John Proos gives farewell address to Senate

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Thursday said goodbye to friends and colleagues during an emotional farewell speech to the Michigan Senate.

He thanked many people who helped him during his eight years in the state Senate and six years in the House of Representatives — including his staff and family, who were on the Senate floor and in the Senate gallery for the address.

“I rise today with a grateful heart and truly a thankful spirit that I’ve had the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 21st District in Michigan’s Great Southwest,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “We could not possibly do this job without the hundreds of people who support the Legislature and the Michigan Senate. If there is anything that I can leave with this body, it’s the idea of trust. The more trust we build in this chamber, the more opportunity we have for trust to be built in our communities.”

Proos thanked his mom and his wife for their support and love. He also spoke to his children, saying he hoped they knew how much he loved them and how proud he was of them.

“I pray that I have, while certainly imperfect, strived each day to care for the whole person and to seek the will and the good of the other,” said Proos in closing his remarks. “This active and intentional effort has been my single objective while working in the Senate and while working in this great institution with each and every one of you. I pray that this body will continue to serve in the future, remembering the importance of caring for the whole person, and at the heart of this noble endeavor, remains love.

“Thank you all for the chance to reminisce today, and for the amazing chance to serve the people of Southwest Michigan.”

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Editor’s note: Video of Proos’ farewell address is available to view by clicking on the above image or by visiting www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Video.

Sen. Proos welcomes St. Joseph students to Capitol for technology showcase

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Wednesday met with students from St. Joseph High School as part of the 18th Annual Student Technology Showcase at the Capitol.

“It is always great to meet smart and innovative Southwest Michigan students, who are illustrating that today’s modern classrooms are offering exciting new educational opportunities unimaginable just a generation ago,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “The virtual reality experience put together by these students was amazing — made possible by creative teachers, hardworking students and supportive parents.”

The showcase featured exhibits from nearly 40 schools providing hands-on demonstrations of how technology is being used in Michigan classrooms to enhance learning. The event was sponsored by AT&T Foundation and the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL).

The St. Joseph students used cameras to capture 360-degree views of landmarks in St. Joseph, offering people the opportunity to take a virtual tour of their hometown.

While at the Capitol, the students used a 360-degree camera to start the process of making a VR tour that will explain the process of a bill becoming a law.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos are available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.

A print-quality version of the above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Photowire.

Proos honors Bill McBride on 44-year public service career

LANSING, Mich. Sen. John Proos on Wednesday recognized St. Joseph native Bill McBride on his retirement after 44 years of public service to the citizens of Michigan.

“Bill is a fellow Lake Michigan Catholic High School alumnus who has had a long and distinguished career serving the people of Michigan in the state Capitol and the nation’s capital,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Bill has worn many hats over the years, and anyone who was fortunate to know or work with him will attest to his positive attitude and love for our state.

“I congratulate and thank Bill for his many years of dedicated service and wish him the best during his well-earned retirement.”

McBride began his career in the Michigan Senate after graduating from Michigan State University. He went on to serve as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Carl Pursell and U.S. Rep. Vern Ehlers. McBride also served as deputy chief of staff for Gov. John Engler and most recently as director of federal relations for Gov. Rick Snyder.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Photowire.

Proos bill brings tax relief to Michigan microdistillers

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. John Proos to provide a reduced tax rate to microdistillers.

“This initiative would help small spirit producers succeed, promote our state’s agriculture industry, and encourage entrepreneurship and job creation in Michigan’s burgeoning craft distilling industry,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph.

Senate Bill 579 would reduce the state’s overall liquor markup by 2 percent over a period of four years, eventually reaching 63 percent, but only if in the previous year the total state sales of spirits increased by at least 2 percent.

SB 579 would also provide tax incentives for distillers who use Michigan-grown grains. The liquor markup would be reduced to 32.5 percent, half of the current rate, for those distillers who use at least 40 percent Michigan-distilled grain in the distilling process. It would also establish an application process for such distillers to be considered a “qualified small distiller.”

Michigan operates as a “control” state for the sale of spirits with the Liquor Control Commission as the wholesaler for all spirit products. Current law requires the commission to establish uniform prices for the sale of liquor that return a gross profit to the commission of at least 51 percent and not more than 65 percent.

Other reforms in the legislation would implement reporting requirements for the state Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to submit certain information to the commission on qualified small distillers, and establish a penalty of $3,000 for distillers that provide false information to the department.

