Heather Sermo Joins Pentastar as Vice President of Human Resources

WATERFORD, MICHIGAN / June 22, 2021 / AVIATION NEWS–Pentastar Aviation, a leader in the world of business aviation services, announced today that Heather Sermo has joined the company as Vice President of Human Resources.

“I am pleased to announce that Heather Sermo has accepted the position of Vice President of Human Resources,” said Greg Schmidt, President & CEO. “Heather joins us with extensive strategic, functional, and operational experience in Human Resources. Having won several awards for her wellness and talent initiatives, I know her contributions will continue to help Pentastar attract and retain the most talented, qualified, and exceptional individuals. We are excited to welcome her to the Pentastar team.”

As Vice President of Human Resources, Sermo will serve as a member of the executive team and be responsible for Pentastar’s employee relations, talent management and acquisition programs, succession planning, and compensation strategies ensuring industry-leading wellbeing initiatives, legal compliance and implementation of Pentastar’s mission and strategy.

Before joining Pentastar, Sermo held the position of Human Resource Director for RoboVent. In this position, she handled recruitment, employee benefits, succession planning, talent management, and training.

Sermo obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Development, specializing in Training and Development, from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She was also a previous recipient of the Macomb County Business Award, Trailblazer of Future Talent.

“I am excited to join this team and lend my expertise and insight in recruitment, onboarding, benefits, employee relations, and policy and procedure development to further enhance the progressive benefit programs that Pentastar has in place,” said Sermo.

ABOUT PENTASTAR AVIATION
Pentastar Aviation, wholly owned by Edsel B. Ford II, has been servicing regional and global travelers for over 56 years and is headquartered at Oakland County International Airport (PTK). Pentastar provides private jet charter, award-winning FBO services, aircraft management, Fivestar Gourmet®, advisory, customer interiors and maintenance services, Air charter transportation services are provided by Pentastar Aviation Charter, Inc., a U.S. FAR Part 135 on-demand air carrier, or by other U.S. FAR Part 135 certificated on-demand air carriers arranged by Pentastar Aviation, LLC. Our team is committed to delivering the highest standards of safety and service excellence to our customers.

Contact: Pentastar Aviation: Tracy Neil, Director of Marketing, 248-666-8200,
tneil@pentastaraviation.com, pentastaraviation.com, facebook.com/PentastarAviation, linkedin.com/company/Pentastar-Aviation, twitter.com/PentastarAv, instagram.com/Pentastarav
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Heather Sermo Joins Pentastar as Vice President of Human Resources

WATERFORD, MICHIGAN / June 22, 2021 / AVIATION NEWS–Pentastar Aviation, a leader in the world of business aviation services, announced today that Heather Sermo has joined the company as Vice President of Human Resources.

“I am pleased to announce that Heather Sermo has accepted the position of Vice President of Human Resources,” said Greg Schmidt, President & CEO. “Heather joins us with extensive strategic, functional, and operational experience in Human Resources. Having won several awards for her wellness and talent initiatives, I know her contributions will continue to help Pentastar attract and retain the most talented, qualified, and exceptional individuals. We are excited to welcome her to the Pentastar team.”

As Vice President of Human Resources, Sermo will serve as a member of the executive team and be responsible for Pentastar’s employee relations, talent management and acquisition programs, succession planning, and compensation strategies ensuring industry-leading wellbeing initiatives, legal compliance and implementation of Pentastar’s mission and strategy.

Before joining Pentastar, Sermo held the position of Human Resource Director for RoboVent. In this position, she handled recruitment, employee benefits, succession planning, talent management, and training.

Sermo obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Development, specializing in Training and Development, from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She was also a previous recipient of the Macomb County Business Award, Trailblazer of Future Talent.

“I am excited to join this team and lend my expertise and insight in recruitment, onboarding, benefits, employee relations, and policy and procedure development to further enhance the progressive benefit programs that Pentastar has in place,” said Sermo.

ABOUT PENTASTAR AVIATION
Pentastar Aviation, wholly owned by Edsel B. Ford II, has been servicing regional and global travelers for over 56 years and is headquartered at Oakland County International Airport (PTK). Pentastar provides private jet charter, award-winning FBO services, aircraft management, Fivestar Gourmet®, advisory, customer interiors and maintenance services, Air charter transportation services are provided by Pentastar Aviation Charter, Inc., a U.S. FAR Part 135 on-demand air carrier, or by other U.S. FAR Part 135 certificated on-demand air carriers arranged by Pentastar Aviation, LLC. Our team is committed to delivering the highest standards of safety and service excellence to our customers.

Contact: Pentastar Aviation: Tracy Neil, Director of Marketing, 248-666-8200,
tneil@pentastaraviation.com, pentastaraviation.com, facebook.com/PentastarAviation, linkedin.com/company/Pentastar-Aviation, twitter.com/PentastarAv, instagram.com/Pentastarav
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Vincent to join Detroit Regional Chamber’s board of directors

Thomas P. Vincent, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Plunkett Cooney, was recently elected to serve as a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s board of directors.

“This is a tremendous honor,” said Vincent, whose one-year term is set to begin on July 1. “Plunkett Cooney is a long-standing member of the Chamber, and in this leadership role, it will be my privilege to help continue the Chamber’s legacy of economic growth and prosperity for the city of Detroit and its diverse business community.”

