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.

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.

Senator Proos Blasts White House Inaction on Asian Carp

WSJM – RadioSilverhead Asian Carp

State Senator John Proos is putting the blame for the discovery of environmental DNA from invasive silver carp in the Kalamazoo River squarely on the shoulders of the Obama administration. The St. Joseph Republican says there has been “consistent inaction” by the White House that has resulted in the species of Asian carp to “inch closer to destroying our vital Southwest Michigan waterways.”

Proos joins Congressman Fred Upton in noting the carp, if they were to get established in the Great Lakes, threaten a $4 billion fishing and tourism industry. He adds he’s continuing to push for the closure of the Chicago locks to separate that city’s water system from Lake Michigan in order to prevent the invasive fish from getting in.

Speaking to WSJM News, Proos blasted delays by the Obama administration on separating the Chicago River system from the Great Lakes.

The Department of Natural Resources notes that just because eDNA was found in one sample from 400 taken this summer, they have no evidence there are actually silver carp in the rivers that feed the Great Lakes. Another 200 samples were taken on Tuesday, and those are now being tested.

Legislation Advances to Link Employers to Worker Training

The Herald Palladium

South Haven CTE Capitol DayLegislation to connect unfilled jobs with classroom education and training has been approved unanimously by the Michigan Legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

“Thousands of jobs throughout the state and in Southwest Michigan remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough workers with the necessary skills,” said Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, who sponsored the bill. Senate Bill 66 allows for the sharing of information between school districts and businesses that have job needs as well as providing students and their parents with information on what career and technical education (CTE) opportunities are available to them.

Gov. Rick Snyder has repeatedly called for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in Michigan schools.

“This legislation will ensure that all Michigan schools will have access to important CTE information and options for how these programs can successfully be provided to students with the highest level of educational rigor,” Proos said.

SB 66 requires the Department of Education to provide CTE course information to school districts and to post information online about CTE best practices from around the state and country.

The department will post online a description of how CTE courses can be used to fulfill the graduation requirements, information on successful CTE programs operated by schools, and details on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges.

“I applaud this legislation led by Senator Proos. It’s a big leap in the right direction for economic development and manufacturing right here in Southwest Michigan and Michigan as a whole,” said Joe Sobieralski, director of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance. “It’s a tool we can now utilize to help get our youth interested and aware of the quality, stable and good paying jobs here in Southwest Michigan that will ultimately, over time, lead to a stronger economy.”

State Senator John Proos Talks Education Funding

WKZO – Radio

Roeders ClassThe Michigan legislature may be currently in session, but lawmakers are also traveling around their districts preparing for the November elections. State Senator John Proos says he’s noticed that, as the campaigns heat up, the issue of education funding seems to be the one that everyone’s talking about the most. He told WKZO that state lawmakers have, in fact, been investing in education over the past couple of years, despite what some claim.

“If you just look at the numbers for spending in Michigan, we were spending about 12.1 billion dollars on K through 12 education in 2010,” Proos told WKZO. “Today, since 2010, we are now at 13.1 billion dollars in education.”

Proos said that doesn’t sound to him like education spending in Michigan has been cut, adding that education accounts for nearly half of the state’s budget.

Proos notes that there are a few things the legislature’s managed to get done ahead of taking a break for the elections. He points to a bill that would let patients of terminal illnesses in Michigan try experimental treatments, as well as a recent slew of bills on human trafficking, as matters that have been addressed in just the past week.

Marcellus Wins Senator Proos’ Southwest Michigan Spirit Award

Marcellus Spirit Champs

WSJM – Radio

State Senator John Proos has wrapped up his annual Southwest Michigan school spirit contest and announced the winner.

The social network contest spanned six weeks and the schools were divided into four brackets named for features characterizing Southwest Michigan.

Marcellus students and fans submitted over 300 photos in the contest to earn the win. In addition to the traveling trophy, the school was given a special tribute signed by Governor Synder, state representatives Al Pscholka and Matt Lori, state senators Proos and Bruce Caswell, and Congressman Fred Upton.