Oakland Press: Senate legislation will provide increased security, safety on the road

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Today’s sophisticated technology provides us access to more information than ever before more quickly than ever before. It eases the backbreaking load for workers in many industries and provides access to cutting-edge medical equipment that can significantly improve our health and quality of life.

These are just some of the benefits of modern technology. The high-tech we encounter everywhere, every day certainly is a blessing. But it is one that comes with responsibility and risk.

While computers double their capabilities every 12 to 18 months and our cellphones are now minicomputers that easily and dramatically outperform the top supercomputers of a generation ago, these devices are vulnerable to hacking and other security threats.

These threats affect more and more of us. Last summer, we learned that Chinese hackers stole the personal identity information of more than 20 million Americans.

Now, even cars and trucks are vulnerable to cyberattacks. A year ago, security experts at Wired magazine remotely hacked into a 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s “Uconnect infotainment” system while the Jeep was being driven. Not only were the hackers able to control the interior features of the car, such as air conditioning, locks and the radio, but they disabled the SUV’s engine functions as well.

Computers now often control such vital operations as a car’s acceleration and braking. Cyberattacks on these systems threaten our security and safety. We must make sure we do all we can to protect our cars and trucks from such attacks, including updating the law to address these new crimes.

Senate Bills 927 and 928 are a vital part of the entire autonomous vehicle package of bills. These two measures provide a critical foundation for the other bills in the package: the assurance to motorists and the public that willful mischief and more sinister actions against this technology will be harshly punished.

SB 927, which I sponsored, would specify that it is a crime to damage a vehicle’s computer system or gain unauthorized control of a vehicle. SB 928, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn, would provide sentencing guidelines for these crimes.

The autonomous vehicle package holds great promise for traffic safety, for adding mobility to those without it, and for our state’s economic strength. These tangible benefits are powerful arguments, but they need the public protection of tough sanctions against those who would abuse the technology or terrorize the public through such abuse.

SBs 927 and 928 will be an important tool that our state and local law enforcement and prosecutors can use immediately to punish bad actors. Other sanctions will be coming at the federal level and other deterrents through the efforts of the auto and technology industries. Passage of these bills can be a forerunner for those actions and can send a strong signal that the advancement of the technology will also be linked to strong public protection.

Cybersecurity for vehicles was the focus of an international summit in Detroit on Friday, July 22. Key individuals such as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the CEO of General Motors Mary Barra were among those who participated. People involved with this issue nationally and internationally watched this summit closely. More efforts will be forthcoming, but this summit was a real sign of how serious and timely the issue has become.

It’s important to note that the bills do not intend to penalize those engaged in innocent activities such as car maintenance or legitimate university or corporate research. The goal of the legislation is to take appropriate actions available to the state Legislature to provide public assurance of security. These bills will help in that regard and in the larger goal of advancing this important and useful technology.

Hacking into a vehicle’s computer information system poses a significant threat to the security and safety of the auto’s driver and to the safety of others. We must take this threat seriously and enact laws to help prevent these crimes.

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 announces Southgate event honoring Vietnam era veterans

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Thursday announced that he is sponsoring a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 13 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. 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 event, made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (VWC), will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13, at VFW Post 9283, 16200 Dix Toledo Road, in Southgate.

Those planning to attend should RSVP to Southgate VFW Commander Bill Ainsworth at commander9283@gmail.com.

The senator will provide a Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pin to U.S. veterans 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.”

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.

Spinal Column: Growth in Oakland County indicative of economic turnaround across Michigan

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Common sense reforms and responsible budgeting continue to help energize Michigan’s economy, which is the fastest growing in the Midwest. Our jobless rate is now 4.7 percent — the lowest it’s been in 15 years. This represents the largest unemployment decrease in the nation over the past seven years.

The Legislature recently wrapped up work on the annual state budget, and for the sixth year in a row, we finished it months ahead of schedule.

