ESCANABA - State Rep. Ed McBroom was in Escanaba Friday to meet informally with constituents at city hall about topics including health care, seniors' issues, education and current legislation.
AARP Michigan Executive Council members Sally and Jimmy Bruce attended the meeting to discuss the AARP legislative agenda and issues relating to senior health. While the creation of a Michigan health care exchange to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act is a measure supported by AARP, legislative attempts to establish a state-run exchange have failed.
"I suspect that if nothing else changes, Michigan will decide to run it's own exchange in a couple of years. Even though the bill failed to get support at this point there's nothing to stop Michigan from later on implementing its own exchange," said McBroom. "If the program is working - if the Affordable Care Act seems to be working - then I suspect in two or three years Michigan will adopt it's own exchange."
Michigan residents who qualify will be able to enroll in insurance plans using a federally-managed exchange starting Tuesday.
McBroom noted another bill that recently passed the House, which would allow disabled seniors to use a stamp as a valid signature at polling locations. The bill is now in the State Senate. "It was a sensible bill," said McBroom.
Robert Gifford, of Rapid River, suggested the formation of multi-county research groups to determine which schools could possibly be consolidated and to increase the length of the school year to a minimum of 200 teaching days.
McBroom was not opposed to the research groups, but was unsure if they would produce any results.
"Several schools in our area that, from the outside looking in, make sense for consolidation have voted against it, and to take away that kind of local authority, to make that determination is not a popular idea," said McBroom.
McBroom noted he believes funding for transportation for districts should be separated from the per pupil allowance funding, saying that the current system forces schools in larger districts to spend the money on busing rather than education unlike their counterparts in smaller districts.
Despite a preference for restructuring district resources and funding, McBroom said consolidation discussions have value.
"I would like to see ... the concept of consolidating some of our counties downstate taken up," he said. "You look at the size of the counties in the U.P. vs. the size of the ones downstate. They were all constructed around the idea that you could ride your horse to the county seat and home within one day. Well, our counties up here are way bigger than that and we function. I think there's some merit to having consolation discussions."
Acknowledging Gifford's concerns over how American test scores compare to the test scores of students in other countries with longer school years, McBroom said many students in other countries are put directly into job training tracks at younger ages and are not part of the testing pool. This skews the information when these test results are compared to the results of American students, who are tested through high school graduation regardless of higher education goals.
"I don't let the international comparisons trouble me too much because I know that they're not testing the same grouping of kids that we happen to test here in the United States," he said.
McBroom mentioned during the informal meeting that wolf license sales went on sale Saturday. Michigan residents are able to purchase a license for $100 - allowing hunters to take advantage of the current licensing fee schedule before the increase in license fees for all Michigan hunters beginning March 1. A total of 1,200 licenses will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, and up to 43 wolves may be taken by hunters.
"If the numbers bother you - 1,200 licenses to 43 wolves - generally speaking the success rates on wolf hunts in other places is between 2 and 3 percent," said McBroom. "So when you calculate that, we're actually saying the folks in the U.P. are going to have a better than average success rate."