Capitol and Community Update

Feb. 15, 2019
Friday, February 15, 2019
Clio Area Fire Chief Kerry Paulson and I attending Gov. Whitmer’s first State of the State address on Feb. 12.
Dear Friend,
 
Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for legislative updates and things to do this month, along with other community information.
 
State of the State Response
Earlier this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered her first State of the State address outlining her vision for the state and calling for bipartisan collaboration to address the issues facing Michigan’s working families. Great schools and strong communities go hand in hand; when our public schools are struggling, Michigan families, our communities and our state suffer with them.
 
For years, I have been fighting to improve our state’s education by demanding full and adequate funding for our schools and highlighting the need to take care of our hardworking neighbors who sacrifice so much for our communities. Listening to Gov. Whitmer’s address filled me with the hope that we stand at a new beginning for our state, and are heading down a path that will allow us to do both. Preparing our students to thrive and reinforcing our state’s commitment to emergency responders like my guest, Clio Fire Chief Kerry Paulson, are paramount to Michigan’s future success.
 
I applaud Gov. Whitmer reinforcing our state’s commitment to emergency responders and hope to do the same through my bill, House Bill 4081, to designate a portion of M-57 as the “Firefighter Mike Wager Memorial Highway.” An eight-year veteran of the Clio Area Fire Department, Mike lost his life when his vehicle was struck by an intoxicated driver in July 2016. Though his life was cut tragically short, Firefighter Wager’s legacy of selfless service for his community will never be forgotten. His life was defined by a level of courage and sacrifice that we should all aspire to. I hope this highway dedication will inspire others to live a life committed to improving their communities in the same way Firefighter Wager did.
 
Legislative Update
I recently co-sponsored HB 4108 to amend the “Child Protection Law” by adding physical therapists and physical therapist assistants to the list of occupations that must report suspected child abuse or neglect.
 
I also co-sponsored HB 4148 to amend the Open Meetings Act to require any public body that is a rule-making agency to produce recordings of all meetings. Those recordings would need to be made available to the public on the rule-making body’s website or the website of the state department in which the rule-making body is located.
 
Celebrating President’s Day
On Monday, Feb. 18, we will celebrate Presidents Day — which means state offices will be closed, students may be home from school and your local store might be offering some special deals. It is important to remember, however, that this holiday means so much more. Originally designated in 1879 to commemorate the birth of our first president, George Washington, Presidents Day has since been used as an opportunity to recognize the contributions and dedication of all those who have held our nation’s highest office. Each year, this holiday provides us the opportunity to reflect on the importance of our own civic engagement and the importance of holding elected officials accountable when they fall short of the tremendous responsibilities they hold.
 
Pertussis Alert
The Genesee County Health Department (GCHD) is alerting the public about a local increase in pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough,” cases. Reported levels of pertussis activity have increased in Genesee County since late fall 2018. The increase has been seen particularly in children age 4 or younger who have not completed their fifth dose of DTaP and who are in childcare settings.

GCHD has asked health care providers to help assure proper diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of pertussis. Clinicians should have heightened awareness of and consider the diagnosis of pertussis in their patients and close contacts with prolonged cough of greater than one week.

The best way to prevent pertussis cases and outbreaks is to have the highest possible level of immunization in the community. GCHD has asked health providers to make sure patients of all ages are up to date on pertussis vaccines (see immunization schedules here).

Infants are at highest risk of severe disease and death; older siblings and adults often are the source. Infants and children should receive a pertussis vaccine series (DTaP) as per the U.S. recommended childhood immunization schedule. All doses should be given as close to the recommended ages as possible.

A routine pertussis vaccine dose (Tdap) is recommended for adolescents and adults, and is especially important for those in contact with infants. Pregnant women can play a very important role in preventing young infants from acquiring pertussis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine at the earliest opportunity between 27 and 36 weeks of each pregnancy.  Both the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Nurse-Midwives support this recommendation.

If you have questions, the Genesee County Health Department Immunization Clinic is located at 3373 S. Saginaw St. G in Burton and can be reached by phone at (810) 742-2255. For questions about vaccines, please contact the GCHD Immunization program at (810) 237-4540.

 
MI Secretary of State Computer System Upgrade
During the Presidents Day weekend closure, the Michigan Department of State will replace the outdated vehicle records system it has used for decades with a modern computer system to better serve customers.
 
The Customer and Automotive Records System (CARS) is replacing the antiquated vehicle records system that has technology dating to the 1960s. When it launches, more online services will be available to Secretary of State customers, and the existing services at ExpressSOS.com will be improved. Branch office technology also will be much better.
 
During the transition to the new system, branch offices, online services and auto business transactions will be taken offline and will be unavailable from 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15, to 9 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19. Self-service kiosks will be taken offline in phases beginning Friday, Feb. 8. The seven Super Centers will be closed Saturday, Feb. 16, for the system-wide conversion. All branches will be closed on Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 18. Additionally, for a few weeks following the launch of CARS, service in offices may take longer as staff gets accustomed to the new system.
 
Tax Foreclosure Postponement Help
The Genesee County Treasurer, Deborah L. Cherry, has established a Hardship Policy for a one-year foreclosure postponement. This policy allows homeowners who are undergoing a “substantial financial hardship”, such as, but not limited to, governmental assistance, low income, a reduction in income, or an increase in expenses, an opportunity to apply for a one year extension on property foreclosure. Genesee County requires that any person applying for the postponement on a property must own, reside, and have a 100 percent Principal Residential Exemption (PRE), formerly homestead, or be the legal guardian, conservator, or have power of attorney over the owner or resident.
 
Applications are available at the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office. Postponement arrangements must be made and approved annually by the Genesee County Treasurer’s Office. Failure to make arrangements every year could result in foreclosure and loss of property.
 
For more information, please call (810) 257-3025 or go to www.gc4me.com.
 
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.
 
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, visit Michigan.gov/HeatingAssistance 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.
 
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, go to Michigan.gov/identitytheft.
 
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, go to Michigan.gov/identitytheft
 
Events in the 48th District
 
Paws to Read
 
The Davison Area Library invites you to join Miss Katie and her certified therapy dog, Dasher on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 11 a.m. to noon. Practice reading to Dasher or listen to Miss Katie read stories while you pet the doggie. All ages welcome. For more information or to register, please visit the Genesee District Library website.
 
World of Raptors
 
The Forest Township Library invites you to get up close and personal with hawks, falcons and owls in this live animal, birds of prey program on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 2-3 p.m. For more information, please visit the Genesee District Library website.
 
The Science of Cotton Candy
 
The Montrose-Jennings Library invites you on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 2-3 p.m. to explore the science behind this wonderful, sugary treat. Chemists of all ages will enjoy this fascinating program and it tastes good, too! For more information or to register, please visit the Genesee District Library website.
 
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