Stamas completes 2016 Heritage Route 23 Legislative Tour

Sen. Jim Stamas and several state and local officials recently completed a two-day legislative tour of Heritage Route 23.

“My goal in leading this successful tour was to bring attention to Michigan’s sunrise side and to better engage state leaders with the community on local issues critical to the region,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “This hands-on tour offered us a unique chance to bring together multiple state department directors, tourism officials and economic development leaders to see what northeastern Michigan has to offer, promote tourism in the region and help improve the area economy.”

Beginning at Wheeler’s Restaurant in Standish, the tour traveled 200 miles along the U.S. 23 Heritage Route from Standish to Mackinaw City — finishing with a stop at the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum.

In addition to seeing the museum in Mackinaw City with Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and Travel Michigan Vice President Dave Lorenz, some of the tour highlights included:

  • Visiting a Standish grain elevator and Alpena dairy farm with MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams;
  • Checking out the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse in Rogers City with DNR Director Bill Moritz;
  • Seeing the MidMichigan Medical Center in Alpena with Michigan DHHS Director Nick Lyon;
  • Attending the “Good Morning Alpena” breakfast at the Brown Trout Festival; and
  • Touring a veterans office in Rogers City with Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, chair of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee.

Also joining Stamas on the tour were Rep. Peter Pettalia, R-Presque Isle; Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare; Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford; DEQ Director Keith Creagh; and numerous other officials from state and local government.

Heritage Route 23 along Lake Huron is one of Michigan’s hidden gems. Families can experience spectacular lake views, check out numerous historical and cultural sites and enjoy a wide variety of recreational opportunities — from relaxing on miles of beaches to staying at one of more than 50 area campgrounds to visiting one of many historic lighthouses.

To discover more information on Heritage Route 23, visit www.us23heritageroute.org.

Legislative Update: New laws to help families, veterans and communities

The Michigan Senate Republicans have accomplished much already in 2016 to help support our families, veterans and communities. Here are some highlights of legislation recently signed into law and previously approved laws that are going into effect in July:

Helping communities respond to disasters and emergencies
The governor has signed Senate legislation to allow the state to better respond to emergencies.

Ensuring more funds are available in the event of an emergency or natural disaster will allow the state to react fast and better protect Michigan families.

Public Act 220 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Mike Nofs, increases the amount the state can hold in its Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund from $4.5 million to $10 million. The fund has been used to help cover the cost of response efforts in Flint and for severe storm cleanup in parts of the state when federal emergency reimbursement is not available.

Standing up for foster siblings
Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children.

“I am glad to see the governor signed this legislation to help protect the cherished bond between siblings in foster care,” said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsor of the bill. “As a foster grandparent and a former member of law enforcement, I have seen both the good and bad of family life. I’ve seen young children endure terrible situations. I’ve also seen the strength of children who overcome tough challenges and the positive impact of siblings in persevering — which is what this new law seeks to preserve.”

Public Act 191 of 2016 puts a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with siblings. If siblings cannot be placed together, then a priority of sibling visitations and ongoing interaction will be arranged to ensure a sibling bond. The new law requires frequent visitations between non-custodial, biological parents and their children unless the court determines that the parenting time would be harmful to the child.

Increasing oversight, accountability in veterans facilities
The Michigan Senate Republicans stood up for our heroes — securing more funding to assist homeless veterans and create a new Michigan Veterans Facility Ombudsman to ensure our veterans receive the proper care they earned serving our nation.

Michigan’s military veterans have given so much in the service of our country, and an independent ombudsman will be able to identify, investigate and recommend fixes for problems at the state’s veterans homes, so we can ensure that our veterans have safe and secure places to enjoy their retirement.

Public Act 198 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Peter MacGregor, requires that the Legislative Council appoint an ombudsman to investigate complaints filed by resident veterans, their family members or legal guardians, or a legislator and then report the findings and recommendations.

The ombudsman will investigate Michigan veterans facilities for acts or conditions that allegedly violate law or policy or that pose significant health or safety issues. The ombudsman will be able to inspect a facility at any time, on its own accord or by request, and conduct investigational hearings and subpoena individuals and documents.

Ushering in new state laws in July
Several important new laws take effect this month:

Public Act 85 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, establishes the CARE Act to help train and support in-home caregivers. Under the new law, hospitals are required to allow patients to designate a caregiver and develop a discharge plan to help the caregiver provide after-care assistance.

