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    B: You are on the education committee. I read that you used to be an educator yourself.

    H: Taught school for 37 years in Byron Center.

    B: Do you focus on education policy yourself or do you do a lot more than that?

    H: I'm vice chair of education policy and I'm also on health policy and children, families and seniors, which takes in a lot of different areas, obviously.

    B: Do you find that being a former educator helps you when it comes to interacting with your fellow legislators and, the fact that you have that experience?

    . H: Well, I actually asked for those three committees and they gave me one, two, three. I'm the only retired teacher who served his whole career as a teacher. There are some that have taught, there's a school board member, there's a school business manager, that are part of the education committee, but they do tend to look to me for my input as an educator. We definitely have a lot of big tasks ahead of us now. When you talk about cutting education there's arguments about sharing higher ed with k-12, and stealing from k-12 to fund higher ed and all that. A lot of different battles going on right now.

    B: When you were a teacher you had to be part of the teachers union, is that correct?

    H: Required to do that. The last few years that I taught we were allowed to pay the same dues to a nonprofit or another organization, the equivalent of the dues. But the problem that the MEA warned me, they said, you know, if you get or when you get an accusation against you, there's no defense for you. It was more of a veiled threat. "You don't want to be without our protection."

    B: And so how do you feel about the budget proposals regarding collective bargaining...

    H: Well, right now the problem we've got is, a lot of the difficulties is that we have really three areas that we can touch in the budget. A lot of the other areas of the budget are federal mandates or federal funding where if you cut a dollar out of Medicaid, you lose about seven or eight dollars from the federal government. So you're slitting your own throat trying to save money. The three areas that we can effect are public education-k-12 and higher ed-are prisons, and revenue sharing-basically cities, townships, and counties. Those are the three areas that we can actually touch.
    We are doing a lot of things, I've got a bill, for example, to try to limit the losses that we're having from illegal immigration, trying to, we're looking at ways to cut waste, fraud, and abuse, we're looking at ways that we can eliminate either duplication, for example if a person's on unemployment that's also working full-time job and cheating the system, we just passed legislation that's put software in that will eliminate the duplication and catch the people that are cheating the system. But when you've got 60% of your discretionary funds are education, another probably 25% or almost 30% is revenue sharing and another 15 to 20% is prisons, the options-we've cut prisons, we've done some privatizing, but what we have left is release prisoners or not send them to prison, which isn't a good choice.

    The governor's proposal to cut 470 from the-it's actually 300 additional from k-12-is a fairly significant cut. Some of my districts, for example Godfrey Lee, and I think some of the teachers are going to be here tonight, they're not only losing 300 per pupil, but they're also losing categorical funds for bilingual education, some of the areas have got upwards of 44% of their, little or no English in their system. Their cuts are closer to 15%. And that's devastating. They're looking at laying off, or at least pink slipping, 45 teachers out of 123 on their staff. That's a significant cut. And then townships, cities, some cities, are in financial bankruptcy, really, so you know obviously Detroit, Benton Harbor, Hamtramck, and some of the districts that haven't been fiscally responsible, so it's a tough cut. I just met with people from the film industry who say "how come are you cutting our film industry?" Well, we don't have a lot of choices. We're at the point where we don't have a lot of choices anymore, and wherever gets cut it's going to hurt, badly. We don't have easy answers any more.

    B: I saw on your website that House Bill 4190, which is that the state has to announce funding by June 15 of each year, what kind, what specific actions...

    H: Right now it's October 1, or the end of September, the 30th of September. Obviously the school has to have its budget announced by July 1st. So my bill is just to try to bring that information at least a couple weeks before they have to have theirs in. We're kind of trying to project a two year budget, that was both the House, Senate, and the governor have said it's a good idea to do that, and it's a goal to do that. Of course the second year budget would be a rolling budget that you can adjust as you go along, and as you see how it's working, and where we're at, and adjust it up and down.

    B: So what kind of specific action can you take in order to advance that policy? So how do you work to see it implemented?

    H: Well, I'm on the education committee and so right now, our focus between now and May 31st is to get the budget done. And the budget is primary on everybody's plan. Tomorrow we have a caucus meeting, our caucus, the republican caucus, I'm sure the democrats are doing the same, with our appropriations chairs looking at what they've come up with and what we're going to propose as a House. The governor's made his proposal, the house is going to make its proposal, the senate is doing the same thing. The governor, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, and Randy Richardville, the leader of the Senate, have been meeting on a regular basis to try to work out the details. The governor has said that he's flexible, you know, what he's proposed is a proposal. But like I say, we're locked in to a lot of tough, tough decisions. I think we're going to see some closer numbers tomorrow.
    Once the budget's done then we can work on changing the rules, and laws, and I've got an immigration bill that says that if you are going to get any benefits-welfare benefits or anything like that-the person that's receiving it has to be e-verified as an American citizen or legal immigrant to the United States and if they're found illegal, they're to be turned over to INS. You know, with obvious, to try to save American tax dollars for American people that have paid in and are actually legally here. That's one area.

