LaFave: Some highlights of legislation for the UP

Guest column


As the Michigan Legislature’s 2017-18 session came to a close, the Upper Peninsula received a lot of good news to brighten the holiday season. From sports and recreation to rural broadband, investments were approved that will benefit Yoopers for years to come.

I was honored to help lead this charge and deliver improvements making life better in the Upper Peninsula. Some of the highlights in the legislation that awaits Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature include:

–Ski jump improvements. The plan provides $10 million for a northern Michigan tourism and sports fund, supporting projects such as the Pine Mountain Ski Jump in Iron Mountain and Copper Peak in Ironwood. Better preparing these outstanding facilities for competitions and training will boost the U.P.’s economy and reputation as a uniquely attractive recreation and tourism destination.

–Rural broadband. Many U.P. communities will be able to seek a portion of the $20 million in statewide grants to improve the high-speed internet access so important to jobs, education and our daily lives.

–Escanaba River Bridge. The plan includes nearly $1 million to continue removal and cleanup of the old bridge, clearing the way for Wells Township to redevelop the site and put it to better use. I look forward to working with incoming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to continue efforts to finish this job.

–Soo Locks. The state’s $52 million commitment is another important step toward building a new lock, critical to the U.P. economy and national security.

–Protecting the Straits of Mackinac. Our plan authorizes the investment necessary to ensure oversight and accountability of the new multi-use tunnel Enbridge Energy will pay for and build. The project will provide a significantly safer alternative for transporting the propane and natural gas that now flows through Line 5 between Michigan’s peninsulas.

–Community recycling and a cleaner environment. I supported a measure that will allow the state to put $69 million into an environmental cleanup fund, about $15 million of which will go toward local recycling programs across the state each year. Additional investments will help encourage matching grants for communities switching water supplies because of PFAS contamination.

–Buffalo Reef. The Legislature authorized $3 million to help dredge and clean up this area off the Keweenaw Peninsula in Lake Superior, an important spawning area for lake trout and whitefish.

–Northern Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. Steps were taken to continue the state’s commitment assisting NMU’s career tech and engineering facility, and MTU’s engineering and health technologies complex.

Several other measures were approved that will benefit the U.P. and the entire state.

Schools will be safer with $25 million more available for safety grants, an effort I personally helped lead with policy changes already signed into law by Gov. Snyder. The state will hire 175 additional child protective services workers — because all children deserve a chance to grow up safely in an environment that will help them succeed. A mental health hotline will be established to help connect people with services around the clock.

We are continuing improvements to get military veterans access to the services they deserve, including $2.1 million for grants to boost the number of communities with veterans services offices.

All in all, it was a great way to wrap up 2018. I look forward to continued service for the people of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties next year.