Blossomtime Festival One of Southwest Michigan’s Greatest Traditions

The Blossomtime Festival and parade are the oldest and largest multi-community events in the state, celebrating all that southwest Michigan has to offer.

My fellow area legislators and I were proud to recently welcome the 2011 festival’s pageant finalists to the Michigan Capitol.   It was truly a special honor to host these outstanding young people who are excellent representatives of their communities; volunteering throughout the region in their leadership roles.

The 105-year-old festival is a wonderful family-fun event that is only possible because of the volunteers, participants and vendors who make the celebration successful each year.

Thank you for your efforts to help attract thousands of visitors to our community in celebration of the beauty and rich agricultural traditions of southwest Michigan.

I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the festivities.

Here is a calendar of events to remember for this year’s celebration:

April 30: Farm Tour

May 1: Blessing of the Blossoms; Vintage Baseball

May 1-4: Blossomtime Good Will Tour

May 3: Keys to the Cities/Mayors Banquet

May 5: Youth Parade

May 6: Pre-parade Pasta Party

May 7: 5K Run/Walk for the Buds; Grand Floral Parade.

For more information please visit

Corrections Budget Cuts $101 Million

The Senate Appropriations Department of Corrections subcommittee approved a 2012 budget that spends $101 million less than the DOC’s current budget and $75 million less than the governor proposed.

The plan is the result of hard work to eliminate wasteful spending and make the department more efficient.

As chair of the subcommittee, public safety continues to be my number one priority. I am proud that we crafted a budget that will keep violent felons off the street and also help solve the state’s budget deficit.

Savings can be found throughout all state government. For example, the DOC has identified $42 million in savings that will cover their previous overspending.

It is a positive sign for taxpayers, and I look forward to working with the department to find the savings our taxpayers deserve.

This budget saves millions of dollars through supply-chain efficiencies, administrative reductions and addressing prescription drug management problems identified by the state auditor general.

Senate Bill 173 also includes $1 million to work cooperatively with the drug courts on a new pilot program of swift-and-sure sanctions for certain probation violations, to ensure public safety in a cost-efficient manner.

Currently Michigan has the highest per-prisoner costs in the Great Lakes region.  Spending 94 dollars per prisoner per day compared to the average Great Lakes state which spends about 75 dollars per prisoner per day.  We cannot continue spending more on corrections than higher education. This plan is a first step to seriously addressing those costs and right-sizing our prison spending.

Protecting Our Communities from the Dangers of Meth

Methamphetamine, or meth, is a powerfully addictive stimulate that can be manufactured in homes using pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications.

Our local communities have been especially hard hit by this drug, with the majority of meth labs in the state discovered in southwest and south central Michigan.

That is why Rep. Amanda Price and I have sponsored legislation to help stop meth production by attacking the source of its main ingredient.

Our measures would limit the amount of pseudoephedrine a person can buy and require that the buyer show a valid ID.  Retailers would be required to consult an online system before selling products containing pseudoephedrine to make sure that the buyer has not exceeded the limit.

This will enable people to get the medicine they need while stopping meth producers from buying supplies.

Illinois already has this electronic tracking system in place, and Indiana is close to enacting similar legislation.

Meth abuse can result in violent behavior and psychotic features such as paranoia leading to homicidal and suicidal thoughts. But meth’s impact on the community is through labs that are dangerous, often well-armed and full of toxic chemicals that have resulted in explosions and death.

I know that the safest way to protect our children and communities from the harmful impacts of meth is to stop a producer’s access to supplies.  That is what I am going to do.

Focusing on Job Creation

In my first three months as your state senator, my focus has been creating long-term jobs by improving our state’s business climate.

The old strategy of job creation through government programs has failed. Michigan needs a better plan.

I am working to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to create jobs by getting government out of their way.  More freedom and fewer burdens mean increased opportunities and more jobs.

Recognizing the impact regulations can have our economy, I voted for a new law preventing unelected bureaucrats from imposing unnecessary burdens on jobs providers.

I also support a Senate Republican initiative to help put people back to work by cutting red tape throughout all state departments.  One reform would require state agencies to look at the potential impact of a rule on small businesses, which create more than 70 percent of Michigan jobs.

It’s time to make Michigan open for business. That is why I was the first co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1 to repeal the Michigan Business Tax.  Since the tax was adopted, it has been a barrier to job creation.  I am working on reforming our tax code to make our state business-friendly, so we can retain our current job providers and attract new ones to the state.

I will continue my efforts to help reinvent Michigan and put our state on the road to economic revitalization.

That is the only way to ensure we have the good, long-term jobs that will revitalize our state’s economy and allow enable future generations to live, work and thrive in southwest Michigan.