12-19-2019 Columns

Zachary Smith named Eagle Scout

On June 15, 2019, the Frederick H. Hackeman Camp 85 (Buchanan) of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War presented Eagle Scout certificate and patch to new Eagle Scout of Troop 696 of Coloma/ Watervliet. Zachary Smith received his Eagle Scout rank at a ceremony at the First Congregational Church in Coloma. Making the presentation for the Frederick H. Hackeman Camp 85 was camp Commander Steven Williams of Coloma. Zack is a 17-year-old student in the 11th grade at Watervliet High School. His is the son of Nicki and Ray Smith.

HOIST THE JOISTS… Workers at Hartford’s Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center are hustling to get the new facility under roof before serious winter weather sets in, allowing interior work to continue keeping in step with a target to complete the building near the end of June 2020. The center will be the new home of the Hartford Public Library, the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, and includes multi-purpose community rooms available to the general public. The site is also planned to serve as the new polling site for City of Hartford voters in the November election. Donations are being sought to provide the fine touches to the project. Those wishing to support the cause may do so by calling the library directly at (269) 621-3408 or contribute online by visiting www.hartfordpl.michlibrary.org. (TCR photo by Jon Bisnett)



We need bipartisan legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs

Last week, House Democrats passed their drug pricing legislation – H.R. 3. I voted against it. While we all agree we need to tackle the rising costs of prescription drugs, H.R. 3 simply is not the right answer, for a number of reasons. First, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this bill will stifle innovation resulting in fewer life-saving cures for the American people. In fact, the Council of Economic Advisers estimate that we could lose up to 100 new drugs, or even more. Furthermore, with divided government, the only way to pass a bill into law is by working in a bipartisan manner. H.R. 3 is a partisan bill that was drafted with no input from Republicans. It won’t become law, and we’ll be stuck with the same problem of rising drug costs. I support the bill’s alternative, H.R. 19. This bill includes only bipartisan provisions which would pass now and immediately begin helping patients. H.R. 19 would lower drug costs while allowing biotech to continue innovating on new cures for the world’s worst diseases. In this coming year, I’d like to see H.R. 19 offered, debated, and voted on. I believe this is important legislation that could help patients today. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or visit my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

Local news matters

On Wednesday, Dec. 11 the Michigan House of Representatives adjourned for the year after passing a flurry of bills including a bipartisan budget deal. This was a huge win for the people of Southwest Michigan and reversed many of the Governor’s vetoes that would have negatively impacted our community. As we wind down for the holidays and prepare for the New Year, I looked back at my first year in office and evaluated the best ways I was able to communicate with my constituents. One of the best ways I was able to let community members know what was happening in Lansing was this bi-weekly op-ed that I share with Representative Griffin. Here in Southwest Michigan, we are fortunate to have a newspaper that works so hard at providing quality journalism with a local focus. When I read my copy of the Tri-City Record on the House floor, it’s refreshing to read about stories in our communities and not associated press stories that have just been copied and pasted from larger news organizations throughout the state and nation. This not only helps me stay informed about what’s happening back home, but it also provides me an opportunity to communicate regularly with my constituents about what is being done in Lansing on their behalf. I wanted to use this week’s op-ed to take a moment to thank the Tri-City Record for giving me a chance to stay in contact with my constituents regularly. I also want to thank the readers for their continued support of high-quality, local journalism. Merry Christmas, and I look forward to picking this column back up in 2020 and serving as your state representative.

2019: A year in review My first year as your state senator has been an exciting, rewarding experience. We have accomplished much together so far, and I wanted to dedicate this column to highlighting some of what we have achieved. One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping in touch with you, the residents of Southwest Michigan who hired me to represent your interests at the Capitol. This year, I sent 80,981 newsletters to your mailboxes, traveled 10,350 combined miles throughout the district, knocked on 2,572 of your doors, and held 19 coffee hour meetings with you. I am proud of the work we have completed this year to make Michigan stronger and more competitive. Among those accomplishments includes historic new laws that will help drivers throughout our state to save money on their auto insurance. I also was fortunate to have my first Senate bill signed into law to reduce regulatory burdens for those working in the aggregate industry, which will make it easier for them to do their jobs. I was also happy to host a small business roundtable meeting with female small business owners, and I enjoyed touring 15 local family farms and six farm stands. Another of my legislative highlights includes Senate Bill 321, which would allow for the names of local heroes Joseph Zangaro and Ron Kienzle to be included on Michigan’s Law Enforcement Memorial. Other important bills I sponsored would improve cost transparency for road construction projects and make government more efficient by reducing redundancies in collecting delinquent tax payments. The education of our young people is a top priority of mine, both as a parent and as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Universities and Community Colleges Appropriations Subcommittee. This year, I welcomed 1,738 students from the 21st District to the Capitol, visited 20 area schools, and held a successful coat drive for children in need. Additionally, my colleagues and I helped to secure $3.7 million for the Jobs for Michigan Graduates Program, a highly successful program that helps underserved youth obtain educational and employment opportunities. This was only a snapshot of what was an incredible 2019. I am so grateful for the opportunity you have entrusted me with in serving as your state senator, and I look forward to all that 2020 brings. From my family to yours, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous New Year.


