08-25-16 Columns

Back to school – back to reading

al pscholka column header 05-10-2012

 Growing up in a single parent household, my mom made sure my sister and I did not have many distractions. My mom is what kids today would call “old school.” She was a really good student in high school, but got married right away and stayed home with us kids. When she found herself on her own with two kids, she went back to school and got a job at the local hospital. While we did not have a lot of material things, we had boundaries, rules, and most importantly—reading.  My mom read everything – the daily paper, the weekly township paper, magazines, and then spent her spare time with books. The expectation was that my sister and I read the paper and discussed the issues of the day at the dinner table. My biggest hobby was sports, so at this time of year I was more focused on getting ready for football and dreading August practices and wind sprints. But my mom had other ideas, like making sure I had the tools I needed if my professional sports dreams did not come true. If I was not at practice or outside playing, she made sure I was reading something.  Reading is one of the crucial building blocks of learning. That has not changed—but educators will tell you that they are concerned about student reading levels. We have had hearings in Lansing predicting that kids who are not reading at the third grade level in third grade have less chance of success. I do not know how to make reading cool or fun, but it is essential to the successful future of our children and communities. This back to school season, reach out to the young people in your lives and share with them the joy of reading—not just during the school year, but all year long.  As always, with questions regarding state government, please call us at 888-656-0079, or e-mail them to alpscholka@house.mi.gov.

Vaccines and Pregnancy

By BCHD Staff

Vaccines are an important part of planning and having a healthy pregnancy. If you are planning a pregnancy, check with your doctor to make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines.  If you are currently pregnant, doctors and midwives recommend you receive two vaccines during your pregnancy; Tdap to help protect against whooping cough and the flu shot to help protect against influenza.  If you are in the pregnancy planning stages, you may need to receive some vaccines. Your doctor may need to give you vaccines several weeks before you become pregnant because it could take a while for your body to build up disease protection (immunity) after getting the vaccine. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella, can lead to serious complications, including birth defects. You should not get the vaccine to prevent rubella if you are currently pregnant. Therefore, planning ahead is very important.  During your pregnancy, you should receive vaccines against both the flu (if you have not already received the vaccine during the current flu season) and whooping cough (pertussis). These vaccines not only protect you by preventing illnesses and complications, but they also pass on some protection to your child.  You can rest assured that these vaccines are very safe for you and your baby. Millions of pregnant women have safely received flu shots for many years, and CDC continues to gather data showing that the flu shot is safe and effective during pregnancy. The whooping cough vaccine is also very safe for you and your baby. Getting the vaccine during your pregnancy will not put you at increased risk for pregnancy complications.  For more information, visit www.bchdmi.org or call 269-926-7121.


Act today to avoid financial regrets tomorrow

 “Regrets? I’ve had a few.” – Frank Sinatra.   Mr. Sinatra, one of the most famous entertainers of the 20th century, did things his way, but he was also familiar with remorse. He is not alone, of course. We all deal with regrets – and financial ones are among the most troublesome.  Here are the leading financial regrets, according to a recent survey by Bankrate.com, along with some suggestions for avoiding them:  Not saving for retirement early enough – this was the top regret expressed by survey respondents. Saving and investing early for retirement offers you two key benefits. First, the more time you give growth-oriented investments, the greater their growth potential. And second, by saving and investing for retirement early in your career, you will likely need to put away less money each year than you would if you waited until, say, your 40s or 50s. So, if you are not already doing so, contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA and your 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan. And increase your contributions every time your salary rises.   Not saving enough for emergency expenses – you cannot plan for all expenses. Your furnace might die, your car may need a major repair, you may incur a sizable doctor’s bill – the list goes on and on. If you do not have the money available to meet these costs, you might be forced to dip into your long-term investments. That is why it is important to maintain an emergency fund, containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, in a liquid, low-risk account.   Taking on too much credit card debt – if you do not overuse your credit cards, they can be handy and helpful, in many ways. Try to keep a lid on your credit card debt, keeping in mind that your debt payments reduce the amount of money you have available to invest for your long-term goals, such as a comfortable retirement.  Not saving enough for children’s education — this may be perhaps the most difficult regret to address – after all, it is not easy to save for your own retirement and simultaneously put money away for your children’s college educations. However, if you can afford to save for college, try to do so in as advantageous a manner as possible.   Buying a bigger house than you can afford – if you tie up too much money in mortgage payments, you will have less to contribute to your various retirement accounts. And while home equity certainly has some value, it generally does not provide you with the same liquidity – and probably not the same potential for growth and income – as an investment portfolio that’s appropriate for your needs and risk tolerance. So, think carefully before purchasing that big house – you might be better served by scaling down your home ownership and ramping up your investments.  You cannot avoid all the doubts and misgivings you will encounter at various stages of your life. But if you can reduce those regrets associated with your finances, you could well increase your satisfaction during your retirement years.  This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

news from lansing col head 2-2-06

 Our law enforcement professionals take on an enormous task of keeping our communities safe. Michigan has the unfortunate distinction of having three of the top ten most dangerous cities in America and seven in the top 100. Yet Michigan has recently seen a drop in violent crime. According to the Michigan State Police, there were 131,354 incidents of violent crime in Michigan in 2015 — down from 160,863 in 2007.  I believe that a continued focus on smart criminal justice strategies and reforms will achieve the goal of making our communities safer and easing the burden we place on law enforcement across our state, while at the same time continuing the trend of decreasing prison populations.  I recently held a joint subcommittee hearing on our public safety efforts in our state — looking at what we are doing and how we can be even more effective in reducing crime.  The Senate in June passed a bipartisan, 21-bill package to reform and modernize our criminal justice system and keep our residents safe. It includes an expansion of specialty courts like those tailored to substance abuse needs and the embrace of innovative probation and parole programs.  The hearing also highlighted the Secure Cities program, which supports law enforcement efforts in areas most affected by crime. Since it began, 180 new state troopers are providing communities with enhanced law enforcement patrols, investigations and policing.  Public safety is, and must continue to be, our number one priority. I will continue working to make effective criminal justice reforms that reduce crime and cost to taxpayers.  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.

Our National Parks turn 100

upton col header

 This week, on August 25, our National Parks Service will observe their centennial, turning 100 years old. The National Parks system was developed and championed by esteemed leaders such as President Theodore Roosevelt and it was President Woodrow Wilson who actually signed the act creating the parks service in 1916.  We know that here in Michigan we have natural beauty that is stunning and unmatched. From our Great Lakes, to our rivers, streams, trails, forests – if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.  Locally, I am a proud co-sponsor of H.R. 799, the North Country Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act, which is bipartisan legislation that would change the official route of the North Country National Scenic Trail to create a more sustainable trail coordinated through improved volunteer and funding efforts. This hiking trail stretches across seven states, beginning in New York, traversing through Pennsylvania and Ohio before swinging through Southwest Michigan and then to the Upper Peninsula. It continues across Wisconsin and Minnesota before ending in North Dakota. This trail is an important part of our community and I am dedicated to improving it.  These bipartisan outdoor recreation and conservation efforts also help our Southwest Michigan economy. Here in Michigan, outdoor recreation generates approximately $18.7 billion in consumer spending and supports approximately 194,000 direct Michigan jobs. I will continue to work with my colleagues and stakeholders in a bipartisan way to make sure that future generations can experience the adventure and wonder of our trails, forests, Great Lakes, and National Parks.  You can connect to the Centennial celebration online by using the hashtag #FindYourPark.  To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my web site: upton.house.gov.