Spinal Column: Good progress made in the first quarter of 2015

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Michigan’s 98th Legislature wrapped up the first quarter of the new term at the end of March. Senate Republicans had set an ambitious agenda for 2015, and I am happy to report that we have made good progress in the first quarter toward accomplishing those goals.

Our priorities focused on four different categories: stimulating job creation and growth; improving education; holding government accountable; and promoting policies that improve quality of life for all Michiganders.

Job Creation
To keep Michigan moving forward, we must meet the increased need for skilled workers in today’s economy. We passed legislation that encourages strong relationships between community colleges and employers by expanding and providing greater funding for special employee training agreements that eliminate the skills gap.

We also approved a measure that would allow a student to receive a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) certification and place it on their high school diploma and transcript. A STEM endorsement will set our students apart as they pursue educational or career opportunities.

Education
Reading is the foundation for student success and achievement. By the time children reach middle school, all academic subjects require proficiency in reading, so it’s important to start early.

We recommended an increase in funding for third grade reading programs to ensure brighter outcomes for our kids and grandkids. I also visited elementary schools in my district as a guest reader during March is Reading Month to share the importance of reading.

Government Accountability
As legislators, one of our most important jobs is to ensure government is accountable to the people who pay for it. We eliminated more than $500 million of wasteful spending in the FY 15 budget to ensure your hard-earned tax dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.

Quality of Life
Our Great Lakes support vibrant fishing, tourism and boating industries and are critical to our way of life. To protect our native species and waters, we called on the federal government to close the Chicago locks and end water diversions through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to prevent Asian Carp and other harmful species from entering our lakes.

These are just some of the accomplishments of the past three months. As we move through spring and beyond, my colleagues and I will continue to focus on policies that promote good jobs, education, freedom and quality of life for all of us.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.