 11th and this webinar will be a guide so you can learn all the ins and outs of the process, as well as how best to make your voice heard and help ensure fair legislative districts for future elections. You can register for this webinar here

Over a year ago, as COVID-19 first began impacting the globe, our team found ways to connect with Michiganders in meaningful, important and interesting ways. That is not easy work, and it takes an incredible amount of collaboration and creativity to make happen. I am so proud of this nimble, innovative, dedicated team. I invite you to join us for our events and see the amazing Michigan LCV team in action. 

As always, thank you for all you do to make this world a better place. Your trust in our work is deeply appreciated. Until next time…

Onward!

Lisa