State House - 56Th District - Democrat
Sharon MacDonell of Troy is a manager for advertising and video at Lawrence Technological University. She has a degree in history from University of Michigan, and has been a precinct delegate.
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.
I would not support such legislation. I strongly oppose allowing political groups to manipulate curricula to suit their current whims. Education is about reality. Accurate social studies and history should be taught to students, at their age-appropriate levels. Only by learning about America’s past – the positives and negatives – can students formulate their understanding of how this country arrived where it is today and then decide how they wish to recreate it in the future.
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?
The Michigan Legislative Term Limits and Financial Disclosure Amendment has now been passed by both houses in Lansing and will appear as a ballot proposal on Michigan’s general election ballots in November. If passed by the people, the amendment to our state constitution will bring Michigan in line with most other states regarding financial items on the ballot. However, the proposal is not as strong as its proponents wish. State legislators will still not have to disclose as much as members of the U.S. Congress do. Left out of the proposal are important disclosures such as income, debts, details on owned property, and travel payments. This information should be made public.
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?
I do believe our current term limits need review. Studies show that our rigid term limits for the Michigan legislature don’t stop elected officials from becoming professional, lifelong politicians. The limits also create too much turnover so that our legislature has many inexperienced members at any given time. While I would not support ending the term limits altogether, I do support the 2022 moderate expansion of term limits because it will encourage elected officials to stay in either the House or the Senate for their entire legislative career and give them the time needed to learn proper governing procedures, develop policy expertise, and establish trusted relationships with colleagues, so they can serve the people more effectively.
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.
One thing I believe we should not do is spend all of the surplus funds now. I would prioritize public schools, including in-school mental health resources for our children and infrastructure improvements as the beneficiaries of some of the funds. I support Governor Whitmer’s MI Tax Rebate Right Now to get money into the hands of Michigan’s working families who are suffering from the effects of inflation. I believe the rest can be held aside as a rainy-day fund for emergencies.
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.
Our county and state government should always work together to keep prices low for all House District 56 and Oakland County residents at a time when people are struggling from rising prices. As a state legislator, I’d utilize my role in exploring state-level solutions that would help resolve this issue while working with our partners at the county level to ensure these debts don’t persist into the future and place House Distict 56 residents at risk of increased water prices.
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 supported improved voting access and redistricting changes back in 2018. My only interest in changing them now is to build on them and guarantee fair and even better access to voting for everyone. I do not support those who wish to roll back these freedoms and limit voter access in the future.
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.
I accept the 2020 election results because they have been audited several times. There is no evidence of any election misconduct in Michigan. I will accept the results of the 2022 primary and general elections because city clerks are still doing their jobs. My only fear for the future is the possible politicization at the Michigan Secretary of State level and down into the county and city clerks’ offices. We must do our best to keep the business of these offices ethical and fair.
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?
Yes, I will work on revising or eliminating the 1931 ban legally. As an American, I believe in bodily autonomy and that no person or government has the right to force me to do something with my body against my will. I will fight to protect reproductive rights from governmental overreach for the women of Michigan and House District 56.
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 a terrible shame that elected officials can use unethical and anti-Constitutional methods to cheat Michiganders out of their rights. It’s a sign that they know their policies are wrong, unpopular, and unwanted. I want to lead the effort to stop this kind of unethical behavior and seek to overturn laws that have been cemented in by these unfair practices.
Why select you?
Why should voters choose you over your opponent(s) in this contest? Please be specific.
I believe I am more energetic than my opponent and more committed to protecting women’s reproductive freedom. I have spent years making my community the best it can be for my neighbors and family, and now I am ready to do that on a much broader scale, from Lansing, for all of the people of House District 56. My priorities include funding our public schools adequately, protecting everyone’s voting rights, defending reproductive freedoms for all, ensuring clean and safe drinking water in the state, and protecting underserved communities from unfair treatment at home, school, work, and in society.
Cyndi Peltonen is a retired vocal music teacher for PK-8 graders. She previously taught in Birmingham and Berkley Schools. She has a bachelors in music from Wayne State University. A resident of Clawson, she has been the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and trustee over several tenures on the Clawson Board of Education. She is involved with the Clawson Troy Optimists, Clawson Performing Arts Boosters, Clawson Chamber of Commerce, and Oakland County School Boards Associations.
Legislative bans on education topics
I do not support legislation that dictates or restricts what is taught in our public school classrooms. The main roles of the legislature are oversight, appropriations, and assistance to constituents. Dictating what is taught in classrooms is micromanaging and an overreach for which legislators are not qualified. It is the role of the State Board of Education to provide leadership and general oversight over all public education. Michigan’s Strategic Education Plan, approved by the SBE in 2020, “aims to provide focused direction to Michigan’s education community in support of all learners.” In support of Goal 2 “to improve early literacy achievement,” MDE released its Equity in Literacy document in 2021. This resource advises school districts about using evidence-based strategies, initiatives, and programs to improve literacy achievement and access to literacy, with special attention to reducing class, racial, and ethnic disparities. The guidance document describes research-based literacy instruction and addresses practices that support access to high-quality literacy learning for all Michigan students.
Yes, I support financial disclosure legislation that shines a light on elected officials’ financial interests. Strengthening Michigan’s conflict of interest laws to require legislators to file personal financial disclosure reports would raise ethics standards and bring a higher level of accountability. People deserve to know where lawmakers’ interests lie.