Proos urges residents to consider giving the gift of a college education

LANSING—A great way for Southwest Michigan residents to help make a child’s dream to go to college come true is to give them the gift of higher education through a college savings plan, said Sen. John Proos.

“Continuing education and higher education are important for a career in today’s economy. They open doors to opportunities for getting a good job, making a good living and enjoying a quality life,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “This holiday season, I encourage Michigan families to consider giving the gift of education. It is easy to do and it’s a gift that can help lead to a world of opportunities for a loved one.”

There are two different college savings plans to choose from in Michigan: The Michigan Education Trust (MET) is a prepaid plan that guarantees tuition and mandatory fees at Michigan public universities, and the Michigan Education Savings Plan (MESP) is a college savings plan allowing families to save for tuition, room and board, and more.

Both options provide tax-free growth and a state income tax deduction for Michigan taxpayers.

Residents wishing to give and those wanting to set up an account for their child should visit the MESP’s website at www.misaves.com for details about the plan and how to donate. Click on “Give a Gift” to donate to a child’s existing MESP college savings plan or to set up a plan as a gift this holiday season. Friends and family can open up a new plan for as little as $25.

For information about the MET prepaid plan, residents should visit www.SetWithMET.com.

“For gift-givers, the site also has a feature that allows them to print a gift certificate that they can give to the child,” Proos said. “I remain committed to building upon our accomplishments to help create good, long-term jobs in Michigan. By helping invest in a college degree for a loved one, residents can give someone a greater chance at landing one of those jobs and having a long and successful career.”

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Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab. 

Proos donates to Toys for Tots

LANSING—Sen. John Proos on Tuesday donated to the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

“I am proud to support a wonderful organization that is dedicated to helping make the season brighter for less fortunate children throughout our community,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I encourage everyone who is able to consider spreading holiday cheer this year by donating a new, unwrapped toy at one of several locations throughout Southwest Michigan.”

Residents can visit www.toysfortots.org to find the nearest drop-off location.

People may also make a financial donation on the website using a secure, one-step process. Toys for Tots is a highly rated charity with 97 percent of donations going to the group’s mission of providing toys, books and other gifts to children.

“There are many ways to make an impact during the holiday season,” Proos said. “In fact, when I made my Toys for Tots donation, I met four local volunteers who were ringing bells, singing carols and collecting money for the Salvation Army.”

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Editor’s Note: A photograph of Proos donating to Toys for Tots is available by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on Photowire under the Media Center tab.

Proos: Consider Amtrak for holiday travels

LANSING—Sen. John Proos is encouraging residents to consider taking Amtrak for their holiday travels, especially with the train service’s recent announcement that it is adding 12 more trains in Michigan during the holiday period.

“Amtrak is a great way for families and tourists to travel without worrying about traffic or gas prices,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I hope everyone has the opportunity to gather with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. For those who are traveling, I encourage you to consider the train when planning your holiday trip. It offers a unique opportunity for riders to sit back and relax as they travel, while also helping ease the pressure on gas prices and reduce road congestion.”

Amtrak is adding 12 additional trains on the Wolverine route between Michigan and Chicago to provide expanded December and January holiday travel options.

The Wolverine route runs three times per day between Chicago and Detroit/Pontiac with stops in Kalamazoo, New Buffalo, Niles and Dowagiac.

The extra Wolverine runs (trains 356 and 359) will operate on Dec. 26-28, 31 and Jan. 3-4 and travel from Chicago to Ann Arbor.

Check out Amtrak.com for further information. Residents may book trips, change reservations and print eTickets through Amtrak’s eTicketing site at: www.amtrak.com/deals.

The other east-west passenger route is the Blue Water, which runs once per day, connecting Chicago to Port Huron. It also stops in Kalamazoo, New Buffalo, Niles and Dowagiac.

“Amtrak ridership is up throughout the Midwest and on the Michigan routes,” Proos said. “The growth in ridership and revenue is good news for both our region and state, and it will help ensure that these routes will continue to give residents and tourists options to enjoy Michigan.”

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Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Proos will be available on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab.
 

Sen. Proos, J&B Medical Supply donate diapers for area families

LANSING—Sen. John Proos teamed up with J&B Medical Supply of Wixom to donate about 7,900 diapers on Friday to the Great Start Collaborative of Berrien County for their effort to collect diapers for area families.

“I am proud to work with J&B Medical Supply to help our outstanding community organizations meet the needs of struggling Southwest Michigan families,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “The diapers we are donating today will be distributed throughout the area to help hundreds of families in need.”

The Great Start Collaborative of Berrien County (GSC) holds a diaper drive each year, with the collected diapers distributed to families through local homeless shelters, home visiting programs and community organizations.