The Detroit Regional Chamber, which has served the city’s business community for more than 100 years, is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. It is led by a board of directors dedicated to moving the economic needle and propelling Michigan forward. With members in an 11-county southeast Michigan region, the chamber’s mission includes creating a business-friendly climate and value for its members, leading a robust economic development strategy, and convening Michigan’s most influential audience at its annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

A former senior trial attorney with the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Vincent has served as President and CEO of Plunkett Cooney since 2017. In this role, he dedicates a significant amount of his time to managing the firm’s 150 attorneys and 300 employees in 10 offices across Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. He also focuses on achieving the firm’s mission of providing world class service to clients, recruiting and retaining high-quality attorneys and staff, and giving back to the communities in which firm members live and work.

Vincent is also one of the firm’s most accomplished trial attorneys with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to financial institutions, as well as insurance providers. His litigation expertise includes commercial liability, complex disputes, class actions and employment liability.

Vincent joined Plunkett Cooney, which is one of the Midwest’s oldest and largest law firms, in 1985 and became a shareholder four years later. In 1999, he was elected to serve as a member of Plunkett Cooney’s Board of Directors, a position he was re-elected to six times before he was elected President and CEO of the firm.

A native Detroiter and the eighth of 12 children, Vincent was educated from elementary through law school in the city. He received his law degree from the Detroit College of Law (currently Michigan State University College of Law) in 1981. Licensed to practice in Michigan’s state and federal courts, Vincent’s professional affiliations include the Oakland County Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan, American Bar Association and American Association for Justice.

Vincent has received numerous honors, including selection by DBusiness magazine as a Top Lawyer, inclusion on the list of Best Lawyers In America®, the Michigan Super Lawyer designation and Corp! magazine’s Most Valuable Professional honor, as well as a rating of AV-Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell, a leading peer review rating service in the legal industry.

Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is a leading provider of business and litigation services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm employs approximately 150 attorneys in seven Michigan cities, Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plunkett Cooney has achieved the highest rating (AV) awarded by Martindale-Hubbell.

For more information about the election of Thomas P. Vincent as a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s board of directors, contact the firm’s Director of Marketing & Business Development John Cornwell at (248) 901-4008 or jcornwell@plunkettcooney.com.

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Walsh hosts virtual Doctor of Business Administration information session

Troy, Mich., June 17, 2021 – Walsh will host a virtual information session about the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) program on July 14, 2021 from 6-7 p.m.

Jenny Tatsak, Ph.D., director of doctoral programs, will lead the session, which will include a program overview, admissions process, financial aid, career opportunities and a Q&A period. Advanced registration is recommended.

Walsh’s DBA is a part-time professional doctoral program offered through a combination of online coursework and Zoom-enabled remote delivery. On-campus engagement opportunities will also be available. Admission is competitive and based on a candidate’s entire portfolio of both academic and professional experience.

“Walsh’s DBA program is designed for working professionals and taught by faculty with years of industry experience. The program enables deep knowledge of business administration for candidates seeking executive leadership, consultancy or teaching roles. Walsh’s approach to education has always been to offer rigorous programs that are flexible and accessible, so people with busy lives can pursue a degree at a pace that meets their needs,” said Tatsak.

To learn more and register, visit www.walshcollege.edu/admissions-events

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ABOUT WALSH
Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit www.walshcollege.edu.

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org) and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (www.acbsp.org).

Invitation: The Skillman Foundation to Host Implicit Bias Webinar June 29

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s partners at The Skillman Foundation are hosting a virtual implicit bias webinar on Tuesday, June 29, from 9 a.m. to noon. The training is being facilitated by Reverend Dr. Bryant T. Marks Sr., chief equity officer of the National Training Institute on Race and Equity. It will be open to all of the Foundation’s partners on a first-come, first-served basis.

Upon registering, you will receive an emailed confirmation with the Zoom link needed to access the session on June 29.  Please copy that Zoom information to your calendars.

Implicit Association Test (IAT)

Those joining the webinar are asked to complete an Implicit Association Test (IAT) assessment. The assessment takes approximately 10-12 minutes to complete. View instructions for the assessment here. Results are confidential and provided solely to you via your results page at the time of completion. Dr. Marks will use polling software in-session to discuss the group’s results as a whole. We would like to have 100% of webinar participants complete the IAT to ensure the session is successful. Please complete the IAT by close of business on Friday, June 25.

Implicit biases permeate just about every aspect of life, from education to health to policing. Implicit biases shape our personal decisions and the priorities and policies implemented in any sector. Dr. Mark will provide an in-depth look at how implicit bias works, its causes and consequences, and how it can be managed at the individual and organizational level.

 

Town Hall: Inside the U.S. Army National Hiring Days with Maj. Gen. Darren L. Werner

 

Maj. Gen. Darren L. Werner, commanding general of U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, Army Materiel Command, joined the Chamber to discuss the U.S. Army’s current talent recruitment initiatives including the Army National Hiring Days. Werner will also offer insight on the Army’s effort to attract individuals to 150 different career options and 50+ health care specialties, ranging from infantry to intelligence and radiology to cardiothoracic surgery.

TACOM’s Importance to the Region
Three elements of the Army are part of a program here assigned to the Detroit Arsenal. TACOM is the lead element at the Detroit Arsenal for the Army Materiel Command. It’s also shared with the Army Futures Command and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology.

