Giving the Gift of Life

April is National Donate Life Month, a time when we celebrate the lives of those who were saved by a transplant, recognize those who are still in need, honor those who have donated, and thank the ones who are registered organ donors.

Thousands have benefited from organ donation. Last year nearly 30,000 people had their lives changed because someone else donated a life-saving organ or tissue.

Despite that, there are still about 122,000 men, women, and children in the U.S. who need a transplant — and more than 3,500 of them are in Michigan. While tens of thousands of donations happen each year, an average of 8,000 people — or 22 a day — lose their battle while waiting for a transplant. The need for donors continues to rise.

The good news is, more than 121 million Americans are registered organ donors. You may be one of them. While that is a great statistic, about half of U.S. adults aren’t registered donors.

Here in Michigan, we are working to make it easier to register to donate. Senate Republicans led the way in recently approving a bill to help increase the number of registered organ donors in our state.

Lauren’s Law, as it is referred to, would make it easier to become a registered donor by having the secretary of state’s office ask whether a person wishes to be added to the Michigan anatomical gift donor registry when he or she applies for a driver’s license.

Registering to be an organ donor is simple, and it could have a lasting impact: one donor can help more than 50 people.

For information about organ donation or to sign up to become a donor, visit the Gift of Life Michigan website at GiftofLifeMichigan.org.

Horn Hometown Tour: Saginaw Fire Department

 

Sen. Ken Horn recently continued his 2016 Hometown Tour series by spending the day with some of Saginaw’s first responders at Station One of the Saginaw Fire Department (SFD).

Station One houses 51 full-time firefighters with 13 firefighters on duty at all times. Horn joined the crew for a morning of gear preparation, running drills, getting dressed and sliding down the pole from the loft, and other preparation needed in the event of a call.

After familiarizing himself with the various equipment on site, Horn and the team gathered in the ladder truck and departed for the training grounds. SFD has property within city limits that they use to conduct training exercises such as ladder use, practice working on pitched roofs and vehicle extractions. They also have a large tower they use to practice running hoses and bucket extractions with the ladder truck.

While at the training grounds, Horn had the opportunity to participate in several training drills with the team. They began by taking the bucket on the ladder truck — capable of reaching 100 feet — to the top of the training tower so Horn could familiarize himself with how the department runs hoses and handles fires in high-rise structures.

Once the training exercises on the tower were completed, Horn then moved to the opposite side of the property for the last leg of the tour: vehicle extractions. After breaking through some windows and clearing glass, the senator was able to cut through some hinges and panels with the Jaws of Life, and even had the opportunity to completely remove a car door.

Since taking office in the Senate, Horn has toured the 32nd Senate District performing various jobs and experiencing a diverse variety of culture throughout mid-Michigan communities.

Check out Horn’s previous 2016 tours. See the tour of the Fenton Winery and Brewery by clicking here or his visit to Flushing Community Schools by clicking here.

Urging action in fight against Asian carp

The Michigan Senate Natural Resources Committee considers legislation that affects us all. The committee has been referred bills to protect the Great Lakes and our inland lakes and rivers; bills that would strengthen environmental protections; and bills to protect wildlife.

On Earth Day 2016, it is an appropriate time to consider a resolution the committee worked on to help protect our waters and environment against a critical threat.

Senate Resolution 12, as approved by the Senate, is the latest of a series of measures advocating for the federal government to take a more aggressive role in protecting the Great Lakes from a potential Asian carp invasion that could jeopardize jobs in a $7 billion fishing industry and $9 billion recreational boating industry.

The state of Michigan, surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, is literally defined by the lakes. Consequently, the health of our economy and quality of life are intertwined with the health of the lakes.

Asian carp are an acute threat to the Great Lakes. The environmental and economic impact of these fish if they get into the Great Lakes would be catastrophic.

The Chicago Area Waterway System, connecting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, is a major pathway for aquatic invasive species (AIS) to spread between the two systems. Zebra mussels used this pathway to spread from the Great Lakes, leading to millions of dollars in annual control costs for industries and public utilities. Now, Asian carp stand poised to use this pathway to invade the Great Lakes.

A permanent, long-term solution to this problem must be identified and implemented. The problem of Asian carp and other AIS using this man-made connection is not going away and will not resolve itself.

The Chicago Area Waterway System Advisory Committee was formed in May 2014 with the goal of reaching consensus on short- and long-term measures to prevent Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species from moving between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. Thirty-four representatives from government; industry; and commercial, recreational and environmental groups came together to solve this pressing problem.

SR 12 supports the advisory committee’s recommendations to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Previous resolutions approved by the Senate Natural Resources Committee also urged Congress and President Obama to expeditiously evaluate all options, including hydrologic and ecological separation, while minimizing impacts on transportation and then implement those measures.

We need action to help prevent a disaster that would decimate our vibrant fishing, tourism and boating industries and wreak havoc on the ecosystems of the Great Lakes and all its rivers.

There are no perfect long-term solutions to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, but leaving the lakes vulnerable is the costliest option.

Promoting financial literacy for students

One of the top priorities of Senate Republicans is to make sure that our children receive a quality education. After all, they are the future of our state.

A key part of our education system should be ensuring students are financially literate. We’ve seen what happens when people make bad financial decisions in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis.

That’s why learning how to budget and manage personal finances early in life can pay big dividends down the road — and keep people from making poor financial decisions that have wide-reaching impact.

