03-28-2019 Columns

Spring is here – and for many of us, that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. This year, in addition to tidying up your home, why not try brightening your financial environment? Some of the same moves you make to clean your surroundings may apply to your finances. Consider these suggestions: Get rid of clutter. When you go through your closets, attic, basement or other areas, you may find many items you no longer need. You might be able to sell some of these things or find other ways of disposing of them. And as you review your portfolio, you might also encounter “clutter” in the form of investments that may be redundant to others you own. If so, you might consider selling these investments and using the proceeds to purchase new ones, which may help you broaden your portfolio. Protect yourself from hazards. As you go about your spring cleaning, you may well encounter hazardous substances, such as cleaning agents, paints, batteries, pesticides and so on, which you don’t need anymore and which may pose potential health risks. You can reduce the possible danger from these materials by recycling or disposing of them in an environmentally safe way. Your overall financial situation has hazards, too, in the form of illness or injury preventing you from working, or, in your later years, the need for some type of long-term care, such as an extended stay in a nursing home. To protect yourself, you may need appropriate insurance, including disability and long-term care. Find new uses for existing possessions. When you are sprucing up your home, you may rediscover uses for things you already have. Who knows – perhaps that treadmill that’s been gathering dust in your garage could actually be employed again as part of your rededicated exercise regimen. And you might be able to get more mileage out of some of your existing investments, too. Suppose, for instance, that some of your stocks are paying you dividends, which you take as cash. If you don’t really need this income to support your lifestyle, you might consider reinvesting the dividends so that you can own more shares of the dividend-paying stocks. Over the long run, increased share ownership is a key to helping build your portfolio. Establish new habits. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be just about physical activities – it can also involve a new set of habits on your part. For example, instead of placing your unread magazines in an ever-expanding pile, try to read and recycle them quickly. You can also develop some positive habits as an investor, such as “paying yourself first” by regularly putting some money in an investment account each month, even before paying all your bills. You can also avoid some bad habits, such as overreacting to market downturns by selling investments to “cut your losses,” even though those same investments may still have strong growth potential and may still be suitable for your needs. Doing some spring cleaning can make you feel better about your living space today. And applying some of these techniques to your financial situation can help you gain a more positive outlook for tomorrow. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Democracy dies in darkness

There is currently a big debate in Lansing about how to lower our auto insurance rates, fix our roads, and protect our comeback. Michiganders have high standards for how their government should run and deserve to have easy access to records that are available to citizens of forty-eight other states. My colleagues and I are committed to opening up state government and making it accountable to you. It is very fitting the legislature voted on “sunshine laws” the week spring arrived. Michigan is one of just two states that still exempt its governor and the Legislature from open records laws. This bipartisan solution was unanimously approved by the House, and ends exemptions and increases transparency in state government. Sunlight is a great disinfectant, and this legislation will give Michiganders access to the records they deserve. The proposal will subject the governor and lieutenant governor to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and hold state representatives and senators to the same high standard by creating the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA). While LORA mirrors FOIA in many ways, there are exemptions for constituent inquiries to ensure that personal information is protected and kept private. Other types of communications – including those lawmakers have with state departments and lobbyists – would not be exempt. This legislation will affect my personal office, and I fully support it because people need to be able to hold their elected officials accountable. I understand that this office belongs to the hard-working people of Southwest Michigan, and I am always eager to hear your feedback. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov, or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also follow my Facebook page at @RepWendzel or visit my website at www.repwendzel.com.

Michigan’s fishing season begins April 1

This is the time of year when things start happening quickly as Mother Nature awakens from her winter slumber. Last week we celebrated the return of spring, and Monday, April 1 marks the opening day of the 2019 fishing season. Fishing is a fun family pastime for many in Southwest Michigan, and whether you enjoy spin casting on an inland lake, fly fishing at one of our state’s famed trout streams, or charter boat fishing on your favorite of the Great Lakes, Michigan has no shortage of world-class fishing opportunities. As you make plans for your fishing getaways, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has released this year’s updated Michigan Fishing Guide, an excellent resource filled with important information relevant to anglers. The fishing guide offers great details on the different license options, images of popular fish and materials on managed lakes and rivers in each county. The annual guide also covers any changes to state regulations, and this year is no exception, including updates on actions the state is taking to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in our waters. I encourage everyone to get to know all fishing rules before wading out. Check out www.michigan.gov/ fishing for the guide and more. You’ll also need to make sure you buy your fishing licenses. These can be purchased conveniently online 24 hours a day, seven days a week at www.mdnr-elicense.com. Anglers can also visit a local license retailer or DNR Customer Service Center to purchase a fishing license in person. Last year the DNR began offering an electronic license that allows individuals to display electronic copies of their fishing licenses on their smartphone — another convenience of our modern times. All 2019 fishing licenses are valid through March 31, 2020 and are good for all species. Whether it’s an old family tradition or something you’ve never done before, I encourage Southwest Michigan families and any of your out-of-state family and friends to grab a fishing rod and go experience some of the world’s best fishing, right here in the great state of Michigan. You can reach me at 517-373-6960.

Hearing & Vision

Recent studies have found that undiagnosed and untreated vision and hearing issues in children are associated with significantly worse early literacy scores and other learning challenges. Children with undiagnosed hearing or vision problems will often have trouble learning to read, write, or even struggle to follow instructions. To avoid any potential learning problems, parents of children ages 3-1/2 or older with children entering preschool or Kindergarten this fall are encouraged to attend free hearing and vision screenings throughout this spring and summer so that there will be enough time to receive treatment, if necessary, before school starts. Not only will the screening identify issues with a child’s hearing and vision, but Michigan State Law also requires that all children entering kindergarten must have their hearing and vision tested before the first day of school. “Because children have nothing to compare their hearing and vision to, they may have problems with their eyes or ears and never even know it,” says Dawn Mitchell, a Hearing and Vision Technician for the Berrien County Health Department. “This makes early detection of these problems so important.” No appointments are necessary to attend the free hearing and vision screenings. Additional information regarding the Michigan hearing and vision screening requirements and a full schedule of preschool/ kindergarten screening dates, are available at the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

Standing up for border security and the Constitution

It is important that we set the record straight. Over the years, I have been a strong supporter of funding for border security and the wall. I voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which is responsible for much of the existing border along our southern border. I have also voted four times in the past two years to provide the specific amount of wall funding requested by President Trump, including the 2018 funding bill which provided $1.6 billion for the wall and an immigration bill – supported by the President – that would have provided $25 billion for the wall.

But as I have said before, the Constitution is clear that spending originates in the Congress. All of us serving in public office took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. That is why earlier this week I voted to overturn the President’s veto of the resolution of disapproval on the emergency declaration.

Using an emergency declaration and taking money without Congress’ sign-off is an end-around and sets an unfortunate precedent. This was not the process envisioned as written in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers. I would encourage the House and Senate to continue working together to find an appropriate solution to secure our border within the bounds of the Constitution.

To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).