The event was held at the Herrick District Library and hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Holland area. Present were Republican candidates Rett DeBoer, Daniela Garcia, Joe Haveman and Roger Victory.
The seat is currently held by Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who is term limited and will not be allowed to run for the seat in 2018. The district encompasses Ottawa County.
Democratic candidate Jeanette Schipper and Libertarian Mary Buzuma have also filed to run for the seat, but forums organized by the league only include candidates from one party if they are held before a primary election.
Candidates at the forum were first asked what they thought the solutions are to bringing down Michigan’s high auto insurance rates.
Garcia, who is currently in her second term in the Michigan House representing the state’s 90th district, said the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association needs to be more transparent and held accountable.
Garcia and Haveman said small, incremental changes need to be made to the system as past proposals reforming the entire system have failed.
Haveman is a former Holland city councilman and represented the 90th District in Michigan’s House of Representatives for three terms from 2009-15.
While Victory agreed with the points Garcia and Haveman made, he said it’s time for legislators to stop talking and get the ball rolling on the issue.
Victory, who currently serves Michigan’s 88th House District, is term limited and cannot seek re-election for his house seat in 2018. He is also the owner of Victory Farms in Hudsonville.
The fourth candidate to speak on the issue was DeBoer, who said if the state can bring down the cost of health insurance then the cost of car insurance can come down, as well.
DeBoer has worked with the Ottawa County GOP, is an entrepreneur and was a bus driver for Dean Transportation, transporting special-needs students.
Haveman and Victory said they would be open to the idea of capping the amount of medical reimbursements auto accidents victims could receive in the state as a way to lower rates.
The cap would be set at a very high amount and would impact very few residents if there were one to be set, Haveman said.
The candidates were also asked about their thoughts on funding for public schools and where they see the future of public education going.
“We need strong schools for a strong community,” Victory said. “There are common sense solutions to complex problems.”
Creative solutions to improve education in the state should be on table, Victory said.
While DeBoer said the state needs to be more transparent about where the money allocated to education is actually going. The state needs to be setting aside more funding for education over all, she said.
Garcia disagreed with DeBoer and said funding is the not the issue when it comes to education in Michigan. The state needs to focus on other ways of improving math and reading scores and should have more skilled jobs programs for students, she said.
More local control is what will improve education in Michigan, Haveman said.
The candidates were also asked about transparency within the state government and if they would approve of expanding Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.
Michigan is the only state in the nation which exempts the governor and lieutenant governor from the requirements of the state FOIA. The state legislator and Michigan Supreme Court are also exempt from FOIA laws in Michigan.
The four candidates said they would be in favor of increasing transparency within the state government and expanding FOIA laws.
Candidates were also asked about funding to fix roads in Michigan.
The issue is not with funds, but the need to attract the right talent and workers with skill sets to help rebuild roads in Michigan, Victory said.
In early late March, Gov. Snyder signed legislation pumping $175 million in supplemental funding for road improvements for the 2018 construction season.
Still, DeBoer said the state needs to continue putting more money into the roads and should put that money toward quality versus quantity.
The conversation must also include discussion of other infrastructure besides roads and bridges, such as sewers and underground infrastructure, Garcia said.
If the state can consistently fund road and infrastructure reconstruction, the private sector will be there to get the jobs done, Haveman said.
About 40 people attended the free and open event, which was put on as part of the League of Women Voters’ ongoing efforts to help citizens become well-informed voters before the Aug. 7 primary election. The league will be holding several other candidate forums and meet and greets before the election.
Winners of the primary election will move onto the Nov. 6 general election.