Save the Date: Sens. Kowall and Booher announce West Branch event honoring Vietnam era veterans

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Sen. Darwin Booher on Thursday announced that a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony will be held on Friday, July 22 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Kowall, R-White Lake, is hosting the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families” to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. Both Kowall and Booher, R-Evart, will present lapel pins.

The senators encourage all interested residents and veterans to join them to pay tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.

Kowall said the lapel-pinning ceremony will be part of Ogemaw Hills Bike Week and is made possible, in part, by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (VWC). The event will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 22, in the grandstands of the Ogemaw County Fairgrounds, 2300 Rifle River Trail, in West Branch.

The senators will provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to any U.S. veteran who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 – May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The symbolism attached to the lapel pin is significant, Kowall said.

“The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period,” he said. “All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.”

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense and launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners, such as Kowall, hold events that thank and honor the veterans and their families.

“Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life,” Kowall said. “This lapel-pinning ceremony is a way to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation and the Michigan Legislature.”

Further information about the event can be found at www.OgemawHillsBikeWeek.com, and information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.VietnamWar50th.com.

Kowall has held numerous lapel-pinning ceremonies, both in Lansing and throughout the state. The ceremonies are held in a variety of locations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars/American Legion posts, veteran memorial parks and banquet halls. Kowall often partners with the senator of the district where the event is being held.

“It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.

The senator said he particularly enjoys when veterans gather for a group photo and personally announce their name, branch of service and dates served.

Kowall presents school supplies to South Lyons charities

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Walmart of Commerce Township presented $1,000 worth of school supplies donated by Walmart to two South Lyon charitable organizations on Wednesday.

The South Lyon Area Youth Assistance and Active Faith Community Services each received $500 worth of supplies. The presentation was made at Active Faith Community Services in South Lyon.

“Thanks go to Walmart for their generous donation to two worthy organizations,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “These supplies will help them continue the great work they are doing in the community.”

Note: For print-quality versions of these and other Kowall photos, click the images or click Photowire under the Media Center tab, above. Video of Kowall discussing the presentation is available by clicking Video under Media Center.

School Aid budget invests more than $14 billion in education

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall was with Gov. Rick Snyder in Commerce Township on Monday as the governor signed into law Senate Bill 801, the School Aid budget.

“Thank you, Governor Snyder, for signing the education omnibus budget in my district,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “For the sixth consecutive year the budget has been finalized months ahead of schedule, providing assurance for school districts when they are planning their own budgets.”

The Fiscal Year 2017 School Aid budget invests more than $14 billion in education, which is more than a $261 million increase over last year. In addition, more foundation allowance funding means an increase of between $60 and $120 per pupil.

“Specifically, per-pupil funding in Walled Lake, here in Commerce Township, went from $8,315 to $8,375, which is an increase of $60 per pupil,” Kowall said.

Since 2011, state funding for K-12 school districts have increased by $1.5 billion. The state has increased funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities by $39 million.

SB 801 is now Public Act 249 of 2016.

Note: For a print-quality version of this and other Kowall photos, click the image or click Photowire under the Media Center tab.

Photo caption: Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, was with Gov. Rick Snyder in Commerce Township on Monday as the governor signed into law Senate Bill 801, the School Aid budget. Pictured, from left: Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake; Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township; Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; Snyder; Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township; Kowall; Rep. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton; and Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston.

Save the Date: Kowall announces Oscoda event honoring Vietnam era veterans

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Friday announced that he is hosting a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony on Saturday, July 9 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Kowall is presenting the pins as part of “Operation LZ” to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. He encourages all interested residents and veterans to join him to pay tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.

Kowall said the lapel pinning, made possible, in part, by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (VWC), will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 9 at Wurtsmith Air Museum, 4071 E. Van Ettan St., in Oscoda.

The senator will provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to any U.S. veteran who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 – May 15, 1975, regardless of location. The symbolism attached to the lapel pin is significant, Kowall said.

“The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period,” he said. “All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.”

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense and launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners, such as Kowall, hold events that thank and honor the veterans and their families.

“Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “This lapel-pinning ceremony is a way to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of a grateful nation and the Michigan Legislature.”

Kowall said that Kelly Trudell will sing the National Anthem to open the event and will end the ceremony by performing “The Sound of Hope.” Trudell has been awarded the President’s Lifetime Volunteer Service Award for her work with veterans, soldiers and their families.

The event will include the Pinning Ceremony, Memorial Chair Ceremony, The Wall that Heals, and other displays, events and activities for Vietnam veterans, family, friends and the public.

Further information about the event can be found at www.operationlzmichigan.org, and information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Kowall has held numerous lapel-pinning ceremonies, both in Lansing and throughout the state. The ceremonies are held in a variety of locations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars/American Legion posts, veteran memorial parks and banquet halls. Kowall often partners with the senator of the district where the event is being held.

“It is always a moving time for me when I am able to present the lapel pins and personally thank each veteran for their service,” Kowall said.

The senator said he particularly enjoys when veterans gather for a group photo and personally announce their name, branch of service and dates served.

