State of the State: U.P. leading the fight against drug addiction

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The creation of jobs, a rise in tourism thanks to the "Pure Michigan" campaign and success in fighting drug addiction -- just some of the topics covered Tuesday evening in Governor Rick Snyder's eighth and final State of the State address.

Snyder specifically touched on the success of Escanaba Public Safety's Angel Program, less than a year old but already showing positive results.

The program allows those suffering from drug addiction to turn themselves in without fear of arrest, to get the help they need.

"It's called the Angel Program and it was started by two individuals who are not here tonight, but I want to recognize them. Lt. Rob LaMarche of the Department of Escanaba Public Safety and Delta County prosecutor Phil Strom," says Snyder.

"And the goal isn't to arrest you, but to get you counseling. And it did so well up in Escanaba and that part of the state, I want to thank the Michigan State Police for doing it statewide. We've rolled it out across all of Michigan. And I can tell you, we've saved lives already."

Jake Putala, 18, a recent Baraga High School graduate and student at Lansing Community College is already heavily involved in politics. Tuesday night, he had the chance to see Governor Snyder's speech live in Lansing.

He feels we're moving in the right direction, working to keep talented youth in the U.P. employed in the skilled trades.

"In terms of school funding, the governor is making the largest per pupil investment in the past fifteen years, in terms of education spending," says Putala. "So that will help our K-12 schools tremendously. It'll put more money back into the schools and classrooms. And I think it's needed and it's really positive for schools all over Michigan."

State Senator Tom Casperson echoed this idea and says, the U.P. is actually setting the example for the rest of the state.

"Really, in some cases, we've been leading ... we've been on the cutting edge. It was really some folks in Marquette that had this idea, the concept, of working with kids ... of keeping them in high school one more year if they're going into these types of professions," says Casperson. "And it would be a way for them to save a little money, give K-12 a little more responsibility with the kids and ultimately, help them on their way, in the skilled trades."

But 109th District State Representative Scott Dianda says, while the governor talks about education, he hasn't followed through with the necessary funding to make these programs a success.

108th District State Representative Beau LaFave says, he agrees with the governor's take on a variety of U.P. centered topics.

"I agree with Governor Snyder. We do need rural broadband in ever corner of Michigan. That should be one of our top priorities," says LaFave. "I also think that it's incredibly important to stop the [invasive species] Asian Carp. And I agree with him when he says, if the federal government isn't willing to stop the Asian Carp, than we will."

LaFave added, he's disappointed that Snyder did not address the high cost of auto insurance but looks forward to working with the governor in the future and finding a solution.

The governor concluded with the idea that civility in government is something need right now, more than ever. This comment struck a cord with Casperson, as he and many others tonight thought of the late State Representative of the 109th District, John Kivela -- who many call a shining example of what it meant for lawmakers to reach across the isle and get things done.

"First thing, came to my mind, and I have to believe a lot of us in the U.P. would've thought about it ... I was thinking about John Kivela and the example he left us.
The memories came back, when he talked about that. John was an example of that. He wasn't out to get people. If you were a Republican, he didn't care. If you were
If you were willing to work with him, he was going to work with you."

Again, this was Governor Snyder's final State of the State address. Other topics included the thousands of miles of trails in our state and improvements made in healthcare.