Residents wishing to donate may contact Amanda Williamson at 269-471-7725 ext. 1270 or by email at: amanda.williamson@uwsm.org. More information about the organization is available on their website at www.greatstartberrien.org.

“We are very grateful to Senator Proos and J&B Medical Supply for the donation of diapers for families in Berrien County,” said Melissa Church, parent liaison for the Berrien County Great Start Parent Coalition. “These diapers, along with the diapers we have collected so far from the community will truly bring some relief to struggling families. Diapers cannot be purchased through food assistance programs and many food banks and shelters go through their supplies quickly.”

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Proos participates in annual Stuff-A-Truck drive

LANSING—Sen. John Proos is encouraging residents to make a difference in their community by joining him in participating in the annual “Stuff-A-Truck” drive this week, Nov. 17-22.

All the food and personal items donated during the drive go to the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency (SMCAA) in Benton Harbor, which provides necessary food and personal care items to thousands of local families.

“The annual ‘Stuff-A-Truck’ drive is a wonderful and impactful way to help area struggling families,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “One of the things that makes Michigan’s Great Southwest so great is that our community comes together to help our neighbors in times of need.

“As we enter the holiday season, I encourage residents to join me in donating during this week’s drive. It is simple to do, yet can make a big difference in ensuring that no family goes hungry.”

Residents can bring their donations to Roger’s Foodland at 4039 Hollywood Road in St. Joseph between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 8-10 a.m.

In 2011 and 2012, the drive raised more than $20,000 and more than 30 truckloads of non-perishable food and personal hygiene items. The donations helped assist more than 3,500 people throughout Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties.

Items the SMCAA needs are non-perishable food products (like canned goods, boxed foods and baking products) and personal care items ranging from personal hygiene products to baby supplies and paper products. There are also the options to purchase pre-bagged groceries or to buy and donate a $10 Roger’s gift card. Cash donations are also accepted.

Annually, 97.5 Y-Country and SMCAA partner to put on the Stuff-A-Truck food drive with the help of sponsors, including Roger’s Foodland, Horizon Bank, Farm Bureau Oil Company, Woodland Terrace, Great Lakes Truck & Auto and Packaging Logic, Inc.

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Honor our fallen heroes

LANSING—In honor of fallen Michigan servicemen and women, Michigan’s governor can order the U.S. flag to be flown at half-staff throughout the state – an honor only granted around ten times per year.

Sen. John Proos is encouraging Southwest Michigan families to sign up for an email service to notify residents when Gov. Rick Snyder has made a half-staff order. Residents can sign up for the service at www.michigan.gov and clicking on “Half-staff Flag Alerts” on the right sidebar.

“The United States flag is a living symbol of American liberty and spirit and flying it at half-staff is one of the greatest tributes we can offer to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I encourage all Southwest Michigan families to sign up for this simple service so that they can participate in honoring our fallen heroes.”

Proos also encouraged residents to follow the U.S. Flag Code while displaying the flag. For information on the code and flag etiquette, residents can visit www.AmericanFlags.org.

“Please give homage to the flag while also properly caring for it, including retiring the flag with dignity if it is worn or tattered,” Proos said. “People with flags that are too worn to continue service can contact the Boy Scouts or their local Veterans of Foreign Wars or American Legion post. They often provide flag retirement services.

“For residents who want to buy a flag or need to replace a retired one, flags that have been flown over the Michigan Capitol are available through my office.”

Residents can order 3 feet by 5 feet U.S. or Michigan flags at manufacturer prices by calling Proos’ Senate office at 517-373-6960 or by emailing SenJProos@senate.michigan.gov.

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Editor’s Note – The above photo is available by visiting Proos’ webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab. 

Proos speaks on the importance of talent development at manufacturing summit

LANSING—Sen. John Proos spoke Wednesday on manufacturing talent development as part of a legislative panel at the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) third annual Manufacturing Talent Summit in East Lansing.

“Manufacturing is a vital part of what has made Michigan great, and it is key to our success in the future,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I am honored to be a part of the efforts of MMA and others to help implement strategies to ensure our young people in Southwest Michigan and across the state develop the necessary skills to keep Michigan one of the leaders in this industry.”

Each year, the Manufacturing Talent Summit brings together manufacturers, education partners and government officials as they tackle the issue of developing and retaining skilled talent for manufacturing in Michigan.

Proos’ bill would update car seat standards, protect children

LANSING—Sen. John Proos is introducing legislation to update the state’s child car safety seat law to ensure the safety of young children and infants in Michigan.

“These bills put the safety of Michigan’s children first,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “My bill is about sending a statement that Michigan takes child protection seriously and that we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of child passengers in our state.” 

Proos’ bill would bring Michigan’s car seat standards in line with recommendations from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics and recent University of Michigan research. 

