2019: Year in review

We are nearing the end of my first term representing you in the Michigan Senate and it has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I remain thankful that you placed your trust in me to represent you in our state Capitol.

As we prepare to take some time away from our busy lives to settle down and enjoy time with our loved ones, I wanted to share with you an update on some of the work my colleagues and I have been doing in Lansing.

One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping in touch with the residents of the 34th District. I have hosted 53 office hours meetings in every corner of the district since January, and I will continue that pace moving into the new year. These meetings are open to the public and do not require an appointment. I’ve always enjoyed talking to folks about what’s going on in Lansing and I look forward to hearing from you in 2020.

Early on during my career in the House, Michigan was facing some tough times. For years the Legislature worked to balance the budget and approve measures to improve Michigan’s economy, stimulate job growth, reduce burdensome regulations and reduce tax burdens.

I am proud of the work the Legislature has completed this year to continue our state’s comeback and make Michigan stronger and more competitive. The most notable accomplishment was a reform to the state’s costly auto insurance laws, which takes effect next July. This was the most important issue for members as we began the new Legislature. It was the first bill introduced, and Senate Bill 1 would receive much of my colleagues’ and my attention until it was signed into law in June.

It was a tremendous example of rolling up our sleeves and finding a bipartisan solution to try to put some money back into the pockets of hardworking Michiganders. The changes also caused the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to reduce their per-vehicle assessment for the period of July 2, 2020 through June 30, 2021 to $100 from $220, creating additional savings for drivers across the state.

Many insurance companies have already contacted clients alerting them of the upcoming changes, and I recommend you speak with your insurance carrier as we near the effective date so you can consider what kind of coverage and savings are best for you and your family.

Another one of my legislative highlights is a pair of bills that would expand educational opportunities for Michigan students. I introduced Senate Bills 600 and 601 because I believe they will provide more flexibility to our local school districts when setting graduation requirements. This will give more students opportunities that will allow them to be successful after high school.

We are finally starting to recognize that a four-year degree is not the best route for every student. Some are more interested in trade schools or other opportunities that allow them to build things, weld, run a computer numerical control machine, or perform many other jobs working with their hands. The ability to build and fix things is becoming a lost art, and Michigan has many employers begging for qualified applicants. I believe these changes to Michigan’s graduation requirements will help solve that problem.

The Legislature has also approved new laws to curb package theft and allow counselors to continue practicing in their profession. I also sponsored one of two bills to help combat robocalls, and I supported funding for an expansion to the Golden Township Park at Silver Lake Sand Dunes and a $3 million effort to make improvements along Sherman Boulevard in Muskegon Heights. When it reaches the Legislature, I will also support the recently announced development at the former site of the Muskegon Mall in downtown Muskegon.

I voted to increase road funding and for record education funding — much of which was vetoed or shifted by the governor. I also voted to restore $573.5 million of vetoed or shifted funding to keep schools afloat and crucial state programs functioning.

This is only a small snapshot of what 2019 brought us. Unfortunately, much of what was accomplished was clouded by difficult budget negotiations, and I can only hope we put that behind us as we move into the new year.

It has truly been an honor serving you in the state Senate, and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sen. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, represents the 34th state Senate District, which includes Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties.