Capitol and Community Update

April 26, 2019
Friday, April 26, 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.

In the face of a rapidly changing 21st century economy, we expect our students to pursue an advanced degree or skilled trade certificate just to compete with their peers, both local and global, without providing them the support they need to succeed. For too many students in our own community, the pathways to postsecondary education have been blocked by skyrocketing costs — preventing them from pursuing careers that provide a better quality of life for themselves or their families.

It’s time for that to change.

Last week I had the honor of introducing House Bill 4464 to create the MI Opportunity Initiative scholarship to assist students financially who wish to pursue up to three additional years of training or community college beyond high school.  MI Opportunity allows students to attend training or community college by covering the cost of up to 60 credit hours or until they’ve completed a degree or certificate program. To qualify for the grant, students currently in high school, or who recently graduated high school would simply need to complete their FAFSA for federal aid to apply.

Individuals 25-years-old or older who are looking to expand their employability, improve their wages and benefits, or just looking to train a new skill will be able to pursue those goals through the MI Reconnect scholarship. Similar to MI Opportunity, MI Reconnect would also cover the last-dollar tuition costs for community college or skills training. Individuals would simply need to complete their FAFSA to apply.

There are many other benefits to these grant programs, such as providing personalized academic coaching counselors to help students overcome any other barriers that might be getting in their way of successfully completing these programs.

These two programs are the result of significant bipartisan support of Gov. Whitmer’s goal to ensure that at least 60 percent of our citizens have some form of advanced credential by 2030.  The 48th District is home to some of the most hardworking families in our state and these grants provide life-changing opportunities for so many of our neighbors. 

Whether your academic path leads you to a trade certificate, a two-year degree or even a four-year degree, these scholarship programs throw open the doors to a life full of opportunity. I also made a commitment to our community to see the median wage rise within the next six years, and these bold programs are going to help us get there. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see these bills passed as soon as possible.

Working hard for you,

Representative Sheryl Y. Kennedy

Constituent Listening Tour

Join me on Monday, May 6, in Forest Township for the next stop of my constituent listening tour. I will be at the Forest Township Library from 10:30 a.m. - noon. Come sit down and have a chat with me. Ask questions, make suggestions, get answers. See you there!

Take My Survey!

Michigan is at a crossroads. As we look into the future, our state is facing a clear choice: do we invest, build and thrive? Or do we continue to divest, stagnate and decline? Gov. Whitmer’s budget presents bold solutions to put Michigan on the road to opportunity by making the largest investment in education in a generation of students, closing the skills gap to help our workers compete, cleaning up our drinking water and finally fixing the damn roads. To share your input on what projects we should fund and how we should fund them, please visit my website to take my budget survey by clicking here.

Seeking Public Shout-Outs to Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week/Month

May is Teacher Appreciation Month, with the week of May 6-10 specifically designated as national Teacher Appreciation Week. This year, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is inviting students and community members to help highlight our state’s incredible teachers through a public shout-out — a digital submission to recognize and thank a specific teacher for his or her impact. For more information on submitting a shout-out, click here.

I-475 Reconstruction in Genesee County

The state is investing $44 million into the reconstruction of I-475. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the state will conduct substantial repairs to the 18 miles of I-475 in Genesee County with the work continuing through the entire 2019 construction season. The project will include:

  • Rebuilding three miles of I-475 from Carpenter Road north to just east of Clio Road.
  • Northbound I-475 will include a 50-year pavement design, using hot-mix asphalt.
  • I-475 will undergo a capital preventive maintenance cape seal from Clio Road to I-75.
  • Interchange improvements and redesign at Saginaw St., including the removal of two loop ramps.
  • A freeway road diet, reducing I-475 from three lanes to two lanes from Saginaw to Carpenter Road.
  • Lighting improvements from Carpenter Road to Saginaw.
  • Sign improvements along the entire length of I-475.

The project is expected to be completed in November. Northbound I-475 will be reduced to one lane from Carpenter Road to Clio Road. Southbound I-475 will be closed and detoured from the north junction of the I-475 interchange to I-69. Motorists should follow the posted detour using southbound I-75 to eastbound I-69. MDOT said this work will improve the road surface and drainage, while also improving safety with new signs and freeway lighting.