Safe disposal of Rx drugs

During a time when many people will be welcoming friends and family into their homes for the holidays, Berrien County residents are reminded to sort through their medicine cabinets and properly dispose of old or unwanted medications. Sadly, more than 70% of young people abusing prescription pain relievers get them through friends or family, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet. Berrien County residents are encouraged to dispose of their unused, expired, and unwanted medications properly by using the MedReturn drug collection drop-off locations around Berrien County. In addition, Walgreens and Meijer pharmacies have also installed safe medication disposal kiosks in many of their locations. There are also safe and secure drug collection drop-off boxes in Niles, Coloma, Baroda, Buchanan, Watervliet, and New Buffalo. This makes properly disposing of excess and expired drugs everyone’s responsibility as well as a matter of public and environmental safety. Within the past year, more than 2,500 pounds of unwanted and expired medications were collected from the various drop-off locations in Berrien County. It is one of the best things our community can do to reduce the supply of drugs that can potentially harm teens and adults. The Berrien County Health Department is committed to providing a safe, secure and environmentally friendly way to help law enforcement agencies and Berrien County communities collect unwanted or expired household medication, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and unused pharmaceuticals. The collection sites are open during normal business hours. Medications can be dropped off with no questions asked. The medications can be placed in a sealable plastic bag or can be disposed of in their original containers. A full list of the drug collection locations is available at www.bchdmi.org.

Financial moves for life’s ‘inflection points’

You’ve probably heard or read about inflection points. The term has a specific definition in mathematics, but it’s also used widely to describe historical or technological events, such as the Industrial Revolution or the creation of the internet – events that changed human existence in some important way. However, you have personal inflection points, too – and when they occur, you’ll need to make the right financial moves. Here are four of the most important of these inflection points, along with suggestions on dealing with them: Marriage – When you get married, you and your spouse will need to discuss a variety of financial issues: What assets and liabilities do you each bring to the marriage? Should you combine your finances or continue with separate accounts? Is one of you a “saver” while the other is a “spender”? Do you share similar investment philosophies, or is one of you much more aggressive than the other? You don’t necessarily have to agree on everything, but you should at least try to gain enough knowledge so you can avoid unpleasant surprises, such as hidden debts, and find enough common ground so your household can advance toward your common financial goals. New child – When you welcome a new child into your family, you’ll need to make sure you have adequate life insurance. You’ll also want to review the beneficiary designations on any existing insurance policies, as well as on your IRA and 401(k). And if you can afford it, you may want to start contributing to a college fund, possibly using a 529 savings plan, which can provide you with tax advantages as you put money away for your child’s higher education. Divorce – It’s unfortunate, but true: Divorce is still pretty common, and it’s neither pleasant nor cheap. You might not be able to avoid some of the costs, such as lawyers’ bills, but if you and your ex-spouse can work together amicably, you both may be able to avoid serious financial disruptions. You’ll need to work out how to divide your financial assets, paying attention to beneficiary designations, which you may well need to change. Also, as a newly single individual, you may need to review and revise your long-term investment strategy to accommodate changes in your goals and your retirement income. Retirement – By the time you retire, you will have hopefully been investing in your IRA and 401(k) or other retirement plan for several decades. But once you do retire, you’ll need to determine how much you can afford to withdraw each year from your various retirement accounts. Your withdrawal rate will depend on your age, your asset level and your retirement lifestyle. And you’ll also want to consider other issues: Are you prepared to deal with health care costs? Even with Medicare, these costs may be higher than they were when you were working. And how about your estate plans? Are they up to date? Have you protected your family from the possibility of your estate going through the time-consuming, expensive and public process of probate? You may need to work with your financial, tax and legal advisors to develop an effective estate strategy. By making smart decisions following your own inflection points, you can ease the transitions in your life – wherever life takes you. This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors are not estate planners and cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your estate-planning attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.

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