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State House - 20Th District - Democrat


NOAH ARBIT


Noah Arbit is the founder and executive director of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. A resident of West Bloomfield, he has a degree from Wayne State University in comparative politics and Jewish studies. He previously worked as director of communications for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, was a staffer for Governor Gretchen Whitmer and worked on the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign. He is a member of the West Bloomfield Diversity Task Force, sits on the executive committee of West Bloomfield-Lakes Area Democratic Club and is a member of Jewish Labor Committee.


Legislative bans on education topics


In 24 states legislation has been introduced to restrict or outright ban the teaching and/or discussion of certain topics such as race, racism, gender-based issues and how American history is taught in the K-12 public school system. Critics of these efforts to restrict what is taught in public schools say such legislation prevents open inquiry into important issues. Should the state legislature in Michigan dictate or restrict what is taught in public school classrooms? Would you support such legislation? Why or why not? Please be specific in your answer.


Absolutely not. The idea that we should shield our kids from necessary, if difficult, conversations about our world and our history is asinine. But the truth is, those who advocate for silencing educational inquiry are not concerned with kids’ welfare; they are instrumentalizing our kids to obscure their real motivation, which is both simpler and more noxious: bigotry. If we want to raise our kids to be upstanding citizens capable of contributing to our communities and achieving their aspirations, we must ensure that they are educated in a holistic manner. That means learning about difficult chapters of history; that means learning about messy, inconclusive debates that polarize our society. I will vehemently oppose legislation that seeks to sanitize curricula.


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. The Michigan House, during several recent sessions, has approved bills to force disclosure of personal financial information of House and Senate members, along with members of the administration, and in some cases members of the state Supreme Court and university boards, although the Senate has not advanced such bills. Would you support financial disclosure legislation and, if so, are the current bills approved by the House sufficient? Should the disclosed information be publicly available?


Yes, I support and will vote for the transparency and financial disclosure legislation, and will work with legislators in both parties to bring greater transparency and accountability to all branches of Michigan government, including the legislature and the executive office of the governor.


Term limits for legislators/administration


Do you think the current term limits for House and Senate members are in need of review? Do you support the proposal for term limits that could be on the November ballot which would allow an elected House or Senate member to serve longer terms in either the House or Senate? Why or why not?


Reasonable minds can differ on the utility of term limits writ large, but any successful term limits policy would adequately balance two competing goals: the need to retain institutional knowledge in the legislature, and the need to refresh our institutions with new blood and new voices. By this metric alone, Michigan’s current legislative term limits policy is an abject failure that has drastically harmed the quality of governance in our state, to the detriment of all Michiganders. Limiting state reps to six years and state senators to eight years means legislators have little time to learn how to navigate the institution before they are turfed out; this vacuum of legislative expertise empowers entrenched lobbyists, special interests, and other power brokers at the expense of the people’s elected representatives. I encourage all voters to join me in supporting the ballot proposal “Michiganders for Transparency and Term Limits.”


State budget surplus


The state of Michigan has been running a general fund and school aid fund surplus for two years and is expected to carry over a surplus of $7 billion moving into the budget for fiscal year 2022-2023, which must be adopted by October 1. The surplus has been driven by growing tax revenues and a decline in student population, which reduces spending in that area by about $300 million annually. The budget surplus does not include nearly $15 billion in federal pandemic funding that will be spent over the next several years. A variety of proposals from the administration and the Republican-controlled Senate have been put forth, including tax cuts for both business and individuals. What are your ideas for using the budget surplus for the coming fiscal year’s budget? Be specific.


I am open to conversations about prioritizing the areas in which the surplus should be used, but as a general principle, it must be used sustainably and targeted to build capacity. I am not interested in squandering a one-time sugar high. Let’s invest with purpose and build infrastructure that will last and pay dividends long into the future. Let’s invest in expanded mental health care treatment for Michiganders, particularly youth and seniors. Let’s invest in a robust public transit system to connect southeast Michigan, and in educating and training young people – our workforce of the future. Let’s build capacity in the services that we deliver to residents, so we can become an even more innovative, thriving economy that fosters dynamic businesses and delivers for people. Let’s help shape the contours of our economic future, instead of letting events and trends elsewhere dictate how Michigan will proceed in the 21st century.


Highland Park water/sewer debt


Highland Park, a member of the Great Lakes Water Authority, since 2012 has failed to pay for what now amounts to over $54 million in water and sewer debt, which means member communities in Oakland County will be placed in a position to underwrite this debt whether through increased rates for water and sewer or tapping budget reserves to accomplish the same. The state of Michigan has failed to deal with this issue. What do you think should be the solution to this growing problem of a GLWA member community failing to pay for water and sewer services? Please be specific.


