Progress on road reforms, safety for children pivotal during 2019 work

December 16, 2019

Rep. Jack O’Malley

Progress on road reforms, safety for children pivotal during 2019 work

Letter to the editor by State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R, Lake Ann), 101st District.

An orange construction pillar wrapped lovingly in a string of Christmas lights sits near the entryway of my office in Lansing. A goofy prop, for sure. But it serves as a tribute to the holiday season, as well as the past 12 months I’ve spent trying to deliver better, safer roads for travelers throughout Northern Michigan.

Quite often in my first year as a state representative and chair of the House Transportation Committee, I was a sponge. I listened to local officials, road builders and drivers to absorb the issues with our state’s roads.

So much time and effort was spent by others this year talking about higher taxes at the gas pump or how much extra money was going to be needed to fix our roads. But I was focused on getting the best value on roads with the money taxpayers already provide. I participated in almost 20 town hall gatherings to receive feedback and formulate a plan – understanding over time that more could be done for local governments to provide options for funding and raising additional revenue, if desired.

That plan is now in motion – giving local communities more tools in their toolbox when it comes to fixing roads. This doesn’t just include the big highways, but provides for flexibility in law with existing road dollars to make roads better from driveway to freeway. We have already moved some legislation through committee – including proposals to let counties, cities, villages and townships spend state-provided road money where they know it’s needed the most through new asset mapping formulas. We plan to continue hearings on these bipartisan measures in the new year. It’s taken time, but I want to make sure we get it right.

There was also movement at the end of this year on a plan I’ve spearheaded involving school bus safety. My bill – part of a broad package – defines who is and isn’t allowed on a school bus and installs stiffer penalties for those who board buses without permission. The common-sense legislation helps keep our kids safer and since public schools and their buses are funded with state dollars, the well-being of children when they are present there is the state’s charge. I’m hopeful to see these proposals on the House floor when session reconvenes in January.

Getting things done constitutes much of the ‘what’ in terms of my goals in Lansing for our historic 100th Michigan Legislature. But listening to you constitutes the ‘why’. I will continue this mindset in 2020 and pursue plans that keep our state on the road to success.

Rep. Jack O’Malley, of Lake Ann, is in his first term in the Michigan House serving residents in the 101st District, which includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties.

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