TBT: “Winter Comes to Michigan” newsreel

You don’t want to miss this very cool blast from the past!

After spending decades in a basement in the eastern Upper Peninsula, a 1930s-era newsreel from the Michigan State Highway Department has resurfaced to remind us of the challenges — and the fun — of winters past.

The film, “Winter Comes to Michigan,” created by the precursor agency to the Michigan Department of Transportation, gives us a black-and-white window to the era when Murray Van Wagoner, a future Michigan governor, ran the department from 1933-1940.

The film shows residents enjoying outdoor winter fun at several locations, such as Ishpeming’s Suicide Hill ski jump, fledgling downhill ski areas, outdoor public ice skating rinks and an elaborate toboggan run. Filmmaker and author Bill Jamerson, whose documentaries have explored winter sports and other aspects of our state history, said many of the film’s locations were probably in the U.P., while the toboggan run scene was probably filmed at a winter sports park in Grayling.

On this Throwback Thursday, enjoy a glimpse at how things were 80 years ago and see how some things — like the fun and the tribulations of winter weather — are timeless.

Hometown Tour: Fenton Winery & Brewery

Sen. Ken Horn’s Hometown Tours originally began as an effort to experience the daily routines of some of the most unique, hard-working people from throughout the 32nd District.

Horn recently kicked off his first Hometown Tour of 2016 in Fenton at the Fenton Winery and Brewery (FWB). The senator spent the afternoon with owners Matt and Ginny Sherrow, learning the ins and outs of their operation and the Michigan brewing industry.

The FWB was founded as a winery in 2007, and the Sherrows embraced the booming craft beer industry in Michigan and added the brewery in 2009. FWB has since expanded to include the original winery, a brewery and full kitchen giving those in mid-Michigan a truly local one-stop experience.

After learning the fundamentals of the craft brewing process, Horn learned that his visit would also include the creation of a specially brewed collaboration project titled “Stout Senator.”

Check out the behind-the-scenes look at FWB’s operations and the special collaboration of “Stout Senator.”

Pure Michigan Winter Fun

Michigan winter tourism is an important part of our state economy and a way of life for millions of residents. Winter activities draw more than 110 million tourists to Michigan each year — generating more than $37 billion in business.

If you are looking for something to do in Michigan’s winter wonderland, there is no shortage of options. Michigan offers more than 6,500 miles of snowmobile trails, 3,000 miles of cross country skiing trails, and 51 downhill ski areas featuring 260 lifts and 1,000 runs.

A great place to start in planning a winter excursion is www.michigan.org/winter. The Pure Michigan site offers helpful information and useful links on everything from skiing to ice fishing and from dog sledding to snowshoeing.

One link on the page directs visitors to the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association website, www.goskimichigan.com. The site features information on money-saving programs, ski equipment and lodging. One especially useful link offers updated information for residents on ski and snow conditions at Michigan resorts, as well as details on amenities.

You can also download the latest Ski Michigan pamphlet, a full-color information guide to Michigan ski resorts.

To help plan your winter adventure, residents can also check out the Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide. It is packed full of great ideas and information to make your family trip a memorable one.

Winter is a great chance to introduce young kids to new experiences and activities or help foster a new interest in the enjoyment of Michigan’s great outdoors.

A Day in the Life with Sen. John Proos

In the latest edition of the “A Day in the Life” series, Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, gives residents a glimpse into the life of a Michigan state senator.

The Michigan Senate Republican Blog gave the senator a video camera for a day to record the happenings of a session day — from getting ready at 6:30 a.m. to returning home at 9:30 p.m.

Getting to Know… Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Why did Sen. Wayne Schmidt have to get rid of his first car, a 1971 Olds Vista Cruiser station wagon? What is his advice about cell phones at dinner?

Learn about these questions and more as Sen. Schmidt, R-Traverse City, opens up about the influences in his life and enjoying life growing up and living in Northern Michigan.

The light-hearted interview is the latest installment of the Michigan Senate Republican Blog’s “Getting to Know You” series.

