Vote! Every Voice Matters

VoteAmerica was founded on the revolutionary idea that our government doesn’t give us power; our government only has the power that we, the people, choose to give it.

Our rights are endowed upon us by our Creator, and key to these is the right to vote.

This freedom to choose or reject our leaders makes us the beacon of liberty in the world. People in countries worldwide have fought and continue to fight for what many of us take for granted.

While voter turnout nationwide is still low, I am proud that Michigan’s Great Southwest has an engaged citizenry that turns out to vote.

I encourage all citizens to exercise their voice by getting out to vote. Election Day is Nov. 4 and the polls are open from 7a.m. until 8 p.m.

If you do not know where you’re supposed to go to vote, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at: http://www.michigan.gov/vote. Enter your first and last name, date of birth and residential ZIP code, and the website will give you the address and a map of your polling location.

The website also includes helpful information about voting in Michigan, such as details on absentee voting for voters who cannot attend the polls on Nov. 4.

Voters may also get their polling location information by contacting the Berrien County clerk’s office at 269-983-7111 ext. 8264 or by email at elections@berriencounty.org or the Van Buren County clerk at 269-657-8218 ext. 6.

Every vote matters, so please exercise your constitutional right to vote.

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Successful Program Helps Create Jobs, Train Workers for New Jobs

WorkersMichigan’s economy is growing at a faster rate than the nation as a whole, resulting in the creation of more than 300,000 private sector jobs and 75,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan in less than four years.

Unfortunately, thousands of these new jobs statewide and in Southwest Michigan remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough workers with the necessary skills.

That is why I supported legislation recently approved by the Senate to help the state’s community colleges meet the increased need for specific skilled training for workers.

Senate Bill 1074 would remove certain technical restrictions to allow the Michigan New Jobs Training Program (MNJTP) to expand. The program was established in 2008 to promote job growth and provide skilled training to workers through local community colleges.

It lets community colleges create a training pool through flexible financing mechanisms to support employers who are creating jobs or expanding operations in Michigan.

The Anderson Economic Group reports that the program generated more than $76 million in additional earnings and 2,266 new jobs in 2012. Going forward, the program is projected to annually generate $143 million in additional earnings and more than 4,700 jobs.

The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has proven successful in helping create jobs and train workers for those jobs.

By removing arbitrary restrictions, we can empower local communities to maximize the benefit of this program for area workers and help ensure that we meet the workforce needs of a growing economy.

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Proos: Economic Future is Optimistic

proos commercialHerald Palladium

State Sen. John Proos, seeking re-election in the 21st District, says Michigan’s economy is heading in the right direction, while acknowledging that it still has a long way to go.

“To say that the economy has rebounded for everybody, I think the evidence is clear that no, it has not,” said Proos, seeking a second four-year term in the Senate. “We have a long way to go to get back to where we once were.”

Before being elected to the Senate in 2010, Proos, 44, served as the state representative for the 79th district of northern Berrien County for three terms until he reached his term limit.

If re-elected, it would be his final term in the Senate due to term limits.

Proos is a 1988 graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Michigan State University.

Before he was elected to the Michigan Legislature, Proos was deputy chief of staff and district director for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton.

Following this November’s election, the 21st District will encompass Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties and will no longer include Van Buren County.

Looking up

Proos said he has talked to hundreds of people on their doorsteps “who are clearly not out of the woods. Not every family feels like they are back to where they were. Not every family feels they are in the jobs they absolutely want. But as the economy improves, they will be seeing the benefits.”

Proos said the state’s unemployment rate, at 7.2 percent, is half of what it was four years ago (while still ranked 47th in the nation).

Michigan leads the nation in manufacturing job growth and in the growth of personal income, he said.

He credits these improvements to a change in the business environment, including eliminating many regulations and replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate tax.

The reform has created a tax that is “consistent, fair and flat, with no special place for someone to hide,” he said.

