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Dear Michigan LCV Family, 

Welcome to the March 17, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! For those of you with an Irish heritage, I’m sure you know this blessing well: 

 

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

 

No matter your background or beliefs, I feel like we all need that blessing right now, as the world swirls with chaos and conflict. 

This week’s edition of Three Things focuses on “Michigan LCV in the news” over the past few weeks as our team relentlessly pursues the important work of protecting our water, taking action on climate change, and defending our democracy. (Read to the end for a little Lansing anecdote, which may make you laugh, cry and/or put your head in your hands.)

1. Misguided efforts to repeal Michigan’s gas tax 

Over the past several weeks, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been top of mind for all of us. In addition to the horror of almost 3 million refugees fleeing the country and the tragic loss of life, there exist immense implications for national security, energy security, and the fight against climate change. Since the start of the crisis three weeks ago, we have watched some politicians calling for increasing fossil fuel production to fortify the United States’ energy needs, falsely claiming that an increase will immediately help lower costs of oil and gas and disregarding the long-term dangers of doubling down on fossil fuel dependence. In concert, we have seen fossil fuel companies blatantly engage in war profiteering to pad their profits, all while the price of oil has fluctuated and gas prices across the country have steadily risen. 

With Americans feeling the effects at the gas pump, Michigan stands at a crossroads that will (in part) determine our energy future and dictate the effectiveness of climate action at the state level. Last week, the State House passed legislation that would suspend Michigan’s 27.2 cents-per-gallon gas tax through the end of September. On Tuesday, the State Senate also passed the bill sending it on to the Governor’s desk. 

While cheaper gas is an attractive notion at a time like this, this legislation is opportunistic, hasty, reckless, and shortsighted. Last week, Michigan LCV communications director Nick Dodge was interviewed by WNEM TV 5 on this topic.  He did a great job, pointing out that this action on the part of the legislature may sound good to Michiganders paying at the pump, but suspending the gas tax means that critical funding will be stripped away from critical challenges facing our state: 

This comes at a time when we’ve got priorities that this money needs to go to… Like improving our drinking water, improving our infrastructure.” – Nick Dodge, Michigan LCV Communications Director

In an earlier interview with Michigan Advance, Michigan LCV state government affairs director Nick Occhipinti also described the implications of the legislation:

This hasty, reckless gas tax cut will have long-term costs, and impacts on funding for key priorities, like safe, clean drinking water and reliable infrastructure. This latest round of skyrocketing energy costs is just another example of why we need to triple down on an electric vehicle future, unplug from our dependence on foreign oil, and accelerate our adoption of clean, homegrown, renewable energy.”  – Nick Occhipinti, Michigan LCV State Government Affairs Director

By suspending the gas tax, Michigan state government will have to account for hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. GOP lawmakers sponsoring the bill have said that this would be done by pulling from excess revenue the state has on hand from last year’s budget and federal funding, but let’s be clear: as the Michigan LCV Nick’s have pointed out, this would take truly essential dollars away from addressing water contamination (PFAS, lead, etc.), rebuilding our state’s infrastructure (replacing water and sewer pipes, bridges, roads, etc.), and protecting public health. 

Pausing the gas tax for six months will not address the underlying issues that have contributed to skyrocketing gas prices, such as our dependence on fossil fuels, rising inflation, and profiteering by fossil fuel companies. Furthermore, ignoring the existential threat of climate change and doubling down on fossil fuels will only make it harder to protect the health of the planet and that of future generations. 

That being said, Michiganders are undoubtedly feeling the burden at the gas pump and need relief. Instead of applying a Band-Aid to the problem, we have an opportunity to frame the debate, putting the responsibility on the fossil fuel industry and moving our state towards a clean energy future. 

As Nick Dodge described in his interview, it is imperative that we address the volatility of gas prices in the short term, as well as implement income-based tax credits to provide relief at the pump for the Michiganders who need it most. In the long term, we must invest in clean energy sources and electric vehicles to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels and take action to address climate change. In short, Michigan can give relief where it’s needed while simultaneously investing in a clean energy future. 

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has provided us with a crystal clear example of how our fossil fuel dependence threatens our national security and contributes to the climate crisis. It is in our collective best interest to quickly and equitably transition to a clean energy economy and unshackle ourselves from fossil fuels.

2. The MI Healthy Climate Plan…coming soon! 

Efforts to address climate change in Michigan could soon be bolstered by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan when it is unveiled on April 22. Since the draft plan was released last month, the Michigan LCV team has been working to drive public input for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), the state agency responsible for the final version. 

