STATE SENATE - 13TH DISTRICT
McMorrow, of Royal Oak, has a degree in car and industrial design from Notre Dame. She is a self-employed industrial designer.
Michigan has a rich history of protecting the environment but in recent years there have been several legislative attempts to restrict the DEQ as to rule-making to implement laws of the state, including the now pending legislation that would place control of future rule-making with an appointed committee comprised of special interests, including factions of the business community. There has long been a realization that the DEQ is underfunded in terms of being able to carry out its mission of protecting the quality of life in the state. Do you agree with recent attempts to curtail the DEQ? Do you feel that more funding needs to be allocated to the DEQ for enforcement purposes?
Environmental protection is one area where we can’t afford to let the market decide. As the Great Lakes state and home to 21 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, we have a unique responsibility to protect our water and environment. We need an independent body to oversee that protection. I’ll always support collaborative efforts with the business community to develop sustainable solutions that move us all forward, but we should not let biased corporate interests self-regulate. I support more funding for the DEQ to adequately protect our water and environment for generations to come, especially in the wake of reductions in the EPA on the federal. We must protect our Great Lakes.
Because Congress has failed to act on proposed increased regulation of gun ownership, a number of states have taken the initiative to address the issue. Should Michigan be taking the lead on gun control? Would you support requiring expanded background checks? Background checks at gun shows? Banning bump stocks? Raising the age on the purchase of weapons? Banning military style weapons? Red flag laws?
Michigan is in the Top 10 Most Concerning States for violence and threats of violence against schools. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, with research indicating that the decision to take one’s life is often impulsive and made more dangerous by easy access to a firearm. We need to take lobbying for gun-maker profits out of politics and pursue common-ground legislation that protects Michiganders while respecting the Second Amendment. Research shows that despite rhetoric from organizations like the NRA, a majority of Americans favor various measures on regulation, including expanded background checks, banning bump stocks, and passing Red Flag laws that would temporarily remove firearms from those deemed a threat to themselves or others. I support these efforts and would work collaboratively with conservationists, hunters, gun owners and non-gun owners alike to forward solutions that put the safety of residents first.
While the state has announced that $175 million will be disbursed this year for road and bridge repairs, do you feel that is sufficient while we wait three more years for the road funding proposal to finally kick in? Should the state rainy day fund be tapped in the interim, as some have suggested?
On roads alone, Oakland County residents pay an average of $865 per year on car repairs due to bad roads. A recent analysis from the Detroit Free Press of Governor Snyder’s 2011-2017 budgets highlights a staggering shift in tax burden from corporations to residents. While corporate taxes shrunk by $1.2 billion, or 57.1 percent, personal income taxes increased by $2.5 billion, or 32 percent. Businesses benefit from these public services and infrastructure as much as residents and they should be required to pay their fair share to ensure we have adequate funds to provide public services and infrastructure.
CHARTER SCHOOL REFORMS
Michigan has developed a reputation as one of the most deregulated school environments in the country, with the largest number of charter schools – 80 percent of which are for-profit ventures. Charter schools were originally billed as a cure for declining student achievement and inequality, but a number of reports in the last few years show that 70 percent of the state’s charter schools are in the lower rungs of student achievement reviews. Lawmakers in Lansing, however, have on more than one occasion rejected tightening the overview of charter schools and have allowed for their continued growth. Should there be more state control over charter schools for performance and finances? Does the ongoing expansion of charter schools threaten the public schools K-12 system that we have relied on for education?
We need to authorize and oversee charter schools the same way we oversee public schools. While Michigan’s education rankings continue to drop to some of the worst in the nation, we should take a page from Massachusetts which consistently ranks at or near the top for both public and charter schools. We should disallow private, for-profit charters who put their financial bottom line before students. We should hold all charters to the same standards as public schools. Charter and public schools can co-exist to benefit all students and should be overseen by one unifying State Board of Education.
What is your position on the marijuana legalization proposal appearing on the November ballot?