The auto industry, aided by a federal bailout, continues to be a “major driver” in Michigan, Proos said. Michigan has seen rapid growth “in part because we had hit the bottom and had been bouncing along the bottom for many years.”

Proos said that the recovery hasn’t taken full effect for some businesses that are “just starting to reap the benefits of the tax changes that were made.”

Closing the skills gap

A lot of businesses are hanging out the “help wanted” sign but are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need. Proos said there are some 75,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the state.

Proos supports more career and technical education at the high school and post-secondary level and letting students know “that there is a job available today, and it’s not your grandfather’s dirty shop floor,” but a vocation for the future.

Proos defended Gov. Rick Snyder’s record on funding for K-12 education.

“What is clear is that there has been over $1 billion in new funding for schools since Snyder came into office,” Proos said.

Articles have pointed out that much of that increase has gone toward shoring up the teachers’ retirement system.

Proos called that “living up to our obligations to those who have taught our children in the past.”

“As our economy improves, there isn’t a doubt that we should find a way to put more money into our classrooms,” Proos said.

Another area that needs a large infusion is the state’s roads, Proos said.

He has heard estimates that range from $800 million a year up to $2 billion a year are needed, and he isn’t sure which figures are accurate.

“What I do know is that additional funding for roads is necessary to manage the safety and security of the goods and services and the people being transported down our roadways.”

The first thing that needs to happen, Proos said, is to assure taxpayers that every dollar they pay at the pump in gas taxes, that is not constitutionally obligated for other areas, goes into roads. He noted that about two-thirds of the 6 percent sales tax on gas goes to schools and local governments.

Making sure that money comes off the top of a taxes for roads would guarantee the federal matching funds of between $400 million and $500 million a year, Proos said.

He does not support an increase in vehicle registration fees to fund road repairs because that would hit residents on fixed incomes, and small businesses and farms that would pay more for every vehicle they use.

Proos voted against an increase in the state’s minimum wage, believing that the cost to businesses would be passed along to consumers.

He did support right-to-work legislation that allows employees to choose whether to belong to a union and support it with their dues.

“Freedom to work is a step in the right direction to changing the image of Michigan nationally and internationally as a place welcoming to business,” Proos said.

Stopping meth

Legislative initiatives supported by Proos include the creation of the NPLEX system that allows pharmacies to keep track of the sale of ingredients used in methamphetamine, and to stop sales to people over the limit.

Law enforcement agencies have told Proos that this has stopped the sale of 3 million grams of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and allowed them to investigate where these ingredients are being sought in large quantities.

Proos launched the “Swift and Sure” sanctions for people on probation, with immediate jail time for those who fail random drug tests.

Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock, who oversees the “Swift and Sure” program here, told Proos that the rate of probationers failing drug tests has fallen from 71 to 4 percent.

“A decrease in crime in our communities means less victims and less costs in the community, while changing people’s lives,” Proos said.

Proos said meeting and listening to constituents is the most important part of his job, and his office has handled 12,000 cases for citizens in four years.

That has included explaining tax law changes to local school administrators, and helping businesses including the new Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer and the rebuilt Stray Dog in New Buffalo obtain liquor licenses.

“If folks know their voice has been heard and they know that I have listened to their thoughts and concerns and considerations, I think they have a better chance to feel as though their government has been responsive, even if it’s not in agreement with their position,” Proos said.

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Senator Proos Touts 21 New Human Trafficking Laws

Human TraffickingWSJM – Radio

New protections are now in place in Michigan for victims and survivors of human trafficking. Governor Snyder has recently enacted 21 new laws, with three of the bills sponsored by Senator John Proos of St. Joseph. He says the I-94 corridor is among the most active routes for traffickers.

Among the provisions of the new laws are the creation of the Human Trafficking Victims Compensation Act. That act will make survivors eligible for financial compensation from those who trafficked them, and the survivors will also now be allowed to sue their captors. Another part of the new law gives survivors better access to medical and psychological care. Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force founder Cathy Knauf says it’s modern day slavery and is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the country. For total crimes, trafficking trails only drugs and guns.

