Make wise choices for a successful school year

In many districts, school is now back in session. This can mean welcome relief to harried parents and a time of adjustment for their children as they settle back into the old routine.

The first priority for the new school year — for parents, students and drivers — is that our students make it safely to and from school.

For kids riding the bus there are three main points to remember: 1) Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the doors are open before stepping into the roadway; 2) never put your head, arms or hands out of the bus window; and 3) when crossing the street, STOP, look left, then right and then left again before crossing.

For all drivers, remember two critical rules when around a school bus: 1) If the yellow overhead lights are flashing, be prepared to stop; and 2) if the red lights are flashing, STOP, and remain stopped until the red flashing lights are turned off and the school bus begins moving.

Once safety has been established, children are ready to learn.

Success depends on several factors in the home. First, parents must create a home environment that encourages learning. Second, they should communicate high, yet reasonable, expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers. And finally, parents need to be involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.

Make time to help and support your children. For further assistance in this area, the Michigan Department of Education has many useful resources available on its website at The “Parent Engagement” section offers numerous links and information that can be tremendously helpful.

Ensure your children get plenty of sleep, arrive to school on time, complete their homework and eat healthy meals. Build up your children’s self-confidence with positive reinforcement and encouragement. These foundations are as essential as anything else in ensuring academic success.

Keep in mind that the choices that we as parents make — as well as the ones our kids make — are the most important factors in determining success in school. So make the right choices, and have a fantastic school year!

Back to school - bus safety

Enjoy your local farmers market!


While Michigan is closing in on the autumn season, farmers markets throughout the state are going strong — selling Michigan-grown produce, fruits and other items directly to area families.

In today’s modern society, with grocery and convenience stores on virtually every corner, farmers markets are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Growing, selling and buying local is a great benefit to all. In fact, over the last 15 years the number of farmers markets in Michigan has grown from around 90 in 2001 to more than 300 today.

In addition to the farmers markets across the state, the Michigan Capitol enjoys three opportunities to buy great Michigan-made products each summer. The first event was held in late July and the second one was on Thursday. The remaining farmers market day at the Capitol is Sept. 22, running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the east lawn.

The Capitol farmers market program attracts more than 100 vendors who sell about $1,100 in goods to more than 22,000 customers for a final estimated sale of $200,000. That’s not bad for three days.

Farmers markets are a small but important contributor to our state’s overall food and agriculture industry. The industry contributes $101.2 billion annually to the state’s economy, employing more than 900,000 workers — or about 22 percent of the state’s workforce.

We encourage all Michigan residents to get out and support our more than 52,000 farms by stopping by your local farmers market.

To find a farmer market near you, visit:

Still time to enjoy National Family Fun Month!

Summertime may be winding down, but that doesn’t mean an end to the fun. Michigan offers families a wide variety of outstanding late summer and early fall outdoor activities, such as boating, fishing and attending local festivals.

August is National Family Fun Month and there is still time for residents to take advantage of our state’s numerous outdoor activities like taking in a round at one of our world-class golf courses or kayaking on 36,000 miles of rivers.

Family fun does not necessarily mean extravagant vacations. There is plenty to do here in Michigan that is not only budget-friendly, but often within an hour or two of your home.

We are blessed to have natural and cultural resources in Michigan that make our state such a great place to live and raise a family. A good way to have fun and support your local community is to get out and enjoy all the activities available right here in our own backyard.

There is plenty of time left to visit one of more than 40 Michigan water parks or aquatic centers, spend a day in the sand at one of Michigan’s beautiful beaches or take a family bike ride along miles of bike trails throughout our state. Michigan is also home to thousands of inland lakes, where families can go to swim, hike, water ski or just enjoy a picnic.

It is not just about fun and games. Children with involved parents tend to fare better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Spending more time together as a family strengthens your family bonds, improves academic performance in children and helps kids develop positive parenting skills.

No matter what the activity is, make sure that the entire family is involved and that you cherish the time spent together. For ideas for your late summer family outing, visit

Michigan Women’s Spotlight: Eva McCall Hamilton

Did you know that the first woman to become a state elected official in Michigan was Eva McCall Hamilton in 1920? During the first election in which women were allowed to vote, Hamilton was elected as Michigan state senator for the 16th District — by a two-to-one margin.

This month marks the 96th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — which guarantees American women the right to vote.

