Technology gives people greater access to Senate process

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Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Happy New Year! As we begin 2016 and a new legislative year in the state Senate, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of staying informed and involved with your state government.

I represent more than 250,000 people living across eight northern Michigan counties, and it can be challenging to meet with constituents face to face. Last year, I held regular meetings with 37th District residents over coffee to discuss any and all matters relating to the Legislature and state government. It has been my pleasure to conduct these meetings and I plan to hold even more this year.

While this is one of my favorite parts of being a senator, it is simply not possible to personally meet with everyone. But thanks to our increasingly connected world, it is now easier than it has ever been for residents to stay up-to-date on what my legislative colleagues and I are doing.

Throughout my time in the Legislature, I have also held a series of telephone town hall meetings to interact directly with hardworking northern Michigan residents. These forums allow me to hear from thousands of area families and job providers about their priorities, and they have been very successful.

Another way to make state government more accountable to the people is by being more open — that is, by simply providing more information.

In that effort, last fall, all Michigan Senate televised events were made available via two live web streams — enabling the Senate to broadcast up to two events simultaneously on the Internet. In November, a joint hearing of the state Senate Commerce, Transportation, and Economic Development and International Investment committees about upgrading the Soo Locks was live-streamed from Sault Ste. Marie.

If you’re unable to watch events as they happen, they are all available on demand, so you can stream or download them to watch at your convenience. This new technology significantly increases the amount of material available to the public and makes it easier to follow Senate proceedings for free at www.misenate.viebit.com.

Be sure to also stay up-to-date on news from my office at my website, SenatorWayneSchmidt.com, and for detailed information about legislation, the official Legislature website is a valuable resource at legislature.michigan.gov.

Lastly, the Citizens Guide to the Michigan Legislature is available as a phone and tablet app for iOS and Android devices. Once installed, you’ll find helpful contact information, links to senators’ websites and committee listings, and other information. Search your preferred app store to install the app.

I strongly believe that listening to the people and providing them with information about what the Legislature is doing on their behalf are integral to being a good public servant. And, while northern Michigan families cannot always come to Lansing to see their senators in action during session or at committees, with the help of technology, they can easily keep up with the legislative process from the comfort of their homes.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.