More than 100 Michiganders from around the state took part in Trans4M’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol last Tuesday, November 12 – almost triple the turnout from our April 2013 Legislative Day!
We were glad to host such a diverse and passionate group transportation advocates at this event. We had attendees from many cities, a variety of backgrounds and different areas of expertise. Michiganders attended from Northern Michigan, Detroit, metro-Detroit, Holland, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and many more cities all traveled to Lansing to meet with their elected officials. There were representatives from a variety of disability rights groups, environmental justice groups and faith based organizations in attendance. We were pleased to also welcome advocates from all age groups, such as a number of college students that attended and high school students from Programs to Educate all Cyclists.
We met at the office of a Trans4M core member, the Michigan Municipal League, for breakfast and a breakdown of the day by Tim Fischer, from the Michigan Environmental Council and John Lindenmayer, from the League of Michigan Bicyclists. Former state Representative and Trans4M advocate Mark Meadows also spoke, giving an overview on how to speak with legislators. Afterward, individuals split into small groups to attend meetings with elected officials.
Aside from a general overview about Trans4M and information about our current policy campaigns, legislative meetings focused on two main policy issues – the Vulnerable Roadway User Protection bills (HB 4792 and HB 5080) and Merit-Based Transportation Infrastructure.
The Vulnerable Roadway User bills were reported unanimously from the Criminal Justice House Committee. The bills would impose enhanced penalties on motorists who strike a bicyclist, pedestrian or wheelchair user while also committing a moving violation. The purpose of these bills is to create awareness among drivers to be aware of non-motorized transportation users, and that the state takes the protection of these vulnerable roadway users seriously. Overwhelmingly, during the legislative meetings, we found that senators and representatives indicated support for these bills. Many said they look forward to seeing them on the House and Senate floors.
The Merit-Based Performance Measures policy is draft legislation at this point, and is being championed by Representative Jim Townsend (D – Royal Oak). The legislation would help to ensure that our limited transportation dollars are used in the most efficient and strategic ways on projects. Examples of this criteria could ensure projects are consistent with neighborhood design, support local economic growth, foster Complete Streets principals and support other human elements of the transportation system. Rep. Townsend spoke on the issue at the day’s Legislative Lunch; he described the concept of the bill, discussed potential implementation strategies and answered questions from attendees.
In many discussions, we were pleased to hear that many legislators were aware of current news on the Regional Transit Authority and Complete Streets policies, and that they were in support of the progression of these two initiatives.
All told, we spoke with 71 representatives and senators from around the state. Our group educated these legislators about our campaigns and along with hearing how constituents feel on Michigan’s transportation future. Thank you to all of our participants, legislators and legislative staffers for taking part in productive meetings and working to move Michigan! We look forward to seeing the impacts of our discussions on our legislators and continuing these meaningful conversations in the near future.
Written by Kajal Ravani – Trans4M Fellow