Teaming Up with Connect Michigan to Increase Broadband

Connect Michigan has teamed up with local leaders to launch the Southwest Regional Broadband Initiative to help meet the Internet needs of area families and businesses.

This will allow residents to access information and communicate more efficiently – opening a world of opportunities. Most importantly, it can help create jobs and stimulate our economy.

Broadband transcends boundaries by impacting economic development, education, health, transportation and our quality of life. Recognizing the potential positive impacts of high speed internet, the Southwest Michigan Regional Planning Commission is sponsoring this initiative to expand broadband access and use across Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

I recently attended the initiative’s kickoff meeting with more than 30 officials from various economic development organizations, schools and colleges, local governments and internet service providers.

The Southwest Michigan Regional Broadband Initiative team, with support from Connect Michigan, will meet regularly to plan for and address broadband improvements to benefit local residents and businesses.

As the designated entity for broadband mapping and planning in our state, Connect Michigan is a public-private partnership between the Michigan Public Service Commission and Connected Nation.

It works with local governments, businesses and residents to achieve the goal of increasing broadband service in under served areas. For more information about what Connect Michigan is doing to accelerate technology in Michigan, visit http://www.connectmi.org.

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Proos Talks Drop Out Recovery Program

WSJM – Radio

State Senator John Proos is looking to set up a system for helping high school drop outs get back on track. This week, the Senate Education Committee approved a bill from Proos that sets up the number of instruction hours that a student in a drop out recovery program should receive. Meanwhile, there’s a House bill that lays out what school districts should include in their drop out recovery programs. Proos says that it serves the state’s interests to ensure that wayward young people at least complete high school.

The legislation he’s worked out with State Representative Bob Genetski over in the House establishes that a drop out recovery program should include a personalized learning plan, mentors, and computer and internet access for each student. It also lays out who is eligible to sign up. The legislation now goes on to the full State Senate.

Proos Praises Pledge of Allegiance Legislation

WSJM

Public schools in Michigan will be required to offer the Pledge of Allegiance under legislation that’s now headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. Most states have such laws on the books, and State Senator John Proos says that it’s good that Michigan will now, too.

Under the new law, schools will have to offer the pledge, although students will not be required to recite it. Also, the legislation requires each classroom to have an American flag.

Cracking Down on Human Sex Trafficking

Human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world that devastates the lives of thousands of adults and children each year with a third of cases involving the sexual exploitation of a child.

Senate Bill 1213 would make the solicitation of a minor age 16 or 17 to commit prostitution or any other lewd or immoral act a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of not more than $10,000 or both.

This crackdown targets the source of the problem: The person soliciting the prostitute, which results in thousands of women and children being sexually exploited – often against their will.

The bill would ensure that anyone attempting to exploit a child receives a severe punishment that fits the severe impact of their crime.

Human trafficking has occurred if a person was induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud or coercion. However, anyone under the age of 18 who performs a commercial sex act is considered a victim regardless of force, fraud or coercion.

While we don’t often think about this terrible crime happening in our great state, unfortunately it does. That is why Michigan’s human trafficking laws were strengthened in 2010.

In March, Attorney General Bill Schuette secured the first conviction under the new laws. A 32-year-old Detroit man was convicted on 8 counts for enslaving two girls age 14 and 15 and forcing them to engage in prostitution. Currently, six defendants are facing human trafficking charges right here in Michigan.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or if you know someone who may need help, please contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

For more information about human trafficking visit the attorney general’s website at: http://www.michigan.gov/ag. Click on “human trafficking.”

Bills Aim to Prevent Human Trafficking in Michigan

Legislation to help stop human sex trafficking in Michigan by strengthening the punishment for soliciting a minor to commit prostitution was approved by the Michigan Senate on Thursday. Senate Bill 1213 would make the solicitation of a minor age 16 or 17 to commit prostitution or any other lewd or immoral act a felony punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. State Senator John Proos says that this will help fight a crime that many people don’t often talk about.

Information about human trafficking — including how to identify and report it — is available on the Michigan attorney general’s website at michigan.gov/humantrafficking. The bill approved this week now goes on to the State House.

Exercising Your Right to Vote Begins with Registering by Oct. 9

I want to encourage all Southwest Michigan residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote, which starts with ensuring you’re registered.

Our country was founded on the revolutionary idea that our rights don’t come from our government, they are endowed upon us by our Creator. This freedom to choose 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: the right to vote.

While voter turnout nationwide remains lower than it should be, I am proud that in Michigan’s Great Southwest we have an engaged citizenry that turns out to vote.

I would also urge you to learn as much as you can about the candidates and the issues. An informed voter is a responsible voter. While our state and nation continue to face complex problems, we need effective leaders who are willing to take on these problems and fix them.

To vote in the November election, you must be registered one month beforehand. This means you need to register by Oct. 9.

If you are not registered to vote or if you do not know if you’re registered, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at: http://www.michigan.gov/vote.

The site enables you to check your voter registration status and learn how to register. For more comprehensive voter and election information visit the Michigan secretary of state’s website at: http://www.michigan.gov/sos.

Elections are a vital component to our democratic republic. By voting, you help make our state and nation stronger and keep your leaders accountable.

9-11 Will Always Be a Day that Unites Us as Americans

Tuesday marks the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America.

While the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 will forever be etched in our minds, it will also forever be a day that unites us as Americans.

I encourage all Southwest Michigan families to join me as we remember those we lost at Ground Zero, at the Pentagon and in the fields of Pennsylvania. My thoughts and prayers go out to each of the families affected by this tragedy.

Celebrate the bravery of the men and women who became modern-day heroes due to their extraordinary courage that terrible day. Remember the selflessness of the passengers of United 93, who sacrificed themselves to prevent further tragedy. Honor the fearless first responders who ran into the towers to save lives – often at the cost of their own. Thank our courageous military members who continue to defend the freedom of all Americans.

America is a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world. While 9-11 illustrates that freedom isn’t free, it also reminds us that our great country and way of life are worth defending.

I believe that it is a testament to the greatness of America that when our liberty is attacked we come together and rise to meet that challenge.

As we unite in remembrance of 9-11, look forward with optimism that if we each do our part, our country and world will be a better place.

In honor of the lives lost Sept. 11, 2001, and to our firefighters, police officers and brave soldiers who protect our communities and nation every day, I commend you all for your courage, dedication and service and give you each my deepest heartfelt appreciation.