I strongly support Governor Whitmer’s recent request that GLWA forestall the portion of its planned rate increase attributed to Highland Park’s debt until the culmination of the legal process or arrival of a political solution between the parties. Clearly, residents of West Bloomfield, Commerce, Bloomfield, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor, and Sylvan Lake should not be held financially responsible for the dispute between Highland Park and GLWA. Pending the outcome of the litigation, I am open to working with the Whitmer Administration, members of the legislature, and experts on various ideas and strategies to arrive at creative, fiscally responsible solutions to the issue of Highland Park’s debt to GLWA – so long as the solution does not involve other communities underwriting that debt.


Voting law changes


Voters approved no-reason absentee voting and a number of other changes by a wide margin in 2018. There have been several attempts since 2020 to make changes to the election laws, but critics have charged that some of the changes would negatively impact some voters. Do you think further changes to the election laws are needed and if so, what specifically would those changes be? If you do, why do you think so? How would that impact the proposal voters passed in 2018?


I believe in expanding the franchise, so that every Michigander has access to the foundational constitutional right to elect their own government. I will zealously oppose any proposal seeking to curtail that right. It’s time to empower local clerks to pre-process absentee ballots, so the public can receive results in a timely manner; make Election Day a state holiday, and cease underfunding municipal and county clerks’ budgets for election administration. These are the kinds of legitimate reforms that would substantially improve Michigan’s elections and boost confidence and trust in our voting system – not the anti-democratic bile promoted by extremist politicians seeking to appease the egos of disgraced former presidents.


2020 presidential election results


Do you accept the presidential election results of 2020 in Michigan? Will you accept the results of the 2022 primary and general election? Explain why or why not.


It is deeply disturbing and a sad reflection of the state of our politics that this question even has to be asked. Of course I accept the results of the 2020 election, in which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were duly elected. Of course I will accept the results of the 2022 Democratic Primary and general election, regardless of whether or not I am the winner. Our constitutional democracy depends on fidelity to the rule of law, and on the consent of the governed. I will not be party to any action or statement that casts doubt on the legitimacy of free and fair elections, and I will never be afraid to call out election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and demagogues wherever they rear their ugly heads in the State of Michigan.


Michigan abortion ban law


In 1931, Michigan legislators adopted a law that banned abortion in the state, based on an 1846 ban that had been in effect. Now with the U.S. Supreme Court preparing to rule and likely overturn Roe v. Wade, some are concerned that the 1931 Michigan law will prevent any abortions here. Do you think the 1931 Michigan act banning abortion should be revised or eliminated to allow for abortions here if Roe V. Wade is overturned? Why or why not?


Unequivocally, yes. It is long past time to repeal Michigan’s snapback abortion ban. I am thankful that Attorney General Dana Nessel and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald have committed not to enforce the 1931 abortion ban should Roe v. Wade be overturned. But, that is no substitute for legislative action. If elected, I will sign on to be an original co-sponsor of the Michigan Reproductive Health Act, and I will be a fierce advocate for safe and legal abortion access and reproductive health. I encourage all voters to join me in supporting the “MI Right to Reproductive Freedom” constitutional amendment proposal, which will likely be on the November ballot. Additionally, it is long past time to repeal Michigan’s antiquated ban on sodomy, because we cannot rely on a radical, right-wing United States Supreme Court to protect the rights of women or LGBTQ+ people in Michigan. We need Lansing to act.


Right of redress


The Michigan House and Senate have in the past employed seldom used maneuvers to prevent the public from challenging laws that were enacted. Lawmakers accomplish this by attaching an expenditure provision to the legislation which then prevents citizens from petitioning to overturn the law. Citizens in Michigan are allowed referendum rights when it comes to legislation but not laws involving spending. Do you think that such legal maneuvers should be used by the legislature or do such actions diminish the rights of the public to challenge what lawmakers have adopted? What can be done to eliminate such maneuvers on the part of the legislature?


It is absolutely time to eliminate the distinction between appropriative and policy legislation that makes legislation containing any amount of appropriations exempt from citizen review via initiative and referendum. The legal loophole is anti-democratic and its continued use only erodes faith in our democratic institutions to represent the will of the people. Relatedly, it is also long past time to repeal the constitutional provision undergirding the “adopt-and-amend” legislative tactic, whereby the legislature takes up and adopts a citizen-led constitutional ballot proposal before it appears on the ballot only to amend it later, so as to prevent the substance of the initial ballot initiative from entering the force of law. These are both noxious tactics that fly in the face of democratic principles.


Why select you?


Why should voters choose you over your opponent(s) in this contest? Please be specific.


