07-26-2018 Columns


Good government is transparent and accountable As your State Representative, I value transparency in state government, and I’m dedicated to holding state agencies and departments accountable. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Michigan residents have a right to know what goes on in their government. Under a plan introduced earlier this year, state departments would be required to fulfill FOIA requests within 60 days. Furthermore, if departments and agencies do not fulfill FOIA requests in a timely manner, they will be required to notify the Governor as well as the leadership of the House and Senate. Sixty days is more than enough time for state government to respond to requests from the people whose tax dollars fund those departments. Current law does not specifically set timelines for FOIA request fulfillments and it’s about time we did something to streamline that process. Who could blame people for being frustrated when bureaucrats arbitrarily delay the processing of FOIA requests? It’s completely unacceptable. I fully support this plan to reduce wait times and ensure hardworking taxpayers receive the information that they deserve. Last year, I also supported a measure that would subject Michigan’s Governor and Lt. Governor to FOIA requests and require the state Legislature to follow similar requirements. You deserve to know how your elected officials are operating and it’s long past time that we brought increased accountability to these offices. Along those same lines, I supported a measure requiring all Michigan executive offices and branches to disclose employee salary information on their websites. As the person trusted to represent you in Lansing, I believe my job isn’t to appease bureaucrats – it’s about doing what’s right and giving the people of Michigan a means for holding state government accountable. I refuse to back down.

Nation’s first STEM diploma certification opportunity As Michigan’s economy continues to grow and create jobs, we owe it to our students to provide them with valuable career information — including information on fields where jobs are expected to be created — so they can make the best decision for their future. In this effort, the governor signed my legislation to provide students with important career outlook information and reward students for taking extra science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses. Senate Bill 343, now Public Act 242 of 2018, requires school districts and public school academies to provide students with the most recent available analysis of in-demand occupations for the economic forecast region in which the school or public school academy is located. The new act allows the in-demand careers information to be emailed to students. On a regular basis, the state compiles “Regional Hot Jobs” outlooks for all of Michigan’s 10 prosperity regions. The outlooks are available online at www.milmi.org/research. SB 344, now PA 241 of 2018, allows Michigan students to receive a STEM certification on their diploma or transcript as an incentive for taking additional courses in STEM subjects. Michigan is now the first state in the nation to allow this STEM certification opportunity. It is a great way to reward students who have completed additional STEM classes to prepare themselves for success and to highlight their accomplishments. Both of these initiatives will help Michigan students achieve the American dream and meet the skilled talent needs of a growing economy. 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.

Good government is transparent and accountable As your State Representative, I value transparency in state government, and I’m dedicated to holding state agencies and departments accountable. Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Michigan residents have a right to know what goes on in their government. Under a plan introduced earlier this year, state departments would be required to fulfill FOIA requests within 60 days. Furthermore, if departments and agencies do not fulfill FOIA requests in a timely manner, they will be required to notify the Governor as well as the leadership of the House and Senate. Sixty days is more than enough time for state government to respond to requests from the people whose tax dollars fund those departments. Current law does not specifically set timelines for FOIA request fulfillments and it’s about time we did something to streamline that process. Who could blame people for being frustrated when bureaucrats arbitrarily delay the processing of FOIA requests? It’s completely unacceptable. I fully support this plan to reduce wait times and ensure hardworking taxpayers receive the information that they deserve. Last year, I also supported a measure that would subject Michigan’s Governor and Lt. Governor to FOIA requests and require the state Legislature to follow similar requirements. You deserve to know how your elected officials are operating and it’s long past time that we brought increased accountability to these offices. Along those same lines, I supported a measure requiring all Michigan executive offices and branches to disclose employee salary information on their websites. As the person trusted to represent you in Lansing, I believe my job isn’t to appease bureaucrats – it’s about doing what’s right and giving the people of Michigan a means for holding state government accountable. I refuse to back down.

Full funding for the Great Lakes Last week, I joined my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives in voting to advance H.R. 6147, the Department of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2019. This bill includes full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). This is more great news for our Great Lakes. The GLRI is a critical program that helps us strengthen and preserve our Great Lakes environment. It also helps keep our Southwest Michigan economy strong. Growing up on Lake Michigan instilled in me a deep appreciation for our Michigan wildlife and natural resources. As an active member of both the Great Lakes Caucus and the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I have an extensive record of working to protect the Great Lakes watershed and preserve the beauty of our lakes for future generations. From working to combat the threat of noninvasive species such as Asian Carp, improving our water infrastructure, and keeping pollutants out of the Great Lakes, the GLRI is an important tool and it deserves to be fully-funded. I was glad to vote for this needed funding and will continue fighting for our Great Lakes, always.

Breastfeeding on the Bluff event The Berrien County Health Department in partnership with the Berrien County Breastfeeding Coalition will host the third annual “Breastfeeding on the Bluff” event occurring on Saturday, August 4 starting at 10:00 a.m. in Lake Bluff Park across from the St. Joseph Public Library in St. Joseph. The “Breastfeeding on the Bluff” event takes place as part of the “2018 Global Big Latch On,” a global breastfeeding awareness celebration, where moms across the globe are linked in simultaneous breastfeeding, which occurs annually during World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). Mothers, fathers, families and breastfeeding supporters are encouraged to arrive at 10:00 a.m. for registration, before the “Big Latch On” at 10:30 a.m. Breastfeeding support resources, gifts for moms, face painting for kids, a photo booth, and refreshments for the whole family are provided. Transportation to the event is also provided and can be reserved by calling the Berrien County Health Department. The Berrien County Breastfeeding Coalition has a mission to provide support for the community by identifying and growing opportunities for on-going breastfeeding support and promotion, normalizing breastfeeding in the community, and ensure that families have the resources needed to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. The Coalition has membership and support from a variety of community organizations, such as Lakeland Health, InterCare Community Health Network, and Michigan State University Extension, as well as representation from breastfeeding mothers and advocates. In Michigan, 80% of moms initiate breastfeeding after birth; however, at 3 months of age, only 42% of babies are still being exclusively breastfed. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been proven to have countless health benefits for mothers and babies, as well as long-term positive public health impacts throughout the community. As of June 24, 2014, Michigan mothers who nurse their children in public are protected from discrimination and prosecution under bipartisan legislation signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The “Breastfeeding Anti-Discrimination Act” gives women the right to nurse a child in any place that is open to the general public, including stores, restaurants and municipal buses. More information can be found at www.facebook.com/berriencountybreastfeedingcoalition or by calling 269-926-7121.

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