Pettalia memorial highway dedicated

Rep. Peter Pettaliawas a personal friend and a commonsense public servant who did his best to improve our state and serve the people in Northern Michigan.

In June, the governor signed my legislation designating the portion of U.S. 23 in Presque Isle County between Maple Drive and Misiak Highway as the “Peter A. Pettalia Memorial Highway.” Rep. Sue Allor and I recently joined Pete’s friends and family at a ceremony dedicating a memorial highwayin his honor.

Pete loved his family, his friends and the community. Dedicating a part of Heritage Route 23 through his home county is a fitting tribute to his life and the tremendous impact he had on so many people. While he is missed by everyone who knew him, this memorial highway will ensure that he is never forgotten.

Pete’s wife Karen spoke at the dedication, which was attended by many of his family, friends and former colleagues. Pettalia served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2011 until his death in September 2016 in an accident on his way down to the Capitol for session.

Prior to serving in the Legislature, Pete served as Presque Isle Township supervisor for 16 years and as a volunteer firefighter for the East Grand Lake Fire Department for 15 years. He was a member of several Presque Isle and Alpena area organizations and enjoyed spending time with his wife, children and granddaughters.

The memorial will have no fiscal impact on the state or local government. State law requires that private contributions must cover all the costs of erecting and maintaining memorial highway signs.

Supporting reform to reduce cost of auto insurance

Michigan drivers are paying the nation’s highest car insurance rates — costs that are increasingly putting a strain on family budgets and our economy.

In a July 2017 report by insure.com, Michigan was named the most expensive state for car insurance for the fourth consecutive year. Michigan’s average premium is $2,394, which is over 80 percent more than the national average of $1,318.

The high cost of auto insurance is one of the top issues I hear about from area residents. I supported a first step in making long-overdue reforms to our no-fault auto insurance system in a continuing effort to provide much-needed relief to Michigan drivers.

My goal is to achieve positive reform that recognizes the burdensome car insurance costs facing Michigan families, and I look forward to talking with the people of the 36th District about how to finally address this growing issue.

Senate Bill 1014 would make reforms to Michigan’s auto no-fault insurance law to help reduce costs and better protect customers in the state. It would create a new authority within the attorney general’s office to help investigate and reduce auto insurance fraud and cap benefits for people who have never paid into the no-fault system. Insert “Read More” tab here

SB 787 would allow Michigan residents age 65 or older the option to choose a capped auto-insurance policy. Seniors who opt for the limited coverage would see their catastrophic claims assessment drastically reduced. Medicare would cover remaining medical expenses after the $50,000 limit is reached.

This reform would help provide lower-cost options for our seniors. Many seniors worked hard to build our state and now struggle with unaffordable car insurance rates. This plan would allow them to choose a policy that works best for them — while still ensuring they have medical coverage if they have an accident.

Pettalia memorial highway bill signed

Rep. Peter Pettalia was a good friend and devoted husband, father and grandfather whose life was tragically cut short as he traveled down to serve the people of Northern Michigan as their representative.

The governor recently signed my legislation to name a part of U.S. 23 in honor of Pettalia, who died in 2016 in an accident on his way to the Capitol for session.

Pete was a commonsense public servant who loved life, the Sunrise Side, and the entire state — serving in many roles to improve people’s lives.

Senate Bill 622, now Public Act 215 of 2018, designates the portion of U.S. 23 in Presque Isle County between Maple Drive and Misiak Highway as the “Peter A. Pettalia Memorial Highway.”

Pete truly enjoyed traveling along Heritage Route 23, and naming part of that route through his home county is a fitting tribute to his life and will ensure that he is never forgotten.

Rep. Sue Allor and I welcomed Pettalia’s wife Karen to the Capitol in May for a House committee hearing on the legislation.

Pettalia served three terms in the Michigan House from 2011 until his death in September 2016. He previously served as Presque Isle Township supervisor for 16 years and as a volunteer firefighter for the East Grand Lake Fire Department for 15 years. Pettalia was a member of several Presque Isle and Alpena area organizations and enjoyed spending time with his wife, two children and two granddaughters.

The act will have no fiscal impact on the state or local government. State law requires sufficient private contributions to completely cover the cost of erecting and maintaining markers indicating the name of a memorial highway.

Supporting school safety initiatives

We owe it to every Michigan child to help provide them with a safe and secure environment to learn and succeed.

The Michigan Senate recently approved comprehensive legislation designed to help keep students safe. These measures would ensure that our schools and communities have the necessary resources, effective technology and proper training to best protect our students and teachers.

Senate Bill 982 would create the Office of School Safety within the state police to update school safety practices, offer staff training and oversee use of school safety grants. SB 983 would require schools to conduct a safety assessment with local law enforcement by the 2019-20 school year — and at least every two years thereafter.

We need to make sure that all of our schools have the enhanced security in place to protect students and teachers. Security improvements, training and preparation are all critical to protecting our schools. This package would ensure our schools have updated safety plans and that both school staff and law enforcement know what to do in an emergency.

