MICHIGAN HOUSE – 40TH DISTRICT

October 5, 2020

 

MARI MANOOGIAN
DEMOCRAT

Manoogian, a resident of Birmingham, has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. She is the current Michigan Representative for this district.  She has been involved in a number of political and advocacy community groups.

VIRTUAL EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

With the current pandemic and the decision by many school districts to begin the new year on a virtual basis rather than in-person, there is considerable concern about the quality of virtual or e-education offered in Michigan. The state auditor general just released a performance audit that was critical of the e-education offered in the state. And the state House and Senate  passed legislation to further regulate e-education. Are you familiar with the contents of the auditors general's report? Did you agree or disagree with the various conclusions? Were you supportive of the e-education bill that just passed? In that we may be dealing with virtual education for some time, are there issues that need to be addressed in this area? Be specific.


Regarding the recently passed virtual education package, I voted against the bills for a variety of reasons. The package overlooked having COVID-19 as a valid reason for students to be absent on count days; unfortunately, my amendment to correct this was rejected by the GOP majority. This package mandated new academic assessments, giving educators only about 10 weeks to plan and operate an assessment for every student at every grade level. Finally, these bills empowered for-profit education technology companies with loyalty to shareholders, not students, to take over much of our students’ education.

FUNDING FOR EDUCATION
 
Aside from the pandemic, funding for education has been a long-standing issue in Lansing. Funding for education of recent decades does not seem to have kept pace with increasing expenses and too often the education budget gets trimmed during times of economic uncertainty. Do you agree that more budget resources need to be directed at education and if so, what would your recommend?


We need to completely overhaul how we conceptualize and implement funding for public education in Michigan. I support adopting the recommendations set forth by the School Finance Research Collaborative and Michigan State University, including high-quality preschool, $9,590 base funding for all K-12 students in district and brick-and-mortar charter schools, and additional funding above base funding for students with special needs. We also must earmark additional revenue streams specifically for K-12 education, including restoration of voter-approved local district enhancement millages, so communities have local control.

GOVERNOR'S EXECUTIVE POWERS

The state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to devolve into a partisan battle as the weeks and months dragged on. Ultimately, Republicans have challenged the executive powers of the governor's office as established in law, through lawsuits and now there is a petition drive to challenge the executive powers which have been used to declare an emergency in the state and allow for Gov. Whitmer to set policy. Do you think the executive powers of the governor's office need to be restricted? Please explain.


Governor Whitmer’s response to COVID-19 has undoubtedly saved the lives of tens of thousands of Michiganders, and has successfully turned one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the country into a model for other states looking to contain their outbreaks. The governor has been successful to this point precisely because of her use of the constitutional tools given the executive by the legislature. It is for this reason that it is clear to me that such emergency powers have appropriate time and place, and should not be restricted further. The governor’s use of these legal tools has been necessary. Unfortunately, because my Republican colleagues have decided that taxpayer-funded lawsuits are more worthwhile than lawmaking, the GOP-majority legislature often has been a lame partner for the governor – preferring to argue in bad faith rather than to work together on consensus solutions that would save lives and jobs. The Court of Claims and the Court of Appeals have upheld the governor’s use of executive orders – decisions I believe have been correctly decided. Rather than appeal to the Supreme Court, I would implore my colleagues to abandon their politically-motivated lawsuits and come back to Lansing with the express purpose of working on the peoples’ behalfs.

VOTING LAW CHANGES
 
Voters approved no-reason absentee voting and a number of other changes in 2018 but with the challenges of the pandemic and changes taking place in the U.S. post office, there is serious question of whether voting by mail this November will mean some voters will be essentially disenfranchised if their mailed ballots do not arrive on time. There is also the question of whether local election clerks will be able to handle the increased volume of mail ballots expected to be cast in the general election. Legislation has been introduced to allow for ballot preparation for processing on election day to take place a day or days ahead of time. There has also been discussion of whether ballots postmarked on or before election day should be allowed to be counted in the returns even though they arrive after the election.  Do you support further changes in election law to resolve some of these issues? Why or why not?


The state must take steps to make it easier to access the vote. I am proud to have worked with House Democratic colleagues and Secretary of State Benson to craft an elections protection package (HB 5985-5991) which would, among other things, require clerks keep permanent absentee voter lists and allow for 16½- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote when getting a driver’s license. This package would also allow ballots postmarked by election day to count if received within 48 hours of the polls closing, which will mean tens of thousands more Michiganders will have their votes counted. My bill (HB 5989) would allow clerks to move polling places closer to election day in declared emergencies, which empowers our municipalities to keep vulnerable folks, like children and seniors, safe. Finally, I believe that we should be looking at ways to supplement federal requirements for non-English language voting and voting for our disabled communities, including our blind and deaf neighbors. Encouraging these folks to go to the polls by providing absentee ballot applications, absentee ballots, in-person ballots, and other support documentation in their languages or in Braille, we expand the electorate even further to folks who we already know vote at lower rates.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE
 
Although it was one of the top issues during the last election for governor and there was initially a flurry of activity to address the issues of Michigan poor road conditions, the issue seems to have faded from the legislative and administration agenda this year thanks to the pandemic. Recent surveys still show it as a top issue with voters. There are two schools of thought, one saying the state has sufficient budget to address road needs and the other saying that new revenue sources (increased taxes) are needed. The governor in January announced she would be issuing bonds to address road issues, but such a proposal would not cover the costs of improving local roads. What do you think the proper approach should be to addressing the long-term road needs in Michigan? Please be specific. 