Timely budgeting, coupled with the Legislature’s commitment to removing barriers to growth for job creators, have helped stimulate an increase in the personal wages of Michigan residents. According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), there was a 4.2 percent increase in per capita personal income last year, which represents the fourth largest increase in the nation.

Five times in the past six years, Michigan’s per capita income grew faster than the national average. In 2014, the average wage per manufacturing job created was $64,000.

According to the MEDC, Michigan has also achieved these notable results the past several years:
•    460,000 new private sector jobs have been created in the state since December 2010, the sixth highest number of new jobs in the United States;
•    Michigan is the top state in the nation in the number of manufacturing jobs created;
•    66 percent of U.S. manufacturing jobs in 2015 were created in Michigan;
•    28 percent of new jobs created in the state are in manufacturing; and
•    26 percent of Michigan’s total job growth is due to professional and business services, with 105,000 jobs added between December 2010 and December 2015.

An aid to new growth throughout the state has been the Michigan Business Development Program. This is an incentive program available from the Michigan Strategic Fund, in cooperation with the MEDC. The program is designed to provide grants, loans or other economic assistance to businesses for highly competitive projects in Michigan that create jobs and/or provide investment.

Two local communities recently benefited from such grants.

Daifuku North America Holding Company, a subsidiary of one of the largest material handling companies in the world, plans to construct a new headquarters building in Novi to take advantage of the competitive engineering talent market and robust automotive industry in Southeast Michigan. Expected to generate more than $15 million in capital investment and create 85 new jobs, the project received a $700,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Daifuku chose Michigan over a competing site in Ohio.

A project scheduled for Wixom also was recently awarded a Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The TREMEC Corporation was established in Michigan in 1975 and has been involved in the supply of high performance vehicle transmissions, torque transfer solutions and transmissions for commercial, military and heavy duty markets.

The company plans to lease and equip a new building in Wixom and invest approximately $54 million into the U.S. operations, creating 133 jobs. As a result, the project has been awarded a $731,500 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Indiana, Ohio and Mexico.

The cities of Novi and Wixom are supporting these projects with property tax abatements.

I am thankful for the growth in Novi and Wixom — and in Michigan as whole. By working together, we can keep the momentum going and build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren.

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.

Kowall announces Albion event honoring Vietnam era veterans

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Friday announced that a Vietnam veteran lapel-pinning ceremony will be held on Saturday, Aug. 6 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

The ceremony will be part of the Albion American Legion Post 55 Annual Veterans Picnic for all veterans and their families. The lapel-pinning will pay tribute to the men and women who were too often forgotten when they returned home.

Kowall, R-White Lake, encourages all interested residents and veterans to attend. He said that the event, made possible in part by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration (VWC), will begin at noon on Saturday, Aug. 6, at Albion American Legion Post 55, 1230 Edwards St, in Albion. The lapel-pinning will begin at 2 p.m.

Those planning to attend should RSVP to the American Legion at 517-629-9300.

District Director Lynn O’Brien will represent Kowall at the ceremony. O’Brien will be assisted by the Daughters of the American Revolution of Michigan in providing 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 DAR of Michigan are also partners of the VWC.

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,” Kowall 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 ceremonies 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.”

Kowall said that Joanna Lauren will sing the National Anthem to open the ceremony. Lauren performed the National Anthem at the “Michigan Says Thanks” event last October at the Capitol.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Kowall has held numerous lapel-pinning events, 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.

REMINDER: Kowall and Booher honoring Vietnam era veterans during West Branch event

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

The senators are 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, R-White Lake, and Booher, R-Evart, will present lapel pins.

The lawmakers 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 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.

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.

The Detroit News: The nation’s economy and security depend on reliable Soo Locks

By Sen. Mike Kowall, 15th District, and Sen. Wayne Schmidt, 37th District

Because of the vital importance of the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie to national and international commerce, Michigan plays a critical role in ensuring the economic health and security of the United States.

In manufacturing, steel is king, and the prime ingredient in steel is iron ore. An astonishing 99 percent of the usable iron ore in the United States comes from mines in Michigan and Minnesota.

