In the 102nd district of the Michigan House of Representatives, Republican Michele Hoitenga faces challenger Democrat Amanda Siggins. Hoitenga, of Manton, was first elected in 2016 and has held the seat since 2017. Siggins, of Cadillac, is challenging Hoitenga for the seat. The Cadillac News asked the candidates to answer ten questions inspired by our readers. There was a 100-word limit for their responses.

Michele Hoitenga, Republican, Manton

1. Describe your background and reason for running for state rep.

As current State Representative, I am humbly committed to serve the people of our district for my final term in the House. Since elected in 2016, I have never missed a vote and have proven myself an effective legislator. I have no intention of letting up. We are at a critical juncture where policymaking experience and leadership matter more than ever in this respective position. With rampant media bias and censorship, I will continue being a voice who speaks truth with integrity and exposes ineptness and corruption within state politics, while striving for unity and common ground whenever possible.

2. Readers tell us they are concerned about student loans. What is your plan for making post-secondary education affordable in Michigan?

Michigan’s 2019-20 budget appropriated $1.5 BILLION for universities and $400 Million for community colleges. In addition to state funding, colleges receive tuition, federal funding, and foundation donations. It is the responsibility of the college to operate within their budgets to keep tuitions down. Students can receive financial aid, scholarships, and grants. Also, Michigan passed the Postsecondary Enrollment Act that allows students to earn paid college credits while enrolled in high school. However, skilled trades jobs are in high demand and might be more attainable and profitable for many students. We have some of the best vocational schools in the state.

3. COVID-19 has drawn into focus some disparities in the education system, particularly lack of access to broadband. What are your legislative goals for Michigan's kids?

As Chairwoman of the Communications and Technology Committee, I have diligently worked on legislation to expand broadband in Michigan. COVID-19 has exposed the gaping digital divide. While several of my bills have been signed into law, I have a final bill package that is moving swiftly through the legislature. Broadband providers have traditionally used federal grant tax dollars to overbuild existing networks, leaving rural areas of Michigan unconnected. My bill mandates those tax dollars be used to expand broadband in unserved areas through a state grant program. For more information, these bills (HR283 and HB4288) can be viewed at: http:/www.legislature.mi.gov

4. Do you believe Michiganders need encouragement to return to work following the pandemic?

First, God bless those who never stopped working. They are to be commended. At this juncture, healthy people must go back to work. Period. It may not be as simple for some individuals because of vulnerable members in a home who should be shielded from COVID-19, but healthy people must work. Responsible citizenry should acknowledge a government ‘back-to-work stimulus’ will only be debt incurred on the backs of our grandchildren, and theirs. Employers are in the fight for their lives and need folks to show up to work or there will eventually be no jobs to go back to.

5. What are your goals for Medicaid in Michigan?

Michigan Medicaid expansion was done under Governor Snyder. The program continues; however, it is unknown what future federal funding will be given to continue the expanded programs. With the uncertain future this is not a question I can easily answer at this time. However, I am aware of several bills in the legislature that would expand Medicaid benefits for certain mental health services as well as addictions recovery that are not currently covered. I fully support those bills.

6. Readers want to know whether it is possible to add water bottles and non-carbonated drinks to the state's bottle return program?

Michigan is one of 10 states who offer the bottle return program, but there is great cost dealing with beverage container waste. The additional costs of processing water bottles would be absorbed by government or distributors and passed on to the beverage consumers. Water is a necessity for good health so I am hesitant to support policies that will undoubtedly increase the cost of water to the consumer. Small businesses have a huge task dealing with these unsanitary returnables for minimal benefit. I am not convinced right now is the time to add more costly pressures on consumers and businesses.

7. What are your environmental priorities?

Michiganders are blessed to live in the Great Lakes State. Michigan encompasses 84% of North America's surface freshwater and 21% of the world's supply of surface freshwater. It must be protected. Removing the aging Line 5 tunnel from the Great Lakes and replacing it with a new sophisticated tunnel 100 feet beneath the lakebed should be a priority for everyone. Line 5 supplies 65% of propane in the U.P. and 55% of Michigan's statewide propane needs - in addition to fueling vehicles and propelling Michigan industry. A new innovative tunnel is essential to protect our precious waters.

8. One reader asked, "What will you do to help prevent incidents of police overusing their powers?"

Michigan recently passed legislation which provides de-escalation and anti-bias training in addition to mental health services for police. These additional trainings and support should be beneficial for preventing the overuse of powers. Police union reforms could be more crucial because that deals directly with the ability to remove bad officers. However, there are bad actors in every single profession. I hold the utmost respect for law enforcement, and I do not support the preposterous concept of defunding police departments. Police are human just like us, except they face immense scrutiny, pressures, and dangerous situations inconceivable to most citizens.