These organizations work together to create funding and priorities to meet Army leadership objectives laddering up to the United States President and Congress. The collaboration of these three programs delivers technology and work acquisition and ensures the readiness and safety of equipment for Army use, with an allocated budget of $30 billion annually. They also focus on research, development, and acquisition. At the Detroit Arsenal, there are about 10,000 people employed across the different commands.

Army National Hiring Days
The National Hiring Days initiative is a way for the Army to share its story with the American public right around the Army’s birthday. “We are looking for our very, very best, and what we do during National Hiring Days is we make an effort to tell that Army story to the local community,” said Werner.

Diverse Career Options
Job opportunities in the Army range from traditional military roles to anything including data analytics, computer programming, robotic engineering, and a full array of medical sciences and practices. Medical professionals currently underway in their careers also have many opportunities in the Army. It houses full health care centers and represents needs in just about every specialty of the medical field including dietetics, physical therapy, dentistry, etc.

In terms of readiness, the Army can be a helpful launching point for any type of career. Terms in the Army can be anywhere from three to five years at a time – and while some continue to reenlist beyond that, many carry on into other career paths with the skills they’ve developed.

Recruiting with a Focus on Modernization
What is unique with TACOM is that the majority of its workforce is Department of the Army civilians, not soldiers, that serve in day-to-day operations functions like contracting, procurement, logistics, and personnel management, for example. The future for TACOM and the Army is similar to where we’re headed with advanced manufacturing technology. A specific area of interest is additive manufacturing, like 3D printing, with projects in the works to develop a system that can fully 3D print an entire tank hull. To that end, the Army is not only recruiting people to operate those machines but also up-and-coming scientists to come on board to support the technological development. TACOM’s proximity to the nation’s hub of the automotive industry presents a number of opportunities and ongoing partnership between the Army and automotive industry as well.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
“The Army is not about the color of your skin or your gender,” said Werner. “It’s about accomplishing a mission. I’m so proud to be part of an organization that creates opportunities for everyone regardless of where they’re from, where they grew up, who their parents are, or how much money they have in their bank account.”

Though these are long-standing tenets in the Army, the importance of DEI matters continues to grow within the organization at all levels.

Learn more at goarmy.com

Results for America: Detroit Promise Path Case Study

Results for America released a new case study on June 21 focused on the Detroit Promise Path program, which is run in partnership with Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation. Results for America helps decision-makers at all levels of government harness the power of evidence and data to solve our world’s greatest challenges. This case study is part of Results for America’s Economic Mobility Catalog, a tool designed to help local government leaders identify and implement evidence-based strategies to improve economic mobility outcomes for their residents. The Economic Mobility Catalog is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings and conclusions contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the foundation.

 

Amazon commits $150 million to empower Black entrepreneurs

June 15, 2021
Amazon
By Dave Clark

Amazon’s new Black Business Accelerator provides access to capital, business guidance, mentorship, and marketing support to help Black business owners succeed as sellers in Amazon’s store.

Amazon is launching the Black Business Accelerator (BBA) to help build sustainable equity and growth for Black-owned businesses. The initiative—which explicitly targets barriers to access, opportunity, and advancement created by systemic racism across America—was created in partnership with our Black Employee Network and a coalition of strategic partners.

The BBA aims to drive economic equity for Black entrepreneurs, providing them with resources to thrive as entrepreneurs and business leaders. We are inviting Black business owners to explore and participate in this initiative, which provides financial support, business education and mentorship, and marketing and promotion of their brands and products as third-party sellers in our store.

Black entrepreneurs have less access to capital, mentorship, and growth opportunities. They are also significantly underrepresented in retail. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6% of U.S. retail businesses have a Black owner—even though Black Americans represent 14% of the U.S. adult population.

Black-owned businesses have also been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the U.S. House Small Business Committee. This is why we are committing $150 million over the next four years to help thousands of Black entrepreneurs reach hundreds of millions of customers and become successful sellers on Amazon. Third-party sellers on Amazon—almost all of whom are small and medium-sized businesses—represent nearly 60% of product sales in our store and saw record sales growth in 2020. We would like more Black-owned businesses to enjoy this success.

Amazon’s BBA will provide access to financial assistance, strategic business guidance and mentorship, and marketing and promotional support to help both current and aspiring Black small business owners grow their businesses and maximize the opportunities of selling on Amazon.

  • Financial assistance: BBA participants can access services and grants to help jump-start business growth and customer acquisition. Opportunities include Amazon credits and services valued at $3,900 that include free product imaging services and advertising credits. In addition, multiple teams across Amazon and our cloud computing division Amazon Web Services (AWS) are also excited to help fund an initial round of $10,000 cash grants in partnership with Hello Alice, an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses. Applications for these grants will open on July 1, 2021, and be awarded on September 2, 2021. Additional details can be found at hialice.co/amazon.
  • Business education & mentorship: Participants can access a minimum of one year of free strategic advisory services to get the coaching, training, and insights needed to take their business to the next level. They can also connect with a dedicated network of business mentors, including Amazon experts and small business thought leaders, to continue to accelerate business growth.
  • Marketing & promotion: In the highly competitive retail space, it can be difficult for customers to find and shop products from Black-owned brands even though customers increasingly value shopping from diverse businesses. Through initiatives like the Black-owned business storefronts for both consumers and Amazon Business customers and promotions featuring Black-owned businesses, customers can find products from these businesses throughout the shopping experience. Amazon also recently launched discoverability enhancements that highlight products from minority-owned businesses in related search results, allowing customers to easily find and buy from certified businesses.

