Category Archives: Politics

Chamber’s July Government Matters meeting brings federal issues to WKTV

 

At the Government Matters Meeting were, from left, Greg VanWoerkom, District Director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-2nd); City of Wyoming Mayor Pro Tem Sam Boll; and Kent County Commissioner Harold Mast. (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

The Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meetings bring together government leaders of all levels and topics often range from local libraries to Washington. D.C. politics. You can see for yourself as WKTV replays the meetings.

 

At the July 10 meeting, discussion on the current state of healthcare reform took center stage as Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District), gave a status report to the other government officials and representatives.

 

Greg VanWoerkom, district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Michigan 2nd District). (WKTV/K.D. Norris)

“Really, all the eyes have been on the Senate the past two weeks, what their strategies are regarding healthcare, and we hope to hear more information on that this week, ” VanWoerkom said. “Everybody is watching every senator and what they are saying about it.”

 

Rep. Huizenga has consistently called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

 

“What we are seeing, with the Affordable Care Act, is that more and more people are not having options to purchase (medical insurance) in the individual market,” VanWoerkom said. “Counties, states, individual insurance companies are just dropping out of that exchange marketplace at a pretty good clip. … the Affordable Care Act is not working.”

 

To see the entire discussion, check out WKTV’s replay of the meeting (link below).

 

The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other State of Michigan and federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Aug. 7 at Wyoming City Hall.

 

The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.

Government Matters: Week in review, July 3-7

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

Stabenow, Peters Accepting Applications from Candidates Interested in Nomination for Federal Judgeship and U.S. Attorney in Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have announced they are accepting applications from qualified persons interested in nomination for federal judge or United States Attorney. There is currently one vacancy on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and one vacancy on the United States District Court for the Western District. Both U.S. Attorney positions are also vacant. Interested candidates should request an application by emailing judicialnominations@stabenow.senate.gov. Applications are due no later than July 31, 2017.

Peters Amendments to National Defense Authorization Act Passed by Senate Armed Services Committee

By Zade Alsawah

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, authored several provisions and amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets policy for the Department of Defense (DoD) for Fiscal Year 2018. The legislation was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee this week.


Senator Peters also cosponsored several provisions that were approved by the Committee, including a provision to require the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a study on the health implications of PFAS in drinking water, as well as an amendment authorizing funding to support the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program, encourage partnership between MEP affiliates and the Manufacturing USA Institutes established by DoD, and improving manufacturing engineering education. MEP is a public-private partnership dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves Peters’ Amendments to Strengthen Airport Security

Amendments Included in Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill

 

By Zade Alsawah

 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today approved several amendments authored by U.S Senator Gary Peters (MI) to help strengthen security and protect travelers outside of Transportation Security Administration (TSA)-screened areas in local airports. Recent incidents at airports in Ft. Lauderdale, Brussels, and Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan, have highlighted vulnerabilities to coordinated and lone-wolf attacks in public areas like baggage claims or pick up and drop off points.

In Grand Haven, Senator Stabenow Joins “All Hands on Deck” Event on Lake Michigan to Highlight Importance of Protecting Our Great Lakes

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today joined community members at the Grand Haven State Park for the “All Hands on Deck” Great Lakes event. The event was one of 64 local events happening in communities and at public beaches in six different states to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our Great Lakes and funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.


“All Hands on Deck” was started by Kimberly Simon of Charlevoix in March, 2017 to raise awareness and bring people together in a nonpartisan way to advocate for our Great Lakes. Kimberly launched the idea after the Trump Administration proposed eliminating funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. For a complete list of the more than 30 events happening in Michigan, visit https://allhandsondeckgreatlakes.org/communities-participating/ and for more information, visit https://allhandsondeckgreatlakes.org/.

Peters, Stabenow Urge Department of Defense to Explore Efforts to Reduce Prescription Drug Costs in TRICARE

By Zade Alsawah and Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis asking him for timely consideration of a pilot program to improve access and reduce the costs of prescription drugs in the TRICARE program, which serves active duty military personnel, National Guard, reservists, retired service members and their families.

 

Currently, all TRICARE beneficiaries must get non-generic medications from a military treatment facility (MTF) or through mail order, but have no option to visit a pharmacy in person. The pilot program, which was established in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017, will allow beneficiaries to get their medications from local pharmacies while preserving access through the existing MTF and mail order systems, and reduce costs by allowing the Department of Defense to purchase non-generic medications at the same lower rate it pays for drugs dispensed through the mail or MTFs.

 

The pilot will also provide additional options for the families of retired servicemembers, National Guard members and reservists who may not live near an MTF to visit a pharmacy in person to purchase their medications. There are more than 97,000 TRICARE beneficiaries living in Michigan, but there are no military treatment facilities in the state.

Government Matters: Week in review, June 26-30

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

Huizenga-led Subcommittee Examines State of U.S. Equity Markets

The Capital Markets, Securities and Investment Subcommittee held a hearing to examine the current state of the U.S. equity markets—specifically what is working well in today’s markets, as well as areas that need improvement or are impacting the optimal functioning of the markets. Watch Rep. Bill Huizenga’s remarks, below.


Key Takeaways from the Hearing:

  • Despite significant technological advancements and constantly evolving industry practices in today’s market, the statutory framework that governs equity market structure remains largely unchanged
  • In order to determine what is the appropriate statutory framework to represent today’s markets and – more importantly – to build in sufficient flexibility that will allow our markets to continue to evolve and allow innovation, we must first analyze how the equity markets have evolved, what is working, and what needs to be improved.

Huizenga Supports Kate’s Law, Votes to Hold Sanctuary Cities Accountable

Congressman Bill Huizenga released the following statement after voting in favor of Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, legislation that will strengthen immigration enforcement, protect Americans, and hold sanctuary cities accountable.


“The safety of our citizens should be a priority that is shared by government at the local, state, and federal level. If a state or municipality chooses to ignore federal law and harbor dangerous criminals, they should be ineligible to received federal grants funded by hardworking taxpayers.”


The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act prohibits state and local government entities from mandating noncompliance with properly issued immigration detainers and includes the detainer mandates of Grant’s Law and Sarah’s Law.

Senators Peters and Stabenow introduce legislation, make statements on Silver Carp discovery near Lake Michigan

By Zade Alsawah, Allison Green and Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow (MI) helped introduce the Stop Asian Carp Now Act this week. The Act will require the Trump Administration to release the Brandon Road Study within seven days of the bill’s enactment. The Brandon Road control point was identified in the GLMRIS (Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study) analyses as the only single location that can address upstream transfer of Mississippi River species through all CAWS pathways. The study has already been delayed by the Trump Administration from its expected release in February of this year.


The Senators also released the following statements regarding an announcement from the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee that a silver carp has been discovered in Illinois, within nine miles from Lake Michigan and beyond an electric barrier designed to prevent invasive species from entering the Great Lakes basin. This is the first live Silver Carp discovered above the electric barrier in the Illinois River


Said Peters, “We know how serious of a threat invasive species like Asian carp are to the Great Lakes ecosystem and economy. This discovery reaffirms that we must do everything we can to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes basin — starting with the swift release of the Brandon Road Study to evaluate the next steps needed to protect our waterways from this harmful invasive species.”


Senator Stabenow said, “Today’s news is a wakeup call. It is deeply alarming that a live Silver carp was found only nine miles from Lake Michigan — the fact remains that we need a permanent solution at Brandon Road. We need to know how the Silver carp came so close to Lake Michigan and whether there are any additional carp in the area.”


The eight-pound Silver carp was found by a commercial fishing vessel whose activities to combat Asian carp are funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). GLRI funding is also providing resources for emergency monitoring and response actions that will be taken over the next two weeks by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and the State of Illinois to detect and stop any additional Silver carp in these waters near Lake Michigan.

 

Government Matters: Week in review, June 19-23

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

Peters Statement on Senate Republican Health Care Bill

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) released the following statement on the recently released Senate Republican draft health care bill:

 

“Senate Republicans wrote this bill in secret and without any input from their Democratic colleagues or the public, and now they are rushing to pass it next week without any hearings or sufficient opportunities for input from the American people and health care experts. While I’m still reviewing the details of the bill, it appears similar to the House Republicans’ bill that strips millions of hardworking families of their health care coverage, increases costs for seniors and makes health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions largely unaffordable. We need time to thoroughly debate this bill that will impact millions of families, and I urge my Republican colleagues to come to the table and start a truly bipartisan process with public hearings and public input that will help all Americans afford quality health care in their communities.”

Stabenow, Peters, Huizenga Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Demanding Administration Release Report on Asian Carp

Rep. Bill Huizenga discusses Asian Carp bill

By Miranda Margowsky and Allison Green


U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, introduced the Stop Asian Carp Now Act, which will require the Trump Administration to release the Brandon Road Study within seven days of the bill’s enactment. The Brandon Road Lock and Dam study will provide important guidance on how best to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and is an important hurdle before further action can be taken.


The Stop Asian Carp Now Act is cosponsored and supported by 31 members of the House and seven Senators. The entire Michigan congressional delegation is in support of this measure.


Asian carp represent a serious economic and environmental threat to the Great Lakes and this report is a critical next step in finding and implementing a solution. The report has already been delayed by the Trump Administration from its expected release in February of this year. Once the report is released a public comment period can begin, and further action can be decided in an open and transparent way.

ICYMI: Senator Stabenow Joins Senate Democrats to Hold the Floor, Calls on Republicans to Make Health Care Bill Public  (VIDEO)

By Nirmeen Fahmy


This past week, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) joined other Senate Democrats to hold the Senate floor and call on Republicans to make the text of their health care bill public.


“Republicans are hiding their bill because they know it is a bad deal for American families,” said Senator Stabenow. “Costs go up, care goes down, all to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires. It’s time for Republicans to show us the bill so we can move beyond partisanship to get something done for the American people.”

 

 

 

Government Matters: Week in review, June 12-16

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

 

Next Stop the President’s Desk: Huizenga Supports Bill to Put Veterans First, Restore Accountability at the VA

Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02) issued the following statement after voting in support of the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act:

Rep. Bill Huizenga

“For too long, a culture that protects bad employees, punishes whistleblowers, and fails to put veterans first, has been allowed to fester within the VA,” said Congressman Huizenga. “The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act provides Secretary Shulkin with the tools necessary to fire bad employees, strengthens whistleblower protections, and restores accountability to the VA. This legislation is a major step forward in the effort to ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve at VA facilities and I look forward to seeing President Trump sign this bipartisan measure into law.”

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act has already passed the Senate and will now head to President Trump’s desk. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Peters Highlights Michigan Innovation & Leadership on Self-Driving Vehicles at Senate Hearing

Peters Introduces American Center for Mobility’s John Maddox to Share Expertise at Senate Commerce Committee Hearing

 

Sen. Gary Peters

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-founder of the bipartisan Smart Transportation Caucus, today introduced John Maddox, President and CEO of the American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti, Michigan, at a Commerce Committee hearing on self-driving vehicle technology. Earlier this year, Peters announced a joint, bipartisan effort with Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune to craft legislation to advance the development and deployment of lifesaving advanced vehicle technologies. ACM will play a critical role in testing and validating connected and self-driving vehicle technology, and was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as an Automated Vehicle Proving Ground in January.

 

“As the heart of the American auto industry, Michigan’s automakers, suppliers and engineers will solidify our nation’s position as the global leader in transportation innovation,” said Senator Peters.

 

Senator Stabenow Praises New Investments to Connect Michigan Schools with Locally Grown Food

By Jess McCarron

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, applauded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement to award new funds to support two innovative initiatives that will bring locally grown food to Michigan school cafeterias. The grant funding was made available through USDA’s Farm to School Program, which helps schools source fresh and healthy local foods. The Farm to School Program also educates students about how food grows through school garden programs and farm visits.

 

“Farm to School projects provide our children with fresh, nutritious food, while also teaching them healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime,” said Stabenow. “Connecting Michigan farms with our classrooms and cafeterias also provides new economic opportunities for local farmers, helping to create jobs and grow our state’s diverse agricultural sector.”

 

USDA’s Farm to School Grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. These grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes across the country.

Stabenow, Peters, Upton Announce that President Will Award Medal of Honor to Vietnam War Veteran James C. McCloughan

By Miranda Margowsky and Allison Green

 

Vietnam War Veteran James C. McCloughan

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Congressman Fred Upton announced that President Trump will award the Medal of Honor to Vietnam War Veteran James C. McCloughan on July 31, 2017. This follows legislation passed by Senators Stabenow and Peters and Congressman Upton to make then-Private First Class McCloughan eligible for our nation’s highest military honor. Their legislation passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and was signed into law by President Obama in December of 2016.

 

Then-Private First Class McCloughan, a native and current resident of South Haven, served as a medic and saved the lives of 10 members of his platoon who were wounded during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill on May 13-15, 1969. McCloughan was discharged with the rank of Specialist (SP5).

 

Medal of Honor recipients must be honored within five years of the act of heroism justifying the award. The legislation passed by Senators Stabenow and Peters and Congressman Upton waived the five-year requirement and made it possible for the President to award the Medal of Honor to him.

Stabenow, Peters Introduce Legislation to Protect and Restore Recreational Fisheries

By Allison Green

 

As Free Fishing Weekend kicks off across Michigan, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters introduced two bills to protect and restore fisheries across the state. Fishing is critical to tourism and our Michigan way of life. Millions of anglers visit the State of Michigan every year, contributing more than $4 billion to our economy. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also introduced both bills today.

 

The Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act (S. 1332) will improve Great Lakes fisheries and encourage habitat restoration by repairing and replacing aging dams, culverts, and roads. There are thousands of these structures across the Great Lakes Basin that currently inhibit the movement of fish populations.  Great Lakes states and tribal governments will be able to recommend grant projects to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to either expand fish access to waterways or prevent the spread of invasive species.

 

The Great Lakes Mass Marking Program Act (S. 1331) will make scientific technology available to track and monitor the health of fisheries in the Great Lakes. The will be used to make decisions to support and rehabilitate sport fish populations in the basin. This program was initiated in the Great Lakes on a limited scale in 2010, and will be fully established in statute under this legislation.

 

 

Government Matters: Week in review, June 5-9

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

 

Peters Floor Remarks on Urgent Need to Upgrade Soo Locks

“We cannot continue to rely on infrastructure investments made by our grandparents and great-grandparents.”

 

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters spoke on the Senate floor about legislation he has introduced with Senator Debbie Stabenow and other Members of the Michigan Congressional delegation to authorize funding for construction of another Poe-sized lock at the Soo Locks.

 

“Since 1855, locks at the St. Mary’s River have allowed ships to pass between Lake Superior and Lake Huron,” Peters said.

