Senator Proos: Roadwork Funding a Priority

WSJM – Radio

Michael Arney Reporting

State lawmakers remain on break until early next week, and are getting the chance to get back out in the communities where they serve. State Senator John Proos joined WSJM’s Pat Moody Tuesday morning and tells us a lot of work remains before the end of the year in Lansing.

Governor Snyder had proposed doubling fees for vehicle registrations to pay for roadwork, with that idea going nowhere. Proos has floated the idea of passing a law to ensure the money paid in fuel taxes goes where it was intended, which is roadwork.

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Proos: $440 Million Surplus “Great News”

WSJM – Radio

Jason Scott Reporting

Fiscal experts report revenues are exceeding projections, putting the state of Michigan in the black by $440-million. State Senator John Proos says this is great news, but also asks “where should the state spend it?”

Proos says the better than expected revenue number means efforts to revitalize Michigan are working, and the state remains fiscally responsible with taxpayer dollars.

State Tax Dollars Should Stay in Michigan to Support Michigan Jobs

WorkersMichigan spends more than $30 billion annually on goods and services, and using state businesses to meet our needs can improve efficient use of taxpayer dollars, boost our economy and create jobs.

That is why I co-sponsored a bill to give Michigan businesses a priority for state contracts when possible.

It’s a way to thank those who stuck it out during tough times. Most importantly, it simply makes sense.

Senate Bill 517 mirrors the “Buy Indiana Initiative” that gave a preference of up to 5 percent to Indiana-based businesses.

As we work hard to continue Michigan’s turnaround, we must support our home team. Michigan-based businesses and the workers they employ pay taxes help that support vital services like education and public safety.

We owe it to all Michigan residents that we remain responsible and efficient with their tax dollars. That includes ensuring our Michigan tax dollars first go to support Michigan companies and Michigan jobs.

The 2013 Pure Michigan Travel Guide illustrates the need for a state preference. An Iowa firm won the contract to put together the guide’s three seasonal issues, even though a Michigan-based company’s bid was $300,000 less.

I strongly support Pure Michigan because it helps attract jobs and tourists to our state. That’s why I’m so disappointed that a Michigan company and its workers were not picked to design the state’s travel guide when their bid would have actually saved the state money.

Many businesses and organizations have pledged to Buy Michigan. The state should do the same.

Van Buren County Gets Grant For Swift and Sure

Law Enforcement Endorsement PicWSJM – Radio

Jason Scott Reporting

The Swift and Sure Probation Program is expanding. State Senator John Proos says Van Buren County has accepted a $250,000 grant to set it up, making it the third county in Southwest Michigan to establish the cost-saving program.

Berrien County has had the program for three years. Since its inception positive drug tests have fallen by 70%. Cass County received over $280,000 to establish a similar system back in February.

Some Lawmakers Wonder Why It’s Necessary for Michigan to be 1 of Only 4 State with True Full-Time Legislature

By Kathleen Gray

The Detroit Free Press

ChamberEighty-one days.

That was the total number of days Michigan’s full-time Legislature worked in Lansing in 2012. From mid-June through the last week of November, when many members of the House of Representatives were campaigning for re-election, they put in a whopping 10 days of work in the state capital.

They then went on a three-week lame-duck binge, passing 282 bills, including controversial ones dealing with the right-to-work law, taxes, abortion rights and gun control. In 2011, they were in session 100 days, taking the entire months of July and August off, along with two-week breaks in the spring, November and December. This year, the House schedule includes one day of work in each of July and August, a two-week spring break, and two weeks off in both November and December. The Senate schedule for the year is updated only through June, but also includes a two-week spring break.

Nationally, the average full-time employee, who gets three weeks of vacation and the standard six holiday days off, works 239 days each year. A part-time worker, who generally works 20 hours a week, puts in 130 days a year.

“Michigan is one of only 10 states that has some sort of full-time legislative session and we’re really only one of four states that are truly in a full-time session,” said state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph. “If the other 40 states can do it in a part-time fashion, there’s no reason why we can’t.”

Proos has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let voters decide whether the Legislature should become part-time, working 90 days of the year. State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, plans to introduce similar legislation in the House, including cutting the $71,685 annual salary by 75%.

“I think we can get our work done in 90 days,” he said. “Our major task is the budget, and we got that done early the past two years.”

Other lawmakers say it’s unfair to judge their time on the job strictly by the days they spend in Lansing. They host coffee hours with constituents back home, attend local meetings, give speeches and prepare for the upcoming legislative debates back at the Capitol.

The trick to getting a part-time Legislature will be getting their legislative colleagues on their side, and that appears to be a long shot. Even Gov. Rick Snyder said last week he doesn’t support changing to a part-time Legislature.

Of the top 10 states in population, four — California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York — have true, full-time Legislatures. Another three in the top 10 in population have semi-full-time legislatures that generally don’t meet throughout the year.

And places like Texas, the second-largest state in the nation, and smaller counterparts such as Montana, Nevada and North Dakota, meet every other year. Their pay ranges from $82.64 a day in Montana to $7,200 a year in Texas.

Most of the other Midwestern states surrounding Michigan — Wisconsin, Ohio and Illinois — have some form of a full-time Legislature.

Indiana has operated with a part-time Legislature since the 1800s, and only switched from an every-other-year to an annual legislative session in the 1970s. Legislators are paid $22,616 a year, and they get a $152 per diem payment for each day they’re in session.

“It is a challenge to balance the work load, a career and respond to the flexibility necessary for the job,” said Indiana Senate Majority Floor Leader Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek.