We’re proud to have strategic partners collaborate with us on this initiative, including the Minority Business Development Agency and the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. (USBC). These organizations will lead community engagement for BBA and help us provide participants with mentorship, business development, training, and educational resources to empower their success. Our partners will continue to advise us as we enhance BBA based on their deep experience in supporting Black businesses. They will also help us as we create similar programs for other underrepresented populations of business owners. We anticipate welcoming additional partners and advisors in the future.

Ron Busby Sr., president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., said, “We applaud Amazon’s leadership in responding to the racial inequities that led to a significant number of Black-owned businesses closing during the pandemic. The financial, educational, and mentoring resources Amazon will invest through the Black Business Accelerator will enable USBC-affiliated businesses and Black entrepreneurs to not only survive but thrive as they adapt to operating in a post-pandemic world.”

BBA and selling on Amazon unlocks a powerful and proven economic engine that enables entrepreneurs to build their brands and sell their products to our more than 300 million global customers. We know that customers value the wide selection and diversity of products offered by these businesses, and we are excited to see the offerings these new sellers will bring.

Over the last few months, we’ve piloted BBA’s benefits with some of the Black-owned businesses already selling in our store to better understand how we can most effectively support them, and we have applied our learnings to further develop BBA and ensure it provides value.

View original article here

June 18 | DHHS To Lift Remaining COVID Restrictions June 22, Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. DHHS To Lift Remaining COVID Restrictions June 22
  2. Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House, Senate
  3. GOP’s Voter ID Bill Passes Senate In Fiery Floor Debate
  4. Redistricting Commissioners Call Public Hearings Thus Far A Success
  5. May Unemployment Ticks Up To 5% Amid Modest Workforce Gain

DHHS To Lift Remaining COVID Restrictions June 22

The state’s COVID-19 order limiting the size of indoor gatherings at non-residential establishments to 50 percent of capacity and requiring the unvaccinated to wear a face mask when indoors will end June 22, nine days earlier than originally planned, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said today.

Once the order lifts, restaurants and bars will be able to operate at full capacity as will gyms, retailers, museums, libraries and other indoor venues that been limited for more than a year.

The move comes as the state’s COVID-19 numbers have plummeted with the percentage of residents 16 and older having had the first dose of a vaccine at 60.6 percent as of Tuesday.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Ms. Whitmer said in a statement. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the medical experts and health professionals who stood on the front lines to keep us all safe. And we are incredibly thankful to all of the essential workers who kept our state moving. Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule. Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan’s families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”

DHHS also is lifting its orders with restrictions on entry into congregate care and juvenile justice facilities, for mandatory COVID testing for juvenile justice facility staff and DHHS hospitals staff, among other measures.


Billions In Federal COVID Supplemental Funding Passes House, Senate

Roughly $6 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid was passed by the House and Senate on Tuesday covering massive infusions of federal spending to assist K-12 schools, food assistance for families in need and more.

The actions in each chamber was seen as another positive sign as talks continue on the budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year between the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders.

About $4.38 billion in federal COVID funding for K-12 schools was voted out of the Senate through an S-1 substitute version of HB 4421, which passed by a 35-0 vote. The bill is a fiscal year 2020-21 School Aid Fund supplemental appropriations bill. It still needs House approval before going to Ms. Whitmer.

“Many Michigan students struggled and continue to struggle with the sudden and confusing change to virtual or hybrid learning for more than a year during the pandemic,” Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement following the vote. “This supplemental would invest $4.3 billion in federal assistance to help our children recover from any learning loss they experienced and to ensure that our schools and teachers have the resources necessary to provide their students with the instruction and support they need.”

A key change in the substitute was the removal of proposal by the House to use reserve funding to provide a per-pupil equalization payment for districts receiving less than $1,093 per pupil through their district’s ESSER III formula allocation. This change led to disappointment from education organizations following the vote. Most of the federal funds are distributed through the Title I formula that heavily favors districts with larger numbers of impoverished pupils.

The lion’s share of the funding was $3.35 billion of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III funding through the American Rescue Plan to be distributed to districts.

The remaining $840.7 million ESSER II funds – which are not yet appropriated – is also contained within the bill for school districts. These were the funds remaining from the second coronavirus relief bill signed at the end of the Trump administration that did not get disbursed because Ms. Whitmer vetoed a bill, an action that prevented the allocation of the funds. A total of $5.55 million in ESSER II funding for administrative costs is also included in the supplemental.

A total of $92 million form the Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools funding is contained within the bill for nonpublic schools while another $86.8 million is also provided from Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding for nonpublic schools.

Changes to provisions related to summer school as well as before- and after-school programs were also made within the bill. Students would be allowed to enroll in summer programming offered in any district, not just their local district. Districts would also be able to use local assessments to make determinations of children with the greatest needs along with benchmark data for summer programming.

The requirement for summer programs to be in-person would also be removed under the bill.

Jennifer Smith, director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said Title I funding varies widely by district so the equalization is an important tool to provide districts with the funding they deserve.

“It’s nice to see they’re finally taking another step toward the governor’s desk,” Ms. Smith said, adding that if the Legislature can move quickly on the supplemental her hope would be that they can pass a school aid budget in the coming days.

There is pressure to complete the school aid budget soon because school district budgets run on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year.

Ms. Smith said to complete the school aid budget by the end of the month would allow districts to properly prepare for the next school year, adding schools would prefer not waiting until September.