It is clear: our state is not investing enough in our infrastructure. Our roads alone cost hundreds of dollars to citizens in auto repair costs every year. Given legislative Republicans’ non-starter stance on negotiating with the governor on road funding, I am in favor of her road bonding proposal. Long-term, I am in favor of increasing the corporate income tax by 2.5 percent, implementing a flow-through parity-tax of 4.25 percent, and repealing the retirement tax, as well as creating a Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax of six cents per mile for commercial trucks at the heaviest two classes; I believe the revenue from these proposals should be directed to a “Fixing Michigan Roads” fund. Finally, I believe in creating a Rhode Island-style bridge toll program for trucks, which will mean that those most responsible for breaking our roads will shoulder the most responsibility for having them repaired. Through these types of proposals crafted by my House Democratic colleagues, we will be able to bring our roads up to scratch without putting the burden of paying for it back onto the working-class taxpayers of our state.

LEGISLATIVE ETHICS/TRANSPARENCY
 
Michigan continues to rank near the bottom in comparison with other states when it comes to codified ethics and transparency rules for state lawmakers. In recent legislative sessions, bills have been introduced that would provide for financial disclosure for lawmakers, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, state supreme court and state court of appeals. Some legislation would also make the legislature and administrative offices subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Although in the past there has been bi-partisan support in the House for this effort, the issue seems to gain no traction for consideration in the Senate. Are you familiar with current and past bills regulating ethics and providing transparency and do you feel that this legislation is necessary? Explain why or why not and any parts of these bills that you don't support.


I do believe that legislation regarding ethics and transparency for state elected officials is of the utmost importance. This bill package was the first set of bills I voted on as an elected official, and I did so proudly as they passed the House unanimously in 2019. Let me be clear: residents of the state of Michigan should have an expectation of transparency from their elected officials at all levels. Unfortunately, the law as it is currently written doesn’t provide for this sufficiently, and this is why I voted to pass this set of bills out of the House. It is unfortunate to me that the State Senate under majority leader Shirkey’s leadership does not feel compelled to take up this package. While my House colleagues and I came together in a bipartisan manner to pass this package almost immediately upon taking our oaths of office, Senate Republicans have preferred to sideline these important bills. In the name of transparency for our legislators and statewide elected officials, I would call on senate majority leader Shirkey to put this package on the Senate agenda and vote to pass it.

LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM
 
State legislators and members of the administration are proposing a number of reforms to guide the behavior of police officers when interacting with the public. What reforms, if any, do you think need to be codified in law?


Michigan must make wholesale changes to accountability mechanisms, use-of-force guidelines, and training protocols that govern our local and state police forces. I believe we must push for investment in social services that can be used as alternatives to police involvement, including social workers, homelessness specialists, and drug treatment counselors. We must also look at removing laws which create unnecessary interactions between the public and police; this could include removing the ability of judges to issue arrest warrants for individuals who fail to appear in court for a traffic violation and sentence them to up to 93 days in jail. I support legislation that would require police forces to create and make public disciplinary matrices for their departments, as well as the creation of a statewide anonymous tip line for officers to report misconduct to the attorney general. I also support legislation to create an individual right to record police, and for departments and municipalities to report data including civilian stops, officer-related shootings, and officer demographics on a public dashboard. I am in support of legislation that would require misconduct settlements to be paid out of individual police department budgets as a method of financially incentivizing departments to independently root out misconduct.

Why vote for you
 
Why should voters support you rather than your opponent in this race? Please be specific.


We’ve accomplished so much together since you voted to send me to Lansing in 2018. From passing critical legislation to curb distracted driving, to securing $120 million in our state’s budget to clean up our drinking water, and fighting for local businesses during COVID-19, our team in Lansing has proven to be results-driven and laser-focused on the best interests of the people of this district. I’m proud to fight for clean water, great public schools, and safe communities while championing our shared values of hard work, creativity, and optimism – values that were instilled in me growing up here in our district and while working for our U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and for the late Congressman John Dingell. As your state representative, I’m working every day for the safety and well-being of all Michiganders. I serve as an assistant whip in the House Democratic Caucus, elevating our district’s voice during critical legislative negotiations. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but there is more to do, including securing our elections, making our government more transparent, growing our economy and the mobility sector by creating a transit system that works for our region. I’d be honored to earn your vote for re-election on Tuesday, November 3rd.

