Michigan Soon to Launch Fireworks

Michigan’s skies could be especially bright this coming July 4th, because legislation allowing consumers to buy certain, previously banned fireworks in Michigan is on its way to the governor to be signed.

Southwest Michigan retailers know that this isn’t about bringing these fireworks to our state. Many residents currently drive to Indiana or Ohio to purchase these types of fireworks, resulting in lost economic activity and revenue for our state.

House Bill 4293 will allow for the sale, transportation and use of consumer-grade fireworks under certain conditions. Retailers wanting to sell these fireworks, typically described as fireworks that shoot up into the air, will pay annual application fees of $1,000 to sell from a building and $600 to sell from a tent as well as a six percent fireworks safety fee on retail sales.

The reform also provides for an inspection and permitting process, requires liability insurance, and calls for the creation of a website listing every entity issued a consumer-grade firework certificate, to promote public safety and accountability.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 194, outlines criminal penalties for violators. Both proposals were supported by the Michigan Fire Service Coalition which consists of many firefighter groups, including the Michigan State Firemen’s Association.

I supported the bipartisan reforms because they will put Southwest Michigan small businesses on an even playing field with fireworks sellers across the border. That means more revenue for our schools and roads while responsibly balancing public safety and job creation.


Thanksgiving a Time to Gather with Family and Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is a time to gather together with family and friends and give thanks for our many blessings. While much has changed in the 390 years since the first Thanksgiving, coming home to a simpler life remains at the heart of the holiday.

America’s first Thanksgiving in 1621 was born out of an expression of gratefulness for a bountiful harvest. The New World settlers and the local Native Americans joined together for a three day celebration featuring feasting, singing and dancing.

More than 150 years later, President Washington proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving Day as a time to rejoice a young nation’s freedom and liberty. After falling out of favor, the holiday was reborn by President Lincoln in 1863 as a time to unite a country torn apart by civil war.

Today, Southwest Michigan families will gather to enjoy turkey, watch parades and football games and honor other family traditions.

In the modern, global, 24/7 digital world, the spirit of Thanksgiving might be more important than ever. It is a moment to take the weight of the world off our shoulders, connect with our loved ones and celebrate the most cherished thing we have: one another.

In the bustle of the holiday, I hope we will all take time to warmly express our gratitude to our family and friends for their love and friendship throughout the year and to give thanks for the blessing of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

May God bless you and fill your hearts and homes with love.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Honor Veterans Every Day

Peabody Award winning journalist Elmer Davis once said: “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

His quote reminds us that we enjoy our freedoms and way of life today because courageous men and women have risked – and continue to risk – their lives to defend America.

Last week, I was honored to take part in several tributes throughout Southwest Michigan on Veterans Day thanking our American patriots for their outstanding service.

Celebrated on the anniversary of the end of World War I, Veterans Day is a time to honor the enormous sacrifice and selfless dedication of our veterans. It emerged from the great outpouring of thanksgiving that marked the end of what was once called the Great War – a fight for freedom that was to end all wars.

As we know, that struggle continues. Through a second world war, conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, and now wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America’s finest stand up for freedom and liberty.

These patriots left their families to ensure that we could live in the land of the free. Some never returned. Because of their valor, we live in a country that is the beacon of liberty and hope in the world.

Their great sacrifice is a debt we can never fully repay.

In heartfelt appreciation for their sacrifice on our behalf, I urge all Southwest Michigan residents to take time to thank our veterans for their service. Not just one day a year, but every day.

God bless our veterans and their families. Thank you.

Senate Resolution Urges Support of Family Farms

Working on a farm instills in youths a sense of responsibility, work ethic, and countless other invaluable lessons that will guide them for the rest of their lives.  Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Labor has proposed rules that would prohibit children under age 16 from performing many duties on a family farm – including all interaction with animals.

I believe that the values and life skills learned on the family farm are at the core of our Southwest Michigan community, which is why I co-sponsored a resolution calling on the department not to implement the new regulations.

Protecting youths in the workplace is a laudable goal, but the reality of these onerous rules would be to destroy the generational family farm and community organizations like 4-H and FFA that are central to our Southwest Michigan communities.

