By AUDREY L. BARNEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – The clock is winding down for Montcalm and Gratiot counties’ legislators.
Rep. Larry DeVuyst, R-Alma, and Senate Majority Leader Joanne Emmons, R-Big Rapids, are finishing up their last year in the Legislature.They have both reached their term limits and according to the laws passed in 1992, can no longer serve in Lansing.
For DeVuyst, that means that he has served a maximum of three terms at two years each as a state representative. Emmons will be finishing two Senate terms at four years each.
Although DeVuyst and Emmons were not reached for comments, several of their constituents had something to say on their behalf.
“DeVuyst is a wonderful man,” said Penny Dora, vice president of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. “He has been the most incredible person to work with.”
DeVuyst chairs the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee and is also a member of the Commerce, Land Use and Environment and Transportation committees.
Dora said DeVuyst was committed to his constituents and always cared for communities.
“DeVuyst was very instrumental in getting the funds for our Flat River Trails, which is the bike trail that runs along the river,” she said.
Dora said that DeVuyst raised the standards for representatives in her area, and will be leaving behind some big shoes to fill. Yet, she has faith that DeVuyst will help the freshman representative find a snug fit.
“I expect that DeVuyst will assure a smooth transition for the next representative so that we can get the same level of quality representation that he has given us (during his time in office).
” Emmons was having Christmas in January with her family in Washington State. Her aide of seven years, Tom Chadwick, shared what her plans are for 2