Spinal Column: Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week reminds us to be diligent

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Here in Michigan, we are blessed with a superabundance of lakes, rivers and streams, and now that summer is here, many of us have already been out boating, fishing and swimming in them.

As we enjoy our time on the water, it is important to remember that Michigan still faces serious threats to our waters that could devastate our natural resources and economy.

Aquatic invasive species present a significant risk to the ecosystem and overall health of the Great Lakes. As more and more invasions have been tracked in the region, it has become apparent that unless sweeping measures are taken, the health of the basin, its habitat and the fishery will continue to decline.

The first week of July has been designated Aquatic Invasive Species Awareness Week. This week is a time to remind everyone of the critical role they can play in the fight against aquatic invasive species.

Residents are encouraged to increase their understanding and awareness of aquatic invasive species and their ecological and economic impacts, and to take preventative measures to help stop the spread and introduction of these species in Michigan.

An invasive species is one that is not native to an area and whose introduction causes, or is likely to cause, economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.

A few years ago, I was the lead sponsor of a package of bills, now law, that addressed continued threats posed by the illegal introduction, possession, use, transfer or sale of prohibited aquatic invasive species.

That law has increased the fines for the illegal possession of aquatic invasive species; allows for the seizure of all equipment used in the introduction, possession and sale of these species; allows for the suspension of related commercial licenses; and suspends the responsible party’s right to fish and hunt in Michigan.

More than 180 nonindigenous aquatic invasive species have been introduced to the Great Lakes, many of which are displacing native species, disrupting habitats, and degrading natural, managed and agricultural landscapes.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has reported that the invasive species bighead and silver carp are spreading to lakes, rivers and streams in the Mississippi River and Great Lakes region. They are not yet established here but are well-suited to the climate of the region.

Biologists expect that if these carp establish themselves, they will significantly disrupt the food chain that supports the native fish of the Great Lakes, diminish fishing opportunities and reduce the desire for recreational boating activities in areas inhabited by these fish.

We must remember that we are the first line of defense in preventing the accidental spreading of invasive species. If we’re boating or fishing, we can take a few proactive steps to avoid accidentally spreading invasive species, such as washing boats and trailers before leaving access areas and drying boats and equipment for at least five days before launching them into a different body of water.

We all treasure the beauty of Pure Michigan. May we do all we can to keep it beautiful.

For more information about aquatic invasive species, visit www.michigan.gov/Invasives.

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.

Reminder: Kowall to host a joint event on Saturday honoring Vietnam era veterans in Holly

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall reminded residents on Monday that he is sponsoring a formal Vietnam veteran lapel pinning ceremony this Saturday, June 23 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Kowall, R-White Lake, and the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center are hosting the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families” in Holly to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. They encourage all interested residents and veterans to join them in paying 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, will be held at 11 a.m. this Saturday, June 23 at Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Belford Road, Holly.

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.”

Retired Maj. Gen. James Jackson, director of the Department of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director James Robert Redford and former Vietnam era Petty Officer 3rd Class Hospital Corpsman Ina Golden.

The master of ceremonies will be veteran advocate and retired U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard Col. Frank J. Walker. Singer-songwriter Mike Beauchamp will perform a patriotic selection of songs, including the national anthem and God Bless America.

For questions or to RSVP, contact Joe Mishler, U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran and Holly Area Veterans Resource Center director, at jmm1967@comcast.net or 810-348-9960.

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally 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 for 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 ceremony is a way to recognize 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 has held numerous events, in both 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.

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

Legislature sends budget to governor

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — The state Legislature passed a fiscal year 2019 budget on Tuesday that includes increases in road funding and K-12 education and a hefty investment in school safety, said Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall.

The combined 2018 and 2019 budgets include $58 million for school safety and $330 million more in road funding — bringing the total new investment in Michigan roads to $2.4 billion since 2017.

“Under this budget, most schools will see the largest per-pupil increase in 17 years, once again increasing funding for our schools to record levels,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “We continue to encourage economic growth and make government more efficient and effective with taxpayer dollars.”

Kowall said that the budget demonstrates Senate Republicans’ commitment to fiscal responsibility. The state’s rainy day fund has been increased to $1 billion — from a $1.8 billion structural deficit eight years ago — and for the eighth consecutive year, Senate Republicans have balanced the budget ahead of schedule.

Some of the budget highlights include:

Education
The K-12 budget invests $14.8 billion in education, which is the most in state history. The K-12 foundation allowance has been increased between $120 and $240 per pupil, representing the largest per-pupil increase for most schools in 17 years. With this budget, state funding for our schools will have increased by $2.2 billion since fiscal year 2011.

School Safety
The budget invests $58 million in school safety initiatives to keep our students safe. This includes increased funding of $3 million for the OK2SAY program, an investment of $30 million for mental health support services within schools, and increased funding for school safety security grants to $25 million.

Jobs and the Economy
The budget fully funds the $100 million Marshall Plan for Talent initiative and invests $40.9 million in Going Pro skilled trades training to prepare workers for in-demand jobs.

Fixing Michigan’s Roads
The budget puts an additional $330 million into fixing our roads and bridges. With this budget, we will have cumulatively added a total of $2.4 billion to our roads since 2017 as a result of the road funding package and prioritized spending.

