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.

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.

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.

Career Training Will Help Students be Job-Ready

Proos_Average JoesThousands of Michigan jobs remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough skilled workers. To help meet this workforce need, Gov. Rick Snyder has called for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools.

I am strong supporter of STEM and career and technical education (CTE) because applied learning done in coordination with public-private partnerships and STEM education can help prepare children for success and also meet the workforce needs of a growing economy.

Recently, my bill to connect unfilled jobs with classroom education and training was unanimously approved and sent to the governor to be signed.

Senate Bill 66 allows for the sharing of information between schools and businesses with workforce needs and provides students and parents with information on CTE opportunities.

The Department of Education would be required to provide CTE course information to schools and post online about CTE best practices from around Michigan and the country.

The department will also post online details on how CTE courses can be used to fulfill the state’s high school graduation requirements; information on successful CTE programs; and information on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges to provide quality CTE.

Applied learning is most effective when students who complete the courses are job-ready. That is why the bill also urges schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or a professional certificate – giving students on-the-job training.

Free Mammograms Available

Proos PinkRibbonPlateAmong Michigan women, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer deaths. Nearly everyone knows someone who has been impacted by this terrible disease.

I recently supported designating October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Michigan.

Early detection of breast cancer is critical to improving the chance of survival, yet very few Southwest Michigan women ages 40 and older get annual mammograms.

I encourage all at-risk women to take this important and life-saving step. I also urge eligible uninsured women to take advantage of a program that provides free mammograms on select days in October.

The Pink Saturdays Breast Cancer Screenings program has screened more than 9,300 women and expects to provide 1,000 free mammograms this year. To be eligible for a free screening, a woman must be uninsured, be age 40 to 64 and meet certain income guidelines.

Residents may call 1-800-873-0649 to schedule a free screening or visit www.PinkSaturdays.org for more information.

I am also proud to announce that “Pink Ribbon” license plates are now available. I co-sponsored the law last year to create this plate to raise funds that will help provide low-income women access to cancer screening services and follow-up care, including treatment if necessary.

This October, let us celebrate those who have won their fight with breast cancer, support those currently battling this serious disease and remember the friends and loved ones we have lost.

We Will Never Forget 9-11

The tragedy of September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in our minds.

However, it will also forever be a day that unites us as Americans.

It is a testament to the greatness of the American people that when our liberty is attacked, we come together to meet that challenge.

This year, Rep. Dave Pagel and I welcomed Chikaming Township Fire Department Chief Mike Davidson and Berrien Springs Fire Department Chief Bruce Stover to the Capitol to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the brave men and women who became modern-day heroes due to their extraordinary courage. We will always remember the selflessness of the United 93 passengers, who sacrificed themselves to prevent further tragedy, and the fearless first responders who ran into the twin towers to save lives – often at the cost of their own.

I also want to express my heartfelt appreciation to our firefighters, police officers and brave soldiers who continue to protect our communities and our nation every day.

Out of tragedy we are reminded of blessings that God has bestowed on America and that our constitutional freedoms are worth defending.

To help pay tribute to the anniversary of 9-11 and the signing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, I supported a Senate resolution that designated September 11-17 as “Michigan Patriot Week.” It is about celebrating America’s founding principles and the patriots who acted and often died to establish and defend the greatest country on Earth.

May God continue to bless America, our troops and our first responders.