Oakland Press: Michigan summers offer a wide variety of fun for everyone

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

While the official start of summer is still days away, all the signs of the season are here: The kids are on summer break, swimming pools have opened, and blockbuster movies are showing in the theaters.

The Great Lake state offers families a rich variety of outstanding outdoor summer activities. From fishing and farmers markets, to holiday activities, to boating and swimming — and much, much more — Michigan provides us with endless opportunities to make the most of summer.

Did you remember to take advantage of Michigan’s Summer Free Fishing Weekend? This annual event was held Saturday and Sunday, June 11-12. Each year, the weekend offers an outstanding opportunity for Michigan families and out-of-state visitors alike to get together and enjoy some of the world’s best fishing on both inland and Great Lakes waters.

One of the more exciting and surprising fishing opportunities is now found in the Detroit River. Sports fishermen have long enjoyed fishing the Great Lakes for lake whitefish, but these fish also used to be plentiful in the Detroit River. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the river was well known as a home to lake whitefish. Unfortunately, habitat loss, pollution, and other factors led to the decline of the whitefish in the river. The last documented spawning of the fish was in 1916.

Then, in the fall of 2005, fisheries scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service verified the presence of spawning lake whitefish and fertilized whitefish eggs.

Thanks to decades of anti-pollution efforts begun in the 1970s, the Detroit River has recovered. Yes, summer in Michigan means great fishing — including fishing in the Detroit River!

Summer also means farmers markets across the state are kicking into high gear. Agriculture is one of our most important and thriving industries. Local growers, producers and even small winemakers reflect the industry’s vitality at farmers markets. I encourage you to visit some of these markets. The Oakland County Market is now open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. You may contact them at 248-858-5495 for more information.

Fourth of July is just around the corner. Independence Day means more than cookouts and fireworks. It is good to take some time each July 4 to honor those who risked their lives to stand up to injustice and tyranny. One popular tradition is for communities and volunteers to place American flags on the graves of veterans as a tribute to our fallen heroes and in remembrance of the true cost of freedom. I encourage you to join with your community and celebrate the liberty we hold dear.

Perhaps you’ll be out boating and swimming in one of the Great Lakes this Fourth of July or enjoying one of our thousands of inland lakes. Michigan’s lakes are a treasure, and swimming in them is one of the joys of summer.

If you plan to spend time on the water this summer, I encourage you to take the necessary precautions to make it a safe and fun experience. Take swimming lessons, follow local safety guidelines and look out for powerful rip currents.

Whatever your plans for summer, I hope you make the most of what our great state has to offer.

Have a great Michigan summer!

This column 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.

Kowall presents lapel pin to Vietnam veteran

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, (right) presented a Vietnam veteran lapel pin to retired U.S. Army soldier Gordon King (second from right) on Tuesday in the Senate chamber. King was joined by his wife Amy, his adult children and his grandchildren.

King was drafted into military service in 1970 and worked atomic demolition and munitions attached to the Mechanized 4th Infantry Division. He received medals for national defense and sharpshooting.

The symbolism attached to the Vietnam veteran lapel pin is significant. The pin honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country or in-theater or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period.

Note: For a print-quality version of this and other Kowall photos, click the image or click Photowire under the Media Center tab, above.

Photo caption: Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, (right) in the Senate chamber with retired U.S. Army soldier and Vietnam veteran Gordon King (second from right), King’s wife Amy (in front of King), the Kings’ son Jimmy (left) and Jimmy’s wife Danielle (second from left). Kowall presented a Vietnam veteran lapel pin to King on Tuesday. Also pictured are the Kings’ grandchildren: Archer, Kyle, and Savannah Davis; Kylee and Shane King; and Ben, Brady, and Charlie Raymond.

Sens. Zorn and Kowall sponsoring June 20 event honoring Vietnam era veterans

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Dale Zorn and Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall are reminding area residents that they are sponsoring a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony on Monday, June 20 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

“After hosting two previous events to give long-overdue recognition to the Vietnam War era veterans for their service, Senator Kowall and I are proudly holding another ceremony on Monday,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I invite all interested residents and veterans to join us as we pay tribute to Michigan’s Vietnam veterans — who served our country with honor, yet were often forgotten when they returned home.”

The event will take place at the Vietnam Memorial located in Monument Park, 436 E. Maumee St., in Adrian on Monday, June 20 at 11 a.m.

There is no seating at Monument Park. The ceremony is expected to be short, but anyone who is unable to stand for more than a few minutes is encouraged to bring a chair.

“It has been an honor throughout my career to work and participate with our veterans, especially on the Vietnam Veterans Museum and the Memorial Park projects in Monroe,” Zorn said.

If weather does not permit, the ceremony will take place the same day and time at the Adrian VFW Post 1584 at 726 N. Main St. in Adrian. A light lunch will be held by the post following the ceremony.

“Michigan’s Vietnam veterans, whether drafted or enlisted, served our country with honor. Tragically, too many returned home with little thanks for their service and not much help transitioning to civilian life,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “This lapel-pinning ceremony is a way to thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War era and their families on behalf of a grateful nation and the Michigan Legislature.”