“Unfortunately, children do not remain in rear facing car seats long enough. Recent studies have found that injuries could have been avoided had children been in the proper seat,” Proos said. 

A companion bill, sponsored by Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, would allow health care professionals to refer parents to a National Child Passenger Certified Technician. It would prohibit health care organizations from preventing their employees from recommending car seat checks to new parents. 

“I co-sponsored this reform after a member of my staff recently had a baby,” Proos said. “Her nurses expressed concern that newborns and other children were being discharged from the hospital into unsafe car seats and they weren’t allowed to say anything.

“I was shocked that health care professionals would be prevented from helping refer families to the right technician to make sure their newborns are safely locked and loaded into their car seats. This bill would ensure that the safety of the child will always be the top priority.”

Proos has always been an advocate for car seat safety. In 2013, with the partnership of local Berrien County Magistrate Steve Doak, Proos closed a loophole in the law that let the parents of kids without a car seat off the hook. It is Public Act 35 of 2013. 

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Editor’s Note –Audio comments by Proos WILL BE AVAILABLE LATER on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab.

 

 

Michigan diplomas could be first in U.S. with STEM certification

LANSING—Michigan students would get a leg up on earning a job in a high-skilled career or continuing their education under bills introduced on Wednesday.

Senate Bills 1109 and 1110 and House Bills 5904 and 5905 are sponsored by Sen. John Proos and Rep. Amanda Price.

The measures would allow a student to receive a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) certification on their high school diploma. The STEM endorsement would also be visible on student transcripts for future technical training, community college and college application review.

“This initiative is the next step in ensuring that we are doing all we can to help prepare all Michigan students for success and also meet the skilled workforce needs of a growing economy,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “The governor recently signed my legislation to strongly encourage schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or an industry-recognized professional certificate – giving students on-the-job training. Putting this certification on a student’s diploma and transcript will help improve their college resume and their chances to land a well-paying job.”

If the bills are enacted, Michigan would be the first state in the nation to institute such a STEM certification opportunity.  

“The Legislature has worked hard to ensure that our students can pursue their own career opportunities in high school and beyond, because we recognize that education is not one-size-fits-all,” said Price, R-Park Township. “By giving students the option to pursue this certification on their high school diplomas, we are helping them take the next step in their educational careers and encouraging them to pursue their own brighter futures.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has repeatedly called for an increased focus on STEM education in Michigan schools. Recently signed Public Act 288 of 2014 requires the Department of Education to post online information on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges to provide quality STEM education.

“Michigan business leaders and manufacturers are expanding and creating jobs, and they support increased efforts to help students earn the training needed to fill thousands of positions currently available throughout the state,” Proos said.

SBs 1109-1110 were introduced on Wednesday and referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration. HBs 5904-5905 have been turned in and will be officially introduced when the House returns to session in November.

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Governor signs Proos’ human trafficking survivor support bills

LANSING—Sen. John Proos’ legislation to help support survivors of human trafficking was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday.

“America is the land of liberty, yet human trafficking is real and an underground crime hurting the lives of woman and children across the country,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I am proud to be a part of a bipartisan effort to protect our children, support survivors of human trafficking and put an end to this modern-day slavery. With these 21 new laws Michigan now has some of the strongest and most comprehensive human trafficking policies in the nation.”

Proos’ measures, now Public Acts 339 and 341 of 2014, will ensure that trafficking survivors can receive medical and psychological care and allow them to sue their captors for damages and expenses resulting from being trafficked.

PA 339 creates the Human Trafficking Victims Compensation Act, making victims eligible for compensation from those who trafficked them. PA 341 clarifies access for trafficking survivors to medical assistance or other insurance coverage for psychological and medical treatments needed as a result of their ordeal.

Cathy Knauf, founder of the Southwest Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, testified last year in support of Proos’ bills.

“Human trafficking, also known as modern day slavery, is the fastest-growing criminal enterprise in the nation and currently ranks third, only surpassed by drugs and guns,” Knauf said. “This united effort of lawmakers and state and regional task forces is raising public awareness about this dire issue and addressing the need for the changes in recognition and laws.”

Public Acts 324-344 of 2014 include measures to eliminate the statute of limitations for any offense related to human trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation of children, add “Johns” who solicit minor prostitutes to the sex offender registry, create a “safe harbor” for minor victims of trafficking and establish a permanent Human Trafficking Commission.

“This package of legislation is a statement about our dedication in Michigan to protecting women and children and assisting survivors,” Proos said. “As a father, I offer my support and prayers to all trafficking survivors and their families, especially those who have not yet been found or are too afraid to come forward. This effort is about supporting them and working toward a time when there are no more victims.”

Information about human trafficking, including how to identify and report it, is available on the attorney general’s website at: www.michigan.gov/humantrafficking.

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Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Proos will be available later on the senator’s webpage at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab.