THE ISSUES

ABORTION

I am 100% Pro-LIFE. This means that I oppose abortion in all cases other than to save the life of the mother, I oppose embryonic stem cell research that disposes of embryos, and I oppose the use of euthanasia.

I believe in the sanctity of human life and I believe that human life begins upon conception. Therefore, I believe that abortion is the murder of an unborn child. Having two adopted sisters, I believe that there is an alternative for everybody, every time. This is not an issue of government intruding into mothers’ lives; this is a case of society accepting a horrible tragedy as a normal way of life. Each person is fearfully and wonderfully made and deserves a fair chance at life. A baby is a person and deserves life every single time.

AGRICULTURE

Michigan is an important farming state and always will be. Farming competes with tourism for the #2 spot in Michigan’s economy, and generates $91.4 billion in economic activity within the state each year. Farming is of particular importance to the 59th District. A 2012 USDA Ag Census found that 84.9% of all land area within St. Joseph County and 78.4% of all land area within Cass County was designated for agricultural use. Within the two counties there are a combined 1,765 farms which produce over $425 million in agricultural products each year, up from just $237 million of agricultural output in 2007.

The sandy soils and abundant access to surface water within this area combine to create an environment conducive to irrigation. St. Joseph County actually contains more irrigated land than any other county east of the Mississippi River. In fact, 22% of all irrigated acres in Michigan are located within St. Joseph County! Our soil, climate, and access to water make possible the production of specialty crops, most notably that of seed corn. The Village of Constantine boasts itself the “Seed Corn Capital of the World”, and not without good reason – more than 10% of the nation’s seed corn is grown in the greater Constantine area. The two largest seed corn processing plants in the world, the flagship operations of Pioneer and DeKalb (owned by Monsanto), are located just south of Constantine along US-131. These two entities employ over 5,200 workers at the height of de-tasseling and harvest seasons.

In Michigan, our water-withdrawal assessment tool is not being followed properly, which hurts growers of these important crops. More importantly, it is not being exercised with good data or science in mind. One of my priorities is to push for either following our current tool more effectively or creating a new tool.

I was a proud supporter of HB 5189, HB 5190, and HB 5191, which simplified and expedited the process for PA 116 refunds for farmers from the Michigan Department of Treasury.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

I am opposed to affirmative action.  I believe that affirmative action itself constitutes what it attempts to remedy – discrimination. Currently, affirmative action is outlawed per the Michigan Constitution of 1963 and I believe in firmly upholding the idea that everyone deserves a fair chance at opportunity.  No one deserves to be discriminated against regarding any opportunity in life, whether that is a job, school, or otherwise, based on simply who they are or what they believe.  Two wrongs do not make a right.

AUTO NO-FAULT INSURANCE

I oppose the no-fault model of automotive insurance the way it is currently designed. Prior to the institution of the no-fault model in Michigan, responsible drivers were able to recover damages from the insurance company of the at-fault party in an accident. Under the no-fault model, you must now claim damages from your own insurance company even if you were not at-fault in a given accident. Doing so is accompanied by increased premiums. The no-fault model also forces all drivers to purchase additional collision coverage or risk losing their vehicle in an accident, even if they trust themselves to not cause such an accident. Should another driver be 100% at fault for an accident in which your vehicle is totaled and you do not have your own collision coverage, you would simply be out the value of your vehicle with no legal recourse aside from up to $1,000 in mini-tort damages. All of the above only serves to penalize responsible, safe drivers.

The main intent behind the no-fault model was to allow quick payment of medical bills and damages while avoiding lengthy and expensive litigation in the court system to determine which drivers were at fault in any given accident. The absence of expensive litigation, which is certainly a good thing, was supposed to result in lower premiums. However, in the almost forty years that no-fault insurance has existed in the U.S., it has not had the desired outcome. No-fault insurance, the way it is currently designed in Michigan, has actually been proven to be much more expensive than regular tort insurance systems. In fact, several states have repealed their no-fault laws and have returned to tort insurance systems. No-fault insurance can be a good thing because care is delivered more assuredly than in other states, but Michigan has no limits in place to cap costs that hospitals incur in giving healthcare.

No-fault insurance without any caps to speak of is simply not working for Michigan drivers. Michigan has the most expensive car insurance rates in the nation. Average car insurance premiums in Michigan are $2,551 per vehicle, while the national average is more than $1,000 lower at $1,503 per vehicle. As for our neighbors, Ohio has the cheapest car insurance in the nation at $926 per vehicle, Wisconsin has the 5th cheapest insurance at $1,087, Indiana is 10th at $1,202, and Illinois is 18th at $1,370. All of these neighboring states have rates lower than the national average. An Experian Automotive study found that the average American household owns 2.28 vehicles. Using this figure, if an average American household were to move from Michigan to Ohio, they would save on average $3,075 per year, just on car insurance. How do expect to retain people living in Michigan that way?

Exorbitant auto insurance prices are literally driving people out of our state, particularly here along the border that we share with Indiana. We must reform this system if we are to be a competitive destination state. I support significant reforms to the current system. I also support capping Personal Injury Protection benefits, which are currently unlimited for auto insurance victims. Michigan is the only state in the nation to provide unlimited lifetime medical benefits to auto insurance victims. The states with the next most generous benefits are New York and New Jersey, which cap lifetime benefits at $50,000. I can’t believe that putting monstrous costs on the backs of Michigan ratepayers only to see them potentially leave the state is the answer and I will keep looking for the right answer. The other forty-nine states must be doing something right.

BUDGETS

I fully support the balanced budget amendment to Michigan’s Constitution.  Working families have to balance their budgets and so should our state government.  In addition, I support amending our national Constitution to include a balanced budget provision.  I applaud the Michigan Legislature for passing Senate Joint Resolution V of 2013, a petition urging the U.S. Congress to call an Article V convention for the purposes of implementing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

BUSINESS TAXES

Our business tax system needs to be competitive with those found in other states. Otherwise there is no incentive for businesses to move to or expand in Michigan. Businesses create jobs, so by creating an environment conducive to business, we are in effect creating an environment conducive to jobs. I believe that Michigan’s business environment is now competitive with those of our neighboring states, but we must continue to attempt to remove barriers to businesses growing in Michigan.

However, our business tax system must also be fair. Carve-outs, special general fund tax incentives for individual companies, and tax exemptions for certain industries are not the way we should do business in Michigan. I voted NO on SB 616 and SB 617 because I thought the bills served as carve-outs for a company desiring to come into Michigan. I also supported HB 5578, which keeps business tax evaluations from the Michigan Tax Tribunal fair and at an appropriate level.

COMMON CORE

I am for more local control of our school curricula and standards.

In 2010, the Common Core State Standards were adopted by our state. Make no mistake: the aim behind Common Core of raising the bar for our youth is good, but its methodology is not right for Michigan. As a math teacher, I disagree with many sections of the standards for math because I don’t think they help educate our youth as effectively as our old standards. Despite the fact that Common Core is a set of standards, some of its standards promote certain methodology. I support HB 5444, would replace the Common Core State Standards with new standards.

DETROIT

I am against more money going to Detroit than we’re already spending.

Why I voted for the Detroit Public Schools package of 2016, then, might be a mystery to some. I voted for the package because I truly believe deep in my heart that doing nothing would have resulted in bankruptcy, which would have been messy for the state’s School Aid Fund. Detroit’s legacy debt and operating debt together total over $3 billion. A $3 billion hit to the Michigan School Aid Fund would mean schools would take a loss in at least $2000 per pupil of state funding, something that is unacceptable for me and our schools.

The money for the debt payout, according the Senate Fiscal Agency’s package analysis, will come from the Tobacco Settlement Fund and not the general fund or School Aid Fund. That won’t hurt our schools, it won’t hurt local governments elsewhere in the state, and it won’t hurt taxpayers most importantly.

EDUCATION

As a teacher, I fully support public education. As a state, our main priority should be to educate our kids and give them the best opportunity available for life. That means career preparation programs need to be in place that give students real-world, valuable education that will apply in a real job. We must fund education adequately and responsibly. Throwing money at a problem is never a good idea. Increased funding should be accompanied by best practice incentives and should be closely monitored to measure whether increased funding is leading to increased student performance.

I would like to see reforms made to the current teacher evaluation model in place today. Currently, a component of teacher evaluations is student performance on state standardized tests. However, over the past several years the State of Michigan has failed to provide consistency to schools, teachers, and students in regard to which state standardized tests will be used, when they will be administered, and what the content will consist of. This has left teachers uncertain of what to prepare for. Additionally, children are not “products,” and can vary significantly in terms of aptitude and capability. Evaluating teacher performance based on standardized test scores carries with it the possibility of faulting teachers for circumstances beyond their control. I would like to see a teacher evaluation system in place that measures individual student improvement from one year to the next, rather than simply measuring students to a state standard.

ENVIRONMENT

Too often, the Republican Party stance tends to be anti-environment. That’s inherently bad. Do we need to take care of our earth? Of course we do. Human beings are stewards over the earth and we cannot take that responsibility lightly. The trouble is always when business interests and environmental issues intersect. The reality is that when a business or a community practice harms the environment, a way needs to be found to improve that practice or remove it. Today, the Great Lakes and the connected watershed systems need to be protected from invasive species such as the Asian carp and the Eurasian water milfoil.

Tourism competes with agriculture for the #2 spot in Michigan’s economy, and accounted for a record $1.2 billion dollars in visitor spending in 2013. Michigan is a tourist destination because of our immense natural resources. Protecting our state’s natural resources is a duty prescribed in our state constitution and I pledge to work effectively and responsibly to protect them.

