The League’s top blogs of 2016

The League’s staff blog is one of my favorite communications tools. It is always current, as we aim to post at least one new blog a week, sometimes more. It is personal, as many of us share about our personal lives and experiences in connection with what we do at the League. The blog provides a variety of perspectives, as they are written by everyone from our CEO and board members to our interns and even former staff. And our blog strives to make public policy issues interesting and accessible.

A blog is only as effective as its reach, and what I love the most about our staff blog is that people actually read it and share it with others. So, as 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to take a look back at our most popular blogs of the year. Each of these blogs was shared over 100 times, showing that these issues struck a chord with our supporters. If you’ve already read these, I encourage you to take a look at them again. And if these are new to you, I hope you’ll give them a read.

  1. When are we going to really value education?: Michigan Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren talks about Michigan’s disinvestment in education and how the state spends dramatically more on corrections than education.
  2. Why we fight: I wrote about the aftermath of the 2016 election and why policy advocates need to dust ourselves off and keep fighting the good fight.
  3. Angry about Flint? Be part of the solution: Policy analyst Peter Ruark writes about his volunteer work in Flint and the need for people to get involved on the ground and in the Capitol to help residents.
  4. Changing minds by touching hearts: League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill blogs about the lives and hearts our work touches.
  5. Top ten voting tips: League CEO Gilda Jacobs writes about the importance of voting and dispels some prevalent myths around the process.
  6. Quit spreading misinformation: Michigan is NOT a high tax state: Legislative Director Rachel Richards seeks to set the record straight on Michigan’s tax climate.
  7. Bundle of joy: Gilda Jacobs discusses the birth of her new granddaughter and why we need a better Michigan and a better world for all kids.
  8. Michigan, 20 years after “welfare reform”: Peter Ruark blogs about the impact still being felt in Michigan today from the federal welfare reform of the 1990s.
  9. 14,000 unemployed workers will soon lose food assistance: Peter Ruark writes about a policy change that will take away vital food assistance for struggling workers.

—Alex Rossman

Big wins well worth the wait

Michigan’s lame duck session tends to be a time when tensions run high and controversial issues get revived. The Capitol lobby is always filled as interest groups try to push their agendas or fight against other policy changes, deals are made behind closed doors, and unexpected legislation gets voted on as the chamber enters its 12th hour of voting. In this contentious time, sometimes you’re lucky if you fight to a draw. (more…)

Statement: Unemployment automation fix will help struggling workers

For Immediate Release: December 14, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Senate’s passage today of House Bill 4982, legislation to address the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency’s automated fraud detection system and policies. The system has been incorrectly denying benefits for many workers who are eligible for and urgently in need of unemployment benefits. Learn more about the League’s work on unemployment insurance and how Michigan’s economic recovery is not reaching everyone. The statement may be attributed to League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill. (more…)

Statement: Bipartisan bills to create uniform school expulsion and suspension practices will benefit all kids

For Immediate Release: December 13, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Senate’s unanimous passage today of House Bills 5618-5621 and 5693-5695, legislation to improve school expulsion and suspension policies in Michigan. This includes instructing schools to expel or suspend students sensibly, evaluating incidents and students on an individual basis, reducing zero tolerance discipline policies and promoting the use of “restorative justice” practices which seek to resolve issues at school. Earlier this fall, the League issued a report on racial disparities in education, noting that students of color are inordinately affected by school expulsions and suspensions. The statement may be attributed to League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill. (more…)

14,000 unemployed workers will soon lose food assistance

Around 14,000 unemployed Michigan workers are about to lose vital food assistance due to Michigan’s so-called economic recovery, even though many of these individual workers are not seeing any relief.

Federal law stipulates that able-bodied adults without dependents who receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits must work or participate in a training program for a minimum of 20 hours per week. If they have more than three months of benefits in which they do not meet those requirements within a 36-month period, they lose their benefits.

Since 2002, due to its high unemployment rate, Michigan has received a statewide waiver from the three-month limit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Due to declining unemployment, that waiver will begin to expire this month beginning with four counties (Oakland, Washtenaw, Kent and Ottawa). The state expects the waiver to be eliminated for all counties by October 2017. (more…)

MLive: Michigan’s urban, rural divide on display in new Census data

“Looking at everything on the county level often hides some very real stories, some very real disparities,” said Peter Ruark, senior policy analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy. Dec 8, 2016 — MLive

Statement: Patience and bipartisanship pay off to help feed 338,000 families

For Immediate Release: December 7, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on today’s passage of Senate Bill 800, a supplemental budget bill that will provide food assistance for 338,000 families in Michigan. The year-end budget bill includes an investment of $6.8 million in state funds that will fix an issue with the federal Heat and Eat program, restoring approximately $76 per month in food assistance for 338,000 low-income families. The League has worked closely on the Heat and Eat issue since it arose in 2014. The statement may be attributed to League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill. (more…)

Bundle of joy

From the First Tuesday newsletter
Sign up for the newsletter and e-news

Two days ago, my granddaughter was born, and she has already brought so much happiness to our family (well, the jury may still be out for her older brother).

When I hold her in my arms, I can’t help but think of what the future holds for her. What kind of world awaits her? What will college cost in 18 years? What jobs will be available?

Due to the nature of my work at the League, the joy of this occasion is also marked with an appreciation of the challenges that lie ahead—for my grandchildren and others. I think of the countless little babies across Michigan who are being brought into the same world, but are going to live markedly different and much more difficult lives. (more…)

Why we fight

Sometimes it hurts to care so much. There’s a downside to being passionate and emotionally invested in your work. You take setbacks personally. They’re painful and taxing. You question your path and your purpose.

Following the election, I’m sure a lot of you can relate. There’s a lot of worry about the fate of our future, especially for the kids, families and workers who are struggling the most in our state and our nation.

And that’s who I think about when things get tough. I remember that there are thousands upon thousands of people who are depending on the work of the League and our partners. This is their life. They can’t give up. And that’s why I won’t give up. (more…)