Lawmakers for St. Clair, Sanilac counties discuss plans for upcoming year

By Tony Wittkowski | City Reporter | The Times Herald

With a new year dawning, a new political landscape for 2015 begins to form as politicians plan for what needs to be accomplished within their region.

In the last November election, voters saw Republicans stake their claim to 16 of the 17 state and county seats in St. Clair County.

Here’s a look at what’s been done and what is hoped to be accomplished by three state representatives within the Blue Water Area who retained their seats for another two-year term.

Dan Lauwers

• Position: 81st District State Representative

• Region of representation: St. Clair County

• Length in office: Served two years and is entering his second term.

Last year, Lauwers helped in the repealing of the personal property tax, which he said was a “real job killer.” While the tax will be phased out over the next few years, Lauwers said it will help put people back in the machine shops that sit empty in St. Clair County.

Dan Lauwers

Dan Lauwers

Lauwers was a part of the legislative team that increased the repercussions for drugged driving after two young men from Yale schools were killed by a driver under the influence of controlled substances.

“That was one of my proudest moments,” Lauwers said. “Getting the bills passed and signed by the governor that brought drugged driving under the same rules and requirements for drunk driving was crucial.”

This year, Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter appointed Lauwers chairman of the Policy Development Committee for the next two years.

“That’s something I’m working on currently,” he said. “As we speak, I’ll be in Lansing over the holiday break to work with other committee members to formulate a plan for the next two years. I get to help pull together the agenda.”

Lauwers said he also wants to promote product development and processing of agriculture products within Michigan. Since the state exports the majority of its food products, Lauwers says there is a real opportunity to bring a lot of money to the state by increasing processing here.

Lauwers serves on the committees on agriculture, energy and technology, as well as the committee of transportation and Michigan competitiveness.

Andrea LaFontaine

• Position: 32nd District State Representative

• Region of representation: Portions of Macomb and St. Clair counties

• Length in office: Served four years and is entering her third and final term.

In 2014, LaFontaine said she delivered another balanced budget and paid down state debt, ensuring future generations would not be stuck with a large bill.

Andrea LaFontaine, state representative

Andrea LaFontaine, state representative

LaFontaine was also part of the “Grand Bargain” financial aid package for Detroit’s pensions as part of the city’s bankruptcy settlement.

“We realized in order for all of Michigan to fully recover, Detroit must recover as well,” she said.

She said she will continue to address education issues in 2015 after helping modify the Michigan Merit Curriculum to allow high school students to have the option to explore more career and vocational training. The change was made to combat the growing concern with workforce shortage in the skilled trades.

While LaFontaine said she hopes to maintain a balanced budget, she said she also plans to continue working on reforming auto insurance in Michigan for 2015.

“One of the most common complaints I receive is the high cost of auto insurance in Michigan,” LaFontaine said. “We hope to alleviate that.”

Anticipating debates on energy policy will be an area of concern for the Republican, as the state moves toward energy independence, she said. LaFontaine said she wants to promote, protect and perpetuate Michigan’s abundant natural resources.

LaFontaine will be chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Committee and will serve on the committees on Insurance, Judiciary and Regulatory Reform.

Paul Muxlow

• Position: 83rd District State Representative

• Region of representation: Sanilac County and portions of St. Clair County

• Length in office: Served four years and is entering his third and final term.

Muxlow said the most important thing he did in 2014 was address the conditions of roads and bridges within his region by receiving grants worth $2.45 million to be used on Sanilac area road projects.

Paul Muxlow, state representative

Paul Muxlow, state representative

He also was instrumental in passing a scrap metal bill to make it more difficult for thieves to sell stolen metals such as copper wiring and plumbing. The bill was passed last spring.

For the coming year, Muxlow said supporting schools will be a priority.

Muxlow said nearly all of the 10 schools in his district are facing declining enrollment. As a result, it has become difficult for the schools within his district to survive financially.

“I’ve always been interested in making sure we properly support schools — strictly kindergarten through 12th grade and community colleges,” Muxlow said. “They’ve gone through a tough time in the last several years. The Legislature has put some extra controls on the schools, and we are looking into a solution.”

Muxlow serves on the House Appropriations Committee and is the chairman of the House Community Colleges Appropriations Subcommittee.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at (810) 989-6270 or twittkowsk@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 31, 2014)

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