Kelly Breen’s top priority is protecting Michigan students. Between learning gaps caused by COVID-19 and gun violence in schools, she knows they need more support.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Michigan will be voting on a number of candidates —including for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and Michigan Supreme Court, plus three important statewide proposals about term limits, voting rights and reproductive freedom.
Meet Rep. Kelly Breen, a Democrat running to represent Michigan’s new 21st House District, which includes portions of Northville and Novi in Oakland County. Breen is currently the representative for Novi, serving her first term in the state Legislature.
Breen grew up in the area—going from high school soccer player, to local lawyer, to city councilperson. She earned her law degree from Wayne State University and has practiced for Bernstein & Bernstein, among other firms, primarily in the field of insurance law.
She’s running a campaign based on kitchen-table issues like education, family, and safety to represent 94,000 voters in much of her old district, albeit with a new shape and number.
3 Things to Know About Kelly Breen
- She wants to keep schools safe.
Breen says her most important job is that of a working mom. And even when she’s in Lansing, her kids’ safety is her No. 1 priority.
These past few years have been a lot for children throughout Michigan, with many students falling behind in school while they were out of the classroom because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breen said. That’s why she’s focused on ramping up funding for mental health in Michigan schools.
“I worry about my kids all the time,” she told The ‘Gander. “I worry about them mentally. I worry about them physically. And we’re fortunate to be in the Novi Community School District where we have a lot of resources. Most kids don’t have that.”
Breen also wants to take more steps to prevent school shootings, and serves on the newly formed Bipartisan House Task Force for School Safety.
She’s proud of a recent set of recommendations drafted by the task force—including a proposed investment of more than $100 million in mental health to help cover staff, clinics, and other services for students. So far, these are only still recommendations that have yet to receive a vote in the Legislature—though Breen is hopeful they could come to fruition with enough bipartisan support.
But a sense of urgency is also needed, Breen said.
In the state Legislature, Republican leadership has refused to hear bills on gun control, despite promising to do so after the Oxford High School shooting. Only three seats need to shift blue to drive momentum on that front, and Breen is optimistic for change in November.
“The fact that we’ve been able to accomplish anything in this charged political environment is an accomplishment of itself, but I want to continue that work,” she said. “We’ve dropped a package of bills. I’m hopeful they’ll all get through, but if they don’t, we’ll go for it a second time.”
- She wants to give parents relief.
Many parts of Michigan are known as child care deserts, where child care facilities are far and few between or prohibitively expensive. Even parts of Oakland County, which is much wealthier than the state on average, fit the designation.
Breen said it’s not uncommon for parents to pay up to $25,000 a year for childcare for their kids—which isn’t much higher than the industry average, according to a recent study. That can also be impossible for some families. When parents are forced to stay home with kids instead of going to work, it creates societal implications beyond the family unit, cutting the labor force and leaving unfilled jobs, Breen said.
As a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Care, Green introduced a bill to establish a network of child care providers, and co-sponsored another bill to support the creation of more facilities across Michigan with grant funding. With broad, bipartisan support, those became law over the summer.
“There is a critical day care shortage, especially for families with infants or toddlers. Home providers offer the same excellent care as a regular day care center but with fewer staff members,” Breen said.
- She wants to help car crash survivors.
After the rollback of long-term catastrophic care auto policies in Michigan, thousands of residents who suffered life-altering car crashes lost the health care coverage they had received for years through their auto insurance policies—leaving them to struggle alone with thousands of dollars in medical bills, or be forced to forgo crucial medical treatments altogether.
Breen has been one of the loudest voices in Lansing for the more than 18,000 people had who received care at home after car accidents. When the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association rolled back insurers’ funding to those at-home providers, they faced the decision to shut down or scale back aid.
With less care, some patients had to go to a hospital. Others died.
“It’s a small niche issue for some people, but I happen to have practiced in that area, so I know it really well,” Breen said.
As a member of the House Insurance Committee, Breen thinks those who suffered catastrophic car crashes before the insurance law was altered in 2019 should receive the same level of coverage. Last month, the courts took her side—ruling that the payments must be applied retroactively.
Breen’s office is now working to make sure those providers follow through.