Proos said the incentives for using Michigan-grown grains would boost the state’s strong agriculture industry.

“Encouraging distillers to use Michigan agricultural products in their distilling process will not only bring them welcome tax relief, but it could also lead to additional growth in the food and ag industry,” Proos said. “This bill is a win for Michigan craft distillers and the agriculture industry, and I encourage my House colleagues to pass this positive reform.”

SB 579 now heads to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos are available at www.senatorjohnproos.com/audio.

Proos applauds organ donor registry milestone

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Wednesday applauded the recent announcement by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that two-thirds of Michigan adults are now registered as organ donors.

“There is a tremendous need for lifesaving organ transplants nationwide and here in Michigan, where over 3,100 residents are currently waiting for a transplant,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Especially during the holidays, it is wonderful to hear that two-thirds of all eligible Michigan residents have signed up to give the gift of life as organ donors.”

In January 2011, only 27 percent of eligible Michigan residents were registered organ donors.

Proos sponsored Public Act 451 of 2016, known as “Lauren’s Law,” to require the secretary of state’s office to ask whether someone wishes to be added to the organ donor registry when they apply for a driver’s license. The act is named after Lauren Shields, who at age 9 was placed on life support while waiting for a heart transplant and helped pass a similar law in New York.

“The goal of Lauren’s Law was to help dramatically increase the number of registered organ donors in our state, and we are seeing its positive results,” Proos said. “I want to thank Secretary of State Johnson for her leadership and her dedication to helping save and improve lives through organ donation.

“While we have come a long way, I want to remind Southwest Michigan residents that there remains a critical need for donors.”

According to Donate Life America, more than 115,000 men, women and children nationwide currently need an organ transplant; every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list; and an average of 22 people die each day waiting for an available organ.

Anyone can join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, regardless of age or medical history.

Residents can sign up at www.michigan.gov/organdonation, by calling 866-500-5801 or by visiting any secretary of state office.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos will be available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.

Proos: Home heating help may be available

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Monday reminded Southwest Michigan residents that winter heating assistance may be available through programs offered by the state, utility companies and community organizations.

“In the wake of the season’s first real winter storm, it is a good time to remind area families that Michigan winters can be harsh and that help with home heating bills may be available,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “First, if you are unable to pay your bills, please contact the utility company ASAP and explain the situation. Being proactive could help keep the heat on and save your life.”

The Winter Protection Plan safeguards seniors and low-income gas and electric customers from service shutoffs and high utility bills from Nov. 1 to March 31. It allows eligible customers to avoid shutoffs while paying nothing or just a small percentage of their annual bill during the protection period. To apply, residents should contact their natural gas or utility company.

“This is a deferment plan, not a financial assistance program,” Proos said. “It is meant to ease the burden of high winter utility bills. However, immediate help may be available if you are facing an extreme hardship or emergency.”

The State Emergency Relief Program offers assistance for low-income residents who may need help due to an emergency. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance.

The site also includes details on the Weatherization Assistance Program and the Home Heating Credit.

“Residents can apply directly for the Home Heating Credit; you do not need to file a state income tax return,” Proos said. “The weatherization program provides free services to help reduce energy use and energy bills. In addition, many community organizations have programs to help ensure that Southwest Michigan residents will not have to worry about how they are going to keep their families warm this winter.”

The Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency also offers emergency aid. Residents may learn more about the agency’s programs by visiting www.smcaa.com.

The Heat And Warmth Fund (THAW) is a leading provider of utility assistance for Michigan residents in need. For more information, visit www.thawfund.org.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos are available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.

MSU student gives Sen. Proos a flu shot

LANSING, Mich. Sen. John Proos received a flu shot on Thursday from a Michigan State University medical student during MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s annual Legislative Flu Shot Day at the Capitol.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and over 80,000 Americans died of the flu and its complications last winter.

“The flu season last winter was one of the deadliest on record,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Although the CDC encourages all residents over six months old to get a flu shot, less than half of Americans get vaccinated each year. It can help protect you from getting the flu and also protect the vulnerable people around you — such as young children and seniors — who are most at risk of a serious flu illness.”

Proos thanked the MSU students for their time to administer flu shots to legislators and staff and offered information on local flu shots for area residents.

Residents can find a place near them to get a flu shot by inputting their ZIP code at www.vaccinefinder.org.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Photowire.

Proos supports state grants to help keep students safe

Senator John Proos

Senator John Proos

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos on Friday congratulated area schools that have been awarded over $1.4 million in grants to make important safety improvements.