Additional measures in the Senate-passed school safety plan include:

  • Requiring schools to anonymously report thwarted incidents of attempted acts of violence on school grounds or threats of violence made on or off school grounds;
  • Developing statewide training standards for active-violence situations in schools;
  • Ensuring schools work with local law enforcement on new construction or upgrades to school buildings;
  • Permanently extending the OK2SAY program; and
  • Requiring a school’s governing body, at least twice a year, to provide the state police with the emergency contact information of a school official who would receive information submitted through the OK2SAY hotline — and any accompanying state police analysis of a potential threat — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In addition to these long-term solutions to protect Michigan students and teachers, the recent budget agreement invests $58 million into school safety initiatives, such as improving access to mental health programs, enhancing OK2SAY awareness and securing our schools.

OK2SAY enables students to report tips by phone, text message, and email, and through a website or an app. In 2017, the program received 4,605 tips, an increase of 37 percent from 2016.

SBs 957-959, 982-983 and 990-991 were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Signed 2019 budget focuses on education, safety and roads

The governor has signed a fiscal year 2019 state budget that increases investments in key priorities, including educating Michigan students and improving the roads.

This budget will help us continue to boost the economy, create jobs, protect our communities and provide every student with an education that prepares them for success. I am proud that we once again have a balanced state budget that increases funding for our schools to record levels and helps create a positive climate for innovation and job creation.

Every school will see a significant increase in per-pupil funding in this budget, and the state will continue to invest more than $1 billion to reduce schools’ retirement costs and enable schools to direct more dollars into the classroom.

The education budget invests nearly $14.8 billion in K-12 education, which includes a foundation allowance increase of between $120 and $240 per pupil and a $1.3 billion contribution into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

It also features investments in school safety initiatives, including more funding for the OK2SAY confidential tip-line program, $30 million for mental health support services in schools, and $25 million for school security improvements. Insert “Read More” tab here

Our schools should be safe and productive places for learning. We are investing $58 million to ensure that our schools and communities can make the critical school safety improvements necessary to keep our students and teachers safe.

The budget also increases local revenue sharing by $22.5 million, fully funds the $100 million Marshall Plan for Talent and invests $40.9 million in skilled trades training.

We are putting $330 million more into fixing our roads, which will bring our total new investment in our roads to $2.4 billion since 2017.

With this budget, we will continue to focus on a more vibrant Michigan, provide vital services and live within our means.

Senate approves government efficiency bills

I proudly sponsored legislation as part of a bipartisan package to repeal 29 obsolete, burdensome or duplicative state reports. The Senate has approved 12 Senate bills and will soon approve the companion House measures.

This is about making state government more efficient and effective by cutting out costly and unnecessary reports. Spending time and money on creating reports that are no longer needed and provide little value to the public or Legislature is a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The resources currently being used to do these reports could be put to better use addressing the issues facing Michigan families and businesses every day.

I sponsored two bills in the package. Senate Bill 1000 is the most comprehensive bill in the Senate package and would repeal 16 reporting requirements in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. One report eliminated by the bill would be one by the state on a fund that has been closed out and has exhausted its resources.

SB 1003 would repeal a requirement that the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development submit an annual report on dairy producer licenses to the Legislature.

The reports eliminated in these bills are outdated, onerous, covered by other departments, provide little benefit or feature information already available online.

A total of 40 reports would be repealed by SBs 1000-1011 and companion House measures.

Pettalia memorial highway bill nearly law

I recently joined Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, and Karen Pettalia before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in support of my legislation to permanently honor Karen’s late husband, former Rep. Peter Pettalia, who died in 2016 in an accident while traveling down to the Capitol for session.

In May, the Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 622 to designate the portion of U.S. 23 in Presque Isle County between Maple Drive and Misiak Highway as the “Peter A. Pettalia Memorial Highway.” It is now pending before the House.

Pete was a commonsense public servant who was dedicated to improving the lives of the people in Northern Michigan. To those of us who were blessed to know him, he was a good friend who loved life, his family, his community and the entire state.

Rep. Pettalia served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2011 until his untimely death in September 2016. Pete enjoyed traveling throughout the Sunrise Side along Heritage Route 23, and naming part of that route would be a fitting tribute to his life and his tremendous impact. Although Pete is missed very much, this tribute would ensure that he is never forgotten. Insert “Read More” tab here

Pettalia previously served as Presque Isle Township supervisor for 16 years and as a volunteer firefighter for the East Grand Lake Fire Department for 15 years. Pete was a member of several Presque Isle and Alpena area organizations and enjoyed spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

The bill would have no fiscal impact on the state or local government. State law requires sufficient private contributions to completely cover the cost of erecting and maintaining markers indicating the name of a memorial highway.

Supporting four area Natural Resources Trust Fund projects

Getting together and enjoying time with family and friends in the outdoors is one of the things that makes Michigan such a great place to live. I recently supported approval of Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) projects for 2018, including projects in Alcona, Montmorency and Otsego counties.

