09-15-2016 Columns


 The month of September is Infant Safe Sleep Month and a good time to recognize that infant deaths due to unsafe sleep are a leading cause of death among babies less than 1 year old in Michigan. From 2010-2014, there were 712 sleep-related infant deaths or a rate of 1.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. Sadly, Berrien County has a sleep-related infant death rate of 2.3 deaths per 1,000 live births – far greater than the overall rate in Michigan. Sleep-related infant deaths are those where the sleep environment was likely to have contributed to the death, including deaths due to SIDS, SUIDS, and suffocation. Babies can easily suffocate while sleeping in adult beds, sharing a bed with an adult or child, sleeping on furniture, and sleeping with pillows, cushions, and blankets.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants sleep in a safety-approved crib, bassinet, or portable crib with a firm mattress and tight-fitting sheet; sleep on surfaces separate from adults or other children free of blankets, pillows, or toys; be placed on his or her back for sleep every time. Besides safe sleep practices, other factors that may decrease the risk of sleep-related infant death include breastfeeding, pacifier use at sleep time, and caregiver avoidance of smoking, alcohol, and illicit drug use while caring for an infant. Other recommendations include encouraging supervised “tummy time” to help your baby build strong neck and shoulder muscles. Also, make sure everyone caring for your baby knows these guidelines, including babysitters, friends, and family members. There are many resources available to the general public, parents, families, professionals, and caregivers of infants. Parents, professionals, and more can visit www.michigan.gov/safesleep for more information.

Remembering 9/11 heroes and victims

 Fifteen years ago on September 11, 2001, our nation suffered the worst attack ever perpetrated on American soil. Thousands of innocent lives were lost that day in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, the destruction at the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field. As these unforeseen events unfolded before our very eyes, we watched in horror, praying for our fellow citizens who were forced to endure these deadly attacks on that fateful day. As difficult as these memories are, we must never allow ourselves to forget. Among the terror and sadness we witnessed the extreme courage and bravery of first responders who rushed towards the destruction, risking their lives to save their fellow citizens. Many of them gave their lives that day, and through their actions saved countless more. That is why, every year, the Michigan House of Representatives holds a ceremony reflecting on the events of that fateful day. We honor the heroes that stepped forward in the face of destruction and chaos to pick up the pieces and we remember the victims and their families. We also recognized the fifteen Michigan first responders and members of the military who gave their lives serving and defending our state and nation over the past year. This ceremony also serves as an opportunity to recognize and thank those who continue to serve our communities. It was my honor this year to have Bangor Fire Chief Derek Babcock and the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard as my guests at the ceremony. They are great representatives of the dedicated and highly skilled first responders that our Southwest Michigan community is so blessed to have. As always, please feel free to contact my office toll-free at (800) 577-6212 or by email at AricNesbitt@house.mi.gov if I can ever be of assistance to you.

EDWARD JONES

Use “Open Enrollment” to help improve your

financial outlook

 It is Open Enrollment Season, so if you work for a medium- or large-sized company, you will need to make some choices regarding your employee benefits — and these choices can have a big impact on your financial situation. Depending on your employer, your benefits package may include various types of insurance, plus access to a 401(k) or similar retirement plan. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of these benefits:Health insurance – Companies regularly change plans and providers, so the coverage and premiums you had last year may not be the same this year. In any case, look at all aspects of your coverage options – premiums, deductibles, co-pays and total out-of-pocket limits. A lower premium may seem attractive, but you could end up paying even more if the coverage is not as good. So, choose wisely.Life insurance – You may want to take whatever life insurance your employer offers, but it still might not be enough. To determine how much life insurance you need, consider a variety of factors – your age, income, family size, spouse’s income, and so on. If your employer’s coverage is insufficient, you may want to supplement it with a separate policy. Disability insurance – This could be a valuable employee benefit – but, as is the case with life insurance, your employer’s disability coverage may not be enough for your needs, especially if you would like to protect yourself against an illness or injury that could sideline you from work for a long time. Consequently, you might want to consider purchasing your own disability policy.  Apart from reviewing your insurance options, you may want to examine your 401(k) or similar retirement plan. Of course, your employer may allow you to change your 401(k) throughout the year, but you have got a particularly good opportunity to do so during open enrollment, when you are already looking at all your employee benefits. So look at your contribution level. Are you putting in as much as you can afford? Your 401(k)s earnings can grow tax deferred, and you typically contribute pretax dollars, so the more you put in, the lower your taxable income for the year. (Taxes are due upon withdrawal, and withdrawals made before age 59-1/2 may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.)  At a minimum, invest enough to earn your employer’s matching contribution, if one is offered. And increase your own contributions whenever you get a raise.  As far as your investment choices, you will want to spread your dollars among the different investments within your 401(k) in a way that reflects your risk tolerance and time horizon. During the early stages of your career, when you have many years to go until you retire, you can probably afford to invest more heavily in growth-oriented accounts. These will fluctuate more in value, but you have time to potentially overcome the downturns. When you are nearing retirement, you may want to shift some of your assets into more conservative vehicles – but even at this point, you still need some growth opportunities. After all, you may spend two or three decades in retirement, so you will need to draw on as many resources as possible.  Open enrollment is not just a time to fill out a bunch of papers. It is also a chance to reconsider – and maybe even upgrade – many areas of your financial outlook.  This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.


priorities at tele-town hall meeting

 More than 1,800 Southwest Michigan residents were able to share with me their priorities for the future during the latest in a series of “tele-town hall” meetings I have held during my time in the Legislature. I believe that listening to citizens is vital and irreplaceable in providing the best possible service, and tele-town halls allow me to hear directly from thousands of local constituents. During this most recent town hall, nine people asked me direct questions on a series of important issues facing our state and Southwest Michigan. Topics asked by participants included career and technical education, medical marijuana, the drug epidemic, auto insurance and fixing our roads. Participants also submitted responses to five poll questions about jobs, parole reforms and more.  It was great to hear and answer many good questions from residents, and it was also wonderful to get good feedback from residents about how to move Michigan forward.  It is clear that creating jobs and training people for those jobs are still top priorities for Southwest Michigan families — and for me as well. It is also clear that people are concerned about drugs in their communities and having government live within its means as we improve the safety of our roads.  The tele-town hall was another great success. Thank you to everyone who called in and listened or asked a question. Your input is valuable to me, and I always enjoy hearing your opinions. 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.

Improving rural call quality and reliability

 Despite amazing advances in technology over recent decades, there are still many folks living in rural areas that experience persistent problems when it comes to receiving long distance or wireless calls on their landline telephones. And despite attempts made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to address these issues, problems still persist. Rural call completion issues have a real negative impact on local small business, and can pose a threat to public safety when important messages go undelivered. In response, we in the U.S. House of Representatives decided to take action. This week, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will begin voting to advance H.R. 2566, the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act of 2015. At its crux, this bipartisan piece of legislation will require intermediate providers to register with the FCC and comply with the service quality standards set by the agency. More broadly, it would amend the Communications Act of 1934 to ensure the integrity of voice communications and to prevent unjust or unreasonable discrimination among areas of the United States in the delivery of such communications. It is time we set higher standards for the integrity of our networks for those living in rural areas right here in Southwest Michigan. As America’s technological leadership surges in so many spaces, it is important that we do not ignore the day-to-day issues that continue to plague consumers. This bipartisan legislation ensures that rural consumers are not left behind. To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov.

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