 

“The Soo Locks are the most important link in a critical supply chain that connects iron ore mines in Minnesota and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with steel mills and manufacturing facilities all over the country.

 

“Today, there is only one Soo Lock – the Poe Lock – that is large enough to accommodate modern freighters, especially the one thousand foot-long vessels that move millions of tons of iron ore each year.”

 

A disruption of the Poe Lock likely will cause an almost complete shutdown of Great Lakes steel production.

Stabenow, Bergman and Michigan Delegation Members Introduce Bipartisan Soo Locks Modernization Act

By Matt Williams

 

The Soo Locks

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Representative Jack Bergman, U.S. Senator Gary Peters, and Representatives Sandy Levin, Fred Upton, Bill Huizenga, Tim Walberg, Dan Kildee, Mike Bishop, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, John Moolenaar, Dave Trott, and Paul Mitchell have introduced the bipartisan Soo Locks Modernization Act. The legislation authorizes the necessary level of funding to construct another Poe-sized lock. Introduction of this legislation comes just days after seven Members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation and Governor Snyder toured the Soo Locks, which are critical to both our state’s and our country’s economy and national security.

Senators Peters, Stabenow Call for Robust Funding for National Sea Grant College Program

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow joined a bipartisan group of 25 senators in a letter calling for robust funding for the National Sea Grant College Program, which President Trump proposed to eliminate in his fiscal year 2018 budget. The National Sea Grant College Program provides vital support to local businesses and is a crucial resource for Michigan’s coastal communities.

 

The Sea Grant program conducts critical research and economic development work that helps support coastal communities in Michigan. The $67.3 federal investment in the program from fiscal year 2015 yielded a $575 million economic benefit to communities across the country—an 854% return on the federal investment. In 2013, Sea Grant was funded at $57 million and delivered $485 million in economic development, created or retained 3,400 businesses, and created or retained 15,000 jobs nationally.

 

In Michigan, Sea Grant Extension educators live and work in coastal communities around the state to provide scientific expertise and other services to local government and community leaders. In Michigan alone, the estimated economic benefit of Sea Grant activities in 2011 was $1.3 million.

Stabenow Statement on President Trump’s Infrastructure Proposal

By Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow released a statement following a speech by President Trump today discussing his infrastructure proposal:

 

“Rather than making a commitment to rebuilding America’s roads, bridges, and waterways, the Administration’s proposals would put special interests in control of our roads and bridges and propose new tolls for Michigan drivers. These are not ideas I can support.”

Peters, Capito Reintroduce Bill to Help Prevent Diabetes in Seniors

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) reintroduced the Preventing Diabetes in Medicare Act to improve health outcomes for individuals at risk for diabetes and save long-term costs for Medicare. Under current law, Medicare will only cover medical nutrition therapy services for individuals already diagnosed with diabetes or renal disease. This bipartisan legislation would extend Medicare coverage for medical nutrition therapy services for Americans with pre-diabetes and risk factors for developing type-2 diabetes.

 

Nearly one in every three Medicare dollars is spent on diabetes, a number that has increased considerably in recent years and will most likely continue to increase without action. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates approximately 30 million Americans or 9.3% of the population have diabetes and approximately 86 million American adults – about 30% of the population – have pre-diabetes.

 

There is significant evidence to suggest that medical nutrition therapy can prevent the onset of diabetes for at-risk individuals. Medical nutrition therapy includes an initial nutrition and lifestyle assessment, review of eating habits, one-on-one nutritional counseling and follow-up visits to check on patients’ progress in managing their diet to prevent or manage their condition.

Huizenga Votes to Support Small Business Job Creation, Pass Financial CHOICE Act

Congressman Bill Huizenga

Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02) has issued the following statement after voting in support of the Financial CHOICE Act:

 

“Dodd-Frank has made it more difficult for hardworking Americans to secure a future for themselves and their children by denying them the economic recovery they deserve. The Financial CHOICE Act enacts commonsense reforms that reduce the federal deficit by $34 billion, stop taxpayer dollars from being used to bailout Wall Street, and provide much needed relief to community banks and credit unions. If we want small businesses to continue to be the engine of economic growth, we must remove the regulatory red tape that is preventing community financial institutions from supporting small business job creation. While the Democrat-led Congress made the wrong choice with the Dodd-Frank Act, the Republican-led House has made the right choice to strengthen capital formation, support job creation, and grow the economy by passing the Financial CHOICE Act.”

 

Wyoming Fire Department to receive FEMA grant to help purchase equipment

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters have announced $45,644 for the Wyoming Fire Department to help purchase equipment. This grant comes from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grants program.

 

“Our firefighters in Wyoming put their lives on the line to protect our families and homes,” said Senator Stabenow. “It is important that these brave men and women have the equipment they need to help them do their jobs each and every day.”

 

“Families in Wyoming rely on firefighters to protect their homes, businesses, families and their personal safety from potential hazards,” said Senator Peters. “We must support our firefighters and first responders with the equipment to help them respond to fires and other critical emergencies.”

 

Eligible fire departments and Emergency Medical Services organizations in Michigan and across the country can apply for Assistance to Firefighters Grants. These competitive grants help first responders purchase the equipment and obtain the training needed to handle fire-related hazards. More information about the grant can be found here.

 

 

Government Matters: Week in review, May 26-June 2

Peters Announces $11.4 Million in Support for Michigan AmeriCorps Programs

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters announced that Michigan has received $11.4 million in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs.

 

“Citizen service is an indispensable resource for nonprofits, communities and the individuals they serve, and essential to solving problems that face Michigan and the United States,” said Senator Peters.

 

The investment includes 14 grants totaling $4.6 million, which will support 671 AmeriCorps members.

 

Below is a partial listing of 2017 AmeriCorps competitive grants in Michigan:

  • American Red Cross of Grand Rapids: Together We Prepare
  • AmeriCorps Urban Safety Program
  • Michigan Campaign To End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program
  • Michigan Financial Opportunity Corp
  • Power of We Consortium AmeriCorps Project
  • MARESA AmeriCorps
  • B-H-K Child Development Board
  • AdviseMI

CNCS will also provide Michigan with up to $3.1 million in education scholarships for the AmeriCorps members funded by these grants to help pay for college, vocational training, or pay back student loans.

 

This year’s AmeriCorps grant cycle was highly competitive. The 2017 competition prioritized investments in economic opportunity, education, governor and mayor initiatives, veterans and military families, disaster services, and initiatives to build safer communities.

Peters, Colleagues Raise Concerns over President Trump’s Cuts to Rural Development

President Trump’s drastic budget cuts, coupled with plans to eliminate the USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, would hurt small towns and rural communities

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters joined 28 other Senate Democrats in sending a letter to President Trump expressing strong concerns over recent actions that would have negative impacts on families in rural America.

 

In the letter, the Senators objected to the proposed cuts, and urged President Trump to maintain the position of Under Secretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

 

Last week, President Trump issued a budget proposal calling for drastic cuts that would undermine the important rural development mission at the USDA. These damaging cuts come on the heels of recently announced plans to eliminate the USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development, an important advocate for small towns and rural communities across the country.

 

The letter was also signed by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and others.

ICYMI: Senator Stabenow Questions OMB Director Mulvaney on Trump’s Budget Cuts to the Great Lakes (VIDEO)

By Ian Wilhite

 

During a recent hearing in the Senate Budget Committee on the President’s 2018 Budget, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) questioned OMB Director Mick Mulvaney about zeroing out funding for the Great Lakes in Fiscal Year 2018.

 

Video of the exchange is below.

 

 

Government Matters: Week in review, May 15-19

By Victoria Mullen, WKTV

Peters Cosponsors Bill to Protect Public Land & Water

Bill Permanently Reauthorizes Land and Water Conservation Fund

By Allison Green

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters announced that he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF uses revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling to fund the protection of everything from wildlife refuges and national parks to lakes, rivers and community parks.

 

Sleeping Bear dune

Michigan has received over $320 million in funding from the LWCF over the 50-year lifespan of the program, helping to protect places like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Keweenaw National Historical Park, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the North Country National Scenic Trail, and all of Michigan’s National Forests.

 

“Protecting our environmental resources is not just about good stewardship, it is also vital to our health, our economy and our way of life in Michigan,” said Peters.


Outdoor recreation is a key component of Michigan’s economy, generating $18.7 billion in consumer spending and supporting nearly 200,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 4.4 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Michigan each year, contributing over $6.1 billion to the state’s economy.

Peters, Stabenow & Colleagues Introduce Bill to Tackle Student Loan Debt

Legislation Allows Borrowers to Refinance Student Loans at Lower Interest Rate

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow joined their colleagues in introducing the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. The legislation would allow those with outstanding student loan debt to refinance at the lower interest rates offered to new federal borrowers in the 2016-2017 school year.

 

“Access to higher education can provide a pathway to economic opportunity, but too many young people are saddled with crushing debt after they leave school,” said Senator Peters. “You can already refinance your mortgage or car loan, and there is no reason student loans should be treated any differently.”

 

“Our bill would allow students and parents to refinance their loans for a better rate – just like people can already do with their car or home loans. All of our students deserve an equal shot at success!” said Senator Stabenow.

 

Since the bill was introduced during the 113th congress, student loan debt has grown by about $200 billion. In 2015, 70% of college seniors graduated with debt. This year, more than one in four borrowers are in delinquency or in default on their student loans. In Michigan, tuition for almost every college has more than doubled since the early 2000s. Each student who attends a four-year college in our state leaves with over $29,000 in loan debt on average.

 

According to a recent analysis, a quarter of borrowers default over the life of their loans. It is clear that the student loan debt crisis is getting increasingly worse, with no signs of slowing down. It is a crisis that threatens our economy, and the futures of young people all across America. With interest rates scheduled to rise again this summer, the urgency for Congress to address the student debt crisis and to allow borrowers to access today’s lower rates is stronger than ever.

 

Peters Statement on Appointment of Special Counselor in Russia Investigation

The Kremlin in Moscow

U.S. Senator Gary Peters released the following statement on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel in the Russia investigation:

 

“Russia’s unprecedented interference into our election threatens our national security and the very foundation of our democracy. The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel is a good first step toward a thorough investigation that is free from political pressure or interference. The American people deserve to know the facts about Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 election, any involvement with the Trump campaign, and any attempt by the President or other officials to improperly influence the FBI. The facts alone should drive this investigation.”

Peters Cosponsors Bill to Help Veterans Exposed to Toxic Burn Pits

U.S Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, announced he is cosponsoring the bipartisan Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, which will help veterans suffering from respiratory ailments as a result of exposure to open burn pits during their military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits were frequently used on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn waste, including toxic items such as plastics, electronics, batteries and human waste.

 

“When veterans are exposed to harmful substances in service to our nation, we must ensure they can receive the necessary medical care and treatments they need when they return home,” said Senator Peters.

 

The bill would establish a center of excellence within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the treatment of health conditions related to burn pit exposure. Chemicals found in burn pits has been linked to a number of adverse health effects including cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders, and respiratory and cardiovascular toxicity.

 

Peters Introduces Bill to Expand Broadband Deployment Using Accurate Coverage Maps

Bipartisan Bill Requires FCC to ensure Broadband Coverage Maps Reflect the Real-World Experiences of Rural Consumers

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Rural Wireless Access Act of 2017 to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to collect up-to-date and accurate data on wireless broadband coverage across the United States and especially in rural areas.


“Having an accurate assessment of which rural areas are most in need of wireless broadband coverage is critical to closing the digital divide, but the availability of broadband coverage can be difficult to assess,” said Senator Peters.

 

According to the FCC, 87 percent of rural Americans – 52.2 million people – lack access to mobile broadband with minimum advertised speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, compared to 45 percent of those living in urban areas. According to Connect Michigan, 44 percent of working-age Michigan adults rely on internet access to seek or apply for jobs, while 22 percent further their education by taking online classes.

 

Stabenow Statement on Trump Administration’s NAFTA Renegotiation Notice

By Miranda Margowsky

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow released the following statement on the Trump Administration’s NAFTA renegotiation notice:

 

“In the 23 years since NAFTA was signed, our country has lost too many good-paying manufacturing jobs to other countries. No other state has felt the pain of those losses more than Michigan. Given NAFTA’s importance to our workers, our farmers, and our economy, a modernization is long overdue.  As we move forward, we need to make sure that any changes to NAFTA lead to an improvement in our quality of life and higher incomes, not a race to the bottom.”

 

Peters, Collins Introduce Bill to Give Fire Departments Flexibility in
Hiring

Bill Allows Fire Departments to Use Federal Funding to Promote Part-Time Firefighters

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have introduced bipartisan legislation to help local fire departments across the country save money and hire and promote trained first responders. The Firefighters Retention Act of 2017 will give fire departments flexibility to use Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants to transition part-time or paid-on-call personnel to full-time status. Under current law, fire departments can only use SAFER grants to hire and train new personnel and are prohibited from using these grants to promote part-time firefighters, who are already trained and equipped to respond to emergencies.

 

“Part-time firefighters serve on the frontlines of their communities and have the experience to effectively and efficiently respond when emergency strikes,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This commonsense legislation would give fire departments greater ability to promote trained, experienced firefighters, which will save money and reaffirm the critical role these men and women play in keeping our neighborhoods safe.”

 

The SAFER grant program provides direct funding to fire departments and volunteer firefighter organizations to help them increase or maintain the number of trained firefighters available in their communities. The majority of organized fire departments recruit resident and community leaders who are familiar with their neighborhoods to be part-time or volunteer firefighters – comprising 70% of the total firefighting force in the United States.

 

Senator Stabenow Receives Praise and Recognition from Small BusinessCouncil of America

By Ian Wilhite

 

Senator Stabenow

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was presented with the Small Business Council of America’s Special Congressional Achievement award during the 34th Annual Congressional Awards Reception. Stabenow was recognized for her tireless work as a member of the Senate Budget and Finance Committees and her continued role as a champion of small businesses. She is only the 6th member of Congress to ever receive this award.

 

Senator Stabenow has been a strong advocate for small businesses, cutting taxes and increasing access to capital for entrepreneurs to help them expand and create jobs. Over the past year, she has visited over 80 small businesses during her Small Business Tour across the state.

 

 

Government Matters: Week in review, May 8-12

Peters, Carper, Hassan, Harris Urge DOJ Inspector General to Investigate Political Interference with Russia Investigation

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) all members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General calling for an inquiry into possible political interference with the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged involvement with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Peters, Hassan and Harris are members of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) serves as Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

 

In the letter, the Senators call on the Inspector General to investigate the allocation of resources for the Russia investigation; the intent and timing of Comey’s termination, including the role of Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the termination despite his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation; and whether any actions of the DOJ or the White House constitute political interference in the FBI investigation.