Peter Spadafore, deputy executive director of external relations with the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators, expressed disappointment in the equalization payments being removed. He had not heard a specific reason for the removal of the equalization funding provision from the bill but said MASA members are pressing lawmakers to consider some form of equalization payments.

“We’re happy that it’s finally moving. We’re not happy that it’s been taking this long,” Mr. Spadafore said, noting that some of the federal education funding was passed several months ago by Congress during the previous administration.

Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association, said in a statement the bill does what educator and parents have wanted to see happen for months: the appropriation of billions in needed relief to districts.

He also agreed with other education groups regarding equalization funds.

“We continue to advocate for districts slated to receive less under the federal Title I formula to get equalization to bring them up to a level that helps them better meet the needs of students as we recover from this pandemic,” Mr. Pratt said. “That can still be accomplished through new state revenue available per state fiscal experts, an approach MEA is strongly in favor of.”

Meanwhile, the House passed SB 37 on a 105-4 vote, which included a floor substitute that would see roughly $2.24 billion in federal aid go mostly toward food assistance, emergency rental assistance and local recovery grants. The bill needs final approval from the Senate before it can go to Ms. Whitmer.

Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Township), Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) and Rep. John Reilly (R-Oakland Township) voted no on the bill.

“The people of Michigan faced some of the toughest COVID restrictions in the nation,” Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement following the vote. “Many are still struggling. This is another significant step to get families, communities and students the help they need after an extremely difficult year-and-a-half.”

Regarding food assistance, $1.45 billion would go toward federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding to support a 15 percent increase in monthly food assistance benefits through September 30, 2021.

Emergency rental assistance would see $378.3 million in federal funding for the purpose of grants, which would be used to assist renter households at or below 80 percent of area median income. The funds would be used to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provides rental and utility assistance payments, housing stability services and case management to eligible renter households hit by COVID-19.

Another $65.2 million would go toward emergency management, with the money to be used as payment to vendors for emergency and disaster response and mitigation services provided in areas throughout the state.

For local non-entitlement fiscal recovery fund grants, the substitute also provides $322.1 million in federal funding to distribute to local governments pursuant to federally designated allocations. This funding cannot be used for payments or be deposited into any pension fund.

Under this caveat, the money could be used in any of the following ways: to aid households, small businesses and nonprofits; to aid industries such as tourism, travel and hospitality; to provide premium pay for essential workers; to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year; or to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband.

The substitute also calls for $21 million in General Fund to be used for a one-time purchase of tax vouchers issued by the state to Venture Michigan Fund and collateralized to generate investment capital from lenders under the Michigan Early Stage Venture Investment Act of 2003.


GOP’s Voter ID Bill Passes Senate In Fiery Floor Debate

A trio of elections process bills including legislation requiring a photo identification for voters applying for an absentee ballot passed a divided Senate Wednesday after a fierce floor debate.

It is the first move by Senate Republicans to pass sweeping election law changes.

The three bills are the first to be put up for votes out of a massive 39-bill package introduced by the Senate Republicans in March, prompting bitter rebukes from their Democratic counterparts.

Each of the bills – SB 285, SB 303 and SB 304 – passed along party-line 19-16 votes.

Democrats lobbed several allegations at Republicans, calling the bills unnecessary roadblocks and voter suppression as well as being a de facto poll tax and racist. The minority party also said voter ID laws already exist and work, further accusing the GOP of trying to stoke voter fears over unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Republicans countered by pointing to a recent Detroit Regional Chamber poll saying 79.7 percent of respondents support requiring an ID to vote.

GOP members also said the changes would fix what they called a significant gap in election law after the passage of a 2018 ballot measure: the removal of a requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time.

Of the three bills, SB 285 drew the most debate among members.

The bill would require an individual who applies for an absentee ballot through the Department of State or their local clerk to verify their identity through one of several options: providing their Michigan driver’s license number, providing their Michigan personal identification card number, providing the last four digits of their Social Security number, showing their valid ID to their local clerk for election purposes or attaching or sending a copy of their ID along with their ballot application in the mail.

Under SB 285, a provisional ballot would be provided to voters who did not verify their identity. Those voters would have six days after an election to provide proof of identity for their ballot to be counted. Local clerks would also be provided with access to the Department of State’s system, which would enable them to confirm a voter’s ID.

About 11,400 out of more than 5.5 million Michigan ballots in November 2020 were cast by voters signing affidavits rather than showing ID.

The proposed changes in SB 303 would require giving a voter a provisional ballot if they do not have identification when voting in person. SB 304 would require that provisional ballots contain a notice that they will only be tabulated if a voter verifies his or her identity with the proper local clerk within six days after an election.

Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), sponsor of SB 285, said removing the requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time was a glaring oversight in the 2018 election law changes needing to be addressed. She said it was in line with requirements for purchasing alcohol, cold medicines and other items.

Ms. Theis rejected claims made by Democrats that her bill would put people’s personal information at risk.

“Requiring identification verification is a simple but critical step to ensure the integrity of our election process moving forward,” Ms. Theis said. “It’s not creating a personal security risk, it’s not voter suppression, it’s not an undue burden. As a matter of fact, across the globe, ID is required to vote.”

Several Democrats rose to denounce Republicans with accusations of trying to deny people the right to vote, of racism and of trying to solve a problem they said does not exist.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) was surprised by what he called a move he never believed he would see: Republicans using elections to force residents to get a government ID.