• Public Acts 87 and 88 of 2016 increase protections for pregnant women by expanding the penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman. The crime would be treated as a domestic violence crime with stricter punishment, especially for repeat offenses.

• Public Act 62 of 2016 raises public awareness about human trafficking. The law requires the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to be posted at rest stops and welcome centers, bus and rail stations, airports and other places in the state.

Older Americans Month

Michigan is home to more than 1.8 million senior citizens — all of whom have a wealth of life experience and knowledge to impart to younger generations. Every spring, we acknowledge this wisdom and life experience during Older Americans Month. Here in Michigan, senior organizations from around the state choose a day to gather on the Capitol lawn during Older Americans Month to celebrate Older Michiganians Day.

The annual event draws hundreds of seniors, service providers and advocates to raise awareness for issues facing senior citizens. It also gives participants an opportunity to speak with elected officials about concerns specific to their respective communities.

Older Americans Month celebrations are not limited to the state Capitol however. Some lawmakers have celebrations back in their districts as well.

Every spring during Older Americans Month, Sens. Margaret O’Brien and Tonya Schuitmaker co-host the annual Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo along with Rep. Aric Nesbitt. The legislators partner with the Lions Club to connect seniors and veterans with organizations and businesses that can provide products and services that are important to them.

This year’s celebration brought nearly 1,000 seniors and veterans from Southwest Michigan to the Antwerp Township Activity Center where more than 100 local businesses and organizations shared services they offer that might interest or be beneficial to senior and veteran populations. Bronson Lakeview Hospital had employees on hand to provide free health and wellness screenings and attendees received a free lunch and goodie bag.

This event has continued to grow since it started ten years ago and is now one of the biggest events of its kind in Southwest Michigan. For more information, please visit: www.SeniorAndVeteranExpo.com.

‘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.

Go Red for Women

Each year, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of nearly one in three women in America. Approximately every 80 seconds, one woman dies from cardiovascular disease, and 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors.

The Michigan Senate and the American Heart Association are once again teaming up to raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease and to educate the public, especially women, about how to recognize warning signs. For the sixth year in a row, Senate Republicans, led by Tonya Schuitmaker, Judy Emmons and Margaret O’Brien, sponsored a resolution recognizing Feb. 5 as “Wear Red Day” in Michigan.

Go Red for Women is a national movement dedicated to increasing awareness of the dangers surrounding heart disease. Up to 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with proper education on what to do if an event occurs, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Most people have been trained to recognize the most common symptom of a heart attack: extreme chest pain. However, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

The best way to decrease your odds is to get regular checkups. Although some risk factors for heart disease (such as age, family health history and race) cannot be avoided, other risks like alcohol consumption, smoking, inactivity and obesity are very manageable.

For more information about Go Red for Women and heart disease, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org.

“Go Red For Women” today, and encourage friends and family to do the same by using the hashtags #GoRedWearRed, #WellWomenVisit, #GoRedForWomen and #GoRed on social media.

Michigan Senate salutes America’s heroes on Veterans Day


Senate veterans committee chair Sen. Margaret O’Brien and the Senate’s three veterans, Sen. Jim Stamas (U.S. Army and National Guard) and Sens. Vincent Gregory (U.S. Marine Corps) and David Knezek (U.S. Marine Corps), joined together to thank America’s Heroes on Veterans Day.

Let us never forget that we owe our liberty to the courageous veterans who put their country before themselves.

Understanding this debt to our veterans and their families for their enormous sacrifices, the Michigan Senate is proud that our state has made significant strides to express our deep appreciation for the service of Michigan’s veterans in a real, meaningful way.

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) provides valuable services — from job resources to medical benefits and transition assistance — to our state’s more than 660,000 military veterans.

The Michigan Senate encourages all veterans to ensure they are receiving the support and benefits they earned serving the nation by contacting the MVAA at 1-800-MICH-VET or on their website at www.MichiganVeterans.com.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Sens. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan; remind Michigan families of the importance of learning the risks, symptoms and treatment options in a Breast Cancer Awareness Month public service announcement.

During the month, the Michigan Senate Republicans join in renewing the fight against breast cancer, working to raise awareness and supporting those who are fighting or have survived the disease.