New fees on kayaks, canoes and paddleboards unnecessary
Paddle sports are one of the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the nation, and paddlers from Michigan and other states contribute more than $140 million to our state economy. We should be doing all we can to help encourage people to take up healthy outdoor activities and support Michigan’s tourism industry. I co-sponsored Senate Resolution 153 to oppose the recommendation by the Michigan State Waterways Commission that registration fees of up to $10 per year be implemented on all rigid-hulled kayaks, canoes and paddleboards eight feet or longer. These vessels are exempt from fees and registration in Michigan. Implementing these new registration fees would require legislative approval, and I will do all I can to stop these new fees that would negatively impact the growth of an activity that benefits our communities and state. Most funding from registration fees goes to sheriff patrols on inland lakes and to state boat launches designed for powerboats and trailers, while paddlers mostly use inland waterways and rivers. Increased safety patrols will provide little benefit for paddlers traversing rivers and scenic waterways. It has been said the fees would provide fully accessible ramps for kayaks at the launches. However, paddlers who use state launch sites already buy recreation passports to support the sites, and the commission and the Natural Resources Trust Fund board already have plenty of funds for the ramps. New fees are not necessary. I have long supported efforts to improve accessibility to our wonderful waterways and will continue to support existing resources to help more people enjoy our great outdoors. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.
Opportunity Zone” designations good news for Southwest Michigan
Last week, the U.S. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approved the State of Michigan’s application for Opportunity Zones, a number of which are right here in Southwest Michigan in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, and Van Buren counties. This is huge news for our local small businesses and middle-income families. Opportunities Zones were established in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which I worked closely on, and they identify distressed areas eligible for tax benefits aimed at spurring private investment, economic growth, and jobs. We’ve seen historic investment in our local businesses, tax cuts for the middle-class, and more money in worker paychecks as a result of tax reform. Now, we’re seeing a greater range of possibilities to build more businesses and create more local jobs for and by residents of Southwest Michigan and throughout our great state. These Opportunity Zones have great potential to entrepreneurs and businesses here in Southwest Michigan to take advantage of a wider array of economic development tools. You can find a list of the approved Opportunity Zones in Southwest Michigan on my website. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).
No-fault reform needed more than ever
I was shocked, as I am sure you were, to see the car insurance fees families must pay to fund the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) are again being raised in July. This is outrageous. It is yet another example of special interests driving the increase in the personal injury protection (PIP) aspect of no-fault auto insurance at the expense of hard-working Michiganders. When the MCCA was created in a 1978 law, it was funded by a $3-per-vehicle assessment. The funds raised by the MCCA are designated to provide medical care to people who suffer catastrophic injuries in vehicle accidents. Beginning in July, our mandated contribution to the fund will be $192 per car. That means we will pay an additional $22 – or 13 percent compared to the current rate – for a system that lacks choice and transparency. This contributes to the sad fact that Michigan families are paying the highest auto insurance premiums in the nation. The MCCA has amassed tens of billions of our dollars over the last 30 years and spends the money without robust oversight or reporting, this is unacceptable. Michigan families are forced to pay these fees, but have no say how their hard-earned money is being used. We have attempted to reform no-fault insurance. Last year I voted for reform to give drivers a choice on how much coverage they want to pay for. This would have resulted in significant rate reductions. Unfortunately, the House failed to approve this solution. Strong lobbying by hospitals, trial lawyers, and other interest groups prevented its passage. We need an answer, and I will work tirelessly, as your voice in Lansing, to either reform current law and reduce rates for auto insurance or support a different solution to relieve families of this unwarranted financial burden. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 1-800-577-6212 or at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.
Alcohol Awareness Month
Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, the Berrien County Health Department encourages all residents to prevent alcohol abuse in Berrien County by spreading awareness about the dangers of drinking too much. It is especially important for parents of teenagers to be aware of the dangers of teen alcohol use. This awareness time highlights the important role that parents can play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives. No other substance is more widely used and abused by America’s youth than alcohol, making alcoholism, and related problems, a major public health problem in the United States. Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous – both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction. Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking and as alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. They can simply sit back and hope their kids will ‘get through it,’ or they can take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and helping their kids do the same. Research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents to learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs than those who don’t have such conversations. The Berrien County Health Department encourages parents to help their teens foster healthy and responsible attitudes about alcohol, talk openly and honestly about the risks of alcohol use, and show teens that their opinions and decisions matter. To learn more about spreading awareness about alcohol abuse, visit the Berrien County Health Department website at www.bchdmi.org.