Professional angler, Bassmaster champion and Michigan native Kevin VanDam visits Michigan Capitol

For Immediate Release:
October 29, 2013

Contact:  Derek Sova
(517) 373-0793

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and other lawmakers welcomed four-time Bassmaster champion and Kalamazoo resident Kevin VanDam to the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday.

“Kevin is arguably the best angler in the world and he chooses to call Michigan home,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “We are really excited to honor a Michigan native who has achieved so much success in the world of professional bass fishing.”

Kevin has won numerous awards during his career including four Bassmaster Classic titles and seven Toyota Tundra Angler of Year titles.  He is also the all-time money winner on the Bassmaster Tournament trail.

"Kevin and his wife Sherry are generous with their time and talents. Not only is Kevin a great angler, but he and Sherry are devoted to giving back to their community. We are proud of their accomplishments and that they call Kalamazoo County home," said State Rep. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage.

Last month, Bassmaster held its 2013 Elite Series Toyota All-Star Week and Evan Williams Bourbon Championship on Muskegon Lake and White Lake in Muskegon. The event brought some of the top professional anglers from around the nation to Michigan.

Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, represents the Muskegon area and worked to bring Kevin and other Bassmaster representatives to Lansing. 

“This national bass fishing competition and family-oriented festival was a great success for Muskegon County and one we hope to replicate again,” said Hansen. “We will be showcasing to Bassmaster Michigan’s commitment to the Pure Michigan campaign and willingness to explore new partnerships.”

Kevin grew up in Kalamazoo and discovered his love of fishing on many of Michigan’s pristine lakes. His success began early as he won Michigan BASS Federation Angler of Year twice before turning pro. 

“The beauty of Michigan’s natural resources is unmatched,” said Schuitmaker. “In addition to being one of the top anglers in the world, Kevin is a great ambassador for all that Michigan has to offer to the outdoor sporting community.”

Hansen added: “I am excited that Bassmaster has the potential to bring even more tournaments to Michigan and continue a tradition of excellence.”

Numerous events have been planned in Kevin’s honor. He will be meeting the governor, legislative leaders and the Department of Natural Resources director. He will also be attending legislative sessions and attending a meet and greet with other Bassmaster officials. They are in Lansing discussing ways to strengthen the partnership between Bassmaster and Michigan.

More information about Kevin can be found on his website at www.kevinvandam.com.

Senate committee hears testimony on legislation to protect patients and increase transparency in oversight boards

For Immediate Release:
Oct. 23, 2013

Contact: Arika Sinnott      

Sen. Schuitmaker’s Office:  517-373-0793                 

Contact:  Sen. Rick Jones

517-410-9495 

      
LANSING, Mich.—The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee Wednesday heard testimony on legislation to better protect patients by increasing oversight and transparency at the state’s boards of health professions.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, introduced the measure as a response to evidence that a former Board of Medicine chairman dismissed serious allegations against a Muskegon abortion provider, Dr. Robert Alexander, without investigation and without disclosing their prior relationship.

Sen. Jones testified about the background of this case, and given the serious nature of the allegations told the committee, “This is some of the most important legislation you will work on this year. This is very important to protect the safety and welfare of the people of Michigan.”

During her testimony, Sen. Schuitmaker read the complaint that was originally filed with the Board of Medicine by a hospital physician alleging gross negligence on the part Dr. Alexander.

“The description of what happened to this patient and another patient is absolutely appalling,” Schuitmaker said. “Dr. Alexander endangered their lives.” 

The Michigan Osteopathic Association, Right to Life and the Michigan Catholic Conference all expressed their support for the goals of the legislation. The Michigan State Medical Society expressed their support for the work being done, and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which houses the Board of Medicine and Bureau of Health Professions, was neutral on the bills.

“The facts of this case and the response of the Board of Medicine really call into question some of the practices currently taking place at these oversight boards. When board members are putting personal gain before public safety, that's a problem,” Jones added.

“These are common sense changes we are making,” said Schuitmaker. “It’s not unreasonable to ask board members to recuse themselves when conflicts of interest exist, or to require more than one member to make a determination about whether an allegation should be investigated.”

Senate Bill 575 requires a minimum of three board members to review every allegation brought to the boards.  Currently, a board chairperson has the power to make decisions without consulting other members.  It further prohibits the currently permissible practice of board members testifying as paid expert witnesses in malpractice suits over allegations that may later come before the board to investigate.

Senate Bill 576 requires board members to disclose any conflict of interest that might exist between them and the health care providers they are investigating.

Senate Bill 577 automatically revokes a health professional’s license if they are found guilty of criminal sexual conduct against a patient while acting in their capacity as a health professional, and Senate Bill 578 makes revisions to the law governing decisions of disciplinary subcommittees.

In 2009, allegations were brought against Dr. Robert Alexander by another doctor who treated one of Alexander's patients. Dr. George Shade, chairman of the Board of Medicine at the time, singlehandedly dismissed the allegations without investigating. In 2012, Dr. Alexander's clinic in Muskegon was shut down for multiple health and safety violations. 

Further information showed that Dr. Alexander lost his license and served time in prison in the 1980s and 1990s.  When he applied to have his license reinstated, Dr. Shade served as Alexander's mentor.

 

Sen. Schuitmaker receives Legislator of the Year Award from the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association

For Immediate Release:
October 15, 2013

Contact: Derek Sova
517-373-0793

LANSING, Mich.— State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker was presented with the Legislator of the Year Award today by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association for her work on victim advocacy and her support of law enforcement.

At their 2013 Fall Training Conference in Lansing, the sheriffs organization recognized Sen. Schuitmaker for her contributions.

“Sheriffs and other law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect Michigan's families,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “As a legislator, it has been a privilege to partner with them to advocate for policies that reduce crime and offer better services to victims, and I look forward to continuing our relationship.”

Schuitmaker has worked to give law enforcement the tools they need to prevent and solve crimes. She has been active on the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, headed by the attorney general, focusing on victim services.

Last year, Schuitmaker led the effort to strengthen laws protecting seniors, including sponsoring the Silver Alert law that improves law enforcement’s ability to locate missing seniors. She also sponsored legislation that expands penalties paid by criminals to fund efforts to provide crime victims with the support they need.

Schuitmaker also hosts the Michigan Crime Victim Foundation’s Awareness and Recognition Program each year at the State Capitol. The annual event is an opportunity for victims and those who have lost loved ones to gather in remembrance and share memories. 

Editor’s Note—The above photo is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s webpage at www.senatortonyaschuitmaker.com. Click on “photowire.”

Schuitmaker, Jones fight to protect patients, restore trust in oversight boards with Conflict of Interest bills

For Immediate Release
Oct. 2, 2013

Contact:
Arika Sinnott (Schuitmaker) 517-373-0793
Sen. Rick Jones 517-410-9495 or 517-373-3447     
 
LANSING, Mich. – State Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker and Rick Jones Wednesday introduced legislation to ensure that patient health and safety are put before personal relationships and professional gain by increasing oversight and transparency at the state’s boards of health professions.

“Patients have the right to know that their health care providers are practicing safe medicine,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Most health professionals are wonderful, trusted members of the community, but it is the responsibility of these boards to protect patients from the dangerous ones.”

The legislation comes as a response to evidence that a former Board of Medicine chairman dismissed serious allegations against a Muskegon abortion provider without investigation and without disclosing their prior relationship.

“The facts in the Muskegon case are appalling,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “They clearly show that the Board of Medicine failed in its responsibility to that patient. This legislation will make their actions more transparent and will hold them accountable to the people they serve.”

Senate Bill 575, sponsored by Schuitmaker, requires a minimum of three board members to review every allegation brought to the boards. Currently, a board chairperson has the power to make decisions without consulting other members. It further prohibits the currently permissible practice of board members testifying as paid expert witnesses in malpractice suits over allegations that may later come before their board for investigation. 

“One person should not have the ability to dismiss complaints singlehandedly, especially if a conflict of interest exists. That kind of power invites corruption and severely diminishes a board's effectiveness,” Jones said. 

SB 576 (Schuitmaker) requires board members to disclose any conflict of interest that might exist between them and the health care providers they are investigating, and SB 577, sponsored by Jones, automatically revokes a health professional’s license if they are found guilty of criminal sexual conduct against a patient while acting in their capacity as a health professional.

“When I served as a public member on the Board of Medicine, we focused on getting bad doctors off the streets, not sweeping their misconduct under the rug,” Schuitmaker said. “Hopefully this legislation will restore some of the trust that has been lost as a result of recent failures.”

In 2009, allegations were brought against Dr. Robert Alexander by another doctor who treated one of Alexander’s patients. Dr. George Shade, who was the chairman of the Board of Medicine at the time, singlehandedly dismissed the allegations without investigating. In 2012, Alexander’s clinic in Muskegon was shut down for multiple health and safety violations. 

Further information showed that Alexander lost his license and served time in prison in the 1980s and 1990s.  When he applied to have his license reinstated, Shade served as Alexander’s mentor.

Earlier this year the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jones, held a hearing on the Alexander situation and on conflicts of interest on the boards of health professions.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee.