Muskegon Farmers Market receives gap fundingAs part of the FY15 Michigan Department of Agriculture budget, I was pleased to have secured the remaining $200,000 necessary to close the funding gap at the Muskegon Farmers Market. This is a great new facility that is becoming an important fixture in our community. Small businesses will be able to use the Market as an incubator to make and sell new products. The funds will be used to complete work on their kitchen that will introduce and expose children and adults to the healthy foods that are produced here in west Michigan.
Hansen secures $2M in state budget to aid nursing mothers
The legislative conference committee on the Michigan Department of Community Health budget last week approved a bill providing $2 million in state funds to ensure better access to quality equipment for nursing mothers.
In response to the concerns of a number of my constituents, I sought funds so that Medicaid-eligible women have access to breast pumps to support and encourage breastfeeding. Under Senate Bill 763, if a physician prescribes a breast pump for a breastfeeding mother, Medicaid will cover the cost.
I've been involved with the Muskegon County Breastfeeding Coalition for over a year working to resolve concerns about the lack of lactation services and breastfeeding trends. In Muskegon County, where more than 60 percent of births are covered by Medicaid, hospitals reported only 63 percent of families are initiating breastfeeding. Of the families that do breastfeed, only 8.9 percent are breastfeeding exclusively for six months.
By specifically making personal electric pumps available, mothers will have the equipment they need to maintain supply, nourish their baby and gain positive health benefits for themselves.
Hansen comments on road funding debateI've appreciated the many comments, thoughts and suggestions over the past month regarding the issue of road funding and efforts to invest in Michigan's economic future by improving the condition of our roads and bridges. Over the last year, I have prioritized road funding by supporting a state budget that has directed nearly $1 billion more dollars towards fixing our roads and bridges. In the last calendar year (covering two fiscal years), we've put more than $700 million extra general fund dollars into roads.
General Fund funding for transportation Fiscal Year 2014-2015
I also voted against another aspect of this plan which was tied together with the overall package. Specifically, I opposed legislation that would have authorized a ballot proposal to increase the state sales tax one penny from 6% to 7% and dedicate the proceeds of this 1% increase to fund our road system. The specific 1% increase in the sales tax would not have negatively impacted the current funding stream for schools and revenue sharing to local units of government. It's important to note that motorists already pay a 19 cents per gallon state gas tax plus a 6% state sales tax on that gallon of gas.
Whenever possible, a user fee is the fairest way to fund governmental functions. That is what we have now via the state gas tax of 19 cents per gallon. Money currently collected through this state gas tax and vehicle registration fees pay for our roads. Those who buy gas use the roads and are the ones who pay for our roads through the gas tax. Increasing the sales tax and dedicating the new revenue to roads would move us away from the user-fee model and force everyone who makes a purchase in Michigan-even if they don't use the roads regularly-to pay for our roads. Rather, I support having a separate conversation of completely removing the sales tax from the pump while still protecting investments in education and revenue sharing to our local units of government.
Alternatively, I voted for a more responsible approach of just moving the 19 cent gas tax from the pump to the wholesale level and indexing to inflation to ensure that we maintain our current purchasing power for road work at today's levels. This alternative plan also included quality control reforms that require warranties to be taken out for the future performance of road work and requires county road commissioners to put out road work for competitive bidding. This road funding plan creates more accountability of road money by establishing higher standards for construction quality. It is more prudent to spend more money per mile to build roads that last longer versus spending less per mile to fix more roads in the short term. The Senate package also included tax relief to low-income families and seniors. Senate Bill 847 & 752 would give households earning between $41,000 and $50,000 a more generous homestead property tax credit and restores the credit to households earning between $50,000 & $82,650.
I acknowledge, as do most residents, that Michigan does have an aging transportation infrastructure that requires investment. West Michigan's residents, tourists and job providers depend on the state's transportation system for leisure travel, commuting and the movement of goods. However, I am an advocate of always looking to deliver a more efficient and accountable government that stretches every tax dollar as far as it can go to deliver a better and more responsive government for the hard working people of Michigan. Before asking Michigan motorists to pay more at the gas pump, we need to ensure that what we are currently paying goes to fund road and bridge improvements.
Funding for transportation infrastructure has long been a controversial topic. However, any road funding plan should not create a financial hardship for residents at a pivotal point in our state's economy. I remain committed to ensuring that our local roads receive the same funding benefits as our major state trunklines.
It's extremely important that any continued discussion revolving around new road funding include a discussion on value - what value will taxpayers see for any potential new revenue. Just as in education funding or funding for local units of government, so too must our transportation planners show how these monies will be used to maximize value and show lasting results.
I'm committed to positioning Michigan for future economic growth and that includes the issue of road funding. Developing the right map to help "get us there" will be the key. I will rely on your comments as we move forward on this important topic.
Senate approves bills to protect gun owners' privacyLegislation is now on its way to the Governor that protects gun owners' privacy by making firearms records confidential. Under Senate Bills 49, 834 and 881, firearms records would not be subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act and would be available only to law enforcement officials, under certain conditions.
The legislation is a response to the actions of a New York newspaper that last year published the names and addresses of gun permit holders in two counties north of New York City.
I sponsored SB 881 and believe the bills are about safeguarding the rights of Michigan residents. The Second Amendment is integral to our freedom and must be protected. This legislation strengthens Michigan law to ensure that all gun owners' personal information is not jeopardized by those looking to infringe on our basic rights.
The legislation would ensure that firearms records could only be accessed or disclosed by a peace officer for the following reasons:
New law creates new bass fishing opportunitiesLegislation I authored, Senate Bill 869, has been signed into law as Public 145 of 2014 The legislation modernizes Michigan's bass season and increases bass fishing opportunities in this state.
This bill would specifically remove references to the current largemouth and smallmouth black bass fishing season from statute and would give the Natural Resources Commission the authority to regulate the bass fishing season in Michigan.
When bass reproduce in the spring they guard their spawning nests from predators. It was assumed that fishing for bass during the spawning period would reduce bass reproduction and consequently reduce bass populations. Therefore, the previous statute was written to protect bass from fishing during their spawning periods. However, studies recently conducted in Michigan by the DNR and regulations from many of Michigan's bordering states show that fishing for bass in the spring, while bass are spawning is not detrimental to bass populations.
Michigan was one of only four states out of 49 with bass in the U.S. with a statewide closed bass season. Indiana and Ohio allow bass fishing year around.
Opening bass fishing seasons could potentially increase the number of bass fishing tournaments annually held in Michigan and subsequently provide economic stimulus to the communities adjacent to bass fishing lakes.
Hansen secures funding for improvements to William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail
The legislative conference committee on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources FY15 budget recently approved an additional $1 million in state funds to allow for the final building improvements to the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail.
I was pleased to have secured the remaining funds necessary to complete this $4.4 million repaving project which runs from the City of Hart south to the City of Montague. The plan includes resurfacing and widening of the trail to meet current state and federal standards, bridges culvert and a rest area modification.
Highlights from Senator Hansen's Recent ScheduleI continue to be honored to represent the constituents of the 34th district. I've had the opportunity to recently visit with many different groups and participate in various district events taking place in our communities.
Michael Dobson, a junior from Muskegon High School, was my recent special guest shadowing me for a day in the Senate as we were in session. Michael has academic aspirations and a passion for business. He volunteers in his community and is on track for a very bright future!
The Senate welcomed the 2013 Asparagus Queen Amanda Dodge to the State Capitol. She was joined by Christine Rickard, the National Asparagus Festival Board Secretary. It was a great day to showcase one of our most important agricultural commodities!
I recently stopped by one of my favorite spots, the Love Community Urban Garden in Muskegon to check out a new solar panel that was recently installed. They received a grant for a hoop house on the property and I was happy to help fund the solar panel project, which powers the sprinkler system and ensures the garden is well-lighted to prevent vandalism at night. What I love most about urban farms like Love Community Garden is that they create access to healthy foods especially for the youth and elderly in our communities.
I also stopped by Hilt's Landing in Muskegon to check on the progress of Heritage Park, the newest addition to the operations of the Lakeshore Museum Center. Heritage Park is scheduled to open in June of 2015 and once completed, will allow visitors to walk along a gentle trail and experience Michigan's fascinating history firsthand!
Last month the Governor issued a proclamation recognizing the month of May as Williams Syndrome Awareness Month. This is a rare genetic condition that is present at birth, affects as many as 30,000 individuals in the US and is characterized by medical and cognitive problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. I was pleased to welcome constituents and others throughout the state to Lansing to recognize their efforts.
I also was very blessed to have, as my guest, Pastor Christopher J. Murry from Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church of Muskegon Heights in Lansing recently to lead the Senate invocation!
Finally, congratulations to Kristine Dean, Rachel Ekkel, and Samantha Muir (not shown) for being selected by the Michigan Department of Education as this year's Breaking Traditions award recipients! They are among 22 students from across the state to receive this honor for their determination in pursuing high-skilled careers in welding, agriscience and culinary arts, respectively. Congratulations to all of them!
Senator Goeff Hansen's Boating and Fishing UpdateI am pleased to send along this report, including legislative news, license information, festival dates and more. I hope you find it useful as you and your family make lifelong memories in Michigan's great outdoors.
Senator Goeff Hansen