I support the ballot proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Although Michigan has 1973 Act (196) to regulate conduct of public officials, it is considered less than rigorous when it comes to legislative ethics and transparency, leaving Michigan ranked near the bottom in comparative studies with other states. Would you support financial disclosure by state lawmakers? What about including the governor’s office and the legislature when it comes to the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, from which they are now exempt? Would you support a bill that prohibits “Pay to Play” when it comes to lawmakers approving contracts with companies or people who are campaign contributors? Are there any other areas that need to be addressed if we are to strengthen ethics/transparency laws/rules in Michigan as they apply to the legislature and administrative offices?
Transparency, accountability, and accessibility are some of my top priorities – and further some of my strongest personal values. I know that much of our cultural and political divide stems from people lacking trust in those who purport to represent them. We need to do everything in our power to make the process transparent. I support opening up the Governor’s office and legislature to FOIA, requiring disclosure of finances and potential conflicts of interest, prohibiting “Pay to Play” and reversing Michigan’s “Citizen’s United on Steroids” law which has allowed unlimited amounts of money into our campaign process. Additionally, I wholly support Proposition 2 which would eliminate partisan gerrymandering of the state’s electoral districts and create an independent redistricting commission, ensuring every voter that their voice and vote truly matters.
Are you pro-life or pro-choice? If you are pro-life, are there any exceptions to prohibitions on abortions that you find acceptable? Explain your position on this issue.
I am fiercely pro-choice and will always fight for a woman’s right to choose and have access to necessary reproductive healthcare. I’m against any efforts to limit that access. Recent efforts in states like Colorado have shown that the most effective way to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions is to increase access to science-based sex education and contraception, and in that state’s case – they were able to reduce the overall rate of teen pregnancies and abortions by over 40 percent over a six-year period by providing long-term contraceptive devices to young women free of charge. As a woman who was raised Catholic and attended the University of Notre Dame, I deeply understand how personal this issue is for so many, but I challenge the notion that we cannot find common ground on this emotionally-charged issue to protect women’s healthcare while simultaneously reducing unwanted pregnancies. The data is there.
CODIFYING CIVIL RIGHTS
Should the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act be amended to extend civil rights protections in housing and employment to include sexual orientation? Why or why not?
Yes. Legislators have a responsibility to serve and protect all Michiganders, and it’s shameful that in 2018 our LGBTQ residents are not guaranteed the same protections from discrimination as the rest of us. I was heartened to see the Civil Rights Commission vote in May to expand the interpretation of the term “sex” to include sexual orientation but was incredibly disheartened to see Lansing Republicans then move to have that interpretation invalidated only a few short months later. It’s time we amend Elliott-Larsen to explicitly include all Michiganders, once and for all.
Why should a voter choose you over an opponent on the ballot?
I got into this race for no other reason than to try to make Michigan better – for us, and for the next generation. I bring more than a decade of proven high-level management, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving as an industrial designer and creative director for companies like Mattel, Mazda, and Gawker Media to offer a fresh new approach to our politics. I’m the only candidate who has committed, if elected, to relinquish my current job in order to focus 100 percent of my time and energy on being your state Senator. Like so many people I talk to, I’m tired of feeling like our system is broken, and of the divisive rhetoric we hear every day that keeps us apart more than it brings us together. I’d be honored to represent you, to hear and share your stories, and to work with you to create a Michigan that works for everyone.
Knollenberg, of Troy, is a lifelong Oakland County resident and graduate of Bloomfield Hills Schools and Albion College. He was an Oakland County commissioner from 2003-2007, a state Representative, 2007-2012, and since 2014, the state Senator for the 13th District. He owns an insurance company and Sedona Taphouse in Troy.
Stakeholders impacted by DEQ decisions should have a voice at the table, but ultimate DEQ rulemaking and enforcement should – and does – reside with the department. I support a robust DEQ that has the resources and tools to protect our environment, using measurable and scientifically proven methods. Further, I oppose the untrue scare tactics that some are using for political purposes. I was disappointed to hear my opponent tell an interviewer that Birmingham's water supply is tainted with lead. It's not. This sort of intentional fearmongering has no place in our public discourse, and makes it more difficult for those of us who care about the environment to achieve consensus.
