CALUMET - Halfway through the year, new State Rep. Scott Dianda has been working on improving the state's performance on the macro and micro levels.
Dianda, D-Calumet, took office in January after defeating former state Rep. Matt Huuki.
So far, Dianda has sponsored five bills and cosponsored 67. His most recent bill would get a 100 percent homestead exemption for veterans. The bill was referred to a second reading in June.
Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, center, is flanked by Hancock Mayor William Laitila and State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba at a Gala honoring the City of Hancock’s 150th birthday, April 12 at Michigan Technological University. Dianda reflected on his first six months in Lansing in an interview with the Daily Mining Gazette.
"It was something that would take care of their spouse after they passed. so that was something that was really important," he said.
Dianda is also cosponsoring a bill with State Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Norway, that would allow students to replace their two years of foreign language requirements with vocational education.
"In the seven counties (of the 110th District), we really need to focus on a lot of the kids that are not going to be able to go on to college, that have a great talent to be an electrician, or a plumber, or a mechanic ... there's so many great things out there that a lot of the students in the school system will be able to focus on in their high school years," he said.
Another Dianda goal has been restoring local control. As an example, he cited a bill he is drafting that would allow municipalities to bid on state snowplow equipment before the general public.
"We're sitting here in the village of Calumet - they would be able to bid on a 10-year-old snowplow truck that they really would need versus having to buy it from another source after the fact, so they would get first crack," he said.
Dianda said he's focused on being able to develop relationships with legislators from both parties, particularly among the U.P. delegation. While he's been pleased with the response at the state level, he'd also like to see a better relationship with the government at the federal level,
Dianda said his biggest accomplishment hasn't been a piece of legislation, but being able to respond to concerns from individual people within the district.
One example was a business owner who was being pursued by the Treasury Department for back taxes despite having canceled checks from the Treasury showing the taxes had been paid.
"Those are the types of things that we were able to take action and correct those things that have been such a hindrance on somebody that's trying to do business," he said.
The amount of time spent with constituents is the biggest difference Dianda cites between his term and a hypothetical second term for Huuki.
"Everybody that goes to be a state representative has a passion to do whatever they can," he said. "I just feel I have a lot of extra time to be able to donate to this job. It's been a privilege to be able to serve people out there."
Dianda urged any constituent with concerns to call him at 369-3338.
This fall, Dianda hopes to increase senior heating credits for seniors. The issue is taking on even more relevance with the Upper Peninsula Power Co.'s proposed 8.2 percent rate increase.
"To me that's a concern, because we've got so many elderly people up here on fixed income, especially with losing some of that heating credit the last round," he said. "Everything is going up on folks - property taxes are going up, utilities are going up, investments have not kept up with it for a lot of people who are retired that are on a fixed income with Social Security."
Dianda has been working on bringing jobs into the area, in to playing a role in bringing DA Glass to the Houghton County Memorial Airport Industrial Park. He also pointed to local incubators such as the MTEC SmartZone and Finlandia University's Jutila Center, and developments such as the Orvana Mine project and a new chopstick factory in Ontonagon.
"We've got the opportunity of great people, hard-working individuals," he said.
"We've got a lot of natural space up here to be able to grow, and people want to live in our area. When we look around, we have a wonderful tourism season. Everybody you talk to would like to be up here if they could get a job."