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COLUMN: Margaret O'Brien's Report from Lansing

by
From Kalamazoo to the Capitol
From Kalamazoo to the Capitol

by: State Representative Maragret O'Brien

Report for: March 29, 2012

This week was packed full of items that legislators wanted to address prior to the 2 week In-District Work period. This in-district time is invaluable as we spend so much time in Lansing considering the concerns and ideas of Michigan citizens. I hope to be able to see more of you during this dedicated district time.

Public Employee Question

Senate Bill 1018- This bill addresses a problem that started a few years ago. Independent, self-employed health care providers were unionized against their will when it was determined that if they received any government funds for their service, they were a government employee. I voted yes on the bill which stated that self-employed, independent workers could not be unionized against their will.

This is the core of American Freedom. As a real estate agent -- an independent contractor--  I cannot imagine if I were forced to pay dues and unionize under an entity that had no responsibility for my wages, benefits, daily work, liability or my employment. I voted to stop this injustice. If independent workers wish to unionize, they can, but they cannot force others to join them. This legislation passed the House.

Military

The House also voted to support the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base. The United States Air Force/Department of Defense has recommended removing some military aircraft from the base. This recommendation could result in the loss of many jobs both at the Air National Guard Base and in our surrounding communities. I spoke with people in our community whose jobs would be lost if the recommendation goes through.

Autism

The House passed several bills relating to autism treatment in Michigan. Michigan currently provides special education services to students. These services cost hundreds of millions of dollars each yearfor schools that should be focused on education and not health care treatment. Additionally, there are few resources available to autistic children. With very few providers and little insurance coverage, many children have gone underserved despite the fact that most of them can be helped and can be independent with treatment.

The bills as passed will allocate public funds for researched proven therapies. There are caps on services and families will only be eligible for services that are proven to be beneficial to their child. This will have a positive impact on Michigan taxpayers and families. Michigan will see a positive impact both through taxpayer savings and by also changing the lives for kids.

This legislation will also have a positive impact on our community -- Western Michigan University is a leader in the education of professionals who plan to enter a career serving autistic children. Currently, these graduate and doctoral students leave our state in search of jobs --Michigan does not offer any. Also, Residential Opportunities Inc (ROI) is opening an autism center in our area to serve some of the unmet need. We will be able to partner with these local gems.

This was a difficult decision for many as to how involved should government be in this issue. I voted yes as it is clear we can be better stewards of taxpayer dollars while changing lives.

Many of you will be on Spring Break with your families. I wish you a safe and relaxing time. I hope to see many of you during the In-District work period. As always, please contact me with any questions. You can call me at 877-347-8061 toll free or contact me through my website at www.repmargaretobrien.com.

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