Soo Evening News: Senator Peters visits the Sault

United States Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) paid a visit to Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday to talk about federal and state issues going on in the Senate that are affecting the city and the Great Lakes area.

The first-term senator from Pontiac discussed his efforts to create a more bipartisan approach to the senate. He believes that by entering the senate in 2014 as the only democrat alongside 12 republicans, he has become more inheritably open to reaching across the aisle to get legislation passed.

Compared to the House of Representatives, the Senate is more collegial in their approach to get legislation passed the junior senator said. Furthermore, compared to the House, it is easier to get support for local bills.

A piece of bipartisan and bicameral legislation introduced by Peters, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and congressmen Jared Polis (D-CO) and Tom Reed (R-NY) called the Making Education Affordable and Accessible Act (MEAA) aims to assist high school students gain college credits through dual enrollment 

“Students come in with a lot of debit. It’s a burden,” said Peters in a meeting with The Sault News Thursday morning. He noted that high schoolers could complete upwards of 20 credits before they go to college if the act takes place.

His proposal for dual enrollment courses being more readily available could prove to be beneficial to universities, community colleges and high schools as well as students. For students, the cost of tuition would be less by eliminating close to a year from their degree, and for higher education, it could breed more dedicated students.

Outside of higher education, Peters wants to help change the financial structure for career schools. He would like to make Pell Grants available for future welders, mechanics and other technical workers.

Another issue affecting the EUP that Peters is in the early stages of litigating is getting funding for the Soo Locks secured. The Davis and Sabin Locks are no longer used for large vessels. Most traffic directs into the Poe Lock, and with the heavy dependence on the Poe, the threat of it breaking could have large ramifications.

“This is not a regional issue. This is a national issue,” said Peters. “A closure of the Locks would have [impact]… not just for the state, but for the country.”

The senator said he’s working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to estimate the required funding, which could be upwards of $500 million, needed to potentially build a new lock. He estimated that any prolonged type of closure to the Locks could potentially bring on a national recession.

For legislation such as potential Locks funding, the senator says that the senate becomes more regionally split than partisan split. The hardest part would be getting support from senators not closely tied to the Great Lakes and the surrounding states he said.

By:  Nick Nolan
Source: Soo Evening News