Finding candidates who can juggle a career and the three- to four-month legislative calendar can be difficult, said Hershman, who owns a consulting business with his wife. But there are benefits as well.

“The strict nature of the deadlines lead to compromises and easier resolution of problems,” he said. “And it forces us to prioritize: Things that are very pressing always rise to the top.”

Iowa also operates with a part-time Legislature, working up to 110 days a year and paying the lawmakers $25,000 a year, plus a $132 per day stipend during session.

If an emergency arises in the part-time Legislature states, the governor can call the House and Senate back into session. But that’s a rare occurrence, said Chief Clerk of the Iowa Legislature Carmine Boal. Since 1964, the Legislature has been called back to work 14 times.

“It’s not a given by any means, and is avoided at all costs,” she said. “It costs the taxpayers money.”

And it costs the legislators, too. When they’re called back to Des Moines for emergency session, they’re not paid a per diem and must pick up their own expenses for food and lodging.

Michigan legislators’ status as full-timers has not gone unchallenged. Bills have been introduced on an almost annual basis. And ballot proposals have been tried, but failed.

Henry Woloson, a Clarkston attorney and financial adviser, was part of a group that tried unsuccessfully in 2008 to get enough petition signatures to get the issue on the ballot.

“This is an issue that will never be taken up by the Legislature,” he said. “They have no incentive to do it.”

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. It will save money, though that’s not necessarily the main concern, Woloson said. Even if legislative pay was cut in half and the roughly 700 Senate and House staffers pared back, the $116-million 2013 legislative budget represents a fraction of the state’s overall $7.5-billion general-fund budget.

“This is more about good government; making it more efficient, accountable and transparent,” he said. “There is no reason why we can’t have members working part-time in Lansing and then return to their communities to interface with the people.”

But that time in the community — speaking with groups, meeting with constituents and local elected officials and learning about upcoming bills — makes what looks like a part-time job a full-time endeavor, said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

“The governor likes to talk about the state as being a customer service window, and representatives and senators end up being that window for customer service,” he said. “We’re the closest to the constituents of this state, and that’s important to consider, too.”

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said it would be difficult to find people who would be able to take that time away from their careers for three months or so in the Legislature.

“I don’t think that we want to end up in a situation where the only people who are able to serve are multimillionaires,” he said. “But we’re always open to talk about shrinking government and making it more efficient.”

Snyder said last week that he doesn’t think it’s the right time for a part-time Legislature.

Speaking to the Brighton Chamber of Commerce, he said: “I’m asking them to do enough work where we need them there full-time. For the next two to three years, as we continue on a path of reinvention, we just need to work really hard.”

Lansing political consultant Craig Ruff said he worries that while legislators are back in their district for extended periods of time that the governor, staff and lobbyists can act without much oversight.

“I worry about that shift in power,” he said. “And the other thing is that constituent services have to go on whether a legislator is sitting at a desk in the Capitol or at home.”

Even backers of a part-time Legislature realize their quest is a long shot.

“This is the third time I’ve introduced this, and I’ve never gotten much traction,” McMillin said.

In fact, the bill has never even gotten a hearing in committee.

Proos acknowledged that his bill is far from a slam dunk.

“I know there is a difference of opinion on this and some of my colleagues will have plenty to say about it,” he said. “But this is a reform that makes good common sense. We’re having to find savings and solutions to problems on a daily basis.”

Proos Says Snyder Deserves Credit for Michigan’s Comeback

By Mike Arney

WSJM – Radio

Concussion Bill SigningFor the first half hour of Governor Snyder’s third State of the State address, he looked back on the progress the state has made over his time in office before launching into his 2013 goals. State Senator John Proos says Snyder can take a lot of credit for where the state is compared to what the Republican governor inherited.

Proos said in terms of Snyder’s top priority of coming up with more money for roads, there needs to be a bi-partisan solution. The governor has reportedly been shopping his plan to legislative Democrats to get their backing in the event he doesn’t have enough Republican votes to increase the amount of money we pay to register our vehicles, among other ideas. Proos says along with repairing the roads, US 31 needs to be finished, as southwest Michigan has waited long enough.

Priorities for 2013

Listen and LearnWe accomplished much in the past two years to re-energize Michigan, but more remains to be done.

My priorities for 2013 remain helping to create more Southwest Michigan jobs, increasing the public accountability in state government and improving education.

I remain focused on limiting the scope of government in our lives.

That means cutting unnecessary red-tape and costs; enhancing government efficiency; and eliminating fraud, waste and abuse of your tax dollars.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I continue to look for innovative ways to save money in state government. Two reforms I will be sponsoring in 2013 are measures to adopt a two-year budget and create a part-time Legislature. Lawmakers must plan ahead when budgeting, instead of using one-time gimmicks, and they should enter elected office as a public service – not for a paycheck.

Education is key to our future, so I am putting forth reform to help ensure every student has a good teacher by allowing military spouses who are certified teachers in other states and have been re-located to Michigan to teach here as long as they pursue Michigan certification.

I will also continue to push to allow students to study “career and technical education” as jobs in the trades are valuable and necessary in our communities.

I believe it’s important to listen to the people about the challenges we face and what we can do to meet them. That is why I encourage area residents to contact my office to express their opinion or request assistance with a state issue.

Residents may contact my office at senjproos@senate.michigan.gov or by calling 1-517-373-6960. Letters may be sent to: Senator John Proos; P.O. Box 30036; Lansing, MI 48909.