‘Developing partnerships is important now more than ever’

Kuppa works on equal pay, protecting vulnerable adults online, stopping Asian-American hate

By: - October 29, 2021 9:31 am

Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), Oct. 27. 2021 | House Democrats photo

State Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), the Michigan Legislature’s first Indian immigrant and Hindu lawmaker, believes that partnerships are the way to create good public policy.  

Kuppa, who is serving a second term in the GOP-led state House, represents a swing seat in Troy and Clawson, two metro Detroit suburbs. She told the Advance on Wednesday that she is proud of bipartisan legislation that she has championed with Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland), House Bills 4159 and 4160, which are designed to help shield vulnerable adults from online predators.

The bills are aimed at protecting seniors and people with mental or physical impairments who are unable to protect themselves from abuse, neglect or exploitation, including people of all ages who live in care facilities. 

“I am happy to work with my colleague across the aisle to make the internet a safer place for our most vulnerable adults,” said Kuppa. “We tell parents to be aware of the threat of online predators because children are so vulnerable, but we also need to remember there is an entire adult population that is at risk of being equally exploited and are not currently protected by the law. We must make it abundantly clear that exploiting the vulnerable will not be tolerated, no matter the age of the victim.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a proclamation declaring October as Hindu Heritage Month, something for which Kuppa praised her. 

“As the first and only Hindu in the Michigan Legislature, I’m proud to share that @GovWhitmer has proclaimed October as #HinduHeritageMonth in the state of Michigan!,” Kuppa tweeted earlier this month.

Earlier this month, Bangladeshi American Hindus and supporters rallied at a Macomb County temple in support of minority Hindus in Bangladesh who have faced a wave of attacks against their temples and homes. Kuppa attended the rally.

Kuppa was born in Bhilai, India, in 1965. Her father, a university professor, moved the family to America when she was a young child. At age 15, she returned to India and then relocated to the U.S. during her early adult years. The mechanical engineer and business analyst has worked in the manufacturing, finance and information technology fields. 

In addition to legislative work, Kuppa serves on the Progressive Women’s Caucus, Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Caucus, Poverty and Homelessness Caucus and Oakland County Caucus. She also serves as historian of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and co-chairs both Asian-Pacific American Caucus.

She has been vocal about her concern regarding COVID-19-related hate directed toward Asian Americans, who represent 3.4% of the state’s overall population, according to U.S. Census data.

“As an Asian American immigrant, I have been advocating for people to build relationships across cultural and ethnic differences for decades,” Kuppa said in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. “Developing partnerships is important now more than ever.”

Kuppa also has championed legislation, House Bill 4270 and House Bill 5267, which would end the sales and use tax on menstrual products, known as the “tampon tax.”

“Eliminating these taxes would provide relief for the economically vulnerable, and they could then have the liberty to use their hard-earned dollars for other essentials like food and rent,” said Kuppa. 

HB 4270 passed in the House on Oct. 14 and is being considered by the Senate. HB 5267 also passed in the House and Senate.  

Rep. Padma Kuppa | House Democrats photo

And she backs legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap in Michigan.

“Every Michigander, regardless of who they are, deserves an equal shot at building a secure, successful future for themselves and their family,” she said in March. “When the hardworking people of our state don’t receive equal pay for equal work, it doesn’t just hurt them — it hurts our communities, economy and state as a whole. As we continue to fight the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t afford to leave any money on the table. With these bills, I’m hopeful that we will be one step closer to building a bright future free of pay disparities in all forms.”

Michigan House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) called a “passionate public servant and a tireless advocate.”

“As the founder of the Troy-area Interfaith Group and the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the state Legislature, the perspective Rep. Kuppa brings to our discussions is invaluable to ensuring the viewpoints and interests of every Michigander are represented at our Capitol,” said Lasinski. “Her experience as an engineer in the automotive industry provides her with a deep understanding of the important role automotive innovation plays in our economy and culture and has led to her recent work to usher in our electric vehicle revolution.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.