Legislative Update: Soo Locks, Red Cross, stress management

Urging the U.S. to upgrade the Soo Locks

The Michigan Senate recently adopted Senate Resolution 105 to encourage the federal government to support plans to upgrade the Soo Locks. The Senate’s action came after Sens. Ken Horn, Wayne Schmidt and Tom Casperson held a rare joint hearing of three Senate committees in Sault Ste. Marie to discuss the growing need to modernize the locks.

Nearly 80 percent of all Great Lakes shipping traffic for one of the most important elements needed to fuel our economy — iron ore — passes through upper Michigan’s Soo Locks. About 10,000 ships sail through the locks each year, and tens of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in commerce rely on this single point.

Despite the locks’ economic vitality to the state, region and global economies, the most important and depended-upon lock faces an uncertain future.

When you consider that the current Poe Lock opened in 1968 and has not been upgraded during its 47 years of service, you can imagine why so many have come forward to call on the federal government to get to work and upgrade the locks.

If the Poe Lock were to go down, there is literally no other way for the 1,000-foot-long ships that use it to cross. Estimates suggest that a prolonged 30-day shutdown of this single lock would result in the loss of $160 million. The Lake Carriers’ Association predicts such a shutdown would affect Michigan’s economy so deeply that more than 22 percent of the state’s workers would become unemployed.

In today’s modern age, it is unacceptable that so much relies on so little when it comes to moving economically vital materials and supplies through the Great Lakes.

A 21st century Michigan economy demands a modern Soo Locks. Michigan businesses and jobs rely heavily on the locks, and leaders in Washington, D.C. must act to modernize the locks to continue Michigan’s positive momentum.

A week after the resolution was adopted, the federal government agreed to a $1.35 million cost-benefit analysis, which is the next step toward upgrading the Soo Locks.

Allowing income tax donations to American Red Cross

The American Red Cross has been one of our country’s most impactful and dedicated humanitarian organizations for more than a century. The Red Cross responds to tens of thousands of disasters every year — from helping a family after a house fire to assisting entire communities impacted by a hurricane.

Senate Republicans recently led the way to pass legislation that would give all Michigan taxpayers an opportunity to support the mission of the American Red Cross by simply checking a box on their state income tax form.

Senate Bill 429 would create an individual income tax checkoff in support of the American Red Cross in Michigan. This would allow taxpayers to choose to direct $5, $10, or more of their income tax return to the American Red Cross in Michigan. SB 428 would create the American Red Cross Michigan Fund to receive voluntary donations from the income tax checkoff to be distributed to Red Cross chapters throughout the state.

In addition to their humanitarian efforts, the Red Cross also is the largest single supplier of blood and blood products in the U.S. and our leading provider of health and safety courses, such as CPR, first aid and lifeguard training.

The donations would have no impact on the state budget, but they could help make possible a tremendous amount of good work.

Supporting Critical Incident Stress Management teams

Senate Republicans recently approved a measure designed to support Michigan’s Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) teams.

CISM teams assist emergency service providers — like police, firefighters and EMS workers — in dealing with critical stress, especially following a traumatic event.

People in high-stress professions are often vital to the public safety and they have found these services to be very helpful. However, without assurances of confidentiality, these service are not being utilized by many emergency service providers who could be helped.

Senate Bill 444 would define Critical Incident Stress Management and its key components, as well as outline confidentiality provisions. Critical Incident Stress is defined as the actual or perceived event or situation that involves crisis, disaster, trauma or emergency.

There are approximately 56 CISM teams throughout Michigan registered with Michigan Crisis Response Association (MCRA). MCRA provides training and support that follows the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation model. CISM teams respond to critical incidents, such as a natural disaster, assault, suicide or a death of a child or co-worker.

“If left untreated, a critical event can impact and change a person’s ability to cope with daily life. One major benefit of CISM team services is preventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Sen. Jim Stamas, sponsor of the bill. “In short, helping workers deal more effectively with critical stress is good for the employee, the employer and for the entire community.”