DAR hears Sharon TylerPublished 9:39pm Monday, July 12, 2010
By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News
CASSOPOLIS – A question constituents frequently pose to her is likely one she asks herself.
Is Michigan moving forward?
Dowagiac’s state representative, Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, spoke to the Capt. Samuel Felt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution Monday afternoon at Cass District Library.
“It took us years to get in this situation,” she says philosophically. “It’s not going to change overnight. Many of us are working very hard. In the real world we’re all in this together and look out for one another” in a realm where party affiliation doesn’t matter.
Tyler took her reputation for economic development ($177 million, 2,200 jobs in 11 years and the state award in 2004) to Lansing only to run into the reality that hers is but one of 110 House voices trying to harmonize with 38 Senate voices and the governor.
After this year’s watershed election, many of those voices will change, including Attorney General and Secretary of State along with the executive office occupied by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
In trying to “find my locker” as a rookie lawmaker, the former executive director of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance and interim Niles administrator threw in with a 43-member bipartisan freshman caucus.
“Economic development is my greatest passion,” Tyler noted, against a backdrop that she arrived to find Michigan shedding another 285,000 jobs and facing a $1.7 billion deficit.
“I ran because the business surcharge was killing us – especially since we border Indiana. I learned it can be very frustrating in Lansing. Communication is weak, but getting better. Last year we did the budget without having to raise taxes, which is a blessing. This year, we’re a lot further than we were last year.”
Tyler doesn’t believe a proposed 3-percent services tax will fly.
“If you get your hair done, if you get your lawn mowed, if you see your accountant or attorney, there is a bill out there that would tax you 3 percent on those services. I don’t feel we’ll see that this year.”
For the first time since 2002, the Legislature finished the K-12 education budget before July 31.
“Schools will start knowing what they have to work with,” she said, “and we were able to add $11 per-pupil back. It’s not a lot, but every dollar counts.”
“One thing I’m completely disappointed in,” however, Tyler remarked, is the drag election politics has on the budget process.
“Right now,” she said, “I’m not supposed to be in session until July 18, but I will be in Lansing (today) for committee meetings and legislation I’m working on. When we’re in a crisis to bring jobs to Michigan should we be on a break for campaigning?
“It’s important you get to know the candidates when you make decisions” in the Aug. 3 primary.
House Majority Leader Andy Dillon is running for governor, while on the Senate side, Republican Mike Bishop is an Attorney General candidate.
“We’ll get it done before Oct. 1,” Tyler said, “but we’re not accomplishing what you sent us for. Sometimes you sit in session with three items on the agenda, then the next day you have 48. They don’t plan right. I’ve learned that next time we need to pick the right people to run the House. We have to change the House rules to make things happen.”
Tyler predicted county government will see a 3-percent revenue sharing cut, with a 1.5-percent municipal reduction.
“One of my greatest concerns right now is unemployment not being renewed and more people are going to need other assistance,” Tyler said. “We approved all the budgets, but now they’re in conference committee to find compromise” between House and Senate versions.
Tyler, who serves on the education committee, said Michigan State University studied the state’s performance on the federal Race to the Top.
“We had the criteria in place,” she said. “Afterward, our governor made additional cuts within K-12. That was one problem with not making it. The other problem, I learned after, was what we presented to the schools. There was an advisory board created through the state for what schools need. One was a memorandum of understanding, which we basically failed on. Tennessee got Race to the Top money and we did a comparison with that state. We’ve got a lot of work to do. You’ll probably see a lot of reforms or, as I rather say, improvements. Some people are not going to like it because they don’t want to change. We’ve got to look out for students first. That’s the number-one priority. If Texas can create these jobs, Michigan can, too.”
Sharon sits on the new economy panel.
“The main thrust has been going to batteries. We are attracting businesses to Michigan, but if they’re building from the bottom, we will not see these jobs created for two to four years. If you look at Michigan’s past history, we are the entrepreneur state that builds our own industries. That’s where we need to focus. I’d like to see more entrepreneurship programs.
The Dodge brothers began in Niles. I’ve watched small companies grow. Express-1 was in my incubator with five employees and now has 300+ jobs. We need to review again Proposal A within the school system. Your tax notices go up and down. I do a forum in the spring at Southwestern Michigan College that attracts 60 to 300 people. Michigan changed from a national index to Detroit inflation.”
As vice chair of the agriculture committee, Tyler said she lobbied for keeping that department apart from combining the two regulatory agencies, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality. She sees a need to process permits faster.
“Ag is our second-largest business, $71 billion,” Tyler said. “It’s a very diverse industry, from energy – turning corn into plastics – to farmers’ markets and the food on your plate. We need to support that. Farms are here to stay.”
Tyler also serves on the senior health and retirement committee.
“We have been doing a lot of bills regarding joint accounts to protect our senior citizens and disabled people,” she said. “If you’re a crime victim, you do not have to face the criminal. You can do it by videotape in front of a court judge to remove that intimidation factor. We stopped texting July 1, we stopped smoking (in May). In the November election you will decide” the issue of whether a felony should automatically remove a local elected official.
A new bill she introduced last week originated with a Berrien County magistrate.
“They had a car safety seat for their child and were stopped by police. They brought a receipt to the officer. Right now, the law says if you show that you purchased a car seat, your $100 is refunded” with the seat unseen.
“This person came back eight times” at $100 a receipt. Her legislation will require that the car seat be shown installed properly to close that loophole.
Today Tyler will be meeting with the banking industry.
“If you have an account you have not used in seven years, your money goes to the state as unclaimed,” she said. “These things I work on come from ideas from people at morning coffees,” like those she has periodically at Caruso’s in Dowagiac.
Her first bill that became legislation addressed feral swine due to a suggestion by a Cass County farmer.
Tyler said her son in the Navy recently returned from California training.
It now looks as though he will be deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2011.
“Never forget those who have served and the ones serving today. Keep them in your prayers.”