“A safe school environment is critical to student success. If kids are worried about their safety in the classroom, it is nearly impossible for them to focus on learning,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Many Southwest Michigan schools have already made critical school safety improvements to keep our children safe, and these grants are another step in an ongoing effort to ensure all our schools are able to provide a secure and productive learning environment.

“These schools will now be able to invest in new technology and safety equipment to improve student safety, and I hope this program continues to help even more schools.”

The Legislature dedicated $25 million in the state budget for the Competitive School Safety Grant Program to help improve the safety and security of school buildings through the purchase of technology and equipment and through school building safety assessments.

The funding was part of a $58 million investment in school safety initiatives, which also included support to improve access to mental health programs and enhance the state’s OK2SAY confidential tip-line program.

Schools in the 21st Senate District awarded grants by the Michigan State Police are:
• Benton Harbor Area Schools — $928,725
• Benton Harbor Charter School Academy — $21,590
• Berrien RESA, Berrien Springs — $22,355
• Berrien Springs Public Schools — $70,890
• Brandywine Community Schools — $228,741
• Countryside Academy, Benton Harbor — $23,726
• Marcellus Community Schools — $75,657
• Michigan Lutheran High School, St. Joseph — $23,396
• Milfred C. Wells Academy, Benton Harbor — $7,460
• Sodus Township School District — $11,699

A complete list of recipients is available at www.michigan.gov/cjgrants. Click on School Safety.

According to the Michigan State Police (MSP), 407 applications were reviewed by a committee that included representatives from the MSP, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, school security personnel and the Executive Office of the Governor.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos are available at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Audio.

Proos reminds residents of Oct. 9 voter registration deadline

Senator John Proos

Senator John Proos

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. John Proos is reminding Southwest Michigan residents that the deadline to register to vote for the November general election is next week.

“America was founded on the revolutionary idea that our government doesn’t give us power; our government only has the power that we, the people, choose to give it,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “This freedom to choose or reject our leaders makes us the beacon of liberty in the world. I encourage all citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, which begins with ensuring that you are registered to vote.”

In Michigan, voters must be registered one month before an election. For the Nov. 6 general election, that means residents need to be registered by Oct. 9.

If you are not registered to vote or if you do not know whether you’re registered, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at: www.michigan.gov/vote. The site enables you to check your voter registration status, find your local county clerk’s office and follow a step-by-step guide to register to vote. For voters who cannot attend the polls on Nov. 6, the website also includes information about absentee voting.

Residents who are not registered can also pick up a registration form at a secretary of state branch or from their local clerk.

For more information, residents in Berrien County may also contact the county clerk’s office at 269-983-7111 ext. 8264 or by email at elections@berriencounty.org. St. Joseph County residents may contact the county clerk’s office at 269-467-5603 and residents in Cass County should call 269-445-4464.

“Every vote matters and sometimes a single vote can make all the difference,” Proos said. “I am proud that we have an engaged population in Southwest Michigan that turns out to vote.”

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos will be available later at www.SenatorJohnProos.com/audio.

Proos honors the late Cass County Treasurer Linda Pruett

LANSING, Mich. Sen. John Proos on Wednesday gave a memorial tribute on the Senate floor during session in honor of the life and memory of Linda Pruett.

Pruett was serving in her 16th year as Cass County treasurer when she died on July 29.

“In July, Southwest Michigan lost a tireless public servant and community leader when Linda Pruett lost her battle with cancer,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Linda was a straight shooter who loved serving the people of Cass County and excelled at her role as treasurer. She was the perfect person for the job. She loved the people that worked for her, had a great relationship with the township treasurers and the county board, and worked in a cooperative effort with individuals facing foreclosure to ensure they had an opportunity to keep their property.”

Pruett was a lifelong resident of Dowagiac and a graduate of Dowagiac Union High School. She raised her three daughters while working from home during the day and at the Elks Lodge on the weekends. Pruett then worked as the juvenile registrar, where she handled the difficult budget for the Child Care Fund. Pruett’s excellent work in that role led to her appointment as County Cass treasurer in 2002. She was elected and re-elected to four additional terms.

“Beyond being an outstanding public servant, Linda was a frequent volunteer for many community organizations and a giving person who was always willing to help and treated everyone like family,” Proos said. “She will be greatly missed and my thoughts and prayers continue to be with her family.”

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