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Michigan Diplomas Could be First in the Nation with STEM Certification

Proos CTEIf enacted, Michigan would be the first state to offer such a STEM certification opportunity.

This initiative is the next step in ensuring that we are doing all we can to help prepare all Michigan students for success and also meet the skilled workforce needs of a growing economy.

The governor recently signed my bill to encourage schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or an industry-recognized professional certificate, giving students on-the-job training.

Putting a STEM certification on a student’s diploma and transcript can help improve their college resume and their chances to land a well-paying job.

I recently celebrated the second-annual Manufacturing Day with local business leaders and students to recognize area manufacturers for their innovation and growth. They are expanding and creating jobs, and they support increased efforts to help students earn the training needed to fill thousands of positions currently available in Southwest Michigan.

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Michigan Diplomas Could be First in U.S. for STEM Certification

WNDU-TV

Proos CTELegislation sponsored by Sen. John Proos and Rep. Amanda Price would help give Michigan students a leg up on getting a job in a high-skilled career or continuing their education.

Senate Bills 1109 and 1110 and House Bills 5904 and 5905 would allow a student to receive a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) certification on their high school diploma. The STEM endorsement would also be visible on student transcripts for future technical training, community college and college application review.

“This initiative is the next step in ensuring that we are doing all we can to help prepare all Michigan students for success and also meet the skilled workforce needs of a growing economy,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “The governor recently signed my legislation to strongly encourage schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or an industry-recognized professional certificate – giving students on-the-job training. Putting this certification on a student’s diploma and transcript will help improve their college resume and their chances to land a well-paying job.”

According to Proos and Price, if the bills are enacted, Michigan would be the first state in the United States to institute such a STEM certification opportunity.

“The Legislature has worked hard to ensure that our students can pursue their own career opportunities in high school and beyond, because we recognize that education is not one-size-fits-all,” said Price, R-Park Township. “By giving students the option to pursue this certification on their high school diplomas, we are helping them take the next step in their educational careers and encouraging them to pursue their own brighter futures.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has repeatedly called for an increased focus on STEM education in Michigan schools — objectives advocated by Proos and Price.

Proos’ bill, now Public Act 288 of 2014, requires the Department of Education to post online information on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges to provide quality STEM education.

“I recently celebrated the second-annual Manufacturing Day with local business leaders and students to recognize area manufacturers for their innovation and growth,” Proos said. “They are expanding and creating jobs, and they support increased efforts to help students earn the training needed to fill thousands of positions currently available in Southwest Michigan.”

Last year, Proos sponsored Senate Resolution 90 declaring Oct. 4, 2013 as Michigan Manufacturers Day. This year’s Manufacturing Day event was held on Oct. 3 at Mach Mold in Benton Harbor and offered an opportunity for lawmakers to interact with area manufacturing leaders about the industry.

SBs 1109 and 1110 and HBs 5904 and 5905 will be formally introduced and referred to their respective committees when the Legislature returns to session.

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Tele-town Hall a Resounding Success

Proos on the PhoneI recently held the latest in a series of “tele-town hall” meetings to hear from residents about their priorities for the rest of the year. It was a resounding success with 8,600 residents participating.

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.

In addition to having residents ask me 45 questions, everyone was able to give their viewpoint on a series of questions concerning their families and Michigan’s fiscal and economic health. In fact, we received 740 responses to our three poll questions.

It was great to hear the positive opinion residents have about the state’s direction, with 64 percent of participants saying that they think Michigan is moving in the right direction.

When asked what is most important to their family, 18 percent said creating jobs, ranking it third behind health care (23 percent) and government debt (19 percent). This illustrates the tremendous progress we have made to turn around our economy and attract new jobs and investment to our state.

Michigan is on the right track and our proactive reforms are working, yet we must continue our efforts to ensure workers have the necessary skills to get one of the many well-paying jobs currently available right here in Southwest Michigan.

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.

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