Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Notebook Page 6 July 2015

Session has finally come to the summer recess with both chambers passing their versions of a road funding solution for Michigan. Now the question is how the state will generate the revenue to cover the crumbling road situation. This is a good time for us at ACS CAN to take a step back and review the activities of the past six months.

This year started with the governor taking a strong stance on e-cigarette regulation by vetoing the legislature's attempt to classify those products separately from tobacco products Governor Snyder wrote in his letter to the legislature:

"Michigan should not enact new state law that is not consistent with a legally-mandated approach proposed by the U.S. FDA, which is to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. To do so will unnecessarily sow confusion, send a mixed health message to the public on a subject that is already complex and confusing to many and effectively conflict with the Sottera ruling issued in 2010 by the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia at the request of the e-cigarette industry itself."

The governor went on to say:

"I believe the preferred way to ensure that e-cigarettes are regulated in the interest of public health is to revise the existing definition of a tobacco product to make clear that e-cigarettes (and other novel nicotine-containing vapor products) are tobacco products subject to any restrictions generally applied to tobacco products under the Youth Tobacco Act, including the minimum age law."

The governor's leadership provided a strong victory against the tobacco industry's attempt to create their own harmful regulations. 

This year's budget cycle started at the end of January with Governor Snyder offering his recommendations for the state's coming fiscal year. His budget proposal appropriated $500,000 for cancer prevention and $1.6 million for tobacco prevention. This was the first time in a while that tobacco prevention has seen an increase in funding, and the cancer prevention appropriation was a win, since an executive order earlier in the year took away the $500,000 that was appropriated last year. 

This lead into our Day at the Capitol where our volunteers asked lawmakers for $1 million for both cancer prevention and tobacco cessation.  86 volunteers and staff from across the state made the trip to Lansing to speak with the Legislature We took time to highlight our Volunteer of the Year, Jennifer Varner from Freeland. Jennifer has worked tirelessly to further the mission of ACS CAN and the fight against cancer. It was only fitting that she would receive the award this year.  We also awarded Governor Rick Snyder our Distinguished Advocacy Award for 2015. His leadership and efforts surrounding the Healthy Michigan Plan (Medicaid Expansion), e-cigarettes and restoring cancer prevention funding made him worthy of the award.

All of the efforts from our Day at the Capitol were seen over the next several months as lawmakers tried to tie down the budget. The Senate was still trying to decide what to do with the prevention money as they had taken half, including all funding for cancer prevention, and moved it out of the budget. The House kept with the governor’s recommendations and left the money in the budget for prevention. Volunteers from around the state called and e-mailed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chair Senator Marleau to discuss why it was important to keep this funding in place. There were more than 200 contacts to Senator Marleau and other members of the conference committee. Those contacts ultimately kept prevention funding in place for this year, which was another huge victory for Michigan.

Now that the budget session is over for another eight months, we are now starting to focus on the other issues that are swirling around the Capitol. E-cigarette regulation, oral parity for chemotherapy drugs, a tobacco tax increase and legislation that would allow for medication synchronization will be on the forefront of our agenda for the fall. 

The grassroots side has been extremely active as well. Issues surrounding the one degree campaign and 21st Century Cures legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Fred Upton from St. Joseph have been creating a lot of buzz around the state.

Some of our ACSCAN Michigan ACT Leads teamed up with the Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium to raise awareness of the national One Degree campaign on June 21.  The event was one of dozens nationwide where minor league baseball teams are teaming up with ACS CAN and Fans for the Cure as part of the One Degree campaign to make cancer research funding a national priority.

Our ACT leads staffed tables during the baseball game to collect petitions and raise awareness about the One Degree campaign.  ACSCAN and the Lugnuts sent a joint press release prior to the game that resulted in a great television news segment featuring ACT Lead Jennifer Varner that ran in the Lansing area on WILX.  Additionally, this exposure led to ACT Lead Beth Trierweiler being interviewed on the television and radio program Current Sports with Al Martin the next day.

ACT Lead Beth Trierweiler and Heidi Varner were honored at the game by throwing out the first pitch. This was a great awareness event for ACSCAN in Michigan and lead to a good amount of social media interaction.

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is the lead sponsor on the 21st Century Cures Act so Michigan has been targeted for grassroots activity.  Recently, ACSCAN pushed to secure co-sponsors for the bill.  Michigan has secured 11 out of 14 members of the Michigan delegation as co-sponsors.  This included Congressman Mike Bishop, Dave Trott and John Moolenaar who were all targeted with a social media campaign by ACSCAN volunteers that successfully pushed them to sign onto the bill.