By State Sen. Margaret O’Brien

It’s been an exciting time settling in to the senate and getting acquainted with my new collegues and staff. Here’s a summary of what’s been going on for me:

Swearing in – On January 14th, I was joined by my family and close friends as I was sworn in as your State Senator for Kalamazoo County. It is an honor to represent you, and I continue to work hard for our community and state.

State of the State – Governor Snyder shared the State of the State on January 20th. He provided an overview of the last four years and Michigan’s progress. Michigan has improved in a number of areas including employment and economic outlook while still needing to improve in other areas including obesity and educational attainment goals. Michigan’s unemployment rate is at its lowest point in 12 years at 6.3%. Over 300,000 private sector jobs have been created and since December 2010, the number of unemployed Michiganders has dropped by more than 230,000.

While Michigan has made significant progress, there is still more work to do. The Governor laid out his proposal for Michigan’s future including needing to expand vocational/skilled training educational opportunities, ensuring state social programs are people focused while providing real results and continuing our focus on the economy.

I was pleased that Governor Snyder specifically mentioned my work on education issues and asked that the Legislature support the bills Representative Zemke and I proposed last year. While I work on a number of issues, education remains a top priority. If you would like to watch the State of the State, you can find the link here: http://www.michigan.gov/Snyder/

Leadership Positions: In the Senate, Tonya Schuitmaker was re-elected President Pro Tem. I was elected Assistant President Pro Tem. We both received unanimous votes from Democrat and Republican colleagues. Tonya and I will share presiding duties over the Senate with Lt. Governor Brian Calley. In the House, Aric Nesbitt was elected Majority Floor Leader. Kalamazoo County continues to elect leaders to the Michigan House and Senate.

Committee Assignments – The Senate named committees, and I was asked to Chair the Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security. I look forward to finding ways to serve our brave men and women who have given so much to our country. Western Michigan University is recognized nationally for their service to veterans. Unfortunately, Michigan lags the nation. We can and must do more to ensure our veterans have the same educational and employment opportunities that everyone else has. If you have any thoughts or ideas, please contact me. Additionally, I was named Vice Chair for Banking and Financial Services and was appointed to the Health Policy and Insurance Committees.

Staff – Many of you have interacted with Stephanie Bogema and Alex Morris when I served as a State Representative. Stephanie and Alex moved to the Senate with me, and we were joined by John McNamara, Leta Howard and Megan Hicks. All of us are ready to help you, and please feel free to email or call.

Website – It has been a busy January, and my Senate website is up and running. You can visit it at http://www.senatormargaretobrien.com/. Please let me know if there is additional information you think would be helpful. You can also follow us on Facebook by checking out my page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/State-Senator-Margaret-OBrien/.

Local Office – We have opened our local office at 157 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Suite 170, Kalamazoo, MI 49007. While we are still working to move in and make it ready for your visits, please feel free to stop by if you are in the area. Megan is the primary person for our local office. Regular office hours and an open house date will be announced in the future.