LaFave: Making Lansing work for the Upper Peninsula

Guest column


With 2017 officially concluded, there are many reasons why my first year as your state representative has been successful. For me, I have focused on making sure our state government works for the Upper Peninsula and not the other way around.

A perfect example, in addition to being a highlight to me, was testifying in late November on my legislation to drive more state tax funds to boost sports and recreation programs in the U.P. The bill would create the Northern Michigan Regional Tourism and Sports Fund, requiring that $1.9 million of statewide liquor and cigarette taxes go into the fund every year for a decade without raising taxes or fees.

My hope is this funding will help promote economic development across northern Michigan rural areas, but this bill at least gives us more say in use of tax dollars by accessing a state Convention Facility Development Fund that previously dedicated in excess of $14 million a year to paying for a Detroit facility. It’s only appropriate that we get a fair share to provide a tourism boost that will benefit the entire state.

Another locally focused bill requires air ambulance operations to give nonemergency patients a notice to discuss all methods of transportation and costs before sending a helicopter.

Many times, patients are transported to hospitals without having a say or knowing the costs they will pay for being moved to Green Bay or Marquette for surgery. The problem is the patient’s health care provider will pay for a portion of the air ambulance cost but not its entirety, leaving residents with an even larger medical bill.

I’ve helped build a better foundation for our children, either directly with my legislation or votes in support of other bills. For example, a House committee heard my testimony to give high school students course credit for completing an internship or work study program. I also voted for bipartisan legislation to enhance skilled trade education in Michigan’s public schools, which will help local school districts have more course flexibility, better access to experienced instructors and the ability to work closely with local business owners.

The reasons this is so crucial to us is many high school students here start their career development before they graduate. This is a program that will encourage students across the state to take advantage of opportunities in their own backyards because career exploration and on-the-job training is also part of education.

Among my more important votes was making sure the retirement benefits of police, firefighters and other local government employees were protected, along with improving the 401(k) plans for all Michigan public school employees.

In addition, I have voted for state-record funding to our local school districts and upgraded our local infrastructure investment. My support for public and teacher pension protections is that added step to preserve the contractually agreed benefits supported by state monies.

I want to assure you I will continue the fight to bring lower auto insurance prices to the Upper Peninsula. I absolutely cannot understand why legislation that would guarantee lower rates for all drivers in Michigan did not gain the support of the majority of House members in late 2017. There is no compromise on this issue. We must seek out a fix that offers personal injury coverage options, fights fraud and abuse and addresses medical costs. People are fed up with paying the highest rates in the nation, and they deserve a solution.

This remains my number one legislative priority.

My fight will continue for the U.P. in 2018.

State Rep. Beau LaFave represents Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties.