House leadership does a 180 in the face of public pressure for immediate action
By a vote of 71-37, the Michigan House voted in favor of HB 5294, a $165 million supplemental appropriation for the Flint Water Crisis. The move comes after months of work by Michigan United and other member organizations in the Flint Rising coalition to make sure lawmakers acted before this session came to a close.
“After 2 years of national pressure, the legislature is finally taking responsibility and sending some real long-term help to the people of Flint. This is a big step in the right direction, though only a down-payment on the years of support that the children and families of Flint will need,” said Quincy Murphy, Flint resident and Michigan United organizer.
Even putting the bill up for a vote was a complete reversal for the house leadership. Just last month during their annual Capitol Day trip, Michigan United members from Flint were told in a meeting with House Speaker, Kevin Cotter’s office that there was no interest in funding the recovery from the water crisis this fiscal year, choosing instead to put it off until October. After that meeting though, the group formed a bucket brigade, passing safe water out of the capitol building to a waiting barrel outside and symbolically taking it back to Flint. Two days later, coalition partners dropped off petitions from constituents asking their lawmakers to act quickly. Cotter then said the house wouldn’t take up the senate bill, but they would do “something”.
But without any sign of what “something” might be, organizers kept up the pressure. They directed phone calls into the offices of house leadership, urging them to take action quickly. They showed up at their public events, like Rep. Michael McCready’s coffee hour in West Bloomfield, to push for the the supplemental funding and demonstrate public support for it. Ultimately, the lawmakers were forced to see that if they did nothing before the recess, it was going to be a long, hot summer.
“I think it’s important to realize that as significant as this win is, this is just the beginning.” Murphy said. “$165 million dollars is progress , but pales in comparison to the scope of the problem in Flint. We’re going to follow this money and make sure it gets to the people who need it this summer then we’re going to keep pushing the Snyder administration to fix what they broke.”
A number of groups have worked together on this issue, including the Flint Concerned Pastors, the Water Warriors, Democracy Defense League, Michigan Faith in Action and Progress Michigan.