 

Peters, Stabenow Call on Trump Administration to Protect Worker and Retiree Pensions

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow led a group of 14 Senators outlining the importance of protecting pensions for workers and retirees. The Senators requested information from the Administration on its plan to address critical issues in the multi-employer pension system.

 

“As you may know, millions of American workers and retirees — through no fault of their own — are at risk of losing a substantial portion of their pensions because their plans are at imminent risk of becoming insolvent and being unable to pay earned benefits on time and in full,” wrote the Senators. “Some multi-employer pension plans across the country, including Central States with its more than 400,000 participants, are in dire financial situations.”

 

Peters Speaks on Firing of FBI Director James Comey

Peters: The past four months suggest that our president thinks he can simply tweet and fire his way out of this problem while continuing to cozy up to Russia.

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke on the Senate floor about President Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey in the midst of an FBI investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Peters reiterated his call from March for a special prosecutor to conduct a nonpartisan, independent investigation into Russia’s involvement in our elections.

 

Watch his remarks here:

 

 

Peters Leads Bipartisan Group of Senators in Calling for Farm Service Agency Loan Funding

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) today led a bipartisan group of 28 Senators in a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture urging them to support robust funding for the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) loan programs. FSA provides direct loans and loan guarantees to help struggling family farmers start and maintain viable farming operations.

 

“These loans are cost-efficient and work in tandem with private credit to serve farmers in need,” wrote the Senators. “Because of these loans, family farmers can get their crops in the ground and continue to serve their customers, even during tough economic times. Without FSA loans, these farmers would lack access to the operating capital that is necessary for any farm business to stay afloat.”

 

FSA loans aim to help small farms that cannot otherwise obtain favorable credit, including beginning farmers, women and minorities, and other disadvantaged borrowers. FSA’s loan programs include operating loans, which fund expenses such as livestock, equipment and seed, and ownership loans that help farmers develop land. Recent years have seen increased demand for FSA’s loan programs. In June 2016, hundreds of farmers whose loans had already been approved could not receive the funds due to a shortfall in funding for FSA operating loans. As a result, Congress was forced to pass an emergency appropriation in December of 2016 to address the shortfall.

 

Government Matters: Week in review, May 1-5, 2017

Senator Stabenow Statement on House Passage of American Health Care Act

By Miranda Margowsky

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released the following statement after the House of Representatives voted to advance the American Health Care Act:

 

“I’m committed to working across the aisle to lower health care costs for Michigan families and small businesses, make prescription drugs more affordable, and improve care for middle-class families. House Republicans instead passed a plan today that would raise costs for Michigan families, eliminate protections if you or a family member has a preexisting condition like cancer or a heart condition, and take us back to the days when insurance companies were in charge of your health care. I will strongly oppose this plan in the Senate.”

 

Peters, Grassley Reintroduce Legislation to Address Needs of At-Risk Youth

Senators Introduce Bill During National Foster Care Month

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced they are reintroducing bipartisan legislation to help states identify and meet the needs of children who come into contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also known as dual status youth. The Childhood Outcomes Need New Efficient Community Teams (CONNECT) Act would authorize competitive grants to improve data collection on dual status youth and encourage better cooperation between state agencies overseeing juvenile justice and child welfare programs.

 

“Too many children are at risk of falling through the cracks because unnecessary barriers prevent the juvenile justice and child welfare systems from giving children the services they need,” said Senator Peters. “The more we know about dual status youth, the more we can do to ensure programs are available to support our most vulnerable children and give them a better chance at success. This bipartisan bill will help states collect information and tailor programs that will help at-risk youth lead happy, fruitful lives.”

 

The CONNECT Act authorizes grants administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help state juvenile justice and child welfare agencies collect data on dual status youths to foster a better understanding of their unique circumstances and improve coordination in the delivery of services to at-risk children.

 

Peters, Capito Reintroduce Bipartisan Student Loan Rehabilitation Bill

Legislation Would Allow Private Student Loan Borrowers to Remove Default from Credit History after Series of Payments

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to help private student loan borrowers who default on their loans. The Federal Adjustment in Reporting (FAIR) Student Credit Act would allow a borrower who has successfully completed a series of on-time payments to remove the student loan default from their credit report. Unlike federal student loans, there is currently no opportunity to rehabilitate private student loans, and private lenders may only request to delete information from a credit file if it was reported inaccurately.

 

The FAIR Student Credit Act would expand the loan rehabilitation program by giving private lenders the flexibility to make it easier for borrowers to improve their credit standing. Under current law, federal loans may be rehabilitated one time and borrowers can repair their credit, while private lenders do not have the ability to remove negative credit information on borrowers who participate in loan rehabilitation programs. Peters and Capito previously introduced this bill in the 114th Congress.

 

There are approximately $9.9 billion in total private student loans across the country, and according to the most recent statistics from the Consumers Financial Protection Bureau, there are more than 850,000 private student loans in default. A bad credit report can negatively impact a borrower’s attempts to gain employment, rent an apartment or purchase an automobile for years. This debt is harming our economic recovery, negatively impacting retirement savings, household spending and the demand for mortgage credit.

 

Federal Funding Bill Includes Stabenow’s Legislation to Reinstate Year-Round Pell Grants

By Miranda Margowski

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that the fiscal year 2017 federal appropriations bill includes her legislation to reinstate Year-Round Pell Grants for college students in Michigan and across the country. Stabenow’s bill includes provisions that will allow low and moderate income students to use Pell Grants for three semesters each academic year, rather than the current law’s limit of two semesters.

 

Before Congress cut Year-Round Pell Grants in 2011, over one million students across the country, including close to 35,000 in Michigan, used Pell Grants to pay for college for three semesters in an academic year. Research shows <http://www.csus.edu/ihelp/PDFs/R_Steps_to_success.pdf> that students who take courses continuously over the summer were three times more likely to complete a degree.

 

Peters, Tillis Lead Colleagues in Letter Calling for Funding for State Veterans Homes

By Allison Green

 

U.S Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) led a bipartisan group of their colleagues in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies urging them to support robust funding for State
Veterans Homes that help provide long-term care to our nation’s veterans. Federal funds provided by the State Veterans Home Construction Grant Program allow states to make critical facility upgrades or construct new facilities to serve aging veteran populations. For fiscal year 2017, only 10 of the 57 highest priority projects were funded, resulting in a backlog of facilities requiring upgrades or new construction.

 

State Veterans Homes are facilities that are operated by state governments and partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide nursing home, domiciliary, and adult day care services to veterans with special medical needs, including thousands of elderly veterans.

 

Michigan has two State Veterans Homes in Grand Rapids and Marquette that serve about 500 Michigan veterans. The State of Michigan recently announced plans to construct new homes in Grand Rapids, the Detroit metro area, the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City region, the Jackson and Battle Creek area, Marquette, Northern Michigan and Southeastern Michigan.

You can download the letter here.

 

Stabenow Statement on Bipartisan Effort to Protect Great Lakes Funding in Fiscal Year 2017 Funding Bill

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, released the following statement on her bipartisan efforts to stop President Trump’s proposed $50 million cut in Great Lakes funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 funding bill:

“I am pleased to have successfully led the bipartisan effort to stop President Trump from cutting $50 million in Great Lakes funding this year. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has always received bipartisan support and is absolutely critical to supporting Michigan jobs and protecting our Great Lakes, including fishing, boating, hunting and stopping invasive species. As Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue working with my colleagues across the aisle to make sure President Trump’s plan to completely eliminate Great Lakes funding next year is stopped.”

 

 

GVSU Hauenstein Center Conservative/Progressive Summit set for May 4-6

By Nate Hoekstra, Grand Valley State University


Politics and discourse in America today are more contentious than ever, and engaging with people of opposing political views in a civil manner is often difficult for many.


Yet in the face of intense polarization, the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) will bring together more than two dozen nationally renowned scholars and writers to discuss the most difficult issues of modern American life and politics.


From May 4-6, the Hauenstein Center will host its annual Conservative/Progressive Summit, which will feature lectures and panel discussions specifically designed to bring serious, thoughtful discussion about the shifting political and intellectual terrain of American life to the forefront.


Speakers will include professors, authors, and journalists and contributors from media outlets including The Atlantic, The American Conservative, U.S. News and World Report, Vox, National Review, The New Republic, The Nation and more. Together, they will discuss political coverage in the media, religion and American civic life, the Trump administration, higher education, the history of conservative thought, the Constitution, and more.


A full event schedule along with speaker biographies and information can be found here.


What: Hauenstein Center Conservative/Progressive Summit


When: May 4-6, 2017


Where: Charles W. Loosemore Auditorium, Richard M. DeVos Center, 401 Fulton St. W., Grand Rapids, MI


The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested here.
“The three-day conference will not pretend to find the answers to political division,” said Hauenstein Center director Gleaves Whitney. “Instead it will attempt to promote understanding of opposing viewpoints that are often absent from critical analysis among like-minded people.”


The summit is presented in partnership with the Kate and Richard Wolters Foundation, the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan and the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal.


The annual summit is a one-of-a-kind event in political discourse, said Common Ground program manager Scott St. Louis.


“The Hauenstein Center’s Conservative/Progressive Summit is a unique event that showcases a broad range of American political thought on the same stage,” St. Louis said.


For more information, visit HauensteinCenter.org/RSVP.

Government Matters: Week in review, April 24-28

Kent County names Interim Administrator to start July 1

By Lisa LaPlante, Kent County


The Kent County Board of Commissioners has announced that Assistant County Administrator Wayman Britt will take over as Interim County Administrator/Controller on July 1, 2017. Britt has been with Kent County since 2004, serving as management oversight for the Kent County Health Department, the Community Development and Housing Department, and the Veterans Services Department.


In addition, he is the liaison for the State Department of Health and Human Services, and is responsible for several community initiatives such as the Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council.


Prior to beginning his career with the County in 2004, Britt held several management positions at Steelcase, Inc. and Michigan National Bank – Central. Britt holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Michigan.


Britt has served on numerous boards and councils, including the Gerald R. Ford Council Boy Scouts of America, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Board of Trustees, Treasurer of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Board of Directors, the West Michigan Sports Commission, Grand Rapids Job Corps Community Relations Council, and Kent County American Red Cross Executive Board.


Current Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio retires on June 30, 2017, wrapping up a career spanning four decades in municipal management.

Peters, Gardner introduce bill to keep government research data publicly available

By Allison Green


U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help federal agencies maintain open access to machine-readable databases and datasets created by taxpayer-funded research. The Preserving Data in Government Act would require federal agencies to preserve public access to existing open datasets, and prevent the removal of existing datasets without sufficient public notice. Small businesses rely on a range of publicly available machine-readable datasets to launch or grow their companies, and researchers and scientists use data to conduct studies for a variety of fields and industries.


“Research data that has been collected using taxpayer dollars should be publicly accessible and easily searchable,” said Senator Peters. “Small businesses and individuals rely on federally produced information for everything from long-term planning to innovative product development to help grow their companies and create jobs.”

Stabenow introduces bipartisan Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act to protect Michigan Seniors’ access to ambulance services

By Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act, which would make permanent key Medicare reimbursements to ambulance service providers and would ensure seniors and other people in Michigan continue to have access to life-saving services.


Ambulance service providers are an essential part of our local and national health care and emergency response systems, and are often the only provider of emergency medical services for their communities. There more than 200 ambulance service providers in Michigan, including small businesses, fire departments, hospitals, cities, and counties, that rely on Medicare reimbursements to provide emergency care and support jobs in local communities.


Senator Stabenow’s bill makes permanent the 2% urban and 3% rural reimbursement as well as a 25.6% reimbursement for areas that are classified as “super-rural,” meaning they represent the lowest measure of population density. If the Medicare reimbursements are not extended before they expire at the end of 2017, Michigan ambulance providers could lose up to $4 million per year.

Stabenow joins group of 19 senators calling on Republican leaders to focus on funding for opioid crisis and medical research

By Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has joined a group of 19 senators calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to include a substantial increase in funds for the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic and additional investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as part of the Continuing Resolution currently being negotiated in Congress to avert a government shutdown. Last year in Michigan, research funding for the NIH supported 10,817 jobs and $1.7 billion in economic activity.


The senators asked for additional resources to address the nation’s opioid crisis, particularly those communities which have been hit hardest by the epidemic, noting that only ten percent of people with substance abuse disorder receive specialty treatment due in large part to lack of funding for services. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan had the 7th most drug overdose deaths of any state in 2015, a 13 percent increase from the year before.

 

Senator Stabenow’s statement following Great Lakes Task Force meeting on Asian carp

By Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has released the following statement after a bicameral meeting on near- and long-term measures to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, including the status on the Tentatively Selected Plan for the Brandon Road Study:


“It’s deeply irresponsible for the Trump Administration to continue to block the Army Corp from releasing a critical plan to permanently address the threat of Asian carp to our Great Lakes. There is no reason to gamble with the future of our Great Lakes because a narrow group of special interests do not recognize that Asian carp is a problem. In our bipartisan, bicameral meeting today, we sent a clear message that it’s past time to take action to create a permanent solution to the threat of Asian carp.”


Senator Stabenow led the Great Lakes Task Force meeting, which was attended by officials from the White House, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Service. In February, the Trump Administration prevented the Army Corps from releasing the draft plan for stopping further movement of Asian carp in the Illinois River.

 

Peters urges colleagues to support funding for farm loans

By Allison Green


U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke on the Senate Floor on the need to support Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan programs. The Farm Service Agency works with lenders to guarantee and deliver loans to the small farms that need them the most. In June 2016, FSA operating loans faced a significant funding shortfall due to high demand, and hundreds of farmers whose loans had already been approved could not receive the funds they needed until Congress passed emergency appropriations in December 2016. Peters is leading a bipartisan letter urging Congressional appropriators to provide robust funding for Farm Service Agency loan programs in the 2018 budget.

 

 

“Small farms that are just starting out — or are facing tough economic conditions — sometimes struggle to secure affordable credit. That is why I am working across the aisle with Senator Tillis to urge Congressional Appropriators to fully fund Farm Service Agency loan programs as Congress considers government funding bills for 2018.


“Access to capital is critical across a range of businesses, but it is incredibly important for our farmers,” said Peters. “They can lose out on entire growing seasons if they can’t buy the equipment and supplies they need while they wait on Congress to fund the Farm Service Agency.”

 

Michigan delegation members join bipartisan push to keep EPA Region 5 Office open

By Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Representatives John Conyers Jr, Sander Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, and Brenda Lawrence sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stressing the importance of the Great Lakes.