I never intended to run for office, but I was sick and tired of watching my hometown of West Bloomfield be gerrymandered and treated as an afterthought in Lansing. I stepped up to run when no one else would, because I love our community. I am the only Democratic candidate who was raised in this community, who was educated in this community. And I will move heaven and earth for our community, which is exactly why Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Steve Kaplan, county commissioners Marcia Gershenson and Kristen Nelson, and so many of our leaders have endorsed my candidacy. Because West Bloomfield, Commerce, and the Lakes deserve a passionate, forward-thinking, relentless leader who exhausts every path to find innovative, common-sense solutions. A leader who shows up, works tirelessly, and fights for us with faith and fidelity. That’s the kind of person I am. That’s the kind of representative I’ll be.


KEN FERGUSON


Ken Ferguson is a teacher of visually-impaired students with the Grosse Pointe School System. He received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University, and masters and education degrees from Wayne State University. A West Bloomfield resident, he is a trustee on the West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education, and involved with the West Bloomfield/Lakes area Democratic Club and Sierra Club.


Legislative bans on education topics


The state legislature should certainly not be empowered to prevent important race and gender-based issues. During my 24-year career in public education, I have never witnessed “critical race theory” being taught in our classrooms – it’s not part of the curriculum to begin with, since CRT is a university level concept, so why ban it? Efforts to ban these topics from discussion in the classroom absolutely discourages open inquiry by students and prevents students from understanding our country’s history. The purpose of teaching about racism, slavery, the civil rights movement, and the women’s rights movement, among others, has never been to make students feel guilty about history, but rather to teach them about the injustices that marginalized groups have faced to ensure we do not allow history to repeat itself. I would absolutely oppose legislation that seeks to restrict what is taught in schools regarding race and gender.


Legislative ethics/transparency


Transparency in government is essential in maintaining a government free of corruption and maintaining public trust in the government. Several bills have been introduced in the House to require financial disclosure of the State Board of Education (HB 4344), candidates for the state’s Executive Branch (HB 4602), judicial candidates (HB 4090), and state representatives (HB 4323). Despite bipartisan support for these bills, many have not been touched since their introduction in the House or committee referral in 2021. I agree that the bills currently introduced in this session of the legislature make solid efforts to require financial disclosure, but House and committee leadership must take them seriously. There is no reason that these bills should have died in committee if there was bipartisan support and cosponsorship. Ignoring these bills because of the fear of personal ramifications is irresponsible governing and jeopardizes the trust that Michigan’s voters place in our elected officials and legislature as a whole.


Term limits for legislators/administration


I believe our current term limits are too short and the rapid turnover allows special interests to have the upper hand in driving legislation. While I applaud the efforts of the ballot measure, I feel it would have been more beneficial to increase the House term to eight years and Senate to twelve years while still incorporating the financial transparency piece.


State budget surplus


As an educator, it is my firm belief that any school aid fund surplus monies should be allocated to districts which are struggling to provide adequate resources for their students. In my mind, it’s simple: school funds should continue to fund our public schools. With regard to the general fund, I support allocation of these funds toward initiatives that Governor Whitmer was elected to tackle, including improving Michigan’s infrastructure, expanding access to skilled trade training programs, making higher education more affordable for Michigan’s students and their families, and eliminating the state’s retirement tax.


Highland Park water/sewer debt


Water and sewage is a basic human right. While it is important for local municipalities to be fiscally responsible and pay their debts, it does not make sense to raise rates on a community which is already struggling to meet their obligations. Municipalities, counties, and the state of Michigan must work together to support Highland Park by providing state officials to offer guidance as well as financial assistance by using some of the budget reserves.


Voting law changes


Attempts by members of the state legislature to undermine legislation passed by a wide margin of Michigan’s voters are highly problematic and suggest that some members of the legislature are willing to overturn policy that voters put forth and voted into law for their own personal benefit and security in their elected office. Voters approved no-reason absentee voting and same-day voter registration to expand access to electoral participation to folks who were unable to make it to the polls on election day, for whatever their reason may be. Let me be clear: attempts to undermine the 2018 ballot initiative to expand voting rights should be seen as nothing less than attempts to suppress voters in low-income communities and communities of already marginalized Michiganders. The only changes to our state’s election laws that I would support are changes which would further empower Michiganders to vote in elections, regardless of their party affiliation, race/ethnicity, or socioeconomic background.


2020 presidential election results


I do accept the presidential election results of 2020 in Michigan as several investigations have proven there was no evidence of voter fraud. Regardless of the outcomes of the 2022 primary and general elections, I will accept the results because I have faith in our Secretary of State that our elections are handled fairly and responsibly.


Michigan abortion ban law


As a dad, I find it very concerning that there are legislators who seek to restrict my daughters’ choices regarding their bodies. I think the 1931 abortion ban should certainly be overturned should Roe v. Wade be overturned. I was happy to hear about the recent preliminary judicial decision protecting a woman’s right to choose, but there is still work to be done in protecting the right to abortion in Michigan.


