Capitol and Community Update

Jan. 18, 2019
Friday, January 18, 2019
Dear Friend,
 
Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
 
As of Wednesday, I have officially been a member of the House of Representatives for one week. Recently I was asked, “How do you learn HOW to be a Representative?” That is a great question, and I am looking forward to sharing my experiences as I move through my first year as an elected official. 
 
It is important to say first I think bringing some kind of life experience or expertise to the job is vital. I have been told that the best way to serve is to focus on no more than three things and become an expert in those things. I can see already the wisdom in this advice because right out of the chute — ideas, bills, legislation, executive orders move at the speed of light. I am reading as much as I can while also trying to get caught up on all of the changes that occurred in education policy as a result of lame duck; though my educational background has helped, the fact that even someone with my experience is struggling with the overwhelming amount of information speaks to how poorly crafted much of those changes were — and how needed education reform is in our state. That’s something I’m never going to stop fighting for.
 
Second, I think that the last several years of teaching public policy at the University of Michigan-Flint has helped me to understand as well as possible the legislative process. However, there is so much more to it than this. There is a legislative process, there is a logistical process, there is a political process, there is a rules process, literally for everything that you do. Nothing happens that doesn’t first have to be simultaneously viewed through all of these lenses, and also the lens of what is right for the district, state and party. It is like drinking from a firehose — and so far, we freshmen seem to be keeping up and learning to be friends and building relationships in the process.
 
Then there are the events. Only a legislator for less than a week, I have already submitted several bill proposals, co-sponsored some of my colleagues’ bills, and attended so many events. Be it a visit to Flint from Gov. Whitmer, or bringing a Tribute to read at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, events are when I get to meet members of our community and learn firsthand about their struggles, their goals, and what they want from their state government. Now their representative, it is my humble honor to serve them.
 
What I am finding I love most about my new life as a representative of the 48th House District is participating in intelligent conversation and dialogue regarding what challenges are currently affecting our state and Genesee County. I’m grateful to share with and learn from my new colleagues, and for the support of those serving alongside me as other Genesee County representatives. I love thinking out loud and being challenged by others — all doing our best to make the best decisions for our citizens. In the end, I believe this is the best way to achieve good policy.
 
Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
 
As you know, this weekend we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia, Dr. King would go on to become one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement. Dr. King’s legacy of advocating for equal rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience continues to live on as we work toward building a world where no one is judged on the basis of their skin, but rather the content of his or her character.
 
State offices will be closed on Monday to mark Dr. King’s birthday and I know many of you will have the day off from work or school too, but I would ask that you use that opportunity as a day of action in your communities. Attend a service event, volunteer or simply spend some time with someone that may need a helping hand. The best way to celebrate Dr. King’s memory is to reach out and make a positive difference in the lives of others.
 
Home Heating Help May be Available
 
With the winter heating season in full swing, some households may struggle to pay their winter heating bills. I want to remind area families that help with home heating bills may be available.
 
First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could help keep the heat on and save your life. The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income customers from service shutoffs. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.
 
This is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program meant to ease the burden of high winter utility bills. However, there are state programs that offer resources to assist low-income families with energy costs, including the State Emergency Relief Program, Home Heating Credit, and Weatherization Assistance Program. For more information, click here or dial 2-1-1 from any phone to connect with a free statewide service that helps people find and use resources in their community, including help with utility costs.
 
Michigan State Parks Celebrates 100 Years!
 
Almost 100 years ago, the Michigan State Park Commission set the course for visitors to enjoy and explore four seasons of fun. May 12 officially marks the anniversary of state parks, and The Parks Commission is planning a yearlong centennial celebration. Join in and celebrate Michigan’s rich history and look forward as we mark this milestone year with special events, podcasts, historical stories, videos, geocaching and more.
 
For more information, please click here.
 
Treasury: Resolve to Be Ready for Tax Scams in 2019
 
As the state of Michigan begins a new year and the state income tax filing season approaches, the Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers to resolve to be ready for tax scams in 2019.
 
Cybercriminals typically increase their activity in the first part of the year through phone scams and email phishing schemes. These scammers try to obtain personal information using different tricks and tactics so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers.
 
Some scammers may also allege a taxpayer owes taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.
 
Treasury will never: 
  • Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
  • Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, Treasury will first send a bill through the U.S. mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
 
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
 
Taxpayers who are contacted by a scammer should immediately cease the call or delete the email.
 
To learn more about tax-related identity theft, click here.
 
Business Taxpayers Should Be On Alert for W-2 Phishing Scam
 
Business taxpayers should be extra alert for cybercriminals attempting to steal W-2 forms and other sensitive information through a phishing scam, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.
 
In a typical scenario, cybercriminals impersonate persons of authority within a company and send an email to payroll personnel asking for copies of all employee W-2 forms. A W-2 form contains an employee’s name, address, Social Security number, income and withholdings. Cybercriminals use that information to file state income tax returns and steal refunds, or they post it for sale on the “Dark Web.”
 
The Internal Revenue Service reports the scam has affected all types of employers, from small and large businesses to public schools and universities, hospitals, tribal governments and charities. A common theme in this scam and other email scams is that the copy includes grammatical and spelling mistakes.
 
Business taxpayers who receive this type of email are asked to report the encounter to phishing@irs.gov. To learn more about identity theft, click here.
 
Michigan Department of Education Continues #proudMIeducator
 
The #proudMIeducator campaign’s latest video installment released this week by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), features a Regional Teacher of the Year (RTOY) from the Lansing School District.
 
The video highlights Robyne Muray, an 8th grade English and 10th grade American Literature and U.S. History teacher at Lansing Eastern High School. She also is the Region 6 Teacher of the Year and member of the Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council (MTLAC), now in her second year.
 
Muray has taught for the Lansing School District for four years and in Flint Community Schools for 14 years prior to that. Watch this video to learn more about this humble teacher who inspires others; holds high expectations for herself and students, and lets students take ownership of their learning.
 
Muray’s video is available by clicking here. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/proudmieducator or email Josh Roesner at roesnerj1@michigan.gov.
 
Events in the 48th District
 
Oreo Taste-Test Challenge
 
The Genesee-Johnson library is hosting an Oreo taste test on Saturday, Jan. 19 from 1-2 p.m. Participate in a blind taste test challenge by sampling a variety of Oreo cookie flavors and then guessing what they are. Ages 10 and up are welcome. Please visit the Genesee District Library website for more information and registration.
 
ARK Animal Encounters
 
The Davison Area Library is hosting an event with exotic animals on Saturday Jan. 19, from 2-3 p.m. Cool animals will be presented in a show-and-tell-and-touch style, blending education and entertainment. Please visit the Genesee District Library website for more information and registration.
 
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
 
Sincerely,
 
State Rep. Sheryl Y. Kennedy, Ph.D.
48th House District