Last year, the Michigan Senate unanimously approved legislation, now Public Act 186 of 2015, to allow schools to include a financial literacy component as part of the semester of economics required to earn a high school diploma. Understanding the basic principles involved with earning, spending, saving, borrowing and investing will help students acquire the skills they need to make sound financial decisions later in life.

And the best part of this law is that schools will not have to spend money developing the material; a model curriculum for youth financial education is already available from the Michigan Department of Education.

Making sure our students enter the world with a basic understanding of how to make financial decisions makes us all better off. Ensuring the financial literacy of Michigan’s youth without dumping a financial burden on the taxpayers will only make our state’s future stronger.

Honoring crime victims during annual vigil at Capitol

 

Every April, the Michigan Crime Victims Vigil serves as a remembrance for victims, along with families and friends of those who have been impacted by a crime.

Members from law enforcement agencies, victim services associations and other advocate groups all gather in the Capitol Rotunda to honor and remember those who have been a victim, or have suffered a loss as the result of a crime.

The event also features speakers and an award ceremony honoring the strongest advocates of victims’ rights in Michigan.

The vigil is sponsored by the Crime Victim Foundation and takes place at the Capitol each year as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, hosted the 28th annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil on Wednesday evening along with Attorney General Bill Schuette and Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren. Schuitmaker is a long-time participant of this event and has served as both co-host and keynote speaker in the past.

Schuitmaker also introduced a resolution on the Senate floor proclaiming April 10-16 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Michigan. The week is commemorated with events across the country recognizing and supporting victims’ rights.

With the implementation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act in 1985 and the passage of a constitutional amendment in 1988, the state of Michigan has adopted some of the nation’s most comprehensive laws to protect the rights of crime victims.

Let us never forget those most impacted by crime — the victims and their families.

Bills would cut unnecessary red tape for schools

A dozen Senate Republicans, led by Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, introduced legislation this year to reduce red tape for schools.

Senate Bills 754-767 are vitally important because the hundreds of reports that Michigan school districts are mandated to prepare and submit to state and federal entities can be time-consuming and tedious to produce and are often redundant or even obsolete by the submission date.

Education reporting requirements are sprinkled throughout Michigan law, not just in the state’s education code, and these reports are costly, often taking a great deal of staff time and resources.

The bills would eliminate unnecessary and redundant reports and streamline reporting requirements. This will direct valuable school resources toward the classroom — rather than Lansing — and provide educators with more time to focus on student achievement.

Superintendents across the state have applauded the legislation.

“This package of bills will empower schools by eliminating barriers to improving student achievement,” said Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert D. Livernois. “By eliminating unnecessary and redundant reports, local schools can spend more time helping teachers teach and kids learn.”

The bills are before the Senate Education Committee, which has heard testimony in support of the legislation.

Brad Biladeau, the Michigan Association of School Administrators associate executive for government relations, said that “this is something our members have been concerned about for quite some time. There are more reports than there are school days for school districts. We’ve heard from school districts that have hired or designated individuals whose sole function is to respond to these state and federal reports.”

If passed and signed into law, SBs 754-767 will enable teachers to spend more time and energy doing what they were hired to do: teach their students. And that will improve education throughout Michigan and enrich the lives of all Michiganders.

Keeping Michigan children safe

It is an unfortunate reality, but thousands of Michigan children face the horrors of abuse each year. It is estimated that more than 1,500 children throughout the United States die annually from child abuse and neglect. Each April, on the state and national level, we increase our efforts to raise awareness and help put a stop to this horrible crime.

Child Abuse Prevention Month has been recognized in April each year since it was affirmed by a presidential proclamation in 1983. Many communities throughout the state hold ceremonies and plant blue pinwheels, which are the national symbol for child abuse prevention.

The Michigan Children’s Trust Fund is once again hosting their annual Michigan Prevention Awareness Day at the state Capitol. The ceremony brings attention to the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse in all forms. Prevention Awareness Day also serves as a legislative education day by giving advocates the opportunity to discuss prevention needs with state legislators. Events include a procession, planting of a pinwheel garden on the lawn of the state Capitol and a lineup of notable speakers. This year’s event is scheduled for April 19 at 11 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

Michigan Senate Republicans are also taking action to prevent these troubling statistics in our state. State Sens. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, and Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, have introduced legislation that would address the issue of child abuse in daycares — specifically instances that result in the death of a child.

Under current Michigan law, any violation of the Child Care Licensing Act is a misdemeanor that can cost a child care facility their license for at least two years.

Senate Bills 746 and 747 were introduced as the result of the tragic death of a three-month-old child in a West Michigan daycare. The daycare was shut down by the state after an investigation found numerous violations at the facility.

This legislation would specify that, if a violation of the Act resulted in the death of a child, the person would be guilty of second degree child abuse, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The facility’s child care license or registration would also be permanently revoked.

Senate Republicans encourage state residents to wear blue, plant pinwheels, and get involved in their community to help put an end to child abuse in Michigan.

If you suspect a child is being abused or seriously neglected, Michigan has a toll-free child abuse hotline that can be reached at 1-855-444-3911.

‘Light it up Blue’ for Autism Awareness

Autism Awareness Day is Saturday, April 2. It is a day each year when millions from around the world come together to help spread awareness and understanding of autism, celebrate the unique talents of those with autism, and bring attention to the needs of people with autism and their families.

Take a moment to watch this video from Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, as she talks about “lighting it up blue” to help raise awareness about autism — the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the world.