CURT VANDERWALL: Keeping the momentum in 2018

Guest Columnist

Now that 2018 is in full swing, I’d like to share with you some of our legislative accomplishments from the past year.

Throughout my first year in office, I had the opportunity to meet and work with people throughout the state to find the best way forward for Benzie, Leelanau, Manistee and Mason counties.

Hard-working taxpayers deserve to know how and where their money is spent. My first priority in 2017 was helping pass legislation increasing transparency and accountability in state government. The bills subject the governor and state legislators to open records laws. Michigan is one of just two states still exempting its governor and legislators from transparency. I urge the Senate to consider these bills in the new year.

To continue paying down millions of dollars in state debt, I voted in support of a balanced state budget months ahead of the constitutional deadline that spends fewer state dollars than the previous year’s budget and forces the government to live within its means. It was absolutely vital that we passed a budget that creates a more financially stable future for Michigan families.

I sponsored legislation enabling spouses of deceased veterans to keep their loved one’s disabled veteran license plate. Nobody should ever have to experience the sadness of letting go another piece of their spouse by having to surrender their spouse’s veteran license plate. Retaining the special plate brings awareness to the sacrifices veterans face to protect our freedoms.

Civic centers in small towns often struggle with finances. I introduced a measure, which is now in the Senate, to allow civic centers like the historic Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee to apply for a liquor license and sell alcohol during special events, which will help them become more financially independent. The current population requirement is arbitrary and unfair to small towns. My bill lowers the population threshold from 9,500 residents to 5,500 and opens new opportunities for at least 50 more Michigan towns.

In order for Michigan to be a top contender in education, schools need to give children more classroom options. I authored legislation to increase skilled trades educational choices and provide a real-world opportunity for students on the way a future profession.

As vice-chair of the House Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee, I introduced legislation allowing three-day hunting licenses for small game animals to encourage out-of-state hunters to come to Michigan for weekend hunting trips. Currently, base hunting licenses are available to non-residents only as seven-day passes. A less expensive three-day pass makes Michigan a more competitive hunting destination. That means more revenue for our communities and businesses, along with better management and preservation of our natural resources. This was just signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder.

While much progress has been made during the past year, there is still more work to do to benefit Michigan families in 2018. As vice-chair of the House Insurance Committee, I continue efforts to reform Michigan’s broken auto no-fault car insurance system that is now responsible for the highest car insurance rates in the nation.

My colleagues and I are closer than ever to implementing a solution to give drivers more choice in coverage, protect medical care for drivers injured in auto accidents, combat fraud and abuse – and most importantly – lower rates. Although a recent House vote came up short, no-fault reform will be a top priority in 2018.

State Rep. Curt VanderWall represents the 101st District, which includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties.

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