Right of redress


The use of expenditure provisions in public acts to prevent voters from overturning laws they feel unjust is deceptive and does not serve the interests of Michiganders. Referendum rights should include the right to handle appropriations. I was pleased to see the city of Detroit propose a ballot initiative in 2021 seeking to subject appropriations legislation to the same referendum policy as other legislative action taken by the city government, though I was disappointed it did not pass, because such an action would eliminate these deceptive maneuvers to block voters from holding a referendum on laws that legislators want to maintain despite voters disagreeing.


Why select you?


My track record of service to my community truly sets me apart from other candidates in this race. In 2016, I was elected to serve on the West Bloomfield School Board. As an educator working with the blind and low-vision, I’ve served the students across Wayne County that need support most, while also serving my colleagues in the local teachers’ unions with the AFT and MEA. Prior to my career in education, I served our country with the Army Reserves in Desert Storm. I have received the endorsement of labor unions who have placed their faith in me as the candidate who will strive to ensure everyone in my community feels represented in Lansing. I have dedicated my life to building and maintaining relationships with the people around me and made it clear that I am someone that can be trusted to represent everyone, regardless of their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation.


JAMES SKLAR


James Sklar of West Bloomfield has undergraduate degrees from Oakland University and a law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. He has worked as an intern at the White House during the Obama Administration and as a legislative aide in the Michigan House of Representatives.


Legislative bans on education topics


I plan to vote against any legislation that would restrict or outright ban the teaching and/or discussion of certain topics such as race, racism, gender-based issues and how American history is taught in the K-12 public school system. Additionally, I support free public education, increasing our K-12 budget, and supporting the health and safety of students and teachers.


Legislative ethics/transparency


It’s past due time Michigan finally implements legislation to expand Michigan’s open records laws. Currently, Michigan legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, and executive office employees are exempted from FOIA. Consequently, I support removing these exceptions and enacting the proper procedures and requirements for the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in our state.


Term limits for legislators/administration


Currently, Michigan has one of the strictest legislative term limits in the nation. Term limits may actually be contributing to Michigan’s last place ranking in state government ethics and transparency. Having worked three years in the legislature, too much institutional knowledge is in the hands of lobbyists and corporations who can afford those lobbyists. I support measures to shift the power back to Michigan citizens, which is why I support reforming our term limits in Michigan.


State budget surplus


For a surplus, I believe we need to make sure our waterways are clean and limit chemicals like PFAS. Additionally, our communities need to be better equipped to handle water main breaks and be proactive when it comes to water leaks in households. This past year has shown that water main breaks can go on for hours without being detected, which cause boil advisories to be issued. I believe Michigan needs to adopt and be the leader in our water infrastructure. The technology is there as I have seen its integration sprout up right here in Oakland County. It’s time that Michigan becomes a smart state when it comes to water.


Highland Park water/sewer debt


According to the water authority, the city of Highland Park has paid less than 1 percent of its water bill since 2012 and other metro Detroit communities have been paying more money to GLWA for Highland Parks unpaid bills. Highland Park officials have been litigating this case in the courts for years and Highland Park lost. I agree with the court’s decision, and the state needs to work with Highland Park to come up with a comprehensive plan to repay their debt that will be fair to Highland Park and to the residents of Michigan.


Voting law changes


I believe that voting is a fundamental right of every Michigan citizen, and it’s the job of our state government to ensure easy access to the ballot box. Consequently, I would oppose any legislation that restricts Michigan citizens the right to vote.


2020 presidential election results


Yes, I accept the 2020 results, and I will accept the 2022 results. Our elections are secure. There is a process for finalizing and certifying vote counts for elections here in Michigan. The honest truth is, many Michiganders are falling victim to misinformation designed to sow mistrust in our elections. I am committed to ensuring free and fair elections, preserving a healthy democracy, and honoring the will of the voters.


Michigan abortion ban law


Michigan residents and families need to be able to have high quality and affordable healthcare, which is why I believe we need to repeal Michigan’s 1931 State law, which makes abortion illegal. I stand with women across the state of Michigan, and I believe that we should protect, not attack, or limit access to, important resources for women’s health. I will gladly vote against any legislation that attempts to prohibit women’s freedoms in any way.


Right of redress


When lawmakers attached expenditure provisions to prevent citizens from overturning laws, these actions diminish the rights and trust of the public. It is the duty of the legislature to ensure citizens have their voices heard and votes counted, which is why I would propose and support legislation to close loopholes and improve government transparency.


Why select you?


I’m running for State Representative because the Michigan House needs fresh new ideas and an understanding of how to enact those policies the right way. I worked three years in the Michigan Legislature, interned at the White House under the Obama Administration, and obtained my law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. I’m worried that the opportunities I had to succeed aren’t there anymore. I will work hard to keep our talent in Michigan and invest in the future generations of Michigan leaders. My passion for Michigan and my experiences are why I believe I will be an effective voice for my community.

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