These federal proposals illustrate the vast disconnect between Washington bureaucrats and Midwest family farmers.

Senate Resolution 94 is a way to ensure the message is heard in Washington that their actions can have real, damaging effects on families and farmers in the real world.

The proposed revisions to the federal child labor regulations would effectively ban participation by youths in raising animals and showing them at the local county fair, milking the family cow or helping parents to feed the horses. The proposals are outrageous and must be stopped.

Small Businesses Encouraged to Get Online

While 97 percent of Americans go online to find products and services, nearly 60 percent of Michigan businesses do not have a website.

This puts our locally owned companies at an enormous competitive disadvantage, resulting in lost business and lost jobs.

I encourage all Southwest Michigan job providers who do not have an internet presence to take advantage of a free program to give companies all the necessary tools to get started, including complimentary website hosting, designing and training.

Michigan Get Your Business Online is a no-cost initiative to increase the number of small businesses in the state using the internet to grow their business. It is led by Google with numerous business groups as partners, including Southwest Michigan First and comes at no cost to taxpayers.

To learn more about the program or to get your free website, please visit the program’s website at www.michigangetonline.com.

In addition to a professional website and a year of web hosting at no cost, the program is offering free events where entrepreneurs can get one-on-one advice and learn about online marketing.

Those interested in attending an event can sign up to receive email notifications of upcoming events at www.michigangetonline.com/eventupdates

The Internet can be intimidating for many people and these events are designed to help job providers through the process and set them up for success. This is an excellent, free opportunity to reach out to new customers by getting your business online.

Senate Approves Bill to Allow CPL Holders to Carry Tasers

Individuals with Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPL) would be allowed to legally carry Tasers under measures approved by the Michigan Senate.

This common sense legislation is  about public safety. Using a Taser is a nonlethal means for self-defense by temporarily incapacitating a criminal suspect or attacker. Allowing someone who is already trained to carry a gun to use a Taser is a responsible policy that will enable Southwest Michigan residents to protect their families in the safest manner possible.

Senate Bill 29 would allow CPL holders to possess and reasonably use an electro-muscular disruption device, commonly known as a Taser or stun gun. The bill also requires authorized dealers to provide training to CPL holders on the use and risks of Tasers and restricts use of the devices to self-defense.

Individuals convicted of using a Taser for anything other than self-defense would face up to two years in prison and a fine of $2,000.

SBs 30 and 93 require CPL holders carrying Tasers on their person or in their vehicle to disclose this to police officers; ban individuals from carrying the devices while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances; and outline fine and jail time for violators.

Law enforcement officers in Michigan have been using Tasers for years. This reform will expand our state’s CPL law to allow our most responsible citizen gun owners to use these nonlethal devices – with all the restrictions of a concealed weapon.

Prisoner “Trophies” Wrong

It has come to my attention that a prisoner in the State of Michigan was recently allowed to display a “trophy”, or souvenir of his crime, in his prison cell.  This is unacceptable and a slap in the face to innocent victims and their families. 

“Trophy” items can include photographs, articles of clothing or other items from a criminal act.

I believe allowing prisoners to display these keepsakes is disgusting and is the reason I co-sponsored legislation to prohibit prisoners from receiving or having in their cell any item that belonged to the criminal’s victim or any photograph, drawing or other visual image representing his victim.

My reform is about ensuring that Michigan’s corrections system remains focused on adjusting behavior and punishing criminal offenses against communities across the state. The bill does allow for an exemption in a case where the victim is an immediate family member and the prisoner has permission of that family member.

Senate Bill 645 was introduced at the request of a Michigan municipal police department after a prisoner, convicted of a sexual offense, was discovered by the victim’s family to have a picture of his victim in his prison cell. When the family asked that the photograph be removed, they were informed that a judge would have to set a no contact order to include photos and that this would’ve had to have been done before the sentencing of the criminal.

Michigan has long been a leader in the area of crime victim’s rights. This case is an example of oversight in the law that must be fixed. No victim or victim’s family should be subjected to this type of inappropriate behavior.