“What’s next? Showing a Social Security card? A national ID card? Their blood type? A semen sample? God only knows what you guys will come up with next,” Mr. Ananich said.

Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) delivered a blistering rebuke of SB 285, calling the current debate one that Black people had in the 1960s. She called the bill package egregious and garbage.

“This bill package is not about voter integrity, it is not about preventing fraud, it is not about ensuring the security of our election, and this is not about preventing foreign interference,” Ms. Santana said. “This is about being scared of losing an election because of what Brother Malcolm said: ‘We are not outnumbered, we are out-organized.’ Well, that is the election that scares you, because Democrats, with the strong support of Black votes, out-organized you and got out that fool out of the White House and you are still mad about it.”

Ms. Santana then unloaded on Republicans over what she called a vast difference between rhetoric and their policy actions.

“For an entire year, all we heard was Republicans throughout this state is freedom and liberty, patriotism, the 2nd Amendment, American flag and bald eagles – and yet here we are watching this so-called patriotism and defenders of freedom disenfranchise American voters,” Ms. Santana said. “Take that yellow flag off your walls because this is not freedom. This is a legislative terrorism from tyrants with a misguided understanding of the Constitution and the spirit of 1776.”

Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) stood to call the proposal a “de facto poll tax” before outlining a lengthy history of poll taxes and other efforts to deny the vote to people of color. She said the various options for proving ID in SB 285 are unconstitutional because there are costs for making a copy of their ID for inclusion in the application.

“In a nutshell, creating an additional financial requirement of voters, even an optional one, in order to cast one’s ballot, is essentially a poll tax and would be an unconstitutional resurrection of Jim Crow, who should remain dead and buried,” Ms. Geiss said.

Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), a former local clerk, was dismayed by the Republican elections package. He said he had deep concerns about how the full Republican package could hurt groups of voters, specifically seniors, people of color and the disabled.

“I’ve never seen such an attempt by people to throw up roadblocks for people who are trying to vote,” Mr. Wojno said. “This legislation shows a lack of respect to the many people that have worked so hard to create a more transparent elective process.”

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said in speaking with local clerks around her district she was told that senior citizens would be most affected by the proposed changes to the voter ID law.

“What this bill would do is tell those seniors, tell the homeless, tell the vulnerable who do not have an ID that you are not allowed to vote, that you do not have the same right that the rest of us do to vote in every single one of our elections,” Ms. McMorrow said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) said after months of hearings, there has been no evidence of voter fraud in the state. He said the state already has a voter ID law that works. Mr. Hertel accused Republicans of adding fuel to their supporters’ belief in unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

“But you are stoking the deepest fears about our fundamental democracy and pushing the big lie that has divided the nation to the point of insurrection, and your only response is to double down,” Mr. Hertel said. “The right likes to talk about liberal snowflakes and participation trophies, but I can’t think of a better example of fragility than trying to change the rules of an election because you don’t like the outcome. Maybe if you could win on your own merit, maybe if you can’t win on that merit, maybe you deserve to lose.”

Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Holly), the former secretary of state, defended the bills.

“These bills would help ensure the security and fairness of our elections,” Ms. Johnson said. “Requiring voters to verify their identity with ID is the best way to protect the one person, one vote standard.”

She then pointed to the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce poll which showed 79.7 percent of respondents supporting voter ID.

As to arguments about protecting a voter’s personal information, Ms. Johnson said SB 285 mirrors federal election law for providing personal identification information for voting by mail.

She added that individuals need an ID to set up a bank account, purchase alcohol, fly and even get a fishing license online.

Mr. Ananich pushed back on the assertion of needing an ID for numerous other things.

“When I get a fishing license and I show my ID, when I cast my reel, I don’t show my ID again to the fish,” Mr. Ananich said, drawing laughter from members of his caucus. “When I get married and I get my marriage certificate, when I come home from work I don’t say: ‘Hey, I’m still married to you, let me show you my ID.’ That’s what these bills would do. You want to have hoop after hoop after barrier after barrier because you no longer have ideas that people like.”

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said the 2018 ballot proposal removed the requirement to appear in person when voting absentee for the first time and so the opportunity to show ID.

“We don’t allow that to happen for any of our other forms of ID,” Mr. McBroom said. “You don’t get to get your driver’s license at 16 years old and go the rest of your life without ever checking back in. It’s an ongoing process.”

He also shot back at Democrats over claims that the Republicans were being sore losers over the 2020 elections and trying to move the goalposts.

“Both parties are very guilty of being sore losers. There’s no monopoly on sore loser-ship around this place and there’s no monopoly on either party wanting to work election policy to its own ends,” Mr. McBroom said. “Don’t pretend that the Democratic Party wasn’t real happy with those proposals two and three or see them as a great boon to their future opportunities.”

Several organizations reacted swiftly following the votes with statements.

Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs applauded Republicans for their votes in favor of the bills, calling them common sense changes to enhance the election process.

“These simple, pragmatic reforms will strengthen confidence in the security of our elections and make it easier for Michiganders to participate in everyday life,” Ms. Sachs said. “Over 70 percent of Americans support voter ID laws and the additional legislation introduced today will ensure everyone has access to photo identification.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes accused Republicans across the country of trying to erect significant barriers to keep Democratic constituencies such as Black people from the polls.