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.

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.

Senate passes comprehensive road funding plan


Blog - Roads graphicSenate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, issued the following statement upon the passage of a plan to fund Michigan’s roads:

“The Senate Republicans passed a commonsense, responsible plan to repair our roads and in doing so renewed our commitment to making government more accountable and efficient. The core principles of the plan remain the same: Existing resources are redirected to reflect roads as a priority in the state budget, new revenue is generated for a long-term solution and taxpayer dollars are returned to our hardworking taxpayers.

“Road funding and the condition of our roads have been growing concerns over the past several years. We have seen different iterations of a road funding solution, but none that garnered enough support to begin the process of repairing and adequately funding our roads. It has taken years to come up with a road funding plan and in that time the cost of bringing our roads up to better standards has increased. No one likes to pay more for services, but the people who drive the roads and cause wear and tear on the roads should contribute to road maintenance. Additionally, as technology improves and driving habits change, we know we need to diversify how we pay for roads and a responsible increase in registration fees brings added stability to road funding.

“State government has a responsibility to maintain safe roads and bridges and the people of Michigan expect the Legislature to address this issue and meet basic infrastructure needs. I had hoped that the legislature could pass a plan with strong bipartisan support, but unfortunately few Democrats were able to put politics aside and be part of a solution. I am grateful for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who joined with my caucus to vote for a commonsense road funding plan, and I am disappointed by Democrat leaders who chose to sit out their responsibilities in favor of throwing political punches.

“I have been realistic in my expectations that ultimately a road funding plan would include compromise in order for all parties to agree. For me, long-term tax relief had to be a component of the plan. I firmly believe that we can always find ways to make state government more accountable and responsible. We are asking for more from our taxpayers in order to improve our state and it only makes sense that we return available dollars to our hardworking families.

“My Senate colleagues and I have demonstrated that we are committed to improving our roads and reforming transportation funding. The bottom line is the citizens of Michigan made it clear that road funding should be a priority of state government. The priorities of the taxpayers are the priorities of the Michigan Senate. I look forward to passage by the House and support from the governor.”

Under the Senate-passed plan, beginning in Fiscal Year 2019, $150 million in General Fund revenue would be redirected and dedicated to a newly created section of the Michigan Transportation Fund. In FY 2020, the redirected revenue would grow to $325 million and then to $600 million in FY 2021 and beyond making roads a priority for state spending.

Additional revenue would be raised through an increase in the state gas tax and diesel tax to 26.3 cents on Jan. 1, 2017. The gas and diesel tax rates would then be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning Jan. 1, 2022 in order to keep pace with the increasing costs of maintaining roads and bridges. This change in fuel tax rates is expected to generate $400 million when fully implemented.

In addition to an increase in fuel taxes, another $200 million would be generated from a 20 percent increase in registration fees for passenger vehicles and trucks effective Jan. 1, 2017.

When fully implemented, the combination of redirected funds and new revenue would result in approximately $1.2 billion for Michigan roads and bridges.

The Senate plan also presents an opportunity to control the growth of government. Senate Bill 414 creates an automatic rollback of the state income tax rate each year that General Fund revenues exceed inflation.

Each fiscal year, General Fund expenditure growth would be limited to the rate of inflation times 1.425 with the initial rollback scheduled to begin on Jan. 1, 2023. Economic growth over and above the designated rate would be returned to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rate reduction.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, changes to the Homestead Property Tax Credit will result in $200 million in tax relief for families.

Additional bills in the package also require road construction warranties. MDOT and local agencies would be required to competitively bid for most projects that exceed $100,000 and townships would be encouraged to issue Requests For Proposal for projects of a certain amount that include at least 50 percent township resources. The plan also creates the Roads Innovation Fund to hold the state accountable for road quality.

To keep pace with changes in technology, the package institutes a process and fee schedule for taxing alternative fuels and imposes an additional registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The package is comprised of Senate Bill 414 and House Bills 4730, 4376, 4737 and 4738.

For more information please visit www.fixingmiroads.com.

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