06-14-2018 Columns

Infrastructure upgrades for our area This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their updated Fiscal Year 2018 Work Plan that allocates more funds for recreational harbor dredging in Southwest Michigan. Dredging is critical to tourism, recreation, economic activity, and jobs and we need to dig deep to protect what is the lifeblood of Southwest Michigan. These recreational harbors typically do not receive federal funding, so this is a major win for our region. In April, I had reached out directly to Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) R.D. James asking to include critical operation and maintenance funding for the dredging of these specific harbors. Under the new Work Plan, Saugatuck Harbor/Kalamazoo River is to receive $375,000, South Haven Harbor is to receive $365,000, and New Buffalo Harbor is to receive $275,000. I’m pleased we’re moving forward, delivering real results, and keeping our tourism industry booming. This follows on the heels of last week’s announcement that the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport a $4,650,000 grant to rehabilitate the runway. This grant is welcome news for people and businesses here in Southwest Michigan. As one who has traveled through the Kalamazoo airport countless times – it really does serve as a springboard for critical investments in local jobs and economic growth. We must continue working together to ensure our roads, bridges, water infrastructure, and airfields are meeting the needs of today. 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).

Cleaning-up outdated laws You deserve an efficient and effective state government. While that often means working on new ideas to address problems, we also need to make sure that laws already on the books are relevant and useful. Leaving outdated, unused, or inefficient laws on the books makes the law harder to understand and hinders our efforts to increase the effectiveness of state government. That’s why this spring I joined a large bipartisan group of my colleagues in both the state House and Senate in working to remove a number of these outdated and inefficient laws from Michigan statute. Some of the unneeded laws we removed included: References to tuberculosis sanitariums, which are an outdated form of treating tuberculosis that is no longer used. References to youth conservation camps previously used for correctional operations. These camps are no longer operational. Outdated references to the 1947 interstate boundary compact with Minnesota and Wisconsin to map state lines around Lake Superior. All state boundaries have long been established. Requirements for duplicative reports from various state departments. Eliminating this unnecessary extra work will allow state employees to spend less time compiling unneeded reports and more time on delivering services. My particular piece of legislation in this package is House Bill (HB) 5763, which would remove an outdated section of the Michigan Penal Code. HB 5763 removes a 1931 law that references the criminal sentencing guidelines for committing a false protest. Individuals who injure, deceive, or defraud someone today would be charged with fraud rather than making a false protest, making this almost 90-year-old law unnecessary. Removing this obsolete law from the books – as well as others – will help make state government more efficient. HB 5763 along with other bills in this package continues to move through the legislative process, and will hopefully be approved soon. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me at 1-800-577-6212 or via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov.

Corrections, Judiciary budgets focus on better outcomes As Senate chairman of the Judiciary and Department of Corrections (DOC) budgets, I am proud that both budgets are focused on protecting the public, improving efficiency, reinvesting in job training and continuing support for the state’s game-changing criminal justice reforms. The fact that our prison population fell below 40,000 last year for the first time since 1993 is a great illustration of the positive impact of our reforms. The fiscal year 2019 DOC budget is $18 million less than the governor’s recommendation and includes $2 million for a new enhanced food technology program with assistance from the Michigan Restaurant Association to help train prisoners for jobs in the food service industry. This innovative program will give us an opportunity to provide valuable on-the-job skills to low-risk prisoners to help them meet workforce needs when they re-enter society. The Judiciary 2019 budget would fund needed technology upgrades, increase funding for problem-solving courts and maintain funding for the Swift and Sure Sanctioning Program. We will continue to provide our courts with the resources they need to provide justice, protect the public, and invest in lower-cost alternatives like community dispute resolution centers. Boosting support for specialty courts will also help reduce crime and help offenders address underlying issues, like mental health and drug and alcohol abuse. With these budgets, we were able to save taxpayer dollars and continue to invest in effective, evidence-based programs that are working to achieve better outcomes in our communities and those in the justice system, which is good news for everyone. 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.

Tick bite prevention As the weather gets warmer, the tick population activity in Berrien County begins to increase. As residents spend more time outside, the Berrien County Health Department would like to remind people, especially those spending time outdoors and children at summer or day-camps, to protect themselves from tick-borne illnesses by taking a few precautionary steps. Ticks can carry illnesses such as Lyme disease, the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the United States. In Michigan, 220 cases were reported in 2016 with the most exposures occurring in the Upper Peninsula and along Michigan’s western shoreline, including Berrien County. The number of Lyme disease cases has slowly increased over the years in Michigan. Ticks are typically found in wooded or brushy areas with tall grass and leaf litter. Prompt recognition and treatment is essential to prevent serious illness and death. Residents can prevent tick bites by doing the following: Avoid tick-infested areas; use insect repellent. Spray repellent containing DEET or Permethrin on clothes and on exposed skin; take a bath or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you; perform daily tick checks. Always check for ticks after being outdoors, even in your own yard. For more information about diseases carried by ticks, please visit www.bchdmi.org or www.cdc.gov/ ticks.