Sen. Kowall and guest honor Michigan’s fallen soldiers

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, stands in the Senate chamber Thursday with U.S. Marine Major Thomas Shields (right) of South Lyon.

Shields, who commands the Detroit Military Entrance Processing Station and served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was Kowall’s guest for the Michigan Senate’s 21st Annual Memorial Day Service.

“It was a privilege to have Major Shields as my special guest for today’s ceremony in Lansing,” Kowall said. “He represents Southeast Michigan well and continues to serve his country honorably. We need more American heroes like Thomas Shields.”

Members of Michigan’s military who defended freedom and sacrificed their lives in the past year were honored during the special ceremony.

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Oakland Press: Senate in session this summer to work on road funding, other vital legislation

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

On Tuesday, May 5, Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 1, the ballot measure that would have paid for road funding in part through raising the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent.

Proposal 1, which was expected to raise $1.2 billion, was a very complicated measure, and that may have been part of the reason for its overwhelming defeat.

Voters didn’t trust that somewhere in the details of the proposal could be found a definitive solution for fixing our infrastructure. There is also evidence that voters didn’t trust their legislators to actually follow through on the solutions included in the proposal.

In voting No, voters sent the message that Michigan lawmakers are the ones elected to find solutions to difficult and complicated problems—not simply to send those problems to the ballot box for voters to decide.

Proposal 1 failed, but the problem remains: Our roads are in terrible shape and are getting worse.

A mere 17 percent of our roads are rated in good condition. More than twice that number—38 percent—are considered to be in poor shape, while 45 percent are in fair condition.

According to one report, our terrible roads and bridges cost Michigan motorists a total of $7.7 billion statewide due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. If you are the average Michigander, you pay $357 annually in unnecessary repairs to your vehicle due to damage caused by our roads.

But that’s not all. In addition to higher repair bills, our crumbling infrastructure contributes to injuries and lost economic growth. The economic, financial and physical cost of our decaying roads is unacceptable.

It is imperative now more than ever that the Legislature find a way to fund the repair of our roads and bridges. A modern, well-maintained infrastructure is essential to Michigan’s economy and quality of life. Further neglect will only cost taxpayers more in the long run and deter economic investment across the state. We cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our infrastructure.

And that means we can’t put off this work in Lansing. That is one of the reasons that last week I announced significant additions to the Senate session calendar. We have added 30 days to the Senate calendar over the months of June, July, August and September.

Michigan taxpayers work very hard, and part of the fruit of their labors pays the salaries of their 148 state lawmakers and the governor. Our constituents expect us to put in the time necessary to tackle the tough issues before us.

The new summer schedule reflects this reality. It signals the Legislature’s commitment to hard work and results.

Normally the Senate adjourns for the summer, and senators head back to their districts. For most of us, this time is not a vacation; the majority of our work simply shifts locations, from Lansing to the district.

After a careful review of our goals, I found it to be unreasonable to expect that we can accomplish our work without the addition of these session days.

So the Senate will be in session this summer, working hard to complete the tasks before us. I look forward to working with my colleagues to find a solution to our road-funding problem and to find ways to continue to foster Michigan’s comeback.

This op-ed first appeared in the Oakland Press. 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.

Spinal Column: Senate Memorial Day ceremony will pay respect to those who gave their lives

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Every spring, on the last Monday of May, people all across the United States observe Memorial Day. It is the day we remember those who died in active military service.

I encourage everyone to take some time on Memorial Day to consider the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in service to their country. One way you can pay respect is to visit a cemetery or memorial. You can place an American flag on the graves of soldiers in national cemeteries.

If you fly an American flag, you may raise it to the top of the staff and then solemnly lower it to the half-staff position until noon. The half-staff position is in remembrance of the more than one million men and women who have given their lives in service to our nation.

According to traditional observance, the flag is raised again to the top at noon, and along with it, the memory of those killed is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain.

As in years past, in Michigan, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, a special Senate service will pay tribute to the Michigan servicemen and women who gave their lives in service to our country. The Senate Memorial Day ceremony is an important way to make sure their legacy of sacrifice is never taken for granted or forgotten.

This year’s Senate service is at 10 a.m. in the Michigan Capitol on Thursday, May 21. It marks the 21st anniversary of this solemn Senate observance.

I invite local veterans service organizations to post their colors at the 21st Annual Senate Memorial Day Service.

During the ceremony, senators will honor soldiers from their districts who died during the past 12 months. Families who lost loved ones will also be recognized.

This is an opportunity for veterans organizations to join those from across Michigan in honoring our fallen heroes. Posts are welcome to bring up to three flag bearers to display their colors on the Senate floor during the service. Please note that flag bearers will be standing for the duration of the ceremony, which will last approximately one hour.

Local veterans groups interested in participating in the ceremony should contact my office by May 18. My office can be reached at (866) 301-6515 or by sending an email to MKowall@senate.michigan.gov.

Men and women have given their lives for our freedom, and our nation remains strong today because of their sacrifice. We can never repay this debt. But let us do our best to honor their memory.

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.

Senate preparing to hold 21st Annual Memorial Day Service

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate will hold its 21st Annual Memorial Day Service in the Senate chamber on Thursday, May 21, said state Sen. Mike Kowall.

“We must never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “The Senate’s Annual Memorial Day Service is a solemn ceremony devoted to honoring the lives of the heroic men and women who fought to defend our freedom.”

Lawmakers will honor soldiers from their districts who died in the past 12 months. Families who lost loved ones will also be recognized by the Senate.

The Michigan Senate held its first annual Memorial Day Service at the initiative of former U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, who was then a state senator.

Local veterans service organizations interested in posting their colors at the May 21 ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., should RSVP to Kowall’s office toll free at 1-866-301-6515 by noon on May 18.

Kowall: Senate will be in session this summer

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, on Tuesday announced significant additions to the Senate session calendar.

The following additional summer dates were posted for the 2015 session:

June 16 – 18, 23 – 25, 30
July 1 – 2, 7 – 9, 14 – 16, 21 – 23
Aug. 11 – 13, 18 – 20, 25 – 27
Sept. 1 – 3

Kowall released the following statement about the summer session:

“The hardworking taxpayers of this state expect us to put in the time necessary to complete our work. The new schedule I am releasing today reflects our commitment to hard work and results.

“After a careful review of our goals, I found it to be unreasonable to expect that we can accomplish our work without the addition of these session days.

“So the Senate will be here in Lansing this summer, working hard to complete the tasks before us. I look forward to working with my colleagues on legislation that is vital to fostering Michigan’s continued comeback.”

Kowall: Fiscally responsible budget builds on the strong economic foundation laid over the last four years

LANSING — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, offered the following statement Tuesday after the Senate approved its Fiscal Year 2016 budget:

“This budget reflects Senate Republicans’ continuing commitment to hardworking taxpayers by eliminating wasteful spending and reducing bureaucracy.

“Just as every Michigan household is required to live within their means, so must state government. Today’s budget delivers an efficient and effective state government that lives within its means.

“The budget ensures Michigan’s roads are funded. It promotes accountability by paying down debt and reinforcing a long-term approach to a structurally sound budget.

“The budget strengthens our uncompromising commitment to education, supporting more than $1 billion in new state funding for our schools over the last five years to deliver a quality education for our children.

“It promotes safer communities by directing more money toward local police and fire services and funding the hiring of 75 new state troopers to help fight crime in our communities.

“We must continue to build on the foundation laid over the last four years for Michigan’s future economic success. This budget does just that.”