Following reports that the Trump Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — which serves Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio — as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Representatives John Conyers Jr., Sander Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, and Brenda Lawrence joined a bipartisan push calling for the Region 5 office to remain intact and fully supported. In a bicameral letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, members of Congress from the Great Lakes region stressed the importance of the Great Lakes, which provide 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and are a source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.


“We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget. EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5,” the members wrote.

 

Government Matters: Week in review, April 17-21

Peters cosponsors legislation to establish national registry for firefighters suffering from cancer

Cancer is a leading cause of deaths for firefighters

 

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters announced he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to establish a national registry that would better monitor cancer diagnoses in firefighters. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would also improve voluntary data collection to track and respond to firefighters’ unique health care needs. Firefighters are exposed to hazardous toxins and carcinogens in the line of duty and have a higher risk for cancer, which is a leading cause of death for career firefighters. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, nearly 60% of firefighters will die from cancer.

 

“Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to help protect our homes and our communities, and in return they deserve to receive the best care possible,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

 

The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act would create a voluntary registry to collect and catalog health data related to the high instances of cancer among firefighters. The registry would include information such as years of service, number of fire incidents responded to, and any additional occupational risk factors. The data will be made publicly available to researchers to help support groundbreaking research to determine any link between exposure to toxins and cancer, and develop better protective gear and prevention techniques to improve firefighter safety.

 

According to a 2010 study by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) firefighters have a 14 percent increased risk of dying from cancer compared to the general population. Firefighters are also much more likely to be diagnosed with unique forms of cancer, such as malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure.

 

Peters cosponsors bipartisan bill to promote research and development of wood products for building construction

By Allison Green

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), has announced he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to encourage research and development of innovative uses for wood as a building material in the construction of tall buildings over 85 feet in height. The Timber Innovation Act of 2017, which was introduced by U.S Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would direct the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish programs to advance and improve environmentally-friendly wood building construction, support Michigan’s forestry industry and encourage good stewardship of forestry resources. According to a 2015 report from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Michigan’s forestry industry supports approximately 87,000 jobs and contributed nearly $17.8 billion to the state’s economy.

 

“Michigan’s forests are not only beautiful, they are an important economic resource for our state, especially in our rural communities in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula,” said Senator Peters.

 

While lumber and wood products have been a key part of construction for centuries, most wood buildings do not exceed three to four stories in height. Recent developments in wood products engineering and new technologies, such as laminated timber and lumber, have encouraged greater use of wood in larger construction projects. According to the USDA, wood building materials are often more sustainable and environmentally friendly than other common building materials.

 

The Timber Innovation Act would build on recent developments in wood construction by promoting research and development through the National Forest Products Lab and American colleges and universities to identify new methods for the construction of wood buildings and to study the commercialization, safety, and environmental impact of tall wood building materials. The bill would also create a Wood Innovation Grant program to encourage builders to adopt emerging technologies and cutting-edge wood products, and launch an annual Tall Wood Building Competition to promote the development of new tall wood building designs.

 

Peters cosponsors legislation to improve access to care for women veterans

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, announced he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide better access to services to help meet the unique health care needs of women veterans. The Deborah Sampson Act, named for a woman who disguised herself to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, would improve access to specialized services, like maternity and newborn care. According to the VA, there are approximately 2 million women veterans across the country, including more than 46,000 in Michigan.

 

“As the number of women veterans continues to grow, we must ensure that they are able to access the care and services they have earned by serving our country in uniform,” said Senator Peters.

 

The Deborah Simpson Act would improve access to support services, including counseling and legal support for issues such as housing, eviction and child support issues. The bill also improves health care for women veterans by requiring every VA facility to have at least one women’s health primary care provider on staff, authorizing funding to retrofit VA facilities to enhance privacy and provide a better care environment, and expanding coverage for specialized services including maternity and newborn care.

 

Peters, colleagues to urge Trump to quickly nominate government watchdogs

Inspectors General needed to conduct critical oversight and investigations of taxpayer dollars

 

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to send a letter urging President Donald Trump to quickly nominate qualified candidates for Inspectors General (IGs), who serve as watchdogs at federal agencies. According to a 2014 report from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), for every federal dollar invested in the IG community, IGs recoup 18 dollars in potential savings from identifying waste, fraud, and abuse.

 

“While many acting IGs have served admirably in the absence of permanent leadership, the lack of a permanent leader threatens to impede the ability of these offices to conduct the oversight and investigations necessary to ensure that taxpayer dollars are protected, public safety risks are identified, and that whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse are protected,” the senators wrote. “In addition, the lack of a permanent IG can create the potential for conflicts of interest and diminish the essential independence of IGs.”

 

Many government agencies have an independent Office of the Inspector General that is responsible for auditing federal programs in order to improve government operations and target waste, fraud, and abuse, as well as investigating whistleblower claims and allegations of wrongdoing. The following agencies currently lack a presidentially-appointed permanent Inspector General: Department of the Interior, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Office of Personnel Management, Social Security Administration, National Security Agency, Small Business Administration and Intelligence Community. The United States Postal Service, AbilityOne Commission, and the Federal Election Commission have Inspectors General vacancies that the agencies are required to fill. The members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had previously sent a similar letter to President Obama urging him to fill Inspectors General vacancies.

 

Peters cosponsors bill to help more veterans suffering from PTSD receive mental health treatment

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters has announced he is cosponsoring legislation to require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide mental and behavioral health services to certain former servicemembers who received less than honorable discharges, also known as “bad paper” discharges. The Honor Our Commitment Act of 2017 would extend eligibility for VA mental health benefits to individuals with bad paper discharges who are suffering from mental health disorders as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained during their service.

 

“Our veterans put their lives on the line in service to our country, and they have earned the right to get the treatment they need for injuries sustained during their service, including the invisible wounds of war like PTSD and traumatic brain injuries,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “I am proud to join my colleagues in supporting this legislation that will ensure our brave service members can get the health care services they need both during and after their military service.”

 

A less than honorable discharge, or bad paper discharge, is often given for instances of minor misconduct such as being late to formation and missing appointments – behavior that can be seen in those suffering from PTSD, TBI, and other trauma-related conditions. A less than honorable discharge renders servicemembers ineligible for certain benefits, including Post-9/11 G.I. Bill educational benefits and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans. The bill applies to former servicemembers who received a general or other-than-honorable discharge.

 

The VA has recently announced that it will extend only limited mental health services for suicide prevention and crisis prevention to veterans who qualify, such as the Veterans Crisis Line. According to an investigation by the National Journal, 13% of Post-9/11 veterans – roughly 318,000 – have left the service with a less than honorable discharge. This status denies most of them of VA educational, economic and other benefits. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11-20% of these veterans have PTSD in a given year.

 

Last year, President Obama signed into law Peters’ bipartisan Fairness for Veterans amendment that helps veterans with a bad paper discharge resulting from behavior caused by PTSD to petition for an upgrade in their discharge status. An upgrade to an honorable discharge would help certain veterans access benefits earned through their service like VA home loans and educational benefits provided by the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

 

Peters statement on reported potential closure of EPA Region 5 Office

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters has released the following statement on reports that President Trump’s Administration may close the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5 Office in Chicago that serves Michigan and other Great Lakes states:

 

“While these reports have yet to be confirmed, I am gravely concerned with any effort to potentially close the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office, which would be a disaster for the Great Lakes. Not only are the Great Lakes a source of clean drinking water for over 40 million people, but they play a critical role in our economy – from shipping and commerce to tourism and travel. Important Environmental Protection Agency programs help restore portions of the Great Lakes watershed and protect against threats like toxic algal blooms and invasive species.

 

“The Environmental Protection Agency also provides important technical assistance as the City of Flint recovers from the water crisis and considers a transition to a new water source. Flint families still cannot drink tap water without a filter, and as more communities deal with the effects of aging infrastructure on the health of their water systems, we should be strengthening – not cutting – these vital federal tools.

 

“I am committed to fighting any proposal to close the Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 office, which would threaten public health in communities across Michigan and endanger the Great Lakes for future generations.”

World Affairs Council offers ‘Peace’ talks at KDL’s Cascade branch

The April 19, discussion, “The New Peacebuilding: Challenges and Opportunities”, will be led by Dr. George Lopez, Hesburgh.

WKTV Contributor

 

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan and the Kent District Library is holding a series of discussions titled “Give Peace a Chance” at the KDL Cascade Township Branch with the second of three discussions being Wednesday, April 19.

 

The Cascade library is located at 2870 Jack Smith Ave SE, Grand Rapids. The lectures, scheduled from 6:30-7:30 p.m. each day, are free, open to the public and free parking is provided.

 

The April 19, discussion, “The New Peacebuilding: Challenges and Opportunities”, will be led by Dr. George Lopez, Hesburgh Professor of Peace Studies, Emeritus, Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame. Description: “Many pundits and professional politicians suggest that our era of global violence, and especially terrorism, makes peace a fantasy.  This presentation will challenge that claim and will illustrate the new pathways to building peace, particularly on ways in which individual citizens and larger civil society groups can play important roles in building peace in their local communities and especially in outreach to the wider world.”

 

The Thursday, April 27, discussion, “Perspectives on Peace in the New Administration”, will be led by Dr. Frederic Pearson, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Wayne State University. Description: “With the presidential elections so recent, it is unclear what direction the new administration will take. Dr. Pearson will outline President Trump’s first 100 days in office. Given the trends in his presidential policy thus far, he’ll assess what that means for the prospects of peace worldwide.”

 

For more information visit worldmichigan.org/peace-series .

Government Matters: Week in review, April 10-14

Peters announces bill to help small businesses applying for federal contracts

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) is introducing bipartisan legislation with Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) to help protect small businesses from falling victim to fraud when they register to procure federal contracts. The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act would require small businesses to be notified that free assistance is available for help in procuring government contracts through federal programs, including Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), the Small Business Administration (SBA), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). Many business owners are unaware these resources exist and fall victim to scams that mislead them into paying high sums of money for contract procurement assistance.

 

All small businesses applying for federal contracting opportunities must register in the General Services Administration’s (GSA) System for Award Management (SAM). Unfortunately, bad actors disguised as vendors or government officials obtain businesses’ contacts from this public database and email business owners directly after they have registered asking for high sums of money in return for registration and contracting assistance. As a result, many small businesses unwittingly sign up for services they were not seeking at the cost of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

 

The Procurement Fraud Prevention Act requires GSA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure that any direct communication to a small business about its registration in a procurement system, including SAM, contains information about cost-free federal procurement technical assistance services available through PTACs, SBA, MBDA and other programs.

 

Michigan is home to ten PTACs and over 850,000 small businesses that account for half of the state’s private workforce.

 

Peters, Stabenow urge Trump Administration to release Army Corps Brandon Road Study to stop spread of Asian carp

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) together with 10 other Great Lakes Senators have called on the Trump Administration to release a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study that recommends specific measures to prevent Asian Carp from getting beyond the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, a crucial chokepoint in the Chicago waterway system. The study, which is critical to stopping the flow of Asian Carp and other invasive species, was supposed to be released at the end of February but was delayed by the Trump Administration.

 

“We request the Administration release the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ draft proposal to prevent Asian carp from reaching and severely harming the Great Lakes,” wrote the lawmakers. “We are concerned by what we understand to be a White House decision to delay and potentially modify this report that has been under development for years. When taken together with the proposal to eliminate all funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the fiscal year 2018 budget, delaying the release of this plan to address Asian carp only raises further questions about the Administration’s commitment to protecting our Great Lakes.”

 

Peters, Gardner call for increase in U.S. science funding

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the Committee to support a substantial increase in federal funding for science, research, and development at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

 

“Ongoing federal initiatives in research and development are already responsible for billions of dollars in economic output and tens of thousands of jobs in our home states of Colorado and Michigan,” wrote the Senators.

 

“The United States is facing fierce international competition: China invests more than $335 billion annually on research and development initiatives, making them the second largest investor in the world and putting them on track to eclipse U.S. investments soon,” continued the Senators. “Without a substantial increase in research and development appropriations, the United States risks losing its role as the global leader in innovation.”

 

Peters, Gardner introduce resolution to eliminate duplicative government programs

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced the Congressional Oversight to Start Taxpayer Savings Resolution (COST Savings Resolution), bipartisan legislation that would require Congressional committees to hold oversight hearings on the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) Annual Report of Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap and Duplication and the GAO High Risk List.

 

“Congress is responsible for ensuring taxpayer dollars are being used effectively and efficiently, and this annual report provides a roadmap to help Congress streamline government and cut wasteful spending,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management. “By reducing programs that overlap or duplicate efforts, we can cut costs for taxpayers and help ensure that government is serving the American people more productively.”

 

The COST Savings Resolution directs Congressional committees to take into account recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of government programs and eliminate unnecessary costs caused by duplicative federal programs, as well as vulnerabilities for waste, fraud, and abuse and the need for transformation of government programs.

 

The 2016 GAO annual report identified 37 areas across the federal government where Congress could eliminate duplicative programs and improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as 25 areas where Congress could reduce the cost of government operations.

 

At Wyoming and elsewhere, Huizenga’s town halls are now raucous

U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga talked to the public at Godwin Heights High School. (WKTV)

By. K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

For about two hours, U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga, a Republican from Michigan’s Second Congressional District, stood in front of an audience of about 200 people attending a Town Hall Listening session April 11 at Godwin Heights High School.

 

Rep. Huizenga spent some time defending his recent congressional actions and stands on current issues such as President Donald Trump’s Syrian bombing decision, Obamacare and the Republican-led efforts to overhaul the American healthcare system, and the future of American leadership in battling climate change.

 

But for much of the meeting, he stood quietly and heard a mostly antagonistic, often aggressive, crowd attack him from all sides. And, Huizenga says, the scenario has become all too common since the last election.

 

“Absolutely,” Rep. Huizenga said to a question from WKTV. “It is, I think, a backstop that many people — who believed was there with Barack Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, acting as their backstop — is now gone. And they are seeing that their political beliefs, which you could argue are maybe a bit out of step with what most of West Michigan is, doesn’t have a champion in Washington right now.

 

“Clearly that is why, I think, they have gotten more — aggressive is maybe one of the words, but I think it is just a level of concern that has been ramped up,” Huizenga said.

 

Huizenga was able to explain his stands on several topics: He supports President Donald Trump’s Syrian bombing decision. He thinks Obamacare is doomed and only new Republican-led action can save the American healthcare system. He thinks the issue of Nestle Corporation extracting more groundwater from Michigan is a state issue, not his issue, to deal with. And he thinks the United States should not go it alone in dealing with climate change and supports roll-backs of President Barack Obama’s actions on the issue.

 

Dorr resident Bill Keysor prefaced his question about Obamacare by saying he was “mad” that Huizenga hasn’t been doing his job. (WKTV)

But a not uncommon prelude to a question was critical remarks, including one from Dorr resident Bill Keysor, who prefaced his question about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the statement that he was “mad you haven’t been doing your job … (that you’d) rather play politics than represent us the way we’d like to be represented.”

 

And the often contentious talk does it make it more difficult for the Representative to explain his actions, to define his beliefs, Huizenga said.

 

“There are some folks there to actually have a dialogue,” he said. “My doctor, who was there … We don’t agree politically, which is fine. But trying to have a conversation … depending on the question, trying to have a conversation (is hard). They were demanding I have an answer or demanding I be quiet and listen. Well, OK. Do you want a response or not want a response?”

 

But “that’s fine. I mean, I get it. This is part of the job. We will keep doing it, we have always done it before. It hasn’t always gotten quite the attention that it is receiving right now. But what I want to do is to point out that I like those times when it is productive. … Is is just unfortunate that when you have people that are somehow trying to deny other folks, from their opportunity to be a part of this. That’s just disappointing, frankly.”

 

The Wyoming town hall meeting was the third since the start of the new year. He talked to a crowd of about 300 people in Baldwin in February, and about 1,000 in Grand Haven in March.

 

For more information about the Representative’s agenda and actions, visit huizenga.house.gov

 

Government Matters: Week in review April 3-7

Stabenow, Peters urge President Trump to keep promise to Michigan workers in meeting with Chinese President Xi

The Senators urged President Trump to hold China accountable for currency manipulation and other trade violations

By Miranda Margowsky and Allison Green


In advance of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), joined by Senators Robert Casey Jr. (D-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) wrote to President Trump asking him to keep his promise to American workers by calling on China to stop its harmful trade practices including overcapacity, currency manipulation and industrial espionage.


“Since joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, China has consistently failed to comply with its international trade obligations. And workers across the U.S., including workers in our home states, have paid the price,” wrote the lawmakers. “We urge you hold firm on your promises to workers in our states and across the country and advance our mutual goal of holding cheaters accountable, bringing home better paying jobs, and fairer markets in which U.S. businesses and workers can compete.”


Senators Peters & Ernst launch Motorcycle Caucus

By Allison Green


U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) announced the formation of the first-ever Motorcycle Caucus in the United States Senate. The life-long motorcycle riding senators will serve as co-chairs of the caucus, and will advocate for a multitude of issues on behalf of both motorcycle riders and manufacturers.


Senator Gary Peters

“I’ve loved motorcycles since I was a kid, and I started a newspaper route to buy my first motorcycle at age 11. To this day, I believe there is no better way to see Michigan’s beautiful scenery than by bike, whether I’m riding to meet with constituents and small businesses or taking my bike out on the weekend,” said Senator Peters.


“Motorcyclists come from all walks of life, and I can’t think of a better way to bring together a diverse and dedicated group of advocates to discuss everything from safety concerns to manufacturing. I’m looking forward to working with Senator Ernst as co-chair of the bipartisan Senate Motorcycle Caucus to foster these important discussions and find common ground with motorcycle lovers across the country.”


Last year, Peters traveled 833 miles through 26 counties on his #RideMI Motorcycle Tour. On the five day tour, Peters made 12 stops where he discussed his efforts to help grow Michigan’s small businesses, bolster our manufacturing sector and expand critical infrastructure. He also met with Michigan veterans, visited Camp Grayling, one of Michigan’s key military installations, and toured Wolverine Worldwide, which makes footwear for the U.S. Military.


Stabenow, Peters lead bipartisan delegation letter to Trump Administration urging funding for dredging of recreational harbors in Michigan

By Allison Green and Miranda Margowsky


U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters led a bipartisan delegation letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney requesting that funding for dredging

of recreational and commercial harbors in Michigan be included in the fiscal year 2018 budget.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not included operation and maintenance funding to dredge Michigan harbors over the last several fiscal years.


U.S. Senator Gary Peters

“These harbors are critical to commercial and recreational navigation, public safety, and the economies of our state and local communities” wrote the lawmakers.


“We hope to see funds set aside for this long overdue work in the FY2018 U.S. Army we hope to see funds set aside for this long overdue and much needed work in the FY2018 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers budget proposal.”


The letter was also signed by Representatives John Conyers, Sander Levin, Fred Upton, Bill Huizenga, Dan Kildee, Dave Trott, Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, John Moolenaar, Jack Bergman and Paul Mitchell.

 

 

Huizenga to hold Town Hall in Wyoming tonight


By Brian Patrick

Congressman Bill Huizenga announced that the next stop on his listening tour will take place on Tuesday, April 11th in Wyoming. The town hall-style listening session will be held in the auditorium of Godwin Heights High School and begin at 7 p.m. This event is open to all residents of Michigan’s Second Congressional District.
  • Who: Congressman Bill Huizenga
  • What: A Town Hall Listening Session
  • Where: Godwin Heights High School Auditorium located at 50 35th St. SW in Wyoming
  • When: Tuesday, April 11th. Doors opening at 6:15 p.m., Town Hall from 7-9 p.m.
Signs will not be permitted in the auditorium. Those who would like to display signs are welcome to do so outside the high school prior to the event.

Congressman Huizenga’s first listening tour stop took place in Baldwin on February 25th and was attended by over 300 people. Congressman Huizenga’s second listening tour stop took place on March 6th in Grand Haven with over 1,000 people in attendance.

Since January, Congressman Huizenga has held telephone town halls, Facebook town halls, and in-person town halls.

World Affairs Council offers ‘Peace’ talks at KDL’s Cascade branch

WKTV Contributor

 

The World Affairs Council of West Michigan will be hosting a series of talks on the subject of peace in modern times. (Supplied)

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan and the Kent District Library will hold a series of three discussions titled “Give Peace a Chance” at the KDL Cascade Township Branch starting Thursday, April 13.

 

The Cascade library is located at 2870 Jack Smith Ave SE, Grand Rapids. The lectures, scheduled from 6:30-7:30 p.m. each day, are free, open to the public and free parking is provided.

 

The April 13 discussion, “Peace in Action”, will be led by Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Public Education for the United States Institute of Peace. The discussion, according to supplied information, is described as follows: “Today’s world poses a dizzying and often depressing array of challenges, and violent conflicts seem to dominate our international headlines.  But work for peace persists, even in the most difficult circumstances, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond. What does it mean to be a peacebuilder today? How do we pursue peace in practice? What role can everyday people, and especially young people, play in building peace in our world?”

 

The Wednesday, April 19, discussion, “The New Peacebuilding: Challenges and Opportunities”, will be led by Dr. George Lopez, Hesburgh Professor of Peace Studies, Emeritus, Kroc Institute, University of Notre Dame. Description: “Many pundits and professional politicians suggest that our era of global violence, and especially terrorism, makes peace a fantasy.  This presentation will challenge that claim and will illustrate the new pathways to building peace, particularly on ways in which individual citizens and larger civil society groups can play important roles in building peace in their local communities and especially in outreach to the wider world.”

 

The Thursday, April 27, discussion, “Perspectives on Peace in the New Administration”, will be led by Dr. Frederic Pearson, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Wayne State University. Description: “With the presidential elections so recent, it is unclear what direction the new administration will take. Dr. Pearson will outline President Trump’s first 100 days in office. Given the trends in his presidential policy thus far, he’ll assess what that means for the prospects of peace worldwide.”

 

For more information visit worldmichigan.org/peace-series .

Government Matters: Week in review March 27-31

Stabenow announces legislation to toughen up ‘Buy American Act’ and create more jobs at home

By Miranda Margowsky

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced the Make It In America Act, which closes loopholes in the Buy American Act so the federal government is spending American tax dollars to buy products made in America. This Act also holds federal agencies accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.


Passed in 1933, the Buy American Act gives priority to American companies when the federal government purchases goods. However, the current law has numerous exemptions.


“It’s common sense that American tax dollars be used to purchase products made in America, not overseas,” said Senator Stabenow.  “My Make It In America Act will create more opportunities for American jobs by strengthening our current Buy American law and holding federal agencies accountable.  The products needed by our federal agencies, including critical defense systems, are being designed and made by talented Michigan workers and workers across the country. American jobs and American businesses need to be our highest priority.”


U.S. Senator Gary Peters is a co-sponsor of the legislation.

 

“Spending American tax dollars on products made by American workers not only helps create jobs, it’s a critical component of protecting our national security, especially when it comes to equipment for our service members,” said Senator Peters. 

 

Senators Peters, Risch reintroduce legislation to help small businesses access patent protections

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Jim Risch (R-ID) announced that they have reintroduced the Small Business Innovation Protection Act, bipartisan legislation to help small businesses protect their intellectual property by improving education on obtaining and protecting patents. The bill will require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work together to leverage existing outreach programs in order to better educate more small businesses on domestic and international patents. Peters, Risch and then-Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced this legislation in the 114th Congress, where it passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

 

“Small businesses are the engines of economic growth in our communities. It is critical that small businesses are equipped with the tools and knowledge to protect their intellectual property so they can focus on what they do best — creating jobs and serving customers,” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased to reintroduce this bipartisan bill, which will boost collaboration between the SBA and USPTO in developing best practices to support small businesses as they look to sell their product in the national and international marketplace.”

 

America’s intellectual property-intensive industries employ nearly 19 million workers at all education and skill levels and represent forty percent of the country’s economic growth. The value of U.S. intellectual property is estimated at over $5 trillion, and sixty percent of U.S. exports come from intellectual property-intensive industries.

 

 

Peters, colleagues introduce bipartisan legislation to support Great Lakes debris cleanup

By Allison Green

 

U.S Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and  Coast Guard Subcommittee and a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, joined his colleagues to introduce bipartisan legislation to help address the growing problem of marine debris affecting the Great Lakes and America’s coastlines. The Save our Seas (SOS) Act would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, which removes thousands of tons of debris, such as plastic microbeads, ghost nets, abandoned vessels and other waste, from the Great Lakes and coastal waters every year. Marine debris harms the Great Lakes ecosystem, creates health hazards and threatens the region’s multi-billion dollar tourism, fishing and boating industries.

 

“Marine debris litters both our ocean coastlines and important inland waterways like the Great Lakes, which is a source of drinking water for 40 million people and a critical economic driver,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee. “Whether it’s research into the effects of plastic microbeads or cleaning up abandoned vessels and ghost nets, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program helps preserve and protect the unique Great Lakes ecosystem. This bipartisan legislation will help strengthen research and international coordination to ensure that we can safeguard our coastlines and the industries that depend on them.”

 

Every year approximately 11,000 tons of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes, primarily through Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Also contributing to the Great Lakes debris problem are building materials, batteries, appliances, fishing gear and abandoned vessels.

 

 

Peters, Gardner introduce bipartisan legislation to expand telehealth services

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act, legislation that would expand access to health care in both rural and urban areas by paving the way for Medicare to cover additional telehealth services. Currently, Medicare covers limited telehealth services, setting a poor industry standard, discouraging innovation, and restricting access to specialized services.

 

“Michigan seniors and families in rural and underserved communities are using telehealth technology to receive specialized and quality health care that otherwise would not be readily available,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation has the potential to help expand access to care for Michigan seniors, lower health care costs and reduce costly emergency room visits, hospitalizations and readmissions.”

 

The Telehealth Innovation and Improvement Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow eligible hospitals to test telehealth services through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMI). Additionally, it directs CMI to have an independent evaluation conducted to assess the telehealth models for cost, effectiveness, and improvement in quality of care without increasing the cost of delivery. If the telehealth model meets this criteria, then the model will be covered through the greater Medicare program.

Peters & colleagues announce creation of new bipartisan chemistry caucus

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Steve Daines (R-MT) announced that they will serve as co-chairs of the newly formed Senate Chemistry Caucus. In addition to the new chairs, Senators John Boozman (R-AR), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) will join the Caucus.

 

The Senate Chemistry Caucus will provide a bipartisan forum to discuss issues dealing with the science of chemistry and America’s chemical business sector, which play a critical role in our economy and the creation of innovative products vital to everyday life. The group will work with their colleagues in the Senate to underscore the importance of employing sound science to create effective public policy and to promote initiatives that encourage the development of chemical manufacturing and a new generation of chemists in the U.S. through world-class education and research programs.

 

“Chemistry plays a vital role in creating the jobs of the 21st century, including nearly 30,000 jobs in Michigan,” said Senator Peters. “We can’t predict what the next big thing will be, but every day the field of chemistry is making groundbreaking discoveries that can grow our economy and improve our daily lives. I’m proud to help launch the bipartisan Senate Chemistry Caucus to encourage scientific research, spur new innovation and promote safety in the chemical industry.”

 

Peters statement on Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) released the following statement announcing his opposition to Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court:

 

“The U.S. Supreme Court is a pillar of our nation’s democracy, and I take very seriously the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent on nominees to serve in this revered institution. The U.S. Supreme Court is often the last line of defense for everyday Americans, and Judge Gorsuch’s previous rulings indicate he believes that corporations have greater rights than individuals.


U.S. Senator Gary Peters

“Whether it is ruling against children who want an equal opportunity to get a quality education or women who want access to health care, Judge Gorsuch often fails to take into account the human face behind each case. He has also failed to acknowledge how deeply the Citizens United decision has corrupted our government by opening the floodgates for special interest money to pour into our elections.

 

“Serving on the U.S. Supreme Court requires more than education and experience, and I am extremely concerned that Judge Gorsuch’s judicial approach is out of step with mainstream American values. After careful consideration of Judge Gorsuch’s comments and his record, I cannot support his nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court.”

 

 

Senator Stabenow announces she will oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to Supreme Court

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she will vote “no” on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States. She released the following statement laying out the reasons for her opposition:

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

“The Senate has a Constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination through a fair and thorough confirmation process. It is essential that the next Supreme Court Justice not only be qualified in the law but also balanced and impartial in his views.

 

“After reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s rulings, it is clear that he has a long record of siding with special interests and institutions instead of hard-working Americans. And, therefore, in my judgment, he does not meet this standard of balance and impartiality.

 

“After carefully reviewing his record and listening to his testimony last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have concluded that supporting the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court is not in the best interests of the people of Michigan whom I am proud to represent.”

Government Matters: Week in review, March 20-24

Peters, Stabenow, announce $4.6 million to expand Head Start programs for West Michigan children

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow recently announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $1.95 million to the Grand Rapids Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative to support their Early Head Start Child Care Partnership program, and $2.7 million to the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District to support Early Head Start and Head Start programs for children.