Senate Bill 883 would authorize the NRTF to use $49.9 million in restricted funds to support 34 acquisition projects and 97 development projects. Matching funds of $45 million would bring the total investment to more than $94.9 million.

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights. The fund is constitutionally restricted for natural resources improvements and land acquisitions across the state.

In Otsego County, SB 883 would invest $300,000 from the trust fund to help develop a trailhead in downtown Gaylord along the Iron Belle Trail, which will eventually allow outdoor enthusiasts to travel on a safe and continuous path from Ironwood in the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit.

The trailhead would provide families with better access to biking, hiking and even snowmobiling on the trail and offer greater opportunities to support local businesses. Improvements would include parking, a restroom, a bike rack, picnic tables, lighting and landscaping.

The bill also includes $912,500 for the Department of Natural Resources to acquire 2,100 acres that would provide a connection between the Pigeon River Country State Forest and extensive state forest land west of I-75.

The Storey Lake property has excellent habitat for elk, black bear and white-tailed deer; a cold-water trout stream; over one mile of the Stewart Creek corridor; and an entire lake — offering us a unique chance to preserve our natural resources and improve access to our great outdoors.

In Alcona County, a project would give new and exciting kayaking and fishing options to children and adults of all ages and of all abilities — helping get people active in the outdoors and enhancing the entire community.

The project would receive $108,700 from the NRTF for development of a canoe/kayak launch, fishing platform, paved handicap-accessible parking, and signs to Alcona Township Park located at the mouth of the Black River.

In Montmorency County, $203,700 would be used for the acquisition of 80 acres in Rust Township for a public access site and boat launch on the west side of Fletcher’s Flood Water. This purchase will help improve our state and enhance the enjoyment of Michigan’s great outdoors by area families and boating enthusiasts. The property, known as Lyon’s Landing, contains 43 acres of upland, 37 acres of submerged bottom land and an existing boat launch.

These four projects are excellent examples of the positive impact the Natural Resources Trust Fund was designed to make when it was created four decades ago.

SB 883 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate passes 2019 budget plan

I am proud to once again support a Senate budget plan for fiscal year 2019 that is focused on improving our state while living within our means.

This budget would build on our commitment to ensure every student receives an education that prepares them for success, to help direct more dollars into the classroom and to reduce the funding gap between school districts.

The $14.7 billion investment in K-12 education included in this plan would be the most in state history, and many area schools would receive the largest per-pupil foundation allowance increase in over 10 years.

Senate Bill 863 is the K-12 education budget. It includes a foundation allowance increase for all schools of between $115 and $230 per pupil, $6 million in transportation funding for rural school districts, nearly $500 million to help schools educate at-risk students, $5 million for a new career and technical education incentive, and a $1.3 billion deposit into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System.

The entire state budget plan features $7 million to support rural hospitals, a $10 million boost for local public health departments, $40.9 million for Going Pro skilled trades training to prepare workers for in-demand jobs, and an additional $3.6 million to combat various wildlife diseases like bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease.

I chair the Senate General Government budget subcommittee. That budget, SB 855, includes funding for the Legislature, the attorney general, the secretary of state and other departments. It features a $24.7 million increase in constitutional revenue sharing, a $1 million increase to Pure Michigan tourism promotion, and funding for additional forensic interview training.

This is the next step in the budget process. I will continue working to once again enact a balanced budget that supports our students, protects our communities, and ensures that our tax dollars are effectively and efficiently used to provide vital services and build a brighter future for all Michigan families.

SBs 850-865 have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Encouraging Medicaid workforce engagement

I recently supported Senate legislation to adopt workforce engagement thresholds for certain able-bodied adults on Medicaid.

The goal of this reform is to empower those who can work to realize their full potential in a rewarding career. People are healthier and happier when they are working, and by encouraging people to find work or improve their ability to get a job, we can help them improve their health and better provide for their families.

Senate Bill 897 would require able-bodied adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who are receiving Medicaid health benefits to work, receive job training or get an education (or a combination of any of the three) for an average of 29 hours per week.

The legislation has many important exemptions to focus on encouraging self-reliance and preparing people for good careers and, ultimately, achievement of the American dream.

It would not apply to seniors, pregnant women, a caretaker of a child under age 6, people with disabilities or their caregivers, the medically frail, residents under age 21 who were in foster care, caretakers of incapacitated people, individuals seeking substance use disorder treatment, those receiving unemployment benefits, ex-prisoners released in the last six months, people with medical conditions that impact their ability to work, and full-time students who are emancipated or whose parents qualify for Medicaid.

Temporary “good cause” exemptions would be given for the birth or death of a family member, severe inclement weather, a temporary illness or injury, and a family emergency or other life-changing event (such as divorce or domestic violence).

Flexibility has also been included to reflect unemployment in different counties and anticipate any possible future economic changes.

Under the bill, if a county’s unemployment rate increases to 8.5 percent, its residents could meet the requirement by looking for a job. The requirement would return once the unemployment rate drops back to 5 percent or less.