Photo Contest Winners Announced

To make the 21st Senate District office feel more like home, this spring, I invited residents to enter their favorite photographs of southwest Michigan into a photo contest.

The response was overwhelming, with 165 photos submitted. The nine pictures with the most ‘Likes’ or votes were selected as the winners and will be hung in the 21st district senate office.

“American Beauty over Paw Paw Lake,” submitted by Kim Siglow, took first place. As the top vote getter, her photo of a bald eagle soaring over Paw Paw Lake will be hung in the office as well as remain my Facebook profile picture for all of June.

It wasn’t until the contest ended and I contacted Kim, that I learned of the interesting story behind the photo.   Siglow told me that her husband took the photo by hanging out of an open, second-story window while she held onto him so he didn’t fall.

The other contest winners, which will all be displayed in the 21st District office, include “Farm Pond South of Berrien Springs” by Dave Coulston; “North Pier Sunset” by Lea Brookes; “Frozen Beauty,” “I Say Apple?”   and “Rambo’s Blueberries” by Kathy Allen; “A Morning Swim in Lake Michigan” by Jane Simon Ammeson; and “Huge Waves on Lake Michigan” and “Grapes at Karma Vista” by Cheryl Aldrich Lane Walberg.

All 165 photos can be seen by visiting my Facebook page and clicking on “Southwest Michigan Photo Contest” in the Photos section.

This was an opportunity to allow residents to showcase what makes Michigan’s great southwest such an incredible place to live. Each photo captured the beauty of our region, and I want to thank all those who submitted pictures.


‘Pink Ribbon’ Would Raise Funds to Fight Breast Cancer

Breast and cervical cancers have devastated millions of Americans, touching many Michigan families. If your family has not had to deal with these terrible diseases, chances are that you know someone who has.

It is for this reason that I and many others wear a pink ribbon to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of early detection.

That is why I was proud to co-sponsor legislation in the Michigan Senate to create a “Pink Ribbon” license plate, which would raise funds for screening and treatment of breast and cervical cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, a woman’s chance of survival with early detection of a localized cancer is 98 percent.  Unfortunately, current screening only catches slightly more than 60 percent of cases at that early stage.  Survival rates decrease among low-income individuals, who are unable to afford regular medical examinations.

The funds raised by this license plate will help improve access for women to life-saving cancer screening and treatment. All revenues would go to help increase the number of screenings provided each year and all startup costs for the plate would be covered by privately-raised funds, so that this comes at no cost to taxpayers.

The fact that this measure received unanimous support upon introduction in the Senate is a testament to the unified effort to win the battle against these deadly cancers.

Thank a Veteran This Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a time for us to remember and pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to America. It is not only a day to honor our veterans, but to thank them as well. We certainly would not enjoy the blessings we do here in Michigan if it were not for their dedication.

I would also like to thank the families of those who serve for their sacrifices. They endure while their son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife preserve our freedoms and spread democracy across the globe. All too often they never return home.

 Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was set aside as a time to honor those killed in the Civil War by decorating their graves. While first widely observed in 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, after World War I, observations began to honor those who died in all of America’s wars.

I encourage everyone to do something to honor the brave men and women who fought and died for our great nation as well as those now serving. Many such heroes live and work right here in Southwest Michigan and across our state.  Thank a veteran for his or her service, or proudly display the American flag.

Most of all, remember our fallen heroes who gave their lives so that we could remain free. We owe them a great debt. Because of fine men and women like them our nation remains strong and the envy of the world.

Discover Michigan’s Natural Beauty

Springtime in Michigan is finally here.  After a long winter, the flowers are in bloom, the days are warm and the nights are cool.

As many of you plan your summer getaways, I encourage you to look at the numerous outdoor recreational opportunities our great state has to offer.

Whether you are discovering Michigan’s natural beauty at one of our state parks or on one of our gorgeous beaches, you can connect with your family, have fun and support the local economy all at the same time.

Michigan’s backyard offers world-class fishing, boating and camping. And by enjoying the state’s outdoors, you help support Michigan’s tourism industry and the thousands of small business job providers and families who depend on it.

To help you with your vacation plans, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has valuable, user-friendly information online at:

The site includes a map of state campgrounds and parks and links to resources like campsite amenities and an online reservation page.

Pure Michigan also offers excellent information on campgrounds at:

In Michigan, we are truly blessed with a wealth of natural wonders. I hope you join me enjoying our great outdoors this summer.


A Time to Honor Our Fallen Police Officers

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe and respond in times of crisis.  Sadly, last year more than 150 of these brave men and women never returned home.

To salute the dedication and sacrifice of law enforcement, in 1962 Congress established May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week on which it falls as National Police Week.

Communities nationwide and across southwest Michigan will unite this week to honor and remember those officers who were killed in the line of duty, as well as the family, friends and fellow officers they left behind.

The names of the officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in 2010 will be formally dedicated Friday evening on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., during the 23rd Annual Candlelight Vigil.

Closer to home, I encourage residents to join local police officers and their families as we honor the officers who lost their lives in service to our community.

The annual Law Enforcement Memorial Day Service will begin at noon on Friday at the Law Enforcement Memorial located in Lake Bluff Park in St. Joseph.

While the ceremony is a chance to pay tribute to these heroes, police week is a time to thank the law enforcement officers still protecting us.

May God keep them safe and bless their families with strength.

Pro-Farmer, Pro-Environment, Pro-Jobs Measures Signed into Law

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation providing new incentives to encourage Michigan farmers to voluntarily participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program –his first public acts as governor.

The program is a voluntary, three-step process to educate farmers, perform on-site assessments of environmental risks and require third-party verifications that measures are in place to promote soil and water conservation on their farms.

I have long been a strong advocate of this program – including being a key bill sponsor while in the House – because it has proven successful with southwest Michigan farmers for years.

I thank the governor for signing these initiatives because we must maintain a balance between supporting Michigan’s thriving agriculture industry and protecting our natural resources. Aiding Michigan’s second-largest industry is vitally important, but we also must hold accountable those who purposely harm the environment.

These acts will encourage more farmers to become MAEAP certified – with a goal of verifying 80 percent of Michigan’s agricultural production by 2015. Michigan will now provide farmers real, tangible benefits for their environmental efforts.

This proactive approach will help farmers understand the standards, save them time and money, and protect our natural resources for future generations.

Right-to-Work Zones Will Give Michigan a Competitive Edge

To attract new businesses to Michigan and create jobs, we must remove barriers to competition.

As chair of the House Republican Strategic Task Force on Jobs last session, I heard from several Michigan job providers that said right-to-work reform would make the state more competitive.

Making Michigan the first state in the Great Lakes region with a right-to-work law would give us a competitive advantage for new investment and jobs.

That is why I introduced legislation to allow Michigan counties and municipalities to create right-to-work zones within their boundaries.

This reform would allow Michigan to explore the possible benefits of right-to-work, while placing economic development decisions in the hands of those who will be most affected – our local communities.

My initiative would not ban unions.  It would allow local governments to give employees the decision of whether or not to join a labor union.

As our state continues to have one of the nation’s worst unemployment rates, we must continue to prioritize Michigan residents looking for work.

Giving our local communities the option to create right-to-work zones would be a huge step forward toward creating jobs by making Michigan truly open for business.