The ceremony is made possible by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. Kowall said the symbolism attached to the lapel pin is significant.

“The Commemoration honors all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period,” Kowall said. “All were called to serve and the overwhelming majority of these veterans served honorably and admirably.”

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Spinal Column: Autonomous vehicles will strengthen the economy and make us safer

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

The Michigan economy, for much of our history, has been inextricably linked to the automobile industry. The industry has experienced periods of both incredible growth and terrible decline over the past hundred-plus years.

Now is an exciting time in Michigan for the automobile industry and for automobile consumers as well (this second category represents most adults in the state): Autonomous vehicle technology continues to develop, and we are at the dawn of this vital new industry.

In May, Google announced that the company will be opening a self-driving test center in Novi. This is wonderful news for Oakland County and, indeed, for all of Michigan. I have worked with Google and other automakers and will continue to do so to ensure that Michigan remains the auto capital of the world now and far into the future.

In 2013, I sponsored two bills that became the current autonomous vehicles law in Michigan, which took effect in March 2014. Unfortunately, this current law is becoming more outdated day by day as technology advances and other states seek the new automotive industry for themselves.

Michigan’s dominance in auto research and development is under attack from several states and countries who desire to supplant our leadership in transportation. We can’t let that happen.

That is why I was the lead sponsor of a package of bills introduced in the state Senate the same week Google made their announcement. Senate Bills 995 – 998 would update the law on autonomous vehicles to provide safer transportation, better mobility and a stronger economy.

The legislation would reduce barriers to further research and “real world” testing of autonomous vehicles to move safer technology into the marketplace more quickly.

Advances in autonomous technology will allow Michigan drivers and their passengers to be safer on the road. Ninety-four percent of traffic accidents are caused by human error. Autonomous vehicles will reduce such errors and decrease the number of traffic deaths annually in the U.S.

In addition, a robust and free environment for testing and development will ensure the Michigan economy benefits from this new technology.

Among other things, SBs 995 – 998 would:
•    Allow open operation of autonomous vehicles beyond restricted testing to allow real-world development for all conditions;
•    Authorize vehicle platoons and on-demand automated fleet networks for efficiency in delivery and transportation and create the Michigan Council on Future Mobility to keep Michigan at the forefront of mobility developments;
•    Establish critical standards for on-demand vehicle networks to satisfy, including requirements for data collection and crash information that would help companies and transportation researchers evaluate how these networks work and what improvements may be needed;
•    Authorize the creation of the American Center for Mobility at the old Willow Run factory site (the center is expected to assume a vital role in research and education on autonomous vehicle technology); and
•    Extend the liability protection in current law, which shields manufacturers from liability when an unauthorized person attempts to modify autonomous technology, to a licensed mechanic who follows the manufacturer specifications in working on the technology.

Michigan has been at the forefront of automobile manufacture and production for much of the industry’s history. As we enter the age of the autonomous vehicle, I will do everything I can to help ensure we remain the leader of this critical sector of the industry as well.

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.

Oakland Press: Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

The end of May in Michigan means warmer temperatures are here to stay and summer will soon be upon us.

Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 20, of course. But it is the last Monday in May — Memorial Day — that marks its unofficial start. On May 30, people all across Michigan will participate in picnics and parades and fire up the family barbecues. Some will head to the lake or cottage and enjoy a three-day weekend to get a head start on summer.

I enjoy these annual traditions, but I also appreciate that Memorial Day holds more significance than simply being the day that kicks off summer. Memorial Day is a time to remember our fellow Americans who have died to preserve our freedoms.

First widely observed on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day — because the nation’s Civil War dead were honored by decorating their graves. A proclamation by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers, commemorated the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.

After World War I, observations began to memorialize those who died in all of America’s wars.

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed the last Monday in May, with Veterans Day designated for all veterans, living and dead, on November 11.

Every year, the Michigan Senate sets aside a session day to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Michigan Senate’s 22nd Annual Memorial Day Service will be held on Thursday, May 26. The ceremony pays tribute to Michigan residents killed in action during the previous 12 months.

The Senate’s Memorial Day Service is a remarkably poignant event that reminds all in attendance of the precious cost of liberty. We are blessed to live in the land of the free, but that blessing has been bought with the lives of more than a million Americans.

I am always honored to host area residents for the service. Local veterans interested in attending the May 26 ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., should RSVP to my office toll-free at 1-866-301-6515.

We can all do something this Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who gave their lives for their country. One way is to join thousands of volunteers who will pay respect to all our nation’s fallen heroes by decorating their graves with American flags.

One can also commemorate the day by displaying the American flag, attending a local ceremony or parade or by simply thanking a veteran for his or her service.

A special tribute is the National Moment of Remembrance, which asks all citizens to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to honor those who laid down their lives.

I hope you take a moment this Memorial Day to think about the price that has been paid for our freedom. I am thankful for those who gave their lives for us; may we never forget their sacrifice.

This column 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.