Five bills to watch in the Michigan state legislature: Oct. 2022

[The Michigan Daily] Five bills to watch in the Michigan state legislature: Oct. 2022

Each month, The Michigan Daily publishes a compilation of bills in the Michigan legislature for students at the University of Michigan to be aware of. The following article explains five bills that have been introduced, passed or signed into law by the Michigan legislature or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer throughout the past month.

1. Creation of a birth doula scholarship fund 

Status: introduced in the Senate 

First introduced by state Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, Senate Bill 1196 would create a scholarship program for birth doulas in Michigan. Birth doulas are trained paraprofessionals who provide emotional support and comfort throughout pregnancy, labor and the postpartum period.

Eligible individuals for the doula scholarship fund could receive up to $3,000 to help offset the costs of books, workshops, exam fees, membership fees and any other cost associated with the doula training and certification process, which can take up to two years. Those eligible for the program include anyone who would be unable to pay for doula training without financial assistance. Recipients must provide proof that they have completed or are working toward certification within six months of receiving the scholarship. The bill also includes a provision that would require the state to partner with community organizations and universities to publicize the program. 

In a previous newsletter, Chang described her plan to introduce this legislation, which she said was conceptualized with the help of community partners.

“Over the past few months, I have been working with a number of mom and doula groups to develop legislation that would create a scholarship program for aspiring doulas,” Chang wrote. “Doulas play a critical role for many families — before, during, and after birth. I look forward to introducing this legislation soon.”

Doula care is not currently covered under Medicaid, but the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has proposed expanding it to reimburse Medicaid-eligible individuals for the cost of doula care. This proposal has solicited two rounds of public feedback and hopes to take effect Jan. 1, 2023. S.B. 1196 was referred to the Committee on Health Policy and Human Services for further review.

2. Creation of the Michigan Achievement Scholarship Program 

Status: signed by Whitmer 

Introduced by state Sen. Kimberly LaSata, R-Coloma, in September and signed by Whitmer on Oct. 11, House Bill 842 aims to lower the cost of higher education by providing annual scholarships to any student whose family demonstrates financial need on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Starting with 2023 high school graduates, students can receive up to $2,750 annually for community college, up to $4,000 for private university and up to $5,500 for public university. According to a press release from Whitmer, this program will provide some level of financial assistance to 94% of community college students, 79% of private university students and 76% of public university students.

Whitmer celebrated this bill as part of her MI New Economy plan, which was announced last year and focuses on increasing access to postsecondary education and housing, decreasing the cost of childcare and growing small businesses.

“Today, I am proud to sign a bipartisan bill to establish the Michigan Achievement Scholarship and lower the cost of college for the vast majority of Michiganders,” Whitmer wrote. “Let’s keep working together to meet the goals of MI New Economy and make Michigan a place where everyone can thrive.”

In the press release, LaSata praised the program’s focus on providing assistance for various educational pathways. 

“These scholarships will allow more Michigan families and students to pay for career training at the school that best fits their individual career goals — whether that’s a trade school, a community college or a university,” LaSata wrote. “Expanding the eligibility of this scholarship to cover traditional classroom education, as well as hands-on training at a skilled trades academy, is a great way to both strengthen and diversify Michigan’s workforce.”

3. Additional investment in the Strategic Outreach Attraction Reserve (SOAR) fund 

Status: signed by Whitmer 

Introduced by state Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, S.B. 844 appropriates a portion of the state’s $7 billion budget surplus for the SOAR fund, as well as additional site development projects. Created in December 2021, the SOAR fund started as a $1 billion economic development fund aimed at supporting small businesses and technology development and adaptation. This act provides an additional $846 million for SOAR and $873 million for grants for local economic development agencies, facilitating site development and upgrading and funding future investments.

In a press release, Whitmer said she believes this investment is crucial for Michigan’s economic future. 

“The bipartisan legislation will help us grow, attract and retain businesses in Michigan, ensuring we can lead the future of mobility and electrification and bring supply chains of chips and batteries home to Michigan,” Whitmer wrote. “Our work on economic development is a testament to what we are capable of when we work together. Let’s keep putting Michiganders first and moving our state forward.”

State Rep. Matt Hall, R-Comstock Township, praised the creation of the SOAR fund in the press release and said he looks forward to its growth as a result of this funding. 

“Creating the SOAR fund has been one of the country’s biggest economic success stories,” Hall wrote. “Instead of watching jobs leave our state, we took action to bring good-paying manufacturing jobs back to Michigan. The next step is developing better sites around the state to bring in even more new jobs.”

4. Creation of the Michigan Imagination Library 

Status: introduced in the House 

Introduced by state Rep. Bronna Kahle, R-Lenawee County, H.B. 6431 would amend the Library of Michigan Act to create a statewide branch of singer-songwriter Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a nonprofit initiative launched in 1995 that provides free books for children to promote literacy. It would also create a grant program to match 50% of all funds for existing local Imagination Library affiliates.

Under the Michigan Imagination Library Program, families who register would receive one book a month for their child from birth through age five at no cost to the family. On Oct. 1, California Gov. Gavin Newsom passed a similar law to create a statewide Imagination Library, which is expected to launch in 2023.

A 2011 study by the Kellogg Foundation examined the impact of the Imagination Library program on children and families in Battle Creek, Mich. The study found that the program was successful in increasing children’s interest in reading, as well as facilitating family interaction and collaboration around reading. 

The bill was referred to the Committee on Families, Children and Seniors for further review. 

5. Requiring postpartum mental health screenings

Status: introduced in the Senate 

S.B. 1198, introduced by state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, would amend the Michigan Public Health Code to include a section on postpartum mental health screenings and resources. The bill would require pediatricians to offer mental health screenings to the parent for the first 18 months of the child’s life at intervals determined by MDHHS. It would also require pediatricians to provide mental health resources no later than one month after birth. The resources would include information on postpartum mental health conditions and their symptoms and treatment options, as well as details on available support systems. 

In May, Whitmer announced her Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies plan that expanded Medicaid coverage to include 12 months of continuous postpartum care. In a press release, Whitmer said she looks forward to continuing efforts to increase maternal-infant health care, including behavioral and mental health services.

“As a mom of two, I know firsthand how vital it is for every mom to have access to high-quality, affordable health care to care for herself and her new baby,” Whitmer wrote. “We will continue working together to ensure every family can thrive with access to behavioral health services, screenings and treatments to lead healthy and successful lives.”

In the same session, S.B. 1199 was introduced, which would require insurance to cover these screenings. Both S.B. 1198 and 1199 were referred to the Committee on Health Policy and Human Services for further review. 

Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu.