07-20-2017 Columns

Take charge of your sexual health

Taking care of your sexual health matters! It’s just as important as keeping the rest of your body and mind healthy.

The Berrien County Health Department’s Sexual Health Clinic is here to help you plan for a healthy future. The clinic offers accessible, non-judgmental, and supportive services to women, men, and teens regardless of income, insurance status, background, or sexuality. Services are low/no-cost, are 100% confidential, and include birth control, STD testing, and annual wellness exams and testing for men and women.

Services available: Recommended annual wellness exams (pap smears, pelvic exams, breast exams, and testicular exams); STD testing and treatment; Rapid HIV testing and counseling; Pregnancy testing; Birth control methods including the pill, the patch, Depo-provera shot, and emergency contraception; Free condoms; Immunizations, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for men and women; Education and support to help you plan for a healthy future and take control of your sexual health.

Cost: Sexual Health clinical services are provided at little-to-no cost. Most major insurance plans are accepted, including most Medicaid plans. Costs are based on a sliding-fee scale determined according to your income and no one is turned away for inability to pay.

Locations & Appointments: Sexual Health Clinic services are available at all Berrien County Health Department locations (Benton Harbor, Niles, and Three Oaks) by appointment only. To make an appointment for any location or for more information, please call (269) 926-7121.

More information about the Sexual Health Clinic can be found at www.bchdmi.org.

Match short- and long-term goals with the right investments

Not all investments are created equal. Some are better suited for short-term goals while others can help you build resources for objectives far in the future. As an investor, then, one of your biggest challenges will be to match your short- and long-term goals with the appropriate investment vehicles. How should you proceed? For starters, identify your short- and long-term goals. Your shorter-term goals will change throughout your life. When you are starting out in your career, for example, you might aspire to purchase a home in the next three to five years. Later on, though, your biggest short-term objective might be to save enough money for a long tour of Europe – without racking up credit card debt.

As for long-term goals, your biggest one likely will be to enjoy a comfortable retirement. But you may well have other long-term plans, too, such as sending your kids to college in 10 or 15 years.

After you have a clear sense of your short- and long-term goals, you can choose the right investments to help you meet them. Let’s start with the shorter ones. When you’re saving for a down payment on a home or for an expensive European vacation, you want to make sure that a certain amount of money will be available to you at a certain time. Consequently, you may want to avoid stocks or stock-based vehicles, which will constantly fluctuate in price, because you don’t want the value of your investment to be down at the moment you need the money. Instead, for short-term goals, you may want to consider a fixed-income vehicle, such as a bond, which is designed to provide regular interest payments and return your full principal upon the bond’s maturity (providing the issuer doesn’t default, which, with investment-grade bonds, is generally unlikely).

For longer-term goals, such as college for your kids and a comfortable retirement for yourself, it’s a different story. To achieve these goals – and especially for retirement – you generally need to accumulate as much as you can. As a result, you need investments with growth potential, which means you will need to consider stocks and stock-based instruments. As mentioned above, stocks will always fluctuate in value, and they may be worth more or less than your original investment when sold. However, building a portfolio with an investment mix that’s appropriate for your risk tolerance, and that contains a reasonable amount of growth-oriented vehicles, can potentially help you overcome short-term volatility and continue making progress toward your long-term goals.

Plus, you have some attractive long-term options available. With a 529 college savings plan, you can save for college and possibly achieve tax benefits, too. And by contributing regularly to your IRA and 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan, you can defer taxes while spreading your dollars among a wide range of investments. But there’s one thing all long-term investments have in common: You need patience and discipline to stick with them.

So, there you have some ideas on short- and long-term investing. Keeping this distinction in mind when you invest can help boost your confidence that you’re making appropriate moves for all your goals.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Good Jobs for Michigan

Michigan has bounced back since the Great Recession, but not completely. Even with the work Governor Snyder and previous legislatures have done to make Michigan a more attractive state for business, other states have fully returned to peak employment, but Michigan has not.

So why have other states outpaced us in this recovery? One answer is the gap that exists due to the lack of business attraction incentives for large projects.

Just last week, the Legislature passed a package of bills that seek to address this very issue. I am proud to have supported this legislation, which will create the ‘Good Jobs for Michigan’ performance-based incentive program designed to attract new businesses to our state.

Michigan needed another tool in its toolbox to compete with other states – including Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin – for big economic development projects. As your State Representative, I have made it a top priority to look for ways to keep Michigan competitive with neighboring states. After all, Berrien County resides on the border, so we often see the effects of losing those big businesses up close.

This legislation does not cost Michigan one cent of existing tax revenue. Rather, a portion of new revenue would be awarded only to large-scale projects that create at least 250 jobs with above-average pay.

Additionally, this legislation has numerous safeguards and the incentives are performance based. For example, the total number of projects approved is limited to 15 per year, and if the new business fails to meet any of the standards that come with this program, such as creating the promised jobs within a specified timeframe, they will no longer receive the incentive.

I firmly believe this program will build upon Michigan’s success in creating a positive business environment and will boost opportunities for Michigan workers.

Serving the people of Berrien County is very important to me, and I encourage residents to contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-1403, emailing KimLaSata@House.mi.gov or visiting my website at www.RepLasata.com.

Keeping Our Promise to Our Military

Last week, I joined my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives by voting to advance the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018, by a bipartisan 344 to 81 vote. For 56 years, the NDAA has been the primary way in which Congress executes its Article I constitutional obligation to “provide for the common defense.”  This year’s NDAA focuses on three important objectives: improving military readiness, reforming the Pentagon, and supporting our troops.

This year’s NDAA supports funds for a nearly $30 billion increase above the president’s budget request for essential military readiness. Due to budget cuts in previous years, our service members have been forced to do more with less. Troops are taking longer tours of duty, equipment is being used past its lifespan, and important improvements are being postponed. As a result, our military’s preparedness to respond to threats – or its readiness – is dangerously slipping. This increased funding level is formed by years of in-depth Congressional oversight and is crucial at a time when threats from around the globe take increasingly aggressive positions against the United States.

The bill also contains important reforms to the way the Pentagon does business, ensuring taxpayer money is being spent wisely. While repairing and rebuilding our military is key to defending our country, so is modernizing the way the Pentagon does business. This year’s NDAA makes it clear that the Pentagon must undergo major bureaucratic overhauls and fundamental reforms to the way they buy goods and services. This type of Pentagon transparency and accountability is ground-breaking and necessary.

In addition, this year’s NDAA funds a 2.4 percent pay raise that our troops are entitled to under law. It also prohibits the reduction of inpatient care for military medical treatment facilities located outside the United States – blocking the misguided attempts to close military medical facilities that our deployed troops, and their families, rely on.  We should continue working in a bipartisan manner to get this critical piece of legislation to the president’s desk. Our men and women in uniform, and their families, deserve nothing less.

Invitation to our Vietnam veterans

Our Vietnam veterans served our nation with honor, yet they were often forgotten when they returned home.

In commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War, I will be proudly hosting two ceremonies to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families.

The events will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, August 18 at the Cassopolis VFW Hall at 131 S. Broadway Street and at 11 a.m. on Friday, September 22 at the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds, 316 E. Charlotte Street in Centreville.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and I held a ceremony at the Bridgman American Legion Post 331 in February to provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to more than 250 Southwest Michigan veterans who served on active duty between November 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975.

We will continue to present Vietnam veterans with this well-earned recognition, made possible by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. For more information on the commemoration, visit www.VietnamWar50th.com.

I encourage all area residents to come out and help us salute the selfless dedication of our Vietnam veterans.

Residents attending the ceremony on September 22 at the St. Joseph County Fair will also be able to see the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial, which contains the names of more than 2,600 Michigan veterans killed in the war.

We can never fully repay our veterans and their families for the tremendous sacrifices they made in defense of freedom. Understanding this debt, I look forward to honoring our Vietnam veterans for their service on behalf of a grateful nation. May God bless them and their families.

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.