The federal government needs to enforce existing gun laws. Under current federal law, individuals barred from purchasing a firearm because of mental health issues often are still able to do so because local law enforcement cannot access their health information in a timely manner because of HIPPA privacy rules. The federal bureaucracy makes it very difficult for our local law enforcement to do its job, and that has to change – but that's a change that has to occur at the federal level. Further, a key component to this is school safety. I was the only Senate Republican to vote to allow schools to have gun free zones. Local schools and communities should decide what’s best for them, not Lansing. I oppose loopholes to purchasing a firearm. I support banning bump stocks. I do not support banning firearms based on cosmetics, but on what they do. I support red flag laws.
Michigan is investing an additional $800 million into roads and bridges this year, not $175 million. And I’m pleased to have obtained additional funding this summer for important road projects in my district. Roads didn't crumble overnight, but over the past generation – under both Republican and Democratic administrations. It's disappointing that Senate Democrats refused to work with Republicans on a bipartisan roads solution; choosing, instead, not to offer any legislation or amendments, and then – with the exception of one Senator – all voting NO on the final bill. Democrats wanted a campaign issue more than they wanted their constituents to have good roads. We could have done so much more for our citizens had they participated in the process. It was a missed opportunity. Tapping the rainy day fund is shortsighted. We should save that money to protect our vulnerable citizens during the next economic downturn.
CHARTER SCHOOL REFORMS
There has to be a balance. Some parents view charters as the right fit for their children. They like having that option, and we must have a place for them. But at the same time, it must be a fair option. I'm concerned that charter (and cyber) schools are cherry picking the most able students, and leaving the most costly students for traditional public schools. That's not fair to traditional public schools. I have a unique perspective on this. I was born hard of hearing, which wasn't discovered until I was three-and-a-half years old. I credit my public school teachers for helping me catch up with my peers. Because of my teachers, and all that they did for me in helping me reach my potential, education has become my passion. I’m especially sympathetic to the mission of traditional public schools. They must be protected from unfair competition.
I personally oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana, and I’m voting against the ballot proposal in November. This ballot proposal will create a Wild West environment for recreational marijuana similar to that which Michigan experienced for 10 years following legalization of medicinal marijuana. However, I respect the will of the people and will abide by their decision.
People don't contact their state Senator when their life is going great. They contact their state Senator when they're desperate and afraid. The letters, calls and emails that I receive are from people who don't know where else to turn – they're about to lose their home to foreclosure, or their utilities are about to be turned off, or they don't have food for their children, or they have some other type of personal family crisis. Opening up their files to public inspection through FOIA requests does not serve the public interest, and I will resist it. As for campaign finance, committees are currently required to declare late contributions that arrive after the filing deadline. The technology is readily available to require immediate (24 hour) disclosure of all contributions. Allow the people to see for themselves if contributions are being made to coincide with legislation.
It's been said the true measure of a society is how it treats those least able to defend themselves. I'm pro-life. I find it interesting this question doesn't ask pro-choice candidates if there are circumstances when abortion shouldn't be permitted, such as post first trimester, late-term, Downs syndrome, gender selection, etc…People of good will can disagree on this issue. It's not black or white and there used to be common ground that abortion was not a desirable outcome. Hillary Clinton famously said, "Abortions should be safe, legal and rare." For 20 years, that was the policy of the Democratic Party. Not anymore. There's a radicalized wing of the Democratic Party that promotes abortion as a morally positive, progressive action. Indeed, actor and Democratic activist Lena Dunham told her podcast listeners in 2016, "I still haven't had an abortion, but I wish I had." I find that tragic.
CODIFYING CIVIL RIGHTS
Yes. As for codifying it into state law, it’s not likely to be taken up. However, if it is, I will vote for it.
• Increased education funding by $2.8 billion/year
• Obtained $340 million for career development
• Wrote the law to keep schoolchildren safe
• Wrote the law to increase the number of teachers
• Wrote the law to protect sexual assault survivors
• Wrote the law to combat opioid abuse
• Wrote the law to give seniors more housing options
• Voted to eliminate the senior pension tax
• Wrote the law to give disabled individuals easier access to handicapped parking placards
• Wrote the law to ban animal shelters’ use of gas chambers
Finally, I'm the likely next chair of the Education Committee, where I can do even more for our schools.