 

“Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide vital educational and support services to families and children that put them on the path to success,” said Senator Peters. “I’m pleased to help announce this funding that will help expand access to critical medical, nutritional and educational support services for children in West Michigan so they can lead healthy and happy lives.”

 

“Today’s announcement is good news and will help children in West Michigan get the long-term support they need,” said Senator Stabenow. “Good nutrition, medical care and early childhood education can make all the difference in helping our children succeed.”

 

Head Start and Early Head Start prepare children and their families for school by offering a variety of services including early learning experiences, family support services and health services. Early Head Start Child Care Partnership programs offer developmental screenings and referrals to medical, dental, nutrition, vision and mental health services, and provide necessities including diapers and formula. Partnership sites receive additional resources to support training and professional development for staff, and improve facilities and upgrade supplies and equipment.

 

Peters joins colleagues in opposition of proposed EPA cuts

Cuts would eliminate funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and impact EPA’s ability to help Flint

 

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters joined a group of 37 Senators in opposing President Trump’s proposal to inflict a more than 30-percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget that would have a direct effect on Michigan and the Great Lakes. Included in the budget proposal is a complete elimination of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which addresses the most serious risks to the Great Lakes ecosystem and supports long-term cleanup goals. The proposed cuts would also significantly hinder the agency’s ability to provide vital technical expertise to the City of Flint as they work to recover from the water crisis and safely transition water sources.

 

Sen. Peters & colleagues reintroduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to make college more affordable & accessible

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), John Boozman (R-AR) and Al Franken (D-MN), and U.S. Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) have announced they are reintroducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help make college more affordable and accessible by expanding opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) would improve access to higher education by providing grants to eligible institutions of higher learning to create dual and concurrent enrollment and early/middle college programs that allow high school students to earn college credits before their high school graduation.

 

“Some form of higher education or technical certification is increasingly essential to joining today’s workforce, and the rising cost of tuition should not be a barrier that keeps students from getting the skills and education they need to succeed,” said Senator Peters.

 

“I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation that helps students save money while getting a head start on their college education. The Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act will help ensure students are well-prepared for their chosen careers and employers have trained workers to fill the jobs of the future.”

 

Senator Stabenow releases video urging people in Michigan to stand up for the Great Lakes

Stabenow asks Michigan residents to share their stories about the Great Lakes and join her to save critical funding

 

 

 

By Miranda Margowsky

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has released a video message urging people in Michigan to join her and stand up to protect critical funding for the Great Lakes. The bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which Senator Stabenow helped launched in 2010, provides vital resources to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The program faces elimination in President Trump’s budget proposal.

 

To submit your Great Lakes story, visit Sen. Stabenow’s website here.

 

Senator Stabenow announces bipartisan legislation to support U.S. manufacturers, create more American jobs

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today announced legislation amending our tax laws to support American manufacturers and to create jobs here at home. The bill makes it clear that both companies using contract manufacturers and the contract manufacturers themselves are eligible to claim tax deductions that reward domestic manufacturing activities in the United States. U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also introduced the legislation.

 

“We don’t have an economy or a middle class unless we make things and grow things,” said Senator Stabenow. “This bill makes a commonsense change to our tax policies that will encourage manufacturers to create more jobs here at home.”

 

Section 199 is one of the largest tax incentives that benefits domestic manufacturing. It provides companies with a 9% deduction on their income from domestic manufacturing activities, giving those activities a lower effective tax rate and making U.S. manufacturing a more attractive investment.

 

Under current tax law, it is unclear whether a company using a contract manufacturer or the contract manufacturer itself is eligible to claim the deduction. Senator Stabenow’s legislation would clarify tax law to allow both entities to claim the Section 199 tax incentive for domestic manufacturing.

 

Huizenga examines impact of financial regulation on small business job creation

On March 22, Capital Markets Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga (MI-02) held a hearing to examine how the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has implemented the JOBS Act and what its impact has been on capital formation and job creation. During the hearing Huizenga called for the SEC to stop pursing political objectives outside its core mission and focus on creating a regulatory environment that supports innovation and job creation.

 

Key Takeaways from the Hearing:

  • The bipartisan JOBS Act is working, but Congress and the SEC must do more to help small businesses, entrepreneurs and emerging growth companies access capital.
  • The SEC has a responsibility to facilitate, not frustrate, capital formation and must work with Congress to eliminate unnecessary and overly burdensome regulations that are restricting access to capital.
  • The Financial CHOICE Act, the Republican plan to replace the Dodd-Frank Act, included numerous provisions to expand access to capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

For more information, go here.

Government Matters: Week in review, March 13-17

Stabenow, Peters, Kildee introduce resolution opposing nuclear waste storage site in Great Lakes Basin

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) have introduced resolutions, in both the House and Senate, expressing opposition to construction of a nuclear waste repository less than a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

 

“The Canadian proposal … could cause significant, lasting damage to the Great Lakes and undermine the progress we have made cleaning up the water quality in the Great Lakes Basin,” said Senator Peters.

 

“President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson should make every effort to prevent the Canadian government from moving forward with this proposal and work to find an alternative solution that does not jeopardize the health of the Great Lakes.

 

“Surely in the vast land mass that comprises Canada, there must be a better place to permanently store nuclear waste than on the shores of Lake Huron.”

 

Over 40 million people in Canada and the United States get their drinking water from the Great Lakes and the highly toxic waste could take tens of thousands of years to decompose to safe levels. Ontario Power Generation is currently seeking approval from the Canadian Ministry of Environment to build a deep geologic repository to permanently store 7 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste less than one mile from Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario.

 

Peters, Portman & Stabenow introduce bipartisan legislation to boost Great Lakes funding

Legislation would help modernize research capabilities, bring Great Lakes on par with ocean coasts

 

By WKTV Contributor

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) have introduced bipartisan legislation to spur Great Lakes funding and research efforts and help support effective fishery management decisions.

 

The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act gives the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the legislative authority to support the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry. Despite holding one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes science program does not have the same funding authorization as science centers on saltwater coasts, and this legislation will close the resource gap between the Great Lakes Science Center and other fishery research centers across the country.

 

“Our Great Lakes and waterways are part of who we are and our way of life,” said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. “From water quality issues to invasive species, there are so many challenges facing our lakes and fisheries, which is why funding for cutting-edge research is so important.”

Peters statement on President Trump’s proposed budget

By Allison Green

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee, released the following statement regarding President Trump’s proposed budget that dramatically cuts critical domestic programs:

 

Sen. Gary Peters

“President Trump’s proposed budget makes drastic cuts that will hit Michigan families and businesses in both urban and rural areas especially hard, including cuts to transportation services education, job training and programs that are essential for protecting the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water to 40 million people and support Michigan’s multi-billion dollar shipping, fishing and agricultural industries.

 

“I am particularly disappointed that President Trump still has not put forward a comprehensive strategy to grow our manufacturing industry and create jobs. Instead, his budget proposal eliminates or slashes funding for critical programs that support the small businesses and manufacturers that are our country’s greatest job creators. Instead of gutting programs that Michigan families, seniors and businesses rely on, the President should focus on making smart investments to boost innovation and American manufacturing, strengthen our infrastructure and ensure our country remains economically competitive.

 

“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, I believe it is important for us to have a strong and innovative military, but we must also invest in our people to maintain our nation’s competitive edge. Congress has a responsibility to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively, and members of both parties must work together to reduce wasteful spending and help shrink the deficit, but this proposal does more harm than good.”

Senator Stabenow statement on President Trump’s budget request that completely eliminates Great Lakes funding

Sen. Debbie Stabenow

By Miranda Margowsky

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, released the following statement in response to President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, which completely eliminates funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:

 

“It is outrageous that President Trump’s budget request completely eliminates funding to protect the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has always received bipartisan support and continues to be absolutely critical to protecting our Great Lakes, including fishing, boating, hunting, and fighting invasive species. Our Great Lakes economy creates 1.5 million jobs and are part of our Michigan way of life.

 

“I will continue working across the aisle to not only stop cuts to Great Lakes funding but  also to other important initiatives that are important to Michigan families, manufacturers, farmers, and small businesses.”

Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Where art, social activism meld

Ai Weiwei self portrait surrounded by supporters and police. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

When asked about the artist Ai Weiwei, Ping Liang — board chair of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, international businesswoman, and a Chinese-American with a deep understanding of modern Chinese culture — readily defers artistic questions to the Garden’s chief curator.

 

But both she and Joseph Antenucci Becherer, who serves as Meijer Gardens vice president in addition to his curatorial duties, understand that to appreciate Weiwei one must go deeper than simply his art. One must understand his history and his culture, especially his social activism both inside his rigidly controlled home county and around the world.

 

Ping Liang, board chair of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and chief curator Joseph Antenucci Becherer, in the main gallery of the exhibit “Ai Weiwei at Meijer gardens: Natural State”. (WKTV)

 

“I came to know Ai Weiwei’s reputation through the 2008 Olympic stadium, called the Bird’s Nest. At that time, his name wasn’t taken in a very good light because of the Chinese media, which is very controlled,” Liang said, as she and Becherer sat together with WKTV recently and dove deep into the exhibition Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State, which is running though Aug. 20.

 

Detail “Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn” in Legos image. (Supplied)

“We only knew him, according to the Chinese media, as a person who purposely broke a very valuable antique jar. We also heard he used vulgar language, kind of insults, purposely. So, I didn’t really know too much about him. Of course, when Joe, here, talked (to us) about Ai Weiwei, as an artist, I was like ‘Wow!’”

 

And as she dug a little deeper, what Liang found was much more than simply an artist as portrayed by the Chinese media.

 

“He has this very famous family, particularly his father, Ai Ching, a very famous poet in China, and how his family suffered during the Cultural Revolution, even though his father was a very prominent and early Communist Party member,” she said. “And when we look at some of (Weiwei’s) artwork, the insults, and some of the themes, I started to understand. He is actually a social activist. That was very rare in China.”

 

‘Everything is politics’

 

Becherer, too, advocates for an understanding of the artist’s politics as well as his art — it is no coincidence that one of Ai Weiwei’s most well known sayings is “Everything is art. Everything is politics.” Blending his art and his politics is, in fact, the “natural state” of Weiwei’s world.

 

Joseph Becherer, Meijer Gardens vice president and chief curator. (WKTV)

“I think it always makes it more meaningful to know something about an artist’s biography when you are looking at their painting or their sculpture or whatever their work happens to be, because we all carry some part of us with us into whatever it is we do for a profession,” Becherer said. “With someone like Weiwei, it is probably more of an extreme, because for him art and life are inseparable.”

 

Becherer, in an essay accompanying the exhibit, states that Ai Weiwei’s art was influenced by, among others factors, his father’s life and clashes with the government, the artist’s growing up isolated from modern industrial China and being influenced by “traditions and artisan efforts of rural China,” followed by his emersion into Beijing’s late 1970s youthful avantgarde and his spending much of the 1980s in New York City before retiring to Beijing in 1993 when his father fell ill.

 

Maybe most importantly, however, Ai Weiwei’s art is influenced by increased use of social media and increased social activism — including his criticism of the Chinese government in the aftermath of the 2008’s Sichuan earthquake.

 

“In the following years,” Becherer’s essay states, “Ai Weiwei came under surveillance and was beaten, hospitalized and denied the right to travel. In 2011, he was arrested and mysteriously detained for 81 days, to the shock of the international cultural community.”

 

It was not long after that Ai Weiwei become a worldwide cause célèbre — and Becherer and Meijer Gardens began their interest and relationship with the artist as part of the the Garden’s pursuit of acquiring the massive sculpture “Iron Tree”.

 

Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Tree” has been on display for two years, but now an extensive exhibition of the artist’s works is on view. (Supplied)

“We started visiting Weiwei more than three and a half years ago, it was initially about acquiring ‘Iron Tree’,” Becherer said during the recent interview about his first meeting with the artist, who was practically under house arrest at the time. “Our process has always been that we try to engage directly with the artist. We want to understand, obviously, how the artist is living, how things come together, how things came to be. So, we began out of that, the very beginning, a sincere desire to know more about him. … It started out in one way, but it evolved and this exhibition was the result.”

 

And the exhibition is another example of Ai Weiwei’s continuing evolution.

 

“He seems to be more and more engaged in universal ideas,” Becherer said. “He seems to be more engaged with global concepts of freedom of speech and human rights. So it (his art), yes, is still related to his biography and, yes, it is related to his nationality and his heritage. But he seems to be more comfortable with the world stage.”

 

Now on the world stage

 

In July 2015, Ai Weiwei’s passport was returned and he was able to travel once again. Today, he divides his time between Beijing and Berlin, where he maintains studios.

 

It was in Berlin, in 2009, that Ai Weiwei created a massive exhibit of 9,000 children’s backpacks on the side of a building, backpacks which represented the number of children who lost their lives in the Sichuan earthquake — with colored backpacks spelling out “For seven years she lived happy on this earth,” a sentence with which a mother commemorated her daughter.

 

And the artist’s focus on social activism, and his influence both in and outside of China, has not changed according to Liang, who has more than 30 years experience in international business including extensive work in China and throughout Asia as managing director of AlphaMax Advisors LLC as well as serving on the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. She says Ai Weiwei’s example and causes have greatly impacted her and many of her friends and business associates around the world.

 

Ping Liang, board chair of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. (WKTV)

“Now I realize he actually inspired the birth of modern social activism in China,” Liang said. “He and his friends were so active when Sichuan earthquake took place, and the aftermath, when thousands of young children were killed. I remember seeing, on global media as well as Chinese media, the devastation, the building collapsed, and the cry of parents whose only children lost their lives in this earthquake. … Now I look back, I understand that he was trying to raise people’s awareness about what really happened. What you really need to know. This should not be kept as a secret. That is why I describe him as an inspiration for the very beginning of social awareness and activism.

 

“In terms of his impact on the world, it is huge,” she added. “When I travel around the world, everybody talks about Ai Weiwei … People realize he was actually trying to get social justice for the earthquake victims. Actually, because of that a lot of Chinese, overseas Chinese, started donating to the earthquake victims. And a lot of young people started volunteering for non-profit organizations. I thought that was just tremendous. This is the impact he has had.”

 

Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State is more than 30 works including iconic works from the artist’s repertoire and work specific to Meijer Gardens located in galleries, conservatories, public spaces and the auditorium. For more information visit meijergardens.org .

 

Government Matters: Opposing views on DeVos confirmation

News of Your Government

WKTV Staff

 

Following the U.S. Senate confirmation of West Michigan’s Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, local U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) had very different responses.