“Michigan’s recovery from the barren years of the lost decade is a strong one,” Kowall said. “Today’s budget continues to emphasize the importance of jobs, the economy and schools.”

The budget now heads to Gov. Rick Snyder to be signed into law.

Kowall reminds residents of weekend of free fishing

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — State Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall reminded residents on Wednesday of a great opportunity to take advantage of one of the favorite summertime activities of Michiganders at no cost.

“Michigan’s annual Summer Free Fishing Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, June 9 and 10,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “From the Great Lakes and our inland lakes, to our rivers and streams, we are blessed with an incredible amount of prime fishing areas. This weekend, we can fish them for free.”

Kowall said residents and nonresidents alike can fish without a license on these two days, though all other fishing regulations still apply. Entry into state public boating access sites, state parks and recreation areas is free of charge.

Since 1986, Michigan has celebrated the free weekend as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources and to give families a great chance to pass along the joy of fishing to the next generation.

The Summer Free Fishing Weekend concludes the Michigan Boating Week, an annual celebration of the great outdoor activities offered by the state. It is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Michigan Waterways Commission and the Michigan Boating Industries Association.

The week-long event offers many opportunities to start boating, get back onboard or learn some new skills to use on the water. For more information, including a list of activities across the state, visit www.Michigan.gov/FreeFishing.

Kowall said Saturday and Sunday also mark one of the summer’s free ORV weekends, a time off-road enthusiasts can ride Michigan DNR-designated routes and trails without an ORV license or trail permit. Riders can find out more at www.Michigan.gov/ORVInfo.

To encourage visitors to visit a state park during the weekend, the state is waiving the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks.

“Michigan’s great outdoors offer us a remarkable array of opportunities for adventure,” Kowall said. “I encourage everyone to take advantages of some of these opportunities this weekend.”

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

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall announced on Wednesday that he is sponsoring a formal Vietnam veteran lapel pinning ceremony on Saturday, June 23 in commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the war.

Kowall, R-White Lake, and the Holly Area Veterans Resource Center are hosting the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Event to Thank and Honor Vietnam Veterans and Their Families” in Holly to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam War era veterans and their families. They encourage all interested residents and veterans to join them in paying 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, will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 23 at Great Lakes National Cemetery, 4200 Belford Road, Holly.

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.”

Retired Maj. Gen. James Jackson, director of the Department of Defense Vietnam War Commemoration, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director James Robert Redford and former Vietnam era Petty Officer 3rd Class Hospital Corpsman Ina Golden.

The master of ceremonies will be veteran advocate and retired U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard Col. Frank J. Walker. Singer-songwriter Mike Beauchamp will perform a patriotic selection of songs, including the national anthem and God Bless America.

For questions or to RSVP, contact Joe Mishler, U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran and Holly Area Veterans Resource Center director, at jmm1967@comcast.net or 810-348-9960.

The Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally 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 for 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 ceremony is a way to recognize 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 has held numerous events, in both 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.

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

Oakland Press: June Is Internet Safety Month

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Things have changed. In today’s world, social media and social networking are increasingly important in people’s lives. This is much different than the world of only fifteen years ago.

Facebook, the most popular social media service (more than 2 billion users!) is just 14 years old. Twitter has been around for 12 years, Instagram for eight, and Snapchat for seven.

Clearly, we recently have been undergoing a kind of technological and social revolution.

During a revolution, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the changes.

Because this technology has been embraced by youth, it is incumbent upon parents to be aware of some of the possible dangers that can occur when our kids head online.

June is recognized annually as National Internet Safety Month as a means to spread awareness of the various ways residents can keep themselves and their families safe online.

It is significant that we turn to this issue in June, the beginning of summer. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, children and teens aged 8-18 spend an average of 7-and-a-half hours each day during the summer with electronic devices — where they may be vulnerable to cyberbullying, online predators and other criminal activity.

As parents, one of our jobs is to talk to our children and teens about cyber threats. We can follow these steps:

• Only become friends on social media with people you actually know, and never share details like address, school, or even last name with strangers;
• Conduct Internet searches with specific search terms so that they don’t yield unwanted results;
• Install safety filters that limit what kids can see and do online; and
• Before your child visits a new website, check it out yourself.

The Department of Homeland Security’s “Stop.Think.Connect.” campaign has similar tips that also are useful:

Stop: Before letting children use the Internet, set clear guidelines about which sites they are allowed to visit and what they should do if they see something questionable.

Think: Take a moment to be certain the path ahead is clear. Watch for warning signs that may indicate your child is using the Internet unsafely.

Connect: Enjoy the Internet with greater confidence, knowing you’ve taken steps to safeguard yourself and your family.

In Michigan, another way to protect children online is by joining the Michigan Child Protection Registry to block harmful and inappropriate content.

The registry is a service that blocks adult-oriented material from reaching a child’s email inbox, cell phone or instant messenger ID. For more information or to join the registry, please visit ProtectMiChild.com.

For more information on online safety, visit the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative website at Michigan.gov/csi and the National Cyber Security Alliance at StaySafeOnline.org.

Wishing you a safe, secure, healthy and happy summer!

This column 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.