Nearly 80 percent of that iron ore travels on massive freighters (some more than 1,000 feet long) through the Soo Locks before arriving at steel mills hundreds of miles to the south. Iron and other cargo that travel through the locks account for a tenth of the nation’s economy.

It would be difficult to overestimate the value of the Soo Locks. Michigan State University Professor Dr. Peter J. Kakela authored a research report in 2013 titled “The Economic Value of Iron Ore Transiting the Soo Locks” and presented the report to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to Kakela’s report:
•    The direct value of the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks in 2012 was $5.4 billion;
•    The direct value of the steel made in the U.S. from iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks in 2012 was $15.7 billion;
•    The direct value of steel-intensive consumer products (such as automobiles) made from this steel was $287.5 billion;
•    The indirect and induced value attributed to the iron ore, steel, and consumer products listed above was an additional $212.9 billion;
•    The total dollar value attributed to the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks in 2012 was $500.4 billion, or 3.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product; and
•    More than 650,000 thousand jobs depend on the iron ore shipments.

These are staggering numbers. They paint a picture of the massive economic significance of the locks — which also are of critical importance to national security.

Unfortunately, only one of the four Soo Locks — the Poe Lock — is large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes. That is of grave concern.

According to a report by the Department of Homeland Security, if the Poe Lock were to shut down for six months, the U.S. would enter a significant recession, with a loss of up to 11 million jobs nationwide.

The situation is urgent. Upgrades to the Soo Locks are needed to ensure national security and unfettered commerce through the Great Lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested funding to conduct a study crucial to moving forward with the construction of a second, large lock. The Economic Reevaluation Report would examine the economic benefits and costs of replacing the two smallest locks — the 100-year-old Davis and Sabin locks, which are rarely used — with a lock similar in size to the current Poe Lock.

Senate Resolution 105, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Schmidt, addresses the need to upgrade the locks. The resolution encourages the president, the Congress of the United States, and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget to support plans to upgrade the Soo Locks, and it urges them to approve the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ reprograming request to fund an Economic Reevaluation Report for replacing the Davis and Sabin locks.

Today we again call on President Obama, the Congress, and the Office of Management and Budget to take action. Our nation’s economy and safety depend on working, reliable Soo Locks.

This column first appeared in The Detroit News. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader and a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, is the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.

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: A cargo ship passes through the Poe Lock in Ste. Sault Marie, the only one of the four Soo Locks large enough to accommodate the modern vessels that commonly traverse the Great Lakes.

Sen. Kowall to introduce ‘Uniformed Lives Matter’ legislation

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Friday announced he is preparing to introduce legislation that would treat attacks on law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel as hate crimes under state law.

Kowall plans to formally introduce the “Uniformed Lives Matter” legislation at the first possible opportunity when the Senate returns to session.

“Last night’s cowardly, murderous attacks on Dallas law enforcement officers represents an unconscionable act of aggression. The brutal slaying of these police officers while they were attempting to protect peaceful protestors of the Louisiana and Minnesota incidents cannot be tolerated,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “These premeditated attacks, combined with the tragic events of the past week, illustrate we have much to do in order to make our nation safe for all members of society.”

Kowall will conduct both public and private discussions with colleagues, the law enforcement community and concerned citizens. Additionally, Kowall will be convening meetings with lawmakers and state budget officials to pursue a more aggressive timeline for body cameras for Michigan police officers.

“Until we have the backs of the dedicated men and women who put themselves in harm’s way for our safety, we will be unable to protect any other members of our society from the threat of hate crimes,” Kowall said. “While this tragedy occurred elsewhere, we must take immediate action to ensure it does not happen here in Michigan.”

Kowall is Michigan’s Senate majority floor leader. He has previously served as public safety director for White Lake Township in Oakland County.

Reminder: Kowall hosting Oscoda event honoring Vietnam era veterans

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall on Wednesday reminded interested parties 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.

“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.