Schuitmaker welcomes Gaines Township veteran to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed Lt. Col. Denny Gillem, United States Army, to the Michigan Capitol for the Michigan Senate’s 23rd Annual Memorial Day Service on Thursday.

Gillem is a resident of Gaines Township and joined Schuitmaker on the Senate floor as members paid tribute to those who gave their lives defending our country.

###

Editor’s note: A print-quality photograph of Schuitmaker welcoming Thursday’s guests is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

PHOTO CAPTION ONE: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, stands with Lt. Col. Denny Gillem of the United States Army on the Senate floor prior to the start of Thursday’s Memorial Day Ceremony.

PHOTO CAPTION TWO: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Army Lt. Col. Denny Gillem stand for a photo next to the Battlefield Cross as it is displayed on the Senate floor.

 

Sen. Schuitmaker welcomes the Rev. Kenneth Klett to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed the Rev. Kenneth Klett and his family to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday. Klett serves as pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Holland and delivered the invocation before Senate session.

###

Editor’s note: A print-quality version of the above photo is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

Photo Caption: Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, stands at the rostrum with the Rev. Kenneth Klett (center) of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Holland, his wife Laurie (center, left), their son Nathaniel and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley after Klett delivered the invocation before Senate session on Thursday.

 

 

Schuitmaker truancy legislation advances to House

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation aimed at keeping students in the classroom.

“While our current law requires children to be in school, it is unclear on what truancy means,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, one of the package’s leading sponsors. “Schools across the state have implemented different truancy policies, which has placed administrators and the courts in a difficult position as they work to remedy attendance problems.”

Senate Bills 103-106 would establish definitions for both “truancy” and “chronic absenteeism” in the state’s school code. Truancy would be defined as having a minimum of 10 unexcused absences in a school year, while chronically absent would be defined as being absent for at least 10 percent of the scheduled school days in a school year, including both excused and unexcused absences, and absences due to disciplinary reasons.

When asked why this legislation is needed, Schuitmaker said students who miss more and more class time struggle academically, face a decreased chance of graduating and are more likely to fall into the criminal justice system. She added that because dropouts are more likely to face prison time, the state has a strong interest in keeping kids in the classroom and ensuring they receive a proper education and skills to succeed.

“Nearly half of the Michigan prison population does not have a GED or high school diploma,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to also look at this as a cost-saving measure. Each prisoner costs the state about $37,500 per year and spends an average of four years behind bars. Those numbers add up very quickly.”

The legislation also includes measures that seek not only to prevent kids from missing class, but also to determine the underlying reasons for student absences. Included are provisions that prohibit children from being suspended or expelled solely for truancy or chronic absence from school.

“Our current system relies too heavily on punishment versus finding solutions,” Schuitmaker said. “More often than not, the response is to suspend the student, which only further removes them from the classroom and resources they need to be successful. This does nothing to address the reason the student was absent in the first place or help find the resources they need to keep themselves out of any future trouble.

“We owe it to our students to ensure that they thrive in the classroom and stay out of the courtroom.”

SBs 103-106 will now go before the Michigan House of Representatives for further consideration.

###

Senate unanimously approves bills to stop female genital mutilation

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would help end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.

Senate Bills 337 and 338, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would ban the practice of FGM in Michigan. SBs 368 and 369, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, would prohibit someone from transporting a girl to have this procedure carried out. Under the bills, both crimes would be felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“While this horrible procedure is against federal law, Michigan doesn’t have a specific law on the books prohibiting it,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to give law enforcement and prosecutors every available tool to end this gruesome practice. We should be prepared to handle the issue on the state level and not have to rely on federal prosecution.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Federal law, which these bills mirror, prohibits anyone from knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age. A violation of the federal law is a 5 year felony.

“It is widely accepted in the medical community that there are no health benefits of the procedure,” Schuitmaker said. “In fact, modern medicine has shown quite the opposite — it often results in significant lifelong harm. It is clear, to me at least, that FGM is used as a mechanism of control over young women.”

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform FGM on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I was shocked to hear that something so horrific is taking place right here in our state,” Schuitmaker said. “I am proud of my colleagues for getting these bills that protect our girls one step closer to the governor’s desk.”

SBs 337-338 and 368-369 passed unanimously and now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

###

FGM legislation approved by Senate panel

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would make it a felony to knowingly transport a girl to have female genital mutilation (FGM) performed.

The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan.

“These are young girls. They are not the ones making the choice to come and have this done,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Somebody is bringing them and, tragically, it is often someone who should be loving and protecting that child, not subjecting them to this type of brutality.”

Senate Bills 368 and 369 make it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to transport a person to have FGM performed.

This action comes after the committee’s recent approval of SBs 337 and 338, which would ban the practice of female genital mutilation in Michigan. That measure was sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge and Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage.

“These bills will ensure that anyone who transports an innocent girl to have this heinous procedure carried out or performs this procedure themselves faces justice,” Schuitmaker added.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The department states federal law prohibits anyone in the country from knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age.

“This horrific procedure will not be tolerated in our state,” said Schuitmaker. “This legislation will help ensure those convicted of this heinous act are held accountable.”

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform FGM on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

All of the bills now head to the full Senate for further consideration.

###

Area lawmakers attend Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Monday joined Sen. Margaret O’Brien and Rep. Beth Griffin to host the annual Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo.

Every May, the lawmakers partner with the Lions Club to connect Southwest Michigan seniors and veterans with organizations and businesses that can provide products and services important to them. Many organizations have a staff member or representative on hand to showcase how their company or organization can assist seniors or veterans. Some even offer free testing or samples.

“This event has continued to grow since it began over a decade ago and is now one of the biggest events of its kind in Southwest Michigan,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Our seniors and veterans are respected members of this state and the expo serves as an opportunity to give back and to express our gratitude for all they have given to us.

“I was happy to be a part of yet another successful year, and I would like to thank my colleagues and all who attended.”

###

Editor’s note: Print-quality versions of the above photos are available by clicking on the images or by visiting the senator’s website at www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

Photo caption one: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, joins Sen. Margaret O’Brien, Portage, and Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan, in welcoming guests to the 2017 Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo.

Photo caption two: Area residents gather around one of the many booths at the Mattawan Lions Club Senior and Veteran Expo.