GUNS

I support the Second Amendment 100%.  The freedom to bear arms is an important individual right granted in the United States Constitution.

HEALTH CARE

I oppose the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Health care is not mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution. I therefore believe the individual mandate of the ACA that requires an individual to purchase insurance is a violation of the 10th Amendment.

I also opposed the 2013 expansion of Medicaid in Michigan. My opposition to the expansion of Medicaid is based upon the fact that it is an unfunded liability and yet another growth of government. It is now the state’s responsibility to pay 10% of the bill for the expansion and this has yet again put unneeded pressure on Michigan taxpayers and the state of Michigan budget.

IMMIGRATION

I am for legal immigration and protecting our borders.

Immigrants are the backbone of America and always have been. We are a nation of immigrants. First and foremost, I support legal immigration using the channels into our nation that are provided by the federal government. Second, I believe in securing our borders once and for all and enforcing that security. Third, the State of Michigan and the U.S. Government need to address the situation of the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the country because shipping them back to their countries of origin is out of the question and impractical at this point. Those who wish to become citizens of the United States should be educated as to how to become such and given the opportunity to start the legal path toward citizenship. Those who are already here to work and who eventually wish to return to their nation should be given documentation to allow them to work. If we as a nation continue to sit in limbo, we are maintaining the status quo and are simply conceding the fact that there is a problem with illegal immigration, but no solution. We must find a practical, workable solution for illegal immigration now; one that includes securing our borders to the fullest.

PART-TIME LEGISLATURE

I support returning Michigan to the part-time legislature that we had all the way up until 1963. Michigan is currently one of only three other states – California, New York, and Pennsylvania – that compensate their legislatures on a full-time, professional level. What is right for California and New York is not necessarily right for Michigan. We have the 4th highest paid state legislature in the nation, with annual salaries of $71,685 in addition to an expense account of $10,800 per year. The salary alone is 83% higher than the average Michigan worker’s annual wage of $39,215. Should we be paying our state representatives almost twice what the average Michigan worker earns?
Indiana has a part-time legislature and pays their state representatives less than $25,000 per year. Texas, with a population three times larger than that of Michigan, a lengthy international border, and a very diverse population, is also governed by a part-time legislature paid approximately $25,000 per year.

Nobody likes the idea of a career politician. Let’s return Michigan to a part-time legislature, which would eliminate career politicians by removing the financial incentive to run for office. Such a proposal as that outlined above would also increase the amount of time our state representatives spend in their districts with their constituents, rather than in Lansing surrounded by lobbyists. Let’s keep our state representatives with their feet on the ground, living like everybody else. I support a return to a part-time legislature because it is right for Michigan and it’s been proven to work here in the past.

PROPERTY RIGHTS

I believe that property rights are basic American human rights. Personal property should never be taken lightly and should be protected to the full extent of the law.  In 2006, Michigan voters protected that right by approving Proposal 4 of the November 7 election, which is now enshrined in the Michigan Constitution as Article X, Section 2.

ROAD FUNDING

I voted in support of the 2015 Roads Package, which will increase road funding in Michigan by over $1.2 billion by Fiscal Year 2020-21.

My bill, HB 4610, was part of the package and mandates competitive bidding in local road projects if townships commit 50% more of funds.

During the debate over what should be in the package, I fought for more current funding to go to roads and also fought for as little of the increase as possible to come from increased vehicle registration, which is a bad way to pay for roads. The best way to pay for roads still remains the gas tax and, thankfully, the registration increase in the 2015 package was kept to a minimum. Best of all, 100% of the money will be going toward roads, unlike Proposal 1 of 2015.

ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

The role of government should be to pass laws that make sense and repeal laws that don’t make sense.  Needless regulations are exactly that: needless. In order to create a better economic environment, government usually needs to get out of the way to allow individuals and businesses to create jobs.  Regulations should help individuals and the community, not hurt them.  In any other case, the only other reason for regulations is to protect the environment where needed.

TAXES

I oppose raising taxes.  There is no need for an increase in state taxes currently.  Governor Snyder’s administration has proven that the State of Michigan is not only capable of balancing its current budget, but is capable of running a surplus at current tax rates.

TENTH AMENDMENT

I support the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but too often it is not being followed.

The Tenth Amendment states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Too many powers that should be state issues are assumed by the federal government today. Michigan issues should be decided by Michigan people or the Michigan government, not the federal government. One glaring example would be that of health care, which is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. At the very least, health care should not be a national issue. It possibly shouldn’t even be a state issue. It should really be a private issue, but we have seen the federal government usurp yet another sector of the private sector. The tenth amendment was overlooked when it came to the Affordable Care Act and that’s just one reason why I oppose the ACA.