A busy holiday season
Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 10, 2015
As we enjoy the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas, the state legislature takes some time off. We usually take a break from having sessions as deer hunting starts on Nov. 15, come back for three weeks in December, and then break two weeks for Christmas. There are activities to attend and work to do while we are not in session, but it is also a chance to get in some welcome family time. I am very blessed to have my wife, four adult children and a large extended family to enjoy the holidays with.
Even during the holiday season, however, it has been a very busy time in Lansing. After long debates on the issues of road funding and improving third grade reading, we finally passed bills in the House addressing both problems. We now face several more challenging issues. The Detroit Public Schools system has run into such extreme financial difficulties that the legislature is going to need to intervene and deal with the situation. We will need to not only focus on dealing with the existing debt, but also the more important issue of just how we are going to move forward and provide better quality educational options for Detroit families.
The legislature is also working hard on new energy policies for the state. This complex issue involves the extent to which freedom of choice in energy suppliers exist in our state versus the extent to which we regulate the industry. It also involves standards for how much renewable forms of energy are required and how those renewable forms are defined.
There are a couple of significant issues regarding elections that are being debated in the legislature. There seems to be a consensus developing to allow more absentee voting opportunities, although certain safeguards are being pushed to avoid any fraudulent ballots. There is also a push being made to eliminate straight-ticket party-line voting, although a consensus is less apparent.
Another issue we are looking at is whether to provide tax-break incentives for a new, large data center that is showing interest in coming to Michigan. Tax breaks for certain businesses are always controversial, as the legislature does not want to be in the business of “picking winners” in the business world, but we also recognize that other states are working hard to attract these same companies.
In my role on the House Corrections Committee, I have been working on several issues related to criminal justice reform. There is a package of bills aimed at eliminating the practice in our state of automatically treating 17-year-olds as adults in our court system, but rather placing more emphasis on our juvenile justice system. I support this idea, and have sponsored one of the bills.
I have also sponsored a bill in a package led by Rep. Al Pscholka that will allow prisoners who are extremely frail to the point of not being a danger to society to be paroled to nursing homes. It would not shorten their sentences, but would provide safer and more medically appropriate housing for them, and provide cost savings to the state.
Another bill I am going to introduce deals with areas in our state where people lack the opportunity to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. My bill will promote greater access to quality food choices in these areas. I am also working on a bill to allow public schools who are developing cyber-school programs to have greater freedom in offering those programs to families across the state.
This list of current issues is far from exhaustive, but gives you an idea of the types of things we are working on. We usually are juggling a lot of balls at one time, and it is challenging to keep up to speed on the wide variety of issues we face.
I wish everyone in the 78th district a great holiday season! Enjoy the blessings of family, friends, community, worship and celebration! Take time to count your blessings.
Dave Pagel is a state representative for the 78th district can be contacted by phone at at 517-373-1796 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.