Eva HamiltonThe amendment was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 21, 1919 and by the Senate two weeks later — sending it to the states to be ratified. Less than a week later, on June 10, Michigan was one of the first states to ratify the amendment.  However, it would take more than a year for three-fourths of the states to approve the measure. That historic moment came when Tennessee passed it by a single vote on Aug. 18, 1920. Having met the final hurdle, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification of the 19th Amendment on Aug. 26.

Sen. Eva McCall Hamilton was born on Dec. 13, 1871 in Memphis, Michigan and would become a teacher.

Throughout her life, Hamilton also served on local, state and national committees focused on encouraging women to partake in civic affairs. However, it would not be until 1910, when she held the reins of a large horse-drawn “Float for Suffragists” followed by 75 local suffragists in decorated cars in the Grand Rapids Annual Homecoming Parade, that she would become widely known throughout the state.

By 1912, Hamilton would earn the recognition of being just one of three Grand Rapids women who had mailed out an astonishing six tons of “votes for women” literature. Exemplary achievements such as these would eventually help Hamilton become the leader of the Grand Rapid’s women’s suffrage movement.

As a Republican senator in 1921-22, Hamilton successfully proposed and passed bills to fund pay raises for teachers and worked to reform the Michigan Mother’s Pension Act.

As a result of Sen. Hamilton’s dedication to the betterment of both the state and women’s rights, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 2012. A portrait of Hamilton is on display in the Senate Chamber.

National Golf Month and the U.S. Amateur Championship in Michigan

August is National Golf Month — a time to celebrate one of American’s favorite pastimes.

Golf in Michigan is special. Our state is regularly considered one of the top states for golf — with more than 800 public golf courses and the fourth-highest number of courses in the nation.

No doubt, this is largely due to Michigan’s incredible natural resources — our woods and streams, hills and valleys, and of course our Great Lakes and sand dunes — which have helped create beautiful and award-winning golf experiences.

The Michigan Senate Republicans encourage you to get out and play golf with your family and create memories that will last a lifetime.

There are many outstanding golf courses located right here in Michigan. One of the nation’s premier courses is Oakland Hills Country Club, which turns 100 this year and is hosting the 2016 U.S. Amateur Championship this week, from Monday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 21.

The club has a rich and significant history. Its first head professional was legendary golfer Walter Hagen, who was a five-time PGA champion. The South Course is known as “The Monster” and has hosted 16 major championships. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Gary Player — among the best to ever play the game — have all won on the South Course.

To help the tournament be a financial success, Sen. Mike Kowall sponsored Public Act 180 of 2016 to add the U.S. Amateur Championship to the list of events for which the Michigan Liquor Control Commission could issue one of its special liquor licenses. The measure received overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House.

We encourage all Michigan families to take some time during National Golf Month to head outdoors and enjoy this wonderful game. Also, if you can, take time to watch as Michigan hosts the U.S. Amateur Championship.

National Blueberry Festival in South Haven

Everyone is familiar with Traverse City cherries, but many people are unaware that Michigan is also the nation’s leading producer of cultivated blueberries — with the majority of production done on family farms in Southwest Michigan.

Most of these farms are located within Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties and contribute to the roughly 100 million pounds of blueberries produced each year.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, who represents Allegan and Van Buren counties in the state Senate, recently discussed how important blueberry production is to the economies of both Southwest Michigan and the entire state. Blueberry production alone injects nearly $122 million into the state’s economy.

The senator encouraged residents to help continue making these numbers grow by purchasing berries from a local farmer, a store that sells local produce or a bakery that uses blueberries from nearby farms.

Schuitmaker also noted the $122 million does not include tourism revenue generated from the state’s several blueberry festivals. Tourists from around the nation flock to Michigan to attend the National Blueberry Festival in South Haven.

The 48th consecutive National Blueberry Festival is underway and runs from Aug. 11 to Aug. 14.

For a list of events, directions, parking and other information for this year’s festival, visit

Horn Hometown Tour: Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

After serving chicken dinners and meeting with customers at the Bavarian Inn, Sen. Ken Horn stopped by the world-famous Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland for part two of a special three-part series in his own hometown of Frankenmuth.

Carla Bronner-Spletzer — Bronner’s vice president and daughter of the fabled Wally Bronner — and her staff developed an itinerary that kept the senator busy during his visit to the world’s largest Christmas store.

Before getting to work, Bronner-Spletzer and Horn explored the life and legacy of the late Bronner, looked over various memorabilia from Bronner’s life and discussed the history of what started as a hobby in 1945 in the basement of the young Bronner’s parents’ house.

