I had the honor of attending the 2015 State of the State address by Governor Rick Snyder last week in Lansing as the guest of State Representative Klint Kesto. Representative Kesto serves the 39th District in the Michigan House of Representatives, representing the residents of the city of Wixom, Commerce Township, a portion of West Bloomfield Township and the village of Wolverine Lake.
Recently, Klint was in the news for proposing to his fiancée, Delena, on the floor of the House!
It was amazing to be in the State Capitol, shake hands with Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter and rub elbows with the “who’s who” of the state. Sitting on the floor of the House, watching all of the official procedural actions that happen prior to the address was also fascinating. Apparently there are a lot of approvals required prior to holding a joint session of the Legislature and inviting the justices of the Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals.
Finally, the time came for the governor to enter, and the buzz was about which entrance he would use. The governor has an injured Achilles tendon and uses a scooter, so he couldn’t enter through the main doors. He came in a side door, smiling and shaking a few hands on his way.
His address was formatted as a review of 2014 accomplishments and his vision of the future. Unlike most speakers, he asked guests to hold their applause to the end of his speech. Compliance on this request was low!
I was extremely impressed by his focus on transparently sharing results of goals, even including a handout showing the metrics on his scorecard. He was very proud of certain accomplishments, such as passing the state’s Medicaid expansion plan, Healthy Michigan, but acknowledged that there is still work to be done on things such as education.
He asked the Legislature to help him pass the fifth budget next month – delivered on time and balanced.
“Relentless positive action” is a phrase he has used since he first took office, and he revisited it in his address, but not until he was nearly half-way through his speech, which he noted was a record.
His plans for 2015 were laid out with a vision for a “River of Opportunity” for all residents in the State. This includes changing the way Michigan helps the disadvantaged. Currently, Michigan has at least 145 programs residents can access for assistance. He felt that there’s got to be a better, more effective way.
He’s beginning his plan by merging two departments: Community Health and Human Services. He believes merging these departments will help streamline services to some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
Other 2015 plans include:
- a fiscal “scorecard” for local jurisdictions
- a focus on education – especially up to third grade (where reading skills are critical)
- better roads – asking for support of the upcoming ballot initiative for a sales tax increase
- making Michigan first in the skilled trades, and
- providing more protections for our environment.
At the end of the address, Klint looked at me and asked, “So, do you think you might ever be interested in one of these seats?” After recovering from shock, I thought about it and said, “Probably not.” But this experience gave me a brief glimpse into the hard work of our lawmakers.
All in all, the event was an experience that I will never forget.