 

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)

Rep. Huizenga, in a Wednesday, Feb. 8, post on his Facebook account, said: “Congratulations to West Michigan’s own Betsy DeVos on being confirmed by the Senate as the next Secretary of Education. Betsy will work tirelessly and fight to ensure that every child in America, no matter their zip code, has access to a quality education.”

 

Sen. Stabenow was not quite so congratulatory.

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

In a Feb. 8 supplied statement, Sen. Stabenow said: “I am deeply disappointed that Senate Republicans confirmed Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education. I’ve heard from an overwhelming number of Michigan families who have shared their strong concerns about her long record of pushing policies that have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. That is why I joined with half of my Senate colleagues, including two Republicans, to oppose her nomination.”

 

Sen. Peters comments on President’s nomination for Supreme Court

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D -MI), on Feb. 1, issued the following statement on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch, who currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States:

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

“Just as President Obama did, President Trump has a constitutional responsibility to nominate Justices to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court, and the U.S. Senate has a constitutional responsibility to consider those nominees. For 293 days, Senate Republicans failed to fulfill that duty by denying President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, the same thorough and public consideration process that they are now urging for President Trump’s nominee.

 

“I take very seriously the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent on all nominees, and every individual who could be serving on our nation’s highest court deserves to be fully vetted. As President Trump’s nominee moves through the judicial hearing process, I will be carefully reviewing his qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court, which is a pillar of American democracy.”

 

Sen. Peters introduces Legislation Helps Protect Domestic Violence Victims and Their Pets

 

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), along with Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), on Feb. 8, reintroduced the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, legislation to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence from emotional and psychological trauma caused by violence against their pets.

 

Multiple studies have shown that domestic abusers often seek to manipulate or intimidate their victims by threatening or harming their pets, but according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the country accept pets. Similar legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

“Abusers often exploit the emotional attachment victims have with their pets, leaving victims of domestic violence stuck choosing between their own safety or leaving a beloved pet in harm’s way,” Sen. Peters said in supplied material. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bipartisan legislation that will help empower victims to leave abusive situations, get a fresh start and keep their pets who are treasured members of their families.”

 

Government Matters: Sen. Stabenow offers ‘Bring Jobs Home Act’

News of Your Government

WKTV Staff

 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on Monday, Jan. 30, introduced legislation she states would encourage businesses to bring jobs to America and discourage companies from shipping jobs overseas. It’s fate in a Republican-controlled Senate is uncertain.

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Stabenow’s “Bring Jobs Home Act” first introduced this legislation in 2012, and in every Congress since, but, she said in supplied material, Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked it.

 

“We need to be exporting our products, not our jobs,” Sen. Stabenow in supplied material. “It’s outrageous to ask hard-working Americans and communities to foot the bill for companies that move jobs overseas. If President Trump and Republicans in Congress are serious about bringing jobs back home, they should work with me to pass my legislation right now.”

 

The “Bring Jobs Home Act of 2017” creates a new tax cut to provide an incentive for U.S. companies to move jobs and business activity from another country back to America. Specifically, her initiative will allow U.S. companies to qualify for a tax credit equal to 20% of the cost associated with bringing jobs and business activity back to the United States. The act also would end a tax deduction for U.S. companies that outsource jobs and business activity.

 

Rep. Huizenga seeks repeal of part of Dodd-Frank Act

 

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), who is the chairman of the House of Representatives capital markets committee, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, voiced support to efforts to repeal section 1504 of The Dodd-Frank Act — specifically a Securities and Exchange Commission rule — by using the Congressional Review Act.

 

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R)

“The SEC is tasked by Congress to both protect investors and facilitate capital formation,” Rep. Huizenga said in supplied material. “Despite being instructed in Federal Court, the SEC continues to propose a resource extraction rule that is overly burdensome, puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage, and fails to provide investors with useful information. Transparency is a critical element in governance and I believe there is a way for the SEC to achieve transparency regarding section 1504 however this revised rule falls short and remains deeply flawed.”

 

Sen. Peters concerned about Presidential order ‘implementing religious test’

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), on Monday, Jan. 30, joined his colleagues on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in a letter requesting a meeting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly about the crafting and implementation of President Donald Trump’s latest Executive Order restricting refugee admissions to the United States.

 

Sen. Gary Peters

“We are deeply troubled by this unprecedented order and its implementation by the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Peters and his Senate Democrat colleagues wrote to Secretary Kelly, according to supplied material. “We urge you to postpone implementation of this Executive Order until these questions have been answered, and, more importantly, you have had an opportunity to ensure that the legal, policy, and practical impacts of President Trump’s order have been fully and thoroughly reviewed.”

 

The Senators additionally expressed alarm at a proposed religious tests for future immigrants, and questioned Kelly about the method DHS plans to use to collect religious data, after President Trump’s assertion in a recent interview that the United States would give preference to Christians seeking to obtain visas or admission to the country.

 

Expansive, impressive Ai Weiwei exhibit opens at Meijer Gardens

Ai Weiwei’s long-anticipated show at Meijer Gardens will open to the public on Jan. 27. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

Two years after giving the West Michigan arts community a beautifully patinaed example of the power of renowned Chinese artist and social activist Ai Weiwei, in the form of the stunning “Iron Tree”,  the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park will open to the public its long-anticipated exhibition Ai Weiwei at Meijer Gardens: Natural State on Friday, Jan. 27.

 

Ai Weiwei’s “Iron Tree” has been on display for two years but now an extensive exhibition of the artist’s works will be on view. (Supplied)

In total, more than 30 works — including iconic works from the artist’s repertoire and work specific to Meijer Gardens — will be sited in galleries, conservatories, public spaces and the auditorium.

 

“I am looking forward to the exhibition at Meijer Gardens and to share my work and ideas in this unique place,” Ai Weiwei said in supplied material. “I appreciate that they are so committed to my work; they even acquired Iron Tree in 2015. This opportunity to bring an exhibition to Michigan is something I greatly anticipate.”

 

The public should also “greatly anticipate” the show as well, according to David S. Hooker, President and CEO of Meijer Gardens — for purely artistic enjoyment as well as intersecting with the artist’s unique political and social esthetic.

 

“Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is pleased beyond words to host this major exhibition, Ai Weiwei’s first ever in a botanical garden or sculpture park,” Hooker said in supplied material. “It will be an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of people to enjoy his vision and boundless creativity … (and his) compelling life story that is told through his art.”

 

The title of the exhibition — “Natural State” — underscores the relationship between the artist and the venue, according to supplied material, combining the artist’s use of the natural materials in his works, set in the often natural settings of Meijer Gardens, but pushing those natural materials into unique states of being: personal, historical, social, political. Materials such as ceramics, silk, bamboo and wood become symbols of Ai Weiwei’s views on humankind in his native China and around the world.

 

Ai Weiwei’s “Taifeng” will be part of a series of natural material sculptures on display. (Supplied)

The exhibition will use four gallery spaces, four indoor conservatories, the auditorium and numerous public areas at Meijer Gardens. And many of the works will be placed not only in the artist’s unique vision but in context to their surroundings, including having five monumental sculptural bodies derived from ancient Chinese mythological text — “Taifeng”, “Dijiang”, “Shuyu”, “Mingshe” and “Shusi”shown in a “scenic corridor” outside the normal gallery spaces.

 

“Having worked with Ai Weiwei for many years and in venues across the world, it has been a pleasure to see him focused on the very distinguished and unique circumstances of Meijer Gardens,” Greg Hilty, curatorial director of Lisson Gallery, said in supplied material. “The work carefully selected by the artist and thoughtfully installed at this venue offers a truly memorable experience.”

 

Lisson Gallery, out of New York City, collaborated with Meijer Gardens on the Ai Weiwei exhibition, as it did with a previous show of the works of Anish Kapoor.

 

A full list of exhibition activities can be found at www.meijergardens.org/aww

For videos associated with the show, visit Meijer Gardens on YouTube.

 

Government Matters: Rep. Huizenga praises President, backs abortion limits

News of Your Government

WKTV Staff

Jan. 25, 2017

 

As the new Congress began work late last week, U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), whose district includes much of the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood, issued statements both praising the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States and voicing his continued support of limits on federal abortion funding.

 

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R)


“Millions of Americans, including the majority of West Michigan, voted to change the direction of our nation and we have already begun to see the results,” Rep. Huizenga said in supplied material on Jan. 20. “I look forward to working with President Trump and Vice President (Mike) Pence to strengthen our economy, end the ‘Washington knows best’ mentality, and make it easier for hardworking families and small businesses across West Michigan to succeed.”

 

Then, on Jan. 24, Rep. Huizenga voted in support of H.R. 7, The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017.

 

The act “is an incredibly important step in the fight to defend the unborn while also protecting taxpayers,” he said in supplied material. “This significant legislation extends the Hyde Amendment to all federal programs, while also prohibiting the use of ObamaCare subsidies to purchase plans that include abortion coverage. We must defend those who cannot defend themselves. Taxpayer dollars should not be used to end the life of unborn children.”

 

On Jan. 25, the representative also spoke on the house floor on “defense of the unborn, the upcoming March for Life, and how Congress must do more to prevent late-term abortions.”

 

“I commend President Trump for making one of his very first actions protecting unborn children around the world by preventing U.S. taxpayer dollars through foreign aid from being used to fund groups that promote abortion under the guise of ‘family planning,” he said.

 

Sen. Peters opposes President’s cabinet selections, supports TPP withdrawal 

 

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), a member of the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, on Jan. 24, released a statement in opposition to former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State.

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters

“I am extremely disappointed that President Trump chose Rex Tillerson — an individual with extensive ties to business and political leaders in Russia — as his Secretary of State nominee,” Sen. Peters said in supplied material. “While Mr. Tillerson may have received Russia’s Order of Friendship award from Vladimir Putin, make no mistake: Russia is no friend to the United States.

 

“Additionally, I am concerned about Mr. Tillerson’s failure to fully recognize the extent of climate change as a top national security threat that must be addressed through American leadership on the world stage. For these reasons, I cannot support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination to be Secretary of State.”

 

Also on Jan. 24, Sen. Peters addressed his opposition to the nomination of Michigan’s Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of the Department of Education.

 

“We need a Secretary of Education who is dedicated to improving access to quality public education based on sound evidence and ensuring the proper implementation of federal laws designed to protect and help all our children,” he said in supplied material. “That is why I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos of Michigan to serve as Secretary of Education.

 

“Mrs. DeVos’ resume contains no experience in public education at any level, not as a teacher, not as an administrator, not as a student or parent, not as a school board member and not even as a borrower of public loans for college. … Her only experience in education is her work lobbying for the transfer of taxpayer money to private schools and the rapid expansion of charter schools without sufficient accountability to parents and students. … I cannot, and will not, support Betsy DeVos’ nomination.”

 

Sen. Peters on Jan. 23, also voted against the nomination of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

 

Sen. Peters did, however, voice support for the President’s action to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific partnership.

 

“I have long opposed the TPP because it fails to address unfair labor practices and foreign currency manipulation that puts our American manufacturers and automakers at a competitive disadvantage, and I’m pleased the President took this step to withdraw from the agreement,” he said in supplied material.

 

Senators Stabenow, Peters voice concern over EPA spending freeze impact on Flint

 

U.S. senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters, and U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee, on Jan 24, sent a letter to President Trump asking him not to jeopardize much-needed federal funding for Flint following his directive to halt all Environmental Protection Agency grants and agreements. The lawmakers asked the President whether his decision applies to the funding Congress passed with strong, bipartisan support to help address the City of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

 

“We write to request clarity on a reported freeze imposed on all new Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts, and in particular, to inquire as to whether this decision applies to the funding Congress approved with strong bipartisan support to help address the City of Flint’s drinking water crisis,” the lawmakers wrote, in supplied material.

 

Government Matters: Kent County commissioners lists 2016 accomplishments

News of Your Government

WKTV Staff

Last year was a big year for the Kent County Board of Commissioners with 2016 including such accomplishments as the approval of the 70 cents per month increase in dispatch surcharge to improve dispatch services and the .44 mill property tax increase for the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the John Ball Zoo.

 

The new financial support for the John Ball Zoo was one of the accomplishments of the Kent County Board of Commissioners last year. (Supplied)

Board Chair Jim Saalfeld and County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio, in a recent press release, recently detailed several other major tasks achieved by the board and county staff during the year, as well as upcoming 2017 efforts and plans.

 

“While there will certainly be other issues that we face during the course of a year, as you can see, it is already shaping up to be a very busy 2017,” Saalfeld said in supplied material. “This Board remains committed to providing effective services to our residents while operating transparently and with a balanced budget. We look forward to great results in 2017.”

 

Along with the dispatch and the museum/zoo millage, those tasks include implementation of a “space needs” study for the detention facility, correctional facility and new Circuit Court courtrooms; a Lakeshore Regional Partnership; successful negotiations of the corrections officers and court employees contracts; receiving a triple-A credit rating; creating the first Renaissance Zone to enable Switch to move into the area; and transitioning the airport from a county department to an airport authority.

 

Several items will continue in 2017, including the “space needs” study, the Agri-Business Work Group, the Lead Task Force and the FOC Engagement Task Force. Also this year, the board will appointing a new administrator/controller as Delabbio will be retiring on July 1. This is the first time since 1998 that the Board of Commissioners will be faced with the selection of a county administrator/controller.

 

Also up for 2017 is more collective bargaining; discussions of the potential merger of the Area Community Service and Employment Training Community Action Agency with the County’s Department of Community Development and Housing; a review of the board’s standing rules; and the 2018 budget.

 

Secretary of State details ExpressSOS advantages to citizens

 

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a rapping kangaroo are teaming up to encourage Michigan residents to hop online to do their Secretary of State business as part of an online effort to spread the word about its ExpressSOS.com website.

 

The “Kangaruth” video is being aired at youtube.com/michsosoffice or www.Michigan.gov/kangaruth.

 

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a rapping kangaroo are teaming up to encourage Michigan residents to hop online to do their Secretary of State business. (Supplied)

“I am asking you to help out and share the video and the message of hopping online at ExpressSOS.com with as many people as possible to help shorten the wait times at Secretary of State branch offices,” Johnson said in supplied material. “The more people that know about using the online services the shorter the wait times are for those who must visit an office in person.”

 

Residents can renew their registration/tabs for your car, truck, motorcycle and watercraft. Most people can renew or replace a standard driver’s license or state ID. And with its Print ’N Go feature, customers can print their receipt and drive legally until they get their card or sticker in the mail. (Every eight years, customers need to visit an office to get an updated photo).

 

Customers can get a duplicate vehicle registration or title, and change/update their address and personal information. You can even join the organ donor registry, all from the comfort of your home, library, office or on the go.

