Statewide: Put Child Safety Above Politics

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2013 is a new year but the mood in Lansing was forever changed by an event in December of 2012.

In mid December, Republicans muscled through the State Legislature a Right To Work bill. And while he denied it was part of his own agenda, Governor Snyder quickly signed it into law.

To say this development has poisoned the political environment in Lansing would be an understatement. Unions and their members are angry. Democrats are talking about digging in our heels and adopting a program of “JUST SAY NO” to anything the Governor wants from us in the new session. We have the perfect model - Washington D.C. House Republicans have refined JUST SAY NO to a high art form since 2009 in response to President Obama.

But that was not the December event I want to focus on. While some look to mid December political maneuverings in Lansing, others look to a far different event which occurred about the same time - the mass murder of 20 little children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The issue of school safety is now front and center all over America and that includes Michigan.

How we protect our children at school is now a raging public policy issue. Will we solve it in Michigan or will it become an innocent victim sacrificed on the altar of JUST SAY NO?

We have a simple choice before us: will the next two years in Michigan be filled with partisan gridlock or will they be marked by bi-partisan progress?

Make no mistake about this. I am as pro labor union as they come. I opposed right to work with every ounce of energy I could muster. I hope one day we can repeal that terrible law and restore full labor union rights to the workers of our state.

Colin Powell once said… “get mad, then get over it.”

Sandy Hook gave me 26 reasons to get over my anger over right to work.

If we cannot put aside our partisan rancor in the quest to protect our children, we are worthless both as public officials and as politicians. If we engage in a campaign of political payback and fail to properly deal with the problem of school safety, neither party is worth the single vote from even one citizen.

Right after Sandy Hook, I began working with State Rep. Ken Yonker of Caledonia. He is a Republican representing a primarily rural district on the western side of the state. As a big city Democrat, we are polar opposites. But we both are putting Michigan’s children first and hoping politics finishes dead last.

We started meeting in an otherwise empty House Office Building over the Christmas recess and have been hip deep in experts, reports and research. We are learning how other states do it and we are determined to make this work. Other representatives have joined Rep. Yonker and I and nobody Cares if you have a big letter D or R after your name.

The children of Michigan sure don’t care about politics so that petty partisan luxury must now be denied to us. We are no longer Democrats and Republicans. We are only parents of children.