9. On which issue or issues do you agree with the opposing party?

Many may be shocked to know the majority of votes taken in the legislature are bipartisan. One example, the House and Senate unanimously voted to keep COVID-19 patients out of nursing homes to lessen exposure to non-infected residents. Legislators from both parties gave passionate speeches on the Capitol floor about ending this deadly practice. Unfortunately, politics slithered into the equation and the governor vetoed the bill. I believe both parties want our communities and families to thrive, we just occasionally disagree on the ideology of achieving these outcomes.

10. Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

No.

Amanda Siggins, Democrat, Cadillac

1. Describe your background and reason for running for state rep.

I'm a mom, a business owner, and a proud member of this community.

I'm running to support our schools, save our environment, and help businesses thrive. I want to restore faith in government by making sure all voices are heard. I'm running because, as a small business owner, I know the struggles and I will fight for you. I'm running because our healthcare system needs work and no one seems to be fighting for it. I'm running because I have lived in the 102nd my whole life and I want our community to thrive and be heard.

2. Readers tell us they are concerned about student loans. What is your plan for making post-secondary education affordable in Michigan?

The first public elementary school began In 1837. Public high schools emerged between 1910 and 1940. At that time a high school diploma was a ticket to the middle class. Today it’s a ticket to a minimum wage job that forces folks to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

Just as education evolved to meet the needs of society a century ago I believe that it’s time to expand once more adding free community college to public education. This can be paid for by adding tax from marijuana sales to the school budget along with existing sources.

3. COVID-19 has drawn into focus some disparities in the education system, particularly lack of access to broadband. What are your legislative goals for Michigan's kids?

Access to broadband is essential in the time of COVID and beyond for everybody including our rural neighbors.

As a parent of school-age children attending CAPS virtually I see firsthand the frustrations that poor broadband creates. Our current legislators have failed our communities in this area. Right now the ACPBC (The American Connection Project) is working to bridge the digital divide bringing broadband to rural communities like ours. When elected I will work with organizations like this to bring affordable access to Michigan communities. Like electricity, broadband needs to be seen as a public utility accessible to all.

4. Do you believe Michiganders need encouragement to return to work following the pandemic?

I don’t believe Michiganders need to be encouraged to return to work. I believe that Michiganders need to be enabled to return to jobs by providing a safe environment that pays them enough to make ends meet.

5. What are your goals for Medicaid in Michigan?

I believe that healthcare is a human right. I believe that, like every other developed country on Earth, we have a responsibility to take care of our citizens especially our elders and those at risk.

COVID has exposed the flaws in employment-based health insurance as millions of Americans lost their healthcare with their jobs. When our neighbors have to consider financial ruin when faced with illness in the time of a global pandemic it puts the whole community at risk. I believe in the core democratic value of the common good. I believe everyone needs access to healthcare.

6. Readers want to know whether it is possible to add water bottles and non-carbonated drinks to the state's bottle return program?

It is not only possible, but it is a really good idea. Studies show that the recycling rate is vastly greater in states with container deposit laws than those without. Expanding the bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages will further reduce roadside litter and keep those millions of plastic containers out of landfills. Increased beverage bottle deposits are good for Michigan’s revenue as well as our beautiful state’s environment.

7. What are your environmental priorities?

-Restoring protections to our parks and forests

-Creating jobs in renewable energy and moving away from fossil fuels

-Protecting the Great Lakes including the shutting down of pipeline 5

-Cleaning Brownfields and Restoring desolate properties as opposed to the deforestation to create new ones

-Increasing recycling rates

-Protecting our water from contamination and the bottling of it by corporations for profit

8. One reader asked, "What will you do to help prevent incidents of police overusing their powers?"

I think that all police departments should be held to the highest standards through professional certification that requires continued training including cultural sensitivity, mental health awareness, de-escalation, and community-based 21st century policing.

I support our police officers and believe that with the right resources we can work together to make our community a better and safer place for everyone.

9. On which issue or issues do you agree with the opposing party?

I agree on border patrol for the purpose of decreasing terrorism. I agree on the second amendment with responsible ownership and safety precautions. I support our troops, veterans, police, and first responders and believe that we have a responsibility to take care of them as they do for us. I believe that our senior citizens and children should be a priority and that family values are essential to our success as a country.

I believe that America is the greatest nation and that we have the potential to be the leading economy in the world.

10. Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

When I was 16 I had to move out of a dysfunctional home and fully support myself. I worked two jobs, attended night school, and attended classes at Baker College. I needed my vehicle to get to work and to school. I found myself unable to pay rent and pay to keep my vehicle registration and insurance current. At 16 I was convicted of this misdemeanor as a minor.

Ever since I’ve spent my life doing the right thing in order to be a role for my children, and to provide them the childhood I never had.

Cadillac News

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