- I will start the new year and a new term committed to goals that lead people to public office: to serve others, especially those in need, and to help the community thrive.
I went to Lansing to improve how we fund our public schools, and discovered an impasse: many of my colleagues across the aisle are philosophically opposed to public education — perhaps motivated by their donors’ agenda.
Early on, I realized the difficulty of not being in the majority — and of being a minority within the minority: the first Democrat to hold a historically Republican seat. My first bill HB 4076, aka Justice for Allie, wasn’t enacted into law, while my colleagues on both sides of the aisle had legislative wins. This bill was initially brought forward by my Republican predecessor, as a result of the advocacy efforts of a family whose 19-year-old daughter with Down’s Syndrome was the victim of a sexual predator. The bill aspires to close a loophole in the law, to protect vulnerable adults across the state. The first committee it was referred to passed it unanimously, with strong bipartisan support from many stakeholders, including the all-powerful Catholic Conference. But since June 2019, it never advanced from the Judiciary Committee: where is the justice in that?
In the 2018 campaign, we knocked 37,000 doors to hear voters’ concerns; in 2019, we knocked 15,000 doors and held nearly 40 events — coffee hours, lunch and learns, town halls. I attended even more, to ensure constituents knew what I was doing as their state representative, and to continue to work on the issues important to them. In 2020, COVID put a stop to all that — my campaign team and I agreed: we never want to campaign in a pandemic again. COVID also took my colleague, the late Rep. Isaac Robinson.
The pandemic and the election resulted in partisan divides and drama that put Lansing in the national spotlight: armed protests in our beautiful Capitol, the kidnapping plot targeting our Governor, the claims of fraud in our elections. The supplemental budget bill we finally passed on our last day of session won’t do enough to help Michiganders through the pending economic crisis, nor will the latest stimulus that was passed in D.C.
But I already have plans on what I can do to improve the lives of constituents and make my second term better.
I will continue to serve my constituents. My legislative team has helped answer thousands of constituent calls and emails, leading to a deep understanding of their needs and circumstances that will better shape our policy agenda and improve their lives. I continue to enhance our internship program. My Policy Director for my second term started out as an intern 18 months ago, then became Director of Constituent Services, and will soon oversee our first policy fellow, working with Convergence on Campus.
The last resolution I introduced called for a national strategy to help small business and local governments. I will continue to fight for local revenue and local control and draw attention to the needs of the “mom and pop shops” on Main Street. I will continue to nurture relationships with non-partisan organizations like Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Municipal League and the Small Business Association of Michigan.
The Prescription Drug Task Force I serve on will provide a report by year end, and set an agenda with action items, to provide the relief that so many constituents have been asking for: to lower the cost of prescription medicines. I await my committee assignments — hoping to stay on the Energy Committee so I can continue to play a role in establishing the EV infrastructure that our state needs, implementing the Governor’s MI Healthy Climate Plan to make Michigan carbon neutral by 2050, and partner with the Mobility Task Force to move our automotive landscape forward. I was lured to Michigan more than 20 years ago by the dream of working at Chrysler (which I fulfilled) and appreciate how Michigan’s automotive industry once paved a pathway to the middle class. This time let’s do it by creating green economy jobs.
I’m leaning into my interfaith experience, volunteering to co-chair the House Breakfast Group, an informal legislators’ group that gets together monthly to hear each other’s personal journeys to public service. Interreligious scholar Leonard Swidler said the key to inter-ideological understanding is to really listen, and I believe it’s just as critical in the political arena as in religious spaces.
While I didn’t seek to make politics my profession or pursue political science or public policy academically, I will start the new year and a new term committed to goals that lead people to public office: to serve others, especially those in need, and to help the community thrive.
Padma Kuppa is Democratic State Representative for Michigan’s 41st House District and has been just re-elected for a second term. A mother, an engineer from NIT Warangal, and an automotive and IT professional for over 2 decades, and a civic and interfaith leader for years, she is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan state legislature. You can reach her at email@example.com. Learn more at ElectPadmaKuppa.com or Kuppa.housedems.com.