Michigan 1st District Representative Dan Benishek says every day he reports to work he feels a sense of pride and honor to be serving the people of northern Michigan.
Benishek is seeking a third term beginning with a challenge from Republican Alan Arcand in the Aug. 5 primary election. Benishek said he has learned a lot in Washington since being elected the first time and he believes his experience and ability to negotiate across party lines will be critical moving forward. Benishek said he was able to get three bills passed into laws, two that directly impacted his district and another that allows veterans group access to government property to use.
"We have really a once in a generation opportunity to really change the VA," Benishek said. "We have been fighting in the committee for 3 1/2 years now to bring to light the issues within the VA and now we have the nation's attention. We have made some changes at the top, but we really need to change the entire system so it's leaner, meaner and more effective. Frankly we can't really trust the VA to do this on their own because nobody is accountable over there."
Another piece of legislation Benishek proposed and passed was a bill that would limit government involvement and rule-making at the Sleeping Bear Dunes Park near Empire. The new law designates 32,500 acres of land that is owned by the federal government "wilderness" and ensures the government can't close or change regulations of the beaches and historical structures within portions of the park.
Benishek said there were some proposed changes to the area by the administrator of the property and if made they could have had a negative impact on the economy in that area. Sleeping Bear Dunes generates $132 million in consumer spending and more than 1 million visitors travel to the dunes. It also supports about 2,000 jobs in northern Michigan.
"That was a huge win for Northwest Michigan because now it ensures the park will have continuous access to the public in perpetuity," Benishek said. "This is really a piece of legislation that will be a model around the country, because it was developed in the local area with the help of local people. People hate when the feds come in and tell them what to do and this helps prevent that. We are happy to get this legislation done."
Benishek said serious issues seem to be born every day in the United States and around the world.
* Immigration reform: "I don't want to see these children hurt, suffer or abused, but the problem was brought on by the president in 2012 when his initiative basically gave the impression that if they got into America they could stay. It is a crisis at the border and we need to get those children back to their own countries. It shows the administration is not serious about the border or holding Mexico responsible for allowing this to continue to happen. Bottom line is we need to secure the border and use foreign aid money to the countries facilitating this to do it."
* Ukraine: "America's position in the world does not seem as strong under this administration as it is in the past. I'm not in favor of sending troops anywhere without a declaration of war, but we also need to take a stance and show we're not going to tolerate this kind of behavior and support our allies. We need to do the things we can do to show them we mean businesses."
* Israel/ Hamas: I don't see how Israel can stand the fact that they are shooting rockets into Israel and not doing something about it. Now they are getting blame for it, like they are the aggressors is just ridiculous. Israel is an ally and the only true democracy in that section of the world and I think we should support them in their efforts to stay free.
* Minimum wage: "The president uses that issue to distract us from the fact that the economy isn't going strong. I don't want to see people living on minimum wage. I want to see people getting good paying jobs and I think the minimum wage is a good stepping stone for a good paying job, but I'm afraid if we raise it, it will give people just entering the work force less opportunity to find work. The minimum wage should be a job you get to gain experience and skills that lead to a better opportunity, not a permanent wage like it could become."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com