- What helps to center me is focusing on my service to the people of Troy and Clawson in Michigan.
Women’s History Month has served as a reminder that while politics requires a thick skin, the power is rooted in the people. We’ve seen Asian American women being left behind and blamed for their own deaths, and continued misogyny directed at the women elected to Michigan’s Executive branch. As one of two Asian American women elected to Michigan’s legislature, I’ve had to dig deep and rely on my inner shakti, to face challenges big and small. What helps to center me is focusing on my service to the people of Troy and Clawson.
The first legislation I championed was to close a loophole in the law to protect vulnerable adults — an issue first brought forward by constituents. I introduced HB 4076 last term with bipartisan support, and in this 101st session of the Michigan Legislature, it is a pair of bipartisan bills, HB 4159 and 4160. It would protect young people like Allie, who has Down Syndrome, from online sexual predators. Testimony was heard in Committee this month, helping move this idea closer to becoming a law.
But it isn’t just Justice for Allie that started out as an idea in the district…a constituent recently requested that I support closing another loophole, to ban the use of bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. My legislative team and I looked into the issue and discovered that no one has introduced such legislation yet. Michigan could take the first step to do something that the Environmental Protection Agency has not done at the federal level — something that countries around the world have done. My Policy Director and I are working with the Environmental Council to see how we can help farmers in our state and also protect our environment.
The sustainable agricultural practices they recommend include banning these harmful pesticides that are killing our precious pollinators. First, we must work for consensus from all the stakeholders before we introduce a bill or a bill package. There is still no guarantee that any will make it into law, even if it has the support of someone from the Republican majority which sets our legislative agenda and determines which bills get a hearing. Hundreds of bills are introduced in state legislatures and the U.S. Congress, but very few actually make it into law — not only does a bill have to pass through one or more committees, it must do so in both chambers of the legislature before being presented to the Chief Executive. In fact, just 2-4% of bills introduced by Congress actually made it into law in the last several sessions.
Because the legislative process and the political antics in Lansing can often be time consuming and sometimes draining, coming home to the district is always uplifting. Spending time with neighbors in Clawson and Troy is a great reminder of why I serve, who I serve, and what our shared values are. I have heard time and again from my mother that I can’t control other people’s actions, I can only control my reactions. My longtime friend and fellow Asian American female legislator State Senator Stephanie Chang and I discovered that we share this cultural background — where we are encouraged to stay quiet, to practice a philosophy of acceptance. Fortunately, helping others is also ingrained in us — and serves as our call to action and to activism. Instead of speaking about the challenges we face, helping others find their voice, encouraging them to become engaged and tell their story, is a way to find your own power. It’s something that I honed while serving on numerous boards and commissions in Troy and beyond.
A couple of Troy City Council members reached out after the murders in Atlanta, wanting to find ways to mitigate the anti-Asian bias and hate swirling around us. Troy has the highest concentrations of immigrants of any city in Michigan and a large Asian American population, so I was ready to roll up my sleeves and take action. Last year Senator Chang and I held a town hall on hate crimes targeting the APA community with the Assistant Attorney General, and learned that according to the FBI, hate crimes and bias incidents against APA community are massively underreported. So, we are working together, starting to organize, to have monthly forums, and create safe spaces where people can share their stories.
My last Saturday of the month included serving as a panelist at an American Society of Engineers of Indian-origin (ASEI) event, centered on social entrepreneurship and speaking at a Stop Asian Hate Rally in Detroit. My words to both audiences — whether we are driven to tackle socio-economic issues and find solutions to global problems, or stop racism and address bias in our state — we must start where we are rooted, with our local community.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at ElectPadmaKuppa.com or Kuppa.housedems.com.