State representative offers notes from Lansing
Published 9:05 am Thursday, October 8, 2015
Fall is a busy time for me! As the Legislature gets back to work after a summer break, I still have some responsibilities at home with my farm and fruit packing business.
My son, Jeremy, is doing a great job with our farm, but still needs some advice and help from dad now and then.
I help coordinate the harvest with the various local fruit growers that we work with and with the supermarkets and other customers we supply. I sometimes am concerned that I have over-extended myself at times by taking on the role of state legislator, but most constituents I talk with understand and appreciate the challenging balance. I am grateful for that support, and will continue to give my best efforts in Lansing.
The Legislature is facing a few major issues right now, including of course, road funding.
On the roads front, I continue to support solutions that raise adequate new revenue to maintain and improve state infrastructure. I also want to hold MDOT and local road commissions accountable for how our money is spent and for the quality of road repairs and construction. I support tightening our existing state budget as much as possible before seeking new revenue, but realize that the old formula for road funding has proven inadequate.
Finding new funding for roads is politically very difficult because nobody is in favor of additional taxation. What I hear from constituents is “Just get it done!” and “Keep it simple- all new money going toward roads and nothing else!” It disturbs me greatly to see rural roads being torn up and replaced with gravel because they are in such terrible shape. That is why I will support some new revenue for road funding.
We are also working on major issues relating to energy and to criminal justice reforms.
As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections, I am involved in various reforms to our criminal justice system. This is something that is taking place across the nation, as many states recognize the tremendous costs of their corrections systems and also recognize that we need to take a fresh look at how we sentence criminals. We also must prepare those criminals for safe re-entry to society when they have served out their sentences.
Keeping public safety and the rights of crime victims in mind when we look at possible reforms is an utmost priority, as well as respecting the opinions of judges and prosecutors who can give invaluable input into those possible reforms. It would take many pages to describe all of the ideas for reform, but they include changes to our parole system, to sentencing guidelines, to how we treat teenage offenders, to the emphasis we place on prisoner education and reentry programs, and to how we treat elderly and medically frail prisoners.
It is extremely challenging and exciting for me to learn about these issues and to play a role in promoting positive change for our state.
In regards to other recent events in Lansing, I was pleased to welcome Jim and Sheri Kesterke for our annual 9/11 ceremony, as we honored first responders such as police, fire and emergency medical providers. Jim served with distinction after the 9/11 tragedy, making several trips to New York City to help counsel first responders there who were dealing with such incredible loss.
I also took part in very fitting tributes to two former area legislators who died this year. Former state Rep. Neal Nitz was honored with a tribute on the House floor. Former Sen. Harry Gast, who also served as a state representative, was honored by having one of the nicest rooms at the Capitol named in his honor.
As always, it is an honor to serve the 78th House District. I appreciate hearing from constituents and seeing you at various local events.
Please let our office know about upcoming events, and let us know how we can better serve you. My staff are Ben Eikey and Tori Kletke, and we can be reached at517-373-1796 or DavePagel@house.mi.gov.