“Today’s actions in the state Senate were deplorable, racist, and quite frankly shameful,” Ms. Barnes said. “Michigan’s 2020 elections were safe and secure. But that has not stopped the Republicans from launching an all-out attack on our right to vote. Their goal is simple and transparent – the GOP wants fewer people to vote. Because they know what we know – when people vote, Democrats win.”

Several groups also came out against the package following session.

Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said lawmakers should be working to build on the 2018 election law changes to further improve ballot access rather than go the route being pushed by legislative Republicans.

“Republican senators are taking aim at the voting options Michiganders have successfully used for decades in an effort to suppress to voices of marginalized peoples,” Mr. Scott said. “Their continued attacks on the freedom to vote are abhorrent and Michiganders must come together once again, across race, income level, and zip code, to stand up for our rights and oppose these anti-voter bills.”

Christina Schlitt, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan, made a similar remark.

“These anti-voter bills will lead to voter disenfranchisement and make it more difficult for voters to exercise their rights,” she said. “Michigan has voter ID laws on the books, and our system for affidavit options has worked for decades. These new restrictions are unnecessary.”

Clare Allenson with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters characterized Wednesday’s Senate vote as “yet another example of how some lawmakers in Lansing are laser focused on making it harder for Michiganders to exercise their freedom to vote.”

SENATE ELECTIONS REPORTS MORE GOP BILLS: Four election process bills were reported Wednesday afternoon by the Senate Elections Committee following session, three of which were part of the 39-bill Senate Republican package.

An S-2 substitute to SB 277 was adopted that would allow for county clerks to remove dead voters from the Qualified Voter File.

County clerks would have to update the Qualified Voter File at least once a month, no later than the second business day of each month, to remove voter registration records for those who had died in the county. City and township clerks would be required to compare their lists to the county clerks’ and cancel the voter registrations of all dead voters.

The Department of State would have to post information on total flagged registration records on its website, broken down by county, city and township. The department would then have to send notifications to local clerks regarding each canceled voter registration in their jurisdiction.

Committee members voted 4-0 to report SB 277.

Under SB 302, voter registration applications would include a statement that the voter does not claim voting residence or the right to vote in another state or territory. An S-1 substitute would include language noting it is a felony to vote more than once or to attempt to vote more than once in an election in the same or in another precinct.

The bill was reported 3-0 with Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) abstaining.

The committee also adopted an S-1 substitute to and reported SB 311, which would allow for the electronic return of absentee ballots by military voters using U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Cards. A companion bill, SB 8, also was reporting the adoption of an S-1 substitute. The substitutes removed some duplicative language from SB 311 and changed the tie-bars for the bills.

Both bills were reported by votes of 3-0 with Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) abstaining.


Redistricting Commissioners Call Public Hearings Thus Far A Success

With just five more public hearings to go, members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Wednesday said they believe their statewide public outreach campaign has been a success, but there might be some lingering gaps in identifying a few key communities of interest.

The commission in early May began a listening tour in locations across Michigan as a way to gauge input from residents, businesses and organizations on their individual communities of interest – a metric that is high on the priority list for the commission when considers how it will redraw the state’s legislative and congressional maps within the next few months.

A total of 16 such meetings were scheduled, with the commission completing 11 of them as of Tuesday night in Detroit. A second Detroit public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at the downtown TCF Center.

As the slate of public hearings winds down, commission vice chair Rebecca Szetela – alongside commissioners MC Rothhorn and Doug Clark – participated in a press conference Wednesday to discuss how the process has been going, what they’ve learned thus far and what’s next for the commission as it wraps up public hearings.

Ms. Szetela said that overall, the meetings have been a great success, to which Mr. Rothhorn agreed. He added that he has been encouraged that the commission – and particularly in Detroit – has been greeted with strong questions, valuable feedback and gratitude for the work they’ve been doing.

In terms of what they’ve learned, Mr. Clark said that it has been a mixed bag but that a few pieces of feedback stood out.

“The Jackson and Kalamazoo area focused a lot on the rural/urban split relative to districts. You go up to Marquette and they were more concerned with keeping the counties and cities together, basically because they probably were all there,” Mr. Clark said. “And then in Midland, they were focused more on the manufacturing in Midland and Bay City and Saginaw staying in the same district. So, we get a little different approach each place we go, and I think that’s very helpful for us.”

That said, Ms. Szetela has noted at least one gap in community input: feedback from Indigenous residents.

“I was on a call on Monday, where the issue of First Nations and Native American people was raised. That as a group, we’re not having a lot of participation from (them). We have received at least one comment, that I’m aware of, from someone from one of the reservations in terms of their community,” Ms. Szetela said. “So, there was some concern expressed about that particular community not providing comments. And there were community leaders who were working on sort of engaging that population to try to give us the information that we’re going to need in terms of where that community of interest is and where they’re located.”

Mr. Clark also noted that there remains some concern about residents living in northern Lower Peninsula who don’t know enough about the commission’s work or how to give public comment.

Also on the call was Susan Smith, vice president of League of Women Voters Michigan, who said she knew of several groups the League has been working with that have yet to give public comment and was urging them to do so.

In the same vein, ICRC Executive Director Suann Hammersmith said she has not seen gaps in the strata of communities that have given public comment thus far, but certainly wanted more communities to attend the few meetings they have left to do so.

Edward Woods III, the commission’s communications and outreach director, also told reporters that there is a big push to collect input from members of the disability community – particularly in Macomb and Oakland counties – which has involved coaching them on how to give comment and collecting those comments once they’re ready to give input.

