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.

In memory of the late Sen. Robert VanderLaan


On Thursday, the Michigan Senate adopted a resolution of tribute offered as a memorial for Robert VanderLaan, a former senator and Senate Majority Leader who passed away on Nov. 1 at the age of 75.

Following the reading of the memorial resolution, Sen. Dave Hildenbrand spoke about VanderLaan’s life and legacy and asked for a moment of silence.

Blog - VanderLaan“Let us remember Senate Majority Leader VanderLaan’s service and leadership in this chamber and may his family, friends and coworkers know of our thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time,” said Hildenbrand.

Here is the language of Senate Resolution 114, as adopted by the Senate:

A resolution of tribute offered as a memorial for Robert VanderLaan, former member of the Senate.

Whereas, It is with great sorrow that we learned of the passing of Robert VanderLaan, a member of this legislative body from 1963 to 1982. He will be remembered as a statesman, a successful businessman, and a true gentleman; and

Whereas, Robert VanderLaan was born in Dutton, Michigan, and spent nearly his entire life in western Michigan. He attended the one-room Smith School and Grand Rapids Christian High School before earning degrees at both Calvin College and the University of Michigan; and

Whereas, Robert VanderLaan had a lifelong passion for politics. He began his career as a political science teacher. At the same time, he worked his way up from the grassroots and was identified as a rising star in the Michigan Republican Party. He was a delegate to every Republican state convention beginning in 1952 and served as Paris Township (now city of Kentwood) trustee, clerk, and supervisor. In 1962, he was elected to the State Senate, defeating a long-serving incumbent. He served his constituents in the Thirty-first District with distinction for twenty years, as Senate Majority Leader from 1970 to 1974, and as Senate Minority Leader from 1979 to 1982; and

Whereas, Robert VanderLaan was a leader in the state legislature throughout some challenging and formative times. Serving with integrity and putting his Dutch work ethic into practice, Robert VanderLaan’s leadership skills were evident as he formed coalitions, forged compromises, developed solutions to complex problems, and worked effectively with members from both sides of the aisle. He demonstrated grace under pressure and steady leadership, working with Governors Romney and Milliken through two recessions when the state economy was faltering and unemployment was rising. As Majority Leader, Robert VanderLaan was able to guide legislation through a Senate evenly divided along party lines; and

Whereas, Robert VanderLaan was extremely active crafting legislation and engaging in dialogue with colleagues. He sponsored legislation on campaign reform, raising the minimum wage, and allowing public school buses to transport students to private schools. He also supported the controversial establishment of the state’s first income tax. He served on the committees on Senate Administration and Rules, State and Veterans’ Affairs, Finance, the Legislative Council, and as chairman of the committees on Labor and Senate Business. He also was involved with and held office in many government leadership organizations, including the National Conference of State Legislative Leaders, the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, and the Executive Committee of the Council of State Governments; and

Whereas, Following his time in the Michigan Senate, Robert VanderLaan remained a fixture in state politics. He united in bipartisan partnership with former Speaker of the House Bobby Crim and founded one of Lansing’s best known lobbying firms, Governmental Consultant Services, Inc. He served as chairman of the company for twelve years; and

Whereas, Today, we honor the memory of Robert VanderLaan, an accomplished public servant whose legacy of leadership will long continue to enrich our state; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate, That we offer this expression of our highest tribute to honor the memory of Robert VanderLaan, a member of this legislative body from 1963 to 1982; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the VanderLaan family as evidence of our lasting esteem for his memory.