ExpressSOS.com, launched in 2011 and having conducted 9.6 million online transactions, saves customers the trip and avoiding standing in a line.

 

Customers may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).

 

Government Matters: On MLK day, Sen. Peters urges ‘working together’

News of Your Government

 

WKTV Staff

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mi.) on Monday, Jan. 16, in observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, issued a statement urging Michiganders “to join together … (to) follow Dr. King’s example and give back to their communities so we can help make his dream a reality for future generations of Americans.”

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

“As we honor the legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr., we remember his steadfast dedication to the pursuit of justice, equality and tolerance for people of all different backgrounds and beliefs, and celebrate his commitment to protecting our fundamental civil rights,” he said in supplied material. “At a time when our nation is deeply divided, we cannot allow ourselves to turn against one another. We must strive to bridge our differences and work together to ensure that every American — no matter who they are or where they live — has access to clean air and clean water, quality schools, opportunities for economic advancement, affordable health care, and the ability to make their voices heard at the ballot box.”

 

Senators Stabenow, Peters support decision on foreign appliances

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mi.) and Sen. Gary Peters on Jan. 12, voiced support for a recent ruling by the U.S. International Trade Committee that foreign manufacturers of washing machines were engaging in unfair trade practices, deliberately undercutting the Michigan-based Whirlpool Corporation.

 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

“Today’s ruling is a victory for American manufacturing and our talented workers,” Sen. Stabenow said in supplied material. “I have fought aggressively to enforce our trade laws to stop companies in China and South Korea from cheating, and today’s action is an important win in this continuing fight.”

 

As a result of the ITC decision, South Korean based producers Samsung and LG must now pay duties of 52 percent and 32 percent, respectively, to offset their actions of unfair pricing tactics. Whirlpool employs 22,000 workers across the United States, with nearly 15,000 of those employees in manufacturing.

 

Sen. Peters votes to move Defense Secretary nominee forward

 

On Jan. 12, Sen. Gary Peters voted to pass legislation providing an exception to the limitation on being appointed Secretary of Defense within seven years of serving as an active duty commissioned officer of the Armed Forces. Defense Secretary nominee General James Mattis retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 2013, short of the seven year requirement.

 

But he did so with some reservations.

 

“Our men and women in uniform and their families make immense personal sacrifices on behalf our nation, and I deeply respect General Mattis’ long record of military service,” he said in supplied material. “Unfortunately, our nation is facing these extraordinary circumstances today. We have an incoming President who is unpredictable and whose words and actions cause both our allies and adversaries to question America’s commitments to global security. While General Mattis’ experience and qualifications alone do not justify lifting this requirement, I believe it is necessary to add a steady presence and moderating force to President-elect Trump’s national security team.”

 

Government Matters: Sen. Peters meets Trump’s transportation nominee Chao

WKTV Staff

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, on Jan. 9 met with Elaine Chao, President elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

 

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI)

“I appreciated the opportunity to meet with Elaine Chao and discuss a number of transportation issues critical to Michigan and the nation,” Sen. Peters said in a supplied statement. “During our meeting, I was able to raise the importance of connected and automated vehicle technologies as an issue the federal government should continue to focus on in the coming years.

 

“Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Transportation has made significant progress to help support the development and deployment of these life-savings technologies, and I will be urging the Trump Administration to continue building on the progress that has already been made through efforts like the recent Federal Automated Vehicle Policy and proposed rule for vehicle-to-vehicle communications.”

 

Sen. Peters also stressed Michigan’s leadership role in the future of transportation technology innovation.

 

“I also shared information about Michigan’s role as a leader in the future of mobility and discussed the good work already underway in Michigan at test facilities like the University of Michigan’s Mcity and the American Center for Mobility,” he said. “I urged Ms. Chao to follow through on DOT’s current competition to designate national proving grounds to help connected and automated vehicle technologies reach their full potential. I look forward to continuing this discussion and hearing more about her plans for DOT during her confirmation hearing.”

 

President Obama signs innovation and competitiveness co-sponsored by Sen. Peters

 

President Barak Obama on Jan 6 signed into law the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, a bipartisan legislative compromise originally introduced by U.S. senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with John Thune (R-SD), and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

 

The first major update to federal research and technology policy to originate in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in more than a decade, this legislation maximizes basic research opportunities, reduces administrative burdens for researchers, encourages scientific entrepreneurship, and promotes oversight of taxpayer-funded research.

 

“Scientific research and innovation are the foundation of a strong economy,” Sen. Peters said. “The American Innovation and Competitiveness Act will help leverage federal investments in basic research, strengthen STEM education to train a skilled workforce and support small and medium sized manufacturers to keep our country internationally competitive.”

 

The legislation also promotes diversity in STEM fields, incentivizes private-sector innovation, and aims to improve advanced manufacturing and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership to support small and medium-sized manufacturers.

 

Government Matters: Kentwood resident nominated to military academy

WKTV Staff

 

WKTV’s Government Matters lists a sampling of news released by state and federal officials who represent the Wyoming and Kentwood areas. Among this week’s highlights are Sen. Stabenow nominating 45 students to the military academies and Sen. Peters voicing support for veterans as part of a new Department of Defense bill.

 

Sen. Stabenow nominates Kentwood student among 45 total in state to military academies
Sen. Debbie Stabenow recently announced her office’s nominations of local students for the service academies. (Supplied)

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow announced recently the nomination of 45 Michigan students for placement at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

 

Among those nominated, according to supplied material, were Jarrod Torr, of Kentwood, to the Naval Academy, as well as Grandville’s Luke Ensing and Connor Fischer, both to the West Point.

 

“Michigan is fortunate to have so many exceptional students who want to serve our country through military service,” Sen. Stabenow said in supplied material. “Having demonstrated a strong commitment to excellence in and out of the classroom, I am confident they will represent Michigan and our country well.”

 

Students seeking appointment to a service academy must first obtain the nomination of their U.S. Senator, their U.S. Representative, or the Vice President. Students nominated went through a highly competitive application process that included interviews by community leaders. Now that the students have been nominated, they must await acceptance for admission by the academy to which they have applied.

 

Sen. Peters supports defense bill with provisions for state’s veterans
Sen. Gary Peters

On Dec. 8, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a former Lt. Commander  in the U.SA. Navy Reserve, helped pass a defense bill which advocates for a pay raise for service members, supports veterans suffering from mental trauma, and advocates for Michigan’s manufacturers and small businesses, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

 

The National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2017, passed the House of Representatives, the senate and was then sent to the desk of President Barack Obama for signature.

 

Among other things, the bill included a 2.1 percent pay raise for service members and, according to supplied information, provides “the necessary tools and resources for our military while ensuring those suffering from the invisible wounds have the support they need after their service,” Sen. Peters said.

 

A provision helps veterans who may have been erroneously given a less than honorable discharge due to behavior resulting from metal traumas including PTSD. The Fairness for Veterans provision gives liberal consideration to petitions for changes in discharge status to honorable if the service member has been diagnosed with PTSD, TBI or related conditions in connection with their military service. A less than honorable discharge prevents veterans from accessing Post-9/11 GI Bill opportunities, VA home loans and other benefits. Michigan is home to more than 600,000 veterans, including 50,000 post-9/11 veterans.

 

Another part of the legislation requires the DoD provide American-made athletic footwear to new military recruits. DoD already applies this policy to uniforms and combat boots, but not athletic footwear. This legislation could boost manufacturers like Wolverine Worldwide with offices in Rockford, which produces Saucony athletic shoes and is a major manufacturer of footwear for the U.S. military.

 

County elections director details vote security, recount anomaly

WKTV asked Wyoming and Kentwood city clerks, and the Kent County elections director to assure local voters their vote counted — and was counted properly.

 

K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

Kent County’s partial manual recount of the presidential election results identified local examples of a statewide voting system anomaly associated with ballots with straight-party voting and invalid write-in votes, according to the county’s director of elections.

 

But, Susan deSteiguer said Monday, the vote changes in the county were few and likely would have been a zero-sum gain for the two major party presidential candidates if the recount continued — and the problem will likely not repeat itself, depending on the eventual resolution of a court-delayed change in Michigan’s voting laws which would eliminate straight-party voting.

 

The key to Michigan voting system, and the reason for confidence in local over results, is in the stand-alone tabulation machines, like the one shown here. (Supplied)

Also Monday, deSteiguer detailed the county-level procedures for verifying the integrity of votes cast in the cities of Wyoming and Kentwood precincts — and as the two city clerks said in a previous now.WKTV.org story, the bottom line is stand-alone voting machines are tested for accuracy prior to the voting and never connected to the internet, “at any time, ever” and voting tabulations are checked and then double checked by various means at various local, county and state levels.

 

“We have multiple ways of confirming that the totals that were generated in that precinct match what we eventually send up to the (Board of State) Canvassers,” deSteiguer said.

 

Those “multiple ways” include duplicate paper copies of electronically reported vote totals, reconciliation and verification of vote totals by bi-partisan canvassers at both the county and state levels, and — if necessary — the secured original paper ballots available for recounts. It all begins with local control at a city and township voting level, however.

 

“We are home rule, which means every city or township clerk is responsible for the election within their city or township,” she said. “I makes it much more complex, but the good side of that it makes it impossible for one or a minimum number of people to manipulate an election. … I have 30 city or township clerks checking my work.”

 

And when they have a recount, as they started with the presidential election ‘We have a physical ballot to look at, we start with the physical ballot. … and every time we do a physical recount, which we have done before, it proves again and again, that the (voting) machines counted the votes accurately.”

 

The recent recount of paper ballots, started and stopped in Kent County when about 50 percent of the 313,000 plus total votes cast were checked, did produce an anomaly in the system, however.

 

The basic problem with vote totals not matching voter numbers across the state identified during the partial recount, deSteiguer said, was that people who chose straight party voting at the beginning of their ballots and then wrote in an invalid write-in candidate for president, would have had their votes electronically counted for their selected political party — and not counted as having not voted for any of the candidates.

 

An invalid write-in candidate usually occurs, deSteiguer said, when someone writes in a nonperson, or a real person is written in but that candidate did not meet legal requirements to verify their write-in candidacy 10 days prior to the election. In Kent County, there were six presidental candidates on the ballot and seven valid write-in possibilities.

 

The system of having only valid write-in votes count “prevents us from dealing with what we call ‘nuisance” votes,” deSteiguer said. “We will see things on the ballots such as Jesus Christ, Donald Duck, etc. … and we not not want to waste out time tallying votes for Donald Duck. We only tally valid write-in votes.

 

“On the presidential ballot, we had voters who wrote in ‘None of the above’ or ‘Are you kidding me?’,” she added.

 

As for the possibility of the straight-party and invalid write-in anomaly reoccurring?

 

deSteiguer said if that will depend on the ongoing debate over the change to Michigan’s straight-party voting ability — “How it will be in the future, I don’t know.”

 

 

Despite headlines, Kentwood, Wyoming city clerks confident of local voting integrity

The key to Michigan voting system, and the reason for confidence in local over results, is in the stand-alone tabulation machines, like the one shown here. (Supplied)

K.D. Norris

ken@wktv.org

 

The national headlines this week are filled with reports and rumors of possible voting machine manipulation — did or did not Russian hackers somehow alter the presidential election? But city clerks in the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming are confident in local voting numbers and want to assure local voters of local voting integrity.

 

“Wyoming voters can rest assured that every ballot cast has been counted and counted accurately,” Kelli VandenBerg, city clerk for the City of Wyoming. said this week. “We have a number of safeguards in place to assure that voters can have confidence that their ballots are processed properly.”

 

Kentwood City Clerk Dan Kasunic agreed, and said the bottom line reason is that the State of Michigan uses paper ballots that are tabulated at each precinct using stand-alone tabulation machines, voting machines — and the “tabulators are never connected to the internet.”

 

“So much of the national controversy has been over other types of ballots or the transmission of results,” VandenBerg said.

 

Before election day, each precinct’s and county board’s paper ballet tabulators are tested for accuracy — “there is a public test prior to each election, for the public to attend, to prove the accuracy,” Kasunic said.

Voting data cards are sealed in each tabulator by the city clerk before the election. Each seal has a number that is recorded in a paper poll book. The seal number is verified by the precinct workers before the polls open on election day.

“When the polls close at the end of election day, precinct workers print a tape of the results before the card is removed from the tabulator,” VandenBerg said. “The card is then sealed in a transfer bag that comes to (Wyoming) City Hall. That numbered seal is cut and then the data is downloaded and transmitted to the county.”

 

After votes are tabulated, all ballots are then sealed and stored in a secure location.

 

“All memory cards are sealed and recorded so they cannot be tampered,” Kasunic said. “The memory cards are complied within the city on a program and then sent by email to the county, and the memory cards are sent to the county. So they have both the tapes from each tabulator  and the memory cards”

 

In addition to the safeguards to protect the electronic data, there are safeguards in place to protect the paper ballots.

 

“At the end of election day, the paper ballots are removed from the tabulator and sealed in approved ballot containers,” Vandenberg said. “The ballots remain sealed and in the clerk’s custody for the appropriate retention period. In this case the election involved a federal race, so the retention period is 22 months.”

 

New Wyoming District School Board member envisions greater community connection

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-11-00-46-amBy Victoria Mullen

WKTV

 

Jessica Hanselman is excited about her new position on the Wyoming District School Board and said she is ready to take on the challenges facing the district.

 

Hanselman won one of two open seats on the Board Nov. 8 with 4,640 votes. Incumbent Lisa Manley received 5,016 votes.

 

“My vision includes a greater connection between the Wyoming Public School District and the larger community, to build community pride and increase involvement in district initiatives and activities,” said Hanselman.

 

Hanselman wants the district to raise its public profile and publicize its successes more broadly, so that the community gets the opportunity to know the district’s achievements and best practices. She also wants to cultivate community relationships between the education community and human services community, including mental health organizations.

 

“Often, public entities operate in silos, for many reasons,” she said. “However, I believe students served in the schools would benefit from streamlined communication and the sharing of best practices and  resources, wherever possible. It will take me a bit of time to determine whether there are any pressing concerns or problems, but I am happy to work with the rest of the board to help with any issues that arise.”

 

She said that many of the challenges faced by all districts, including Wyoming Public Schools, is the continued failure at the state level to fund education at the level it deserves, and new mandates handed down by the Michigan House of Representatives that are often unhelpful, uninformed and may create unnecessary barriers for educators to do what they know best.

 

“As necessary, I am willing to be a voice for the district with our state legislators, and partner with other districts who are seeking to advocate for their students at the government level.

 

“Wyoming Public Schools is worthy of being a sought out education destination for our community, and I want parents to know why WPS is a highly desirable school home for their children.”