In the face of the ever-worsening climate crisis, with severe impacts already being felt right here in Michigan, Michigan LCV and partner organizations have been vocal about the fact that the final plan,  which has an overarching goal of statewide carbon neutrality by 2050, will not be effective without clearly and deliberately outlining how we achieve our climate and energy goals, with significant emphasis on communities already feeling the disproportionate impact of climate change. 

Although the period for public comment has ended, the work has not. Last week, Michigan LCV and other pro-climate action organizations held a press conference to emphasize these very things to EGLE.  

Climate change and action on climate change, there’s more support for that across political spectrums than there ever has been before. It continues to grow. We think that’s because people are seeing the impact of climate change, right here and now. We saw over the summer with extreme weather events that caused literal highways to flood in southeast Michigan. So, people have seen the impacts and they are demanding action.” – Nick Dodge, Michigan LCV Communications Director

With federal climate legislation stalled in Washington, D.C., the importance of climate action at the state level has never been greater. A robust final version of the MI Healthy Climate Plan will put Michigan on a path towards ridding ourselves of fossil fuel dependence, creating a clean energy economy that will create jobs and healthy communities, and protecting our precious Great Lakes state for generations to come.  

More to come on this very important issue in the weeks ahead!

3. Promote the Vote 2022 ballot initiative & the need to defend our democracy

As with the lack of climate action at the federal level, the lack of action to protect our democracy and voting rights in Washington, DC remains alarming. Combined with Congressional inaction, outright attacks on voting rights in Michigan continue, with the State House passing five bills last week that would make it harder for Michiganders to vote. 

But, here’s the good news: pro-democracy champions – both elected officials and partner organizations – are working to protect the right of every Michigan voter to make their voice heard during our elections. 

As I have mentioned in past weeks, Promote the Vote – the same organization that successfully ran the 2018 Proposal 3 ballot initiative, which was overwhelmingly supported by Michigan voters and established no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration – introduced the “Promote the Vote 2022” pro-democracy petition. The 2022 petition aims to bolster secure, accessible elections and the health of our democracy by doing the following: 

  • Ensure the freedom to vote without harassment, intimidation or interference is a fundamental right protected by Michigan’s Constitution 

 

  • Allow Michigan voters to request an absentee ballot be mailed to them for every future election

 

  • Establish true early voting options for statewide elections

 

  • Provide access to local clerks for state-funded postage for absentee applications and ballots, secure drop boxes, and ballot tracking

 

  • Maintain Michigan’s current voter ID laws, which allow voters to cast their ballots by signing a sworn affidavit in lieu of photo identification

 

  • Establish a requirement that election audits cannot be conducted behind closed doors, but rather in public view by state and county election officials

 

In this week’s edition of the Democracy Drumbeat, our Democracy For All team answers a reader’s question about Michigan’s current “permanent absentee” ballot list. What does that really mean?

Absentee ballots can be confusing and signing up to be on the permanent absentee ballot list is a tool to make the process a little easier. By signing up you will get an absentee ballot application before every election, NOT an absentee ballot. This is a great way to ensure that you know when every election is for your community. If you are interested, you can visit the Michigan Voter Information Center website to register for the permanent absentee ballot list.” – Nina Wimberley, Democracy For All Voting Rights Coordinator

In tandem with the Promote the Vote 2022 petition, some lawmakers in Lansing are also working from a legislative perspective to protect our freedom to vote.. Yesterday, Michigan House Democrats introduced nine pro-voter bills – the second of three similar legislative packages – that would help protect and expand voting access and ensure secure elections. The nine bills are highlighted by a provision that would require nine days of early in-person voting for eight hours a day, a requirement that would expand access to the ballot for voters who have a hard time making it to the polls on Election Day while making things easier for local clerks. The expansion of early in-person voting would also make our elections more secure and eliminate the possibility of human error because ballots cast in-person would be fed into a voting machine rather than tabulated by election workers. 

In Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s shop, her team announced the release of a series of educational videos focused on both dismantling rampant disinformation and answering a number of common questions that come up in advance of elections. The first video, which was released this week, explains why the results of major elections are not available right after the polls close in Michigan. It’s worth taking a look at and sharing with your friends. 

Finally, here’s a little look at our challenges in Lansing. This week a Republican state representative literally ripped up Michigan LCV’s testimony related to underground aquifer mapping…not because he disagreed with our testimony, but because he was upset with Michigan LCV deputy director Bob Allison’s September 2021 Off the Record comments regarding Republican attempts to squash access to the ballot.  Yes, you read that correctly. You can check out Bob’s interview with Tim Skubick here (fast forward to 12:44). Ah, just another day in the life in Lansing. 

Until next week, thanks for all you do…

Onward!

Lisa