Treasury Offers Help To Taxpayers Who Missed Tax Filing Deadline

Michigan taxpayers who missed the April 15 state income tax filing deadline have options for filing a late return. The Michigan Department of Treasury recommends past-due tax filers consider:

  • Filing a return to claim an outstanding refund. Taxpayers risk losing their state income tax refund if they don’t file a return within four years from the due date of the original return. Go to mifastfile.org to learn more about e-filing.
  • Filing a return to avoid interest and penalties. File past due returns and pay now to limit interest charges and late payment penalties. Failure to pay could affect a taxpayer’s credit score and the ability to obtain loans.
  • Paying as much tax as possible. If taxpayers must pay outstanding taxes but can’t pay in full, they should pay as much as they can when they file their tax returns. Payments can be made using Michigan’s e-Payments service. When mailing checks, carefully follow tax form instructions. Treasury will work with taxpayers who cannot pay the full amount of tax they owe.

Taxpayers who receive a final tax bill and are unable to pay the entire amount owed can consider:

  • Requesting a penalty waiver. Penalty may be waived on an assessment if a taxpayer can show reasonable cause for their failure to pay on time. Reasonable cause includes serious illness, a fire or natural disaster or criminal acts against you. Documentation should be submitted to substantiate the reason for a penalty waiver request.
  • Making monthly payments through an installment agreement. For Installment Agreements lasting for 24 months or less, taxpayers must complete, sign and return the Installment Agreement (Form 990). The agreement requires a proposed payment amount that will be reviewed for approval by Treasury. 
  • Filing an Offer in Compromise application. An Offer in Compromise is a request by a taxpayer for the Michigan Department of Treasury to compromise an assessed tax liability for less than the full amount. For more information or an application, visit michigan.gov/oic.

The last three options for final tax bills should be filed separately from the state income tax return.

To learn more about Michigan’s income tax, go to michigan.gov/incometax or call Treasury’s Income Tax Information Line at (517) 636-4486. Taxpayer inquires can also be made online.

Fostering Futures Scholarship

The Michigan Department of Treasury reminds young adults who have experienced foster care on or after their 13th birthday that they are eligible to apply for a scholarship from the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund.

The Fostering Futures Scholarship application period for academic 2019-20 year opened on March 15 and will stay open until June 30, 2019. Eligible students enrolled at a Michigan degree-granting college or university may now apply to receive scholarship funds for tuition, fees, room, board, books and other supplies.

To learn more about the Fostering Futures Scholarship, go to www.fosteringfutures-mi.com. Fostering Future Scholarship applicants with questions should contact the state Treasury Department’s Student Scholarships and Grants area at mistudentaid@michigan.gov or call toll-free at (888) 4-GRANTS (888-447-2687).

Michiganders to Call To 811 Before Digging

April is Safe Digging Month and the Michigan Public Service Commission reminds everyone — from homeowners to construction crews — to make a free call to MISS DIG 811 before starting any outdoor digging project and have work areas marked for safety.

A few days before starting an excavation project, make a free call to 811 or fill out a request online at www.MISSDIG811.org (homeowners should click on “Request Service” and excavators should select “e-Locate.”) Trained workers from local utilities will be dispatched to a job site to mark the approximate locations of underground gas, electric, communications, water or sewer lines using flags or spray paint. To be safe, do no start an outdoor project until public utility locations are marked, and carefully dig by hand in the designated areas.

Go to www.call811.com for more information.

MDEQ Announces $2 Million in Funding Opportunities To Grow Recycling Markets

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) announced $2 million in funding available to support the growth of recycling markets in Michigan. To encourage recycling market development projects, the 2019 Recycling Market Development Grants will provide support to for-profit and nonprofit businesses and organizations located in Michigan

The grants will support research of new uses for recycled materials, commercialization of technologies to replace materials with recycled content and increase the demand of recycled materials needed for manufacturing or other uses. Market Development projects may include, but are not limited to, materials testing and specification development, market analyses, marketing of products, usage guidance, research and development of new products using recycled content, processing equipment, use trials and other activities that will increase use of recycled materials.

Requests for funding will be accepted through June 6, 2019. To view the Market Development Grant details and for more information about the grants program, visit www.michigan.gov/mirecycles.

Events in the 48th District

Paws to Read

Join the Genesee-Johnson Library on Saturday, April 27, from 11 a.m. - noon to meet Miss Katie and her certified therapy dog, Dasher. Practice reading to Dasher or listen to Miss Katie read stories while you pet her four legged friend. For more information, please visit the Genesee District Library website.

Paper Roll Frog Craft

The Mt. Morris Library is hosting a paper frog roll craft on Saturday, April 27, from 2-3 p.m. Please come celebrate Earth Day with this easy to make fly and frog paper roll game. Ages 5-12 recommended. For more information or to register, please visit the Genesee District Library website.

Star Wars Day

The Mt. Morris Library is hosting a Star Wars Day on Saturday, May 4, from 2-4 p.m. May the Fourth be with you and celebrate all things Star Wars. For more information, 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