Local, state issues keep representatives busy

I began writing my “Notes” columns with the desire to give readers insight about what the life of a state legislator is like.

I have written about my schedule, the committees I serve on, various issues I have worked on, and other topics describing my experiences as a state legislator. Lately I have been extremely busy on many fronts, so I thought I would give an overview of what I’ve recently been working on.

I have attended meetings in New Buffalo on some severe erosion problems there. The beach to the north of the harbor is accumulating large amounts of sand, while south of the harbor the beach is totally disappearing, endangering houses along with the municipal water pumping station.

I attended a new vocational village program at a prison in Ionia, where prisoners in their last 24 months of their sentences are being provided with training opportunities in the areas of automobile mechanics, construction trades, welding, CNC operations and more.

These prisoners live together in a separate housing unit and participate in traditional eight-hour workdays, gaining not only valuable skills and certifications, but also the “soft” skills regarding the personal responsibilities that are expected by employers.

I sat in on long hours of hearings on the troubling situation with Detroit Public Schools. We heard testimony from parents, administrators, community leaders, educational experts and more. We have studied bankruptcy and “bailout” options for the financial crisis at DPS, and we have looked at restructuring options to address the needs of the students.

I have worked on addressing concerns brought to me about the many adult foster care homes in our local area. I have worked on a bill package that seeks to have the most medically frail prisoners in our corrections system the ability to be paroled to nursing homes under certain conditions. I have worked on a bill concerning the right of certain judges to override the option of the parole board to consider parole for certain prisoners. I visited a “Shakespeare Behind Bars” program in a Muskegon prison that was inspirational.

Several of the areas I am working on relate to prisons because I chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Corrections. Much of my recent work has been on the budget for that department for next year.

I have also worked on the K-12 school budget for next year as a member of that committee, along with the agriculture budget and the judiciary budget. I have responded to several constituents who have expressed concerns with ideas coming from the State Board of Education regarding LGBT students. I have held office hours and have had constituents share other concerns with me. I have worked on a bill to provide greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables to certain areas of our state. I have tried to keep abreast of the Flint water situation and efforts to help that community.

In addition to these activities I always need to keep informed about the many bills being proposed by other House and Senate members. It is not unusual for us to vote on 20 or more new bills each week. I also try to attend different activities in the 78th District when I can, usually averaging a few events each week.

The life of a state representative can be quite full and challenging. It stretches a person to be informed in a wide variety of areas. It provides a person with many opportunities to try to make a difference in a positive way, and for that I am very grateful.

 

Rep. Dave Pagel’s office can be reached at (517) 373-1796, or davepagel@house.mi.gov.

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