    I'm introducing a lot of tenure reform bills, that's not real popular with a lot of my former colleagues. At one point, from what I understand, there was a letter that went out to support staff that called me "an enemy of American freedom," by the MEA, my former union [laughs]. My goal is not to attack the union, my goal is to find a way to make the dollars work. For example, you've got one of the bills that I'm part of and that I've introduced is if the schools have to remove a teacher-say for example the teacher in Kentwood that was found to have had sex with a 15 year old, a tenured teacher-to get rid of that teacher they have to go through a tenure battle in court setting that would cost the school district, because they have to pay that teacher for the time he's going through, and the health insurance, and that teacher would then be paid, it's to his advantage to stall for as long as he can; appeal as many times as he can. To give him an opportunity to be paid all that time. To avoid that, the schools, what they've been doing, a lot of the school districts in the area have done, they'll say "if you leave I'll give you 70 thousand cash", or 90 thousand or 100 thousand cash. So, you know, what we're actually seeing happen is schools are paying somebody off, and the taxpayers a furious: "what are you doing paying a pervert?" You know, basically. Somebody who's molested a child, you're going to pay him? To leave? Well, my bill says that if you in fact have a...teacher that is going to be removed and the board has decided that they're going to go to the tenure, while they're in the tenure battle the teacher doesn't receive his pay; it goes into an escrow account. If he wins, he gets the money. If he loses, the school can retrieve its money. So it allows them to fight the tenure battle. All they have to pay is the substitute and their legal fees and they can retrieve the money if they win. Obviously they aren't going to go for a teacher that they can't remove, if they don't feel they can win the battle.

    Also, 43 school districts in the state of Michigan are, haven't settled contracts for over two years. And the reason they haven't settled contracts is they recognize that if they negotiate, they're probably going to get a cut in pay and they're probably going to have some insurance changes that will, less than with MESA or something like that. So what they're doing is they're saying, "we're just [unintelligible] contract." Well, school districts have been giving step raises, giving insurance increases, and they're losing money, so to move that forward another legislator and I cosponsored it, says that teachers won't get their step raises and any insurance that they have increased, they have to pay for, except if they get married, or have a child, it covers the spouse or the child, but what it does is it brings them back to the bargaining table and moves things forward. Well, obviously that's taking some power away from the union. That doesn't make them happy.

    B: Do you find that your position as vice chair gives you any additional influence on the process?

    H: Influence on some of my Republican colleagues, yes. Probably puts a lot more heat on me because, as a former teacher, I'm going to be a target. Because they know that I have, that I can tell what's happening and I can tell, so yes, it's a tougher spot to be in. My former union members, even my local BCEA-Byron Center Education Association-the president was mad, he came to my office, he and his wife were, you know, pretty upset. But I explained this has to be done to save money so that Byron Center and other school districts like it don't go into financial arrears and end up in an emergency manager situation.

    B: Do education battles tend to play out along partisan lines? Or are there any kind of odd...

    H: Honestly, almost every battle plays out along partisan lines. In the past, obviously, when we were in the minority in the House, what happens is...[interruption]...But it's going to be a tough battle every step of the way. Nobody, everybody wants cuts but not in my program, you know? It's tough. You know, you're going to hear probably a group coming in talking about "shared sacrifice" and the lieutenant governor's going to be hearing some things about the governor's plan, and obviously as of tomorrow or at least the next week or two, we're going to know what the House's proposing, what the Senate's proposing, and see where we end up. It's going to be interesting.

    B: If I could have just one final question...

    H: Sure

    B: Obviously you've had to run for election and raise money and campaign. In your personal experience, what kind of influence, if any, do special interests, unions, individual donors, all those things have?

    H: Honestly, Kevin Green, the former Republican representative for this seat, when he ran spent 125 thousand to get elected. With the primary and the general election, I spent under 25. Total. And there are some fights in the state of Michigan, some legislators even representatives, that spent-or had spent for them-closer to a half million. For one representative. I, being well known in the community, being trusted in the community, people that had me as a teacher, people that I had taught their kids, I had a little bit of an advantage over some of the others. The fact that I was well known; I grew up in Wyoming, I taught at Byron, so I know the district, I know the people, I know the problems and the needs probably as well as anybody. And I'm a conservative, Christian, pro-life, you know, and those areas play well in this area obviously.

    B: So does it ever enter into...

    H: There are lobbyists and lobbyists will try to influence you. I don't take trips, I don't take big gifts. I mean, obviously they can contribute to my campaign, but just know right up front that if you contribute to my campaign it's not going to influence my vote.

    B: Do you think that it influences any of your colleagues' votes?

    H: Oh, I think so. I, obviously, it could influence people. I've got a fairly high ethical standard for myself that I've said if somebody wants to sit down and tell me why they want me to vote for whatever, and they want to buy my lunch, because I've given them an hour of my time, no problem. But if they're going to try to buy me with-for example, there was a plan to take a fishing trip, and actually it was the Speaker of the House that proposed it, and I said, "Who pays for it?" And he said, "Well, it's taken care of by lobbyists." And I said, "I'll pay my own." And I did. He said, "You know, you don't have to do that." And I said, "I know, it's where I've decided to draw my line." But unfortunately you're right; money has become a big problem in elections. I would rather we limited what you could spend. I don't see it happening, because both sides are fighting a battle they're really good at.

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