 

 

KENDRA CLEARY
REPUBLICAN

Cleary has an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University. She is involved in a number of community and professional groups and is a GOP precinct delgate.

VIRTUAL EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS

Yes, I have read the Performance Audit Report of the Auditor General regarding Virtual Learning in Public Schools. As virtual learning becomes more prevalent, we need to make sure the standards measuring the quality and effectiveness of this method of learning are just as stringent as for in-person schooling. It is important we are providing qualified instructors for these classes, proper monitoring to ensure students are participating in the classes and testing to ensure students are making appropriate progress and learning. While I believe in-person to be the best way to learn, e-learning can be very effective if done properly.  Many businesses have migrated successfully to virtual offices and collaboration via Zoom calls and we need to prepare students for the workplace of the future. Additionally, virtual learning can minimize the days missed each year due to inclement weather or to provide students in smaller school districts access to greater class choices.

FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

With Michigan reading scores at or below the national average and approximately two of three Michigan High School students who take the SAT are deemed not college ready, we definitely need to address how and where Michigan’s educational dollars are being spent.  I want to make sure as many dollars as possible are being prioritized to student learning and look for ways reduce bureaucracy or consolidate services. I would also fight to make sure as many federal dollars such as CARES Act funds are allocated to schools to offset shortfalls due to COVID-19 and lower tax revenues.

GOVERNOR'S EXECUTIVE POWERS

Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders (currently over 175 and extended through October 1) have crippled our state’s economy and shut out any input from the House of Representatives or Senate on extremely important matters during the pandemic.  Forty-seven other states opened or partially-reopened before Michigan did and I feel that she has been picking industry winners and losers at random, without considering the science and data.  COVID-19 has challenged our business community tremendously and most are struggling to stay afloat with the additional costs of PPE, capacity limits and burden of policing mask wearers.  We need to help, not hinder, these very important contributors to our state’s economy. The people deserve a voice in the process and to be heard in state government decisions.  One person behind closed doors should not be calling all the shots and I want to ensure we have a transparent, open state government with the necessary checks and balances to work for the people – not against them.

VOTING LAW CHANGES

I met with several city and township clerks and believe they went above and beyond in August to ensure those who did not feel comfortable voting in person were able to receive absentee ballots as well as ample means for ballots to be submitted for tabulation. While our area clerks did an excellent job with the primary election, 72 percent of the Detroit precincts were unable to balance their polling books so I would not support making any more changes that would open our elections up to a greater chance of error or fraud. Many Americans fought for the right to vote and I believe we should take this right seriously. If you are concerned about your ballot arriving on time, please place it in the drop-box provided at your clerk’s office or vote in person on election day.

ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE

Governor Whitmer’s suggestion of adding 45 cents a gallon tax on gas was a horrible idea and an unrealistic solution that our citizens could not support. I believe we should do a deep dive into the state’s budget before we increase our state’s debt.  We need to refocus our attention on where our road dollars are spent and identifying the greatest areas of need. Only then can we discuss new funding streams to help fix our roads.  Our goal must be first to ensure that every penny at the pump is going to roads and fixing the worst roads in the state – the local roads you drive every day.

LEGISLATIVE ETHICS/TRANSPARENCY

As an elected official, I would like to foster more public trust and confidence in our state’s lawmakers. Michigan is one of only two states that do not require some sort of financial disclosure. I believe there needs to be some transparency on sources of income, stocks and financial investments, non-profit board positions or immediate family members who are lobbyists to avoid potential conflicts of interest in voting.

Law enforcement reform

Most recently, I was on the leadership team of a HR Tech start-up where I helped companies address hiring bias and diversity challenges, so I am a supporter of implementing stronger hiring and training standards to improve our law enforcement’s quality of hire such as mandatory background checks and frequent training especially in use of force training, crisis intervention and cultural diversity. Additionally, we need to identify potential issues through state mandated tracking of officer-involved shootings, uses of physical force or in-custody shootings. This will allow needs for further training needs to be identified or appropriate action to be taken to prevent tragic situations. It is also imperative we reform the police arbitration system so arbitrators cannot order that police officers proven to have unnecessarily caused human injury, death or otherwise abuse their authority be protected from termination and remain on the force.

Why vote for you

I have over 30 years of real-life business experience collaborating with Fortune 500 businesses, professional organizations and small businesses. I have managed multi-million dollar budgets and teams of employees. My experience includes work with public-private partnerships and volunteer programs to tackle important issues such as equality, inclusion and racial bias. I have a strong history of volunteerism and community involvement with non-profit organizations and community associations. It is my desire to serve my community and give the residents of the 40th District a voice in state government. If elected, I will listen to you and make decisions in the best interest of my community and the state of Michigan, not a political party or PAC.

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