Mr. Woods said they should have access to that feedback from the disability community within the next few weeks.

As to whether the commission feels like it would be able to meet its stated goal of fielding a high number of unique comments during the public hearing phase, Mr. Woods reiterated that the commission would continue to take public comment and consider them well after its final hearing in Grand Rapids on July 1.

In fact, the commission would continue to take public comment up until the date it begins to draw maps, he said.

Map drawing will require more than the narrative feedback the commission has gained over the last few months, as delayed U.S. Census data will be the key driver in deciding where to draw the lines. The commission is expected to receive that data in September and has asked for a deadline extension currently pending before the Michigan Supreme Court (see separate story).

As the commission awaits the census data and the high court’s ruling, Ms. Hammersmith said that the body will press forward working with what it has.

Full commission discussions on the communities of interest piece and what stood out at the public hearings will begin as soon as Thursday’s meeting before it begins to take public comment, Ms. Hammersmith said – indicating that the work to identify those communities will be well underway before the body ends its public hearing tour.

“Yes, there will be some reflections about what the commissioners have learned along the way, but everything is being put in place so when the public hearings are over, the commissioners can really begin their work in earnest, thinking about the data sets for mapping, all the data that will go into the maps that they will create and the work that is ahead of them,” Ms. Hammersmith said.

Mr. Clark noted that they have been in direct and frequent contact with their vendors, including the commission’s map drawing consultant Election Data Services, which has given a presentation on the path forward and will continue to do so over the next few sessions.

EDS is also working with a commission subcommittee to develop a business process regarding how they will navigate the final steps, he added.

A meeting with all the vendors the commission has hired to discuss those next steps is scheduled for July 8.


May Unemployment Ticks Up To 5% Amid Modest Workforce Gain

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate for May hit 5 percent, up 0.1 percentage point from the month prior, according to data from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget released Wednesday.

Michigan employment levels increased a minimal amount – by 6,000 – while the number of unemployed individuals edged up by 3,000, resulting in a workforce gain of 9,000 in May.

“Michigan’s labor market remained stable during May,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The unemployment rate and payroll job counts both showed little change over the month.”

The United States’ jobless rate decreased by 0.3 percentage point between April and May to 5.8 percent – 0.8 percentage point above the Michigan rate. Over the year, the U.S. rate dropped by 7.5 percentage points, while Michigan’s rate moved down significantly by 15.8 percentage points. It was a year ago when unemployment was at its pandemic peak amid a wide-ranging shutdown order.

These annual rate reductions reflected the return to work of persons since the very high pandemic-related layoffs in May 2020.

Regarding trends for the month, Michigan’s May workforce level changed very little, edging up just 0.2 percent which was comparable to the national trend. Employment in the state advanced for the third consecutive month, moving up by 24,000 since February. Further, after four consecutive months of unemployment reductions, the statewide unemployment level increased in May by 1.3 percent.

Michigan’s overall employment, however, remains well below pre-pandemic levels with its total employment in May being 268,000 – 5.6 percent below February 2020 levels. The statewide jobless rate of 5 percent is also 1.3 percentage points higher than the jobless rate from February 2020.

In the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the seasonally adjusted rate also climbed up very marginally to 4.4 percent but has largely remained stable for the last four months. Over the last year, the Detroit MSA’s unemployment rate has plunged nearly 20 percentage points as workers returned to their jobs following the high level of pandemic-related layoffs in May 2020.

As for payroll levels, a monthly survey of employers noted that total nonfarm jobs remained virtually unchanged between April and May, edging down by 0.1 percent. The total amount of payroll jobs during May was 4.1 million, with minor job changes being observed in all major industry sectors during May.

On a percentage basis, the largest over-the-month job gain occurred in the state’s transportation equipment manufacturing sector, with employment advancing by 3.7 percent due to some worker recalls from short-term layoffs in the auto industry.

Broad industry sectors with the largest percent job gains over the year include leisure and hospitality – up by 59.8 percent – and manufacturing, which increased by 29.1 percent. Both, however, still are trending well below pre-pandemic levels.

Avoiding Mistakes in Running Retirement Plans; Butzel Long hosts free webinar on June 22

DETROIT, Mich. – To err is human. If the mistake involves administering a retirement plan, it also can be enormously costly and professionally embarrassing. As a result, Butzel Long is hosting a free webinar titled, “Avoiding Mistakes in Running a Retirement Plan,” from 12-1 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. To register online, visit https://www.butzel.com/events.

Seasoned Butzel Long Employee Benefit attorneys will share cringe-worthy mistakes they’ve seen retirement plan administrators and plan sponsors make – again and again – during the course of their decades spent helping clients with retirement plan compliance.

Featured speakers include:

• Lynn McGuire concentrates her practice in the area of employee benefits law. She regularly works with defined benefit pension plans, 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) and (f) retirement plans, insured and self-insured group health plans, cafeteria plans, health reimbursement arrangements, flexible spending accounts, and health savings accounts, to name a few.

• Thomas Shaevsky practices in the area of employee benefits. He advises large multinational corporations, physicians and other professional practices, hospitals, and other nonprofit employers, as well as individuals, on compliance and planning issues pertaining to a wide range of retirement, pension, and welfare plan issues.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting www.butzel.com or follow Butzel Long on Twitter: https://twitter.com/butzel_long