Today, Bronner’s store is a 27-acre complex that employs three generations of the family and roughly 700 employees during the peak of the Christmas season.

Watch as Horn is put to work showing off his “talent” in decorating Christmas cookies and personalizing Christmas tree ornaments (where the senator painted ornaments for his grandchildren).

The showroom fills the customers with the Christmas Spirit all year long. While it is an inspiring site to behold, it is only one-third of the store. Behind the scenes is an immense warehouse of Christmas joy — where Bronner’s workers pack and ship a few of the store’s 220,000 annual online and catalog orders.

You can check out this video and videos of previous tours by clicking here.

National Lighthouse Day: Michigan Lighthouses

Michigan’s lighthouses helped guide our state’s history and growth. Today, they stand as beacons of our rich maritime heritage.

Our state is home to abundant parks and yearlong recreational opportunities, yet few people know that Michigan is home to the most lighthouses in the nation.

These coastal icons offer residents and visitors a rare chance to experience history firsthand, have fun with the family and enjoy amazing wildlife and coastal habitats – all at the same time.

Michigan’s history of lighthouses began prior to statehood, when the Fort Gratiot Light was built in 1825. The first lighthouse in this area was located approximately where the first Blue Water Bridge stands today. However, due to poor design and location choice, it collapsed into the river during a bad storm only three years later. In 1829, a new lighthouse was built north of the military fort.

After renovations in 2012, visitors can now see this oldest operating lighthouse in the state and take in a view of Lake Huron from its balcony.

Many Michigan lighthouses are now hotels, bed and breakfasts and museums. Visitors can enjoy bed and breakfast services at six different lighthouses, and 12 lighthouses offer programs that allow you to assume the role of a keeper for a night.

Sunday is National Lighthouse Day, and we encourage you to check out one of the 120 lighthouses along our state’s spectacular coastline. You can climb the 130 stairs of the tallest lighthouse in the Great Lakes by visiting the New Presque Isle lighthouse, which was built in 1870, or take your time trekking 112 feet into the sky at the Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington.

While the advent of advanced navigational systems have greatly reduced the working role of our lighthouses, they stand strong today as reminders of the heights we reached to help ships avoid crashing in the darkness.

For more information our spectacular lighthouses, visit

Check out the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival!

Grand Haven is known as “Coast Guard City U.S.A.” in recognition of its tremendous support to Coast Guard personnel over the years.

Every summer, the community demonstrates its special relationship by hosting one of the largest festivals in West Michigan — the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.

In this video, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof highlights the festival’s activities, details how it has grown over the years and encourages families to come out and enjoy it.

The festival draws thousands of people to Grand Haven to celebrate the Coast Guard and to have fun with the family at its famous Lake Michigan beach or at a variety of activities — from parades to carnival rides to fireworks.

At the heart of the Coast Guard Festival is the National Memorial Service, which takes place in Escanaba Park at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 5. It is open to the public and focuses on the brave members of the U.S. Coast Guard, especially those who have “passed over the bar” in the last year.

Visitors can also step on board a real Coast Guard ship for a tour through Saturday, Aug. 6. For a tour schedule, visit


Michigan’s great economic comeback continues

Michigan’s economy has been greatly improving over the past six years. During that time, more than 466,000 private sector jobs have been created. Over the past year, 91,000 jobs have been created in Michigan, and economists project more than 61,000 jobs will be created across Michigan this year and even more in 2017.

On top of that, Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent for the month of June — the lowest point in 15 years!

Our unemployment rate has also remained below the national average for several months. Simply put, Michigan is in the middle of a big economic comeback!

But the good news doesn’t end there.

According to state officials, the state’s labor market in early 2016 has continued to strengthen. Michigan’s workforce grew by nearly 3 percent over the past year, far outpacing the national gain of 1.2 percent.

It’s clear that this marks yet another positive chapter in Michigan’s comeback story. We have a lot of positive momentum as we continue toward 2017, and the Michigan Senate Republicans will continue to work hard to make sure our comeback story doesn’t fail.

This good news is evidence that the reforms we have helped to put in place over the past several years are working. As we all remember, it wasn’t all that long ago that Michigan had the highest unemployment rate in the country.

We’ve come too far these past few years to allow the failed policies of the past to haunt us again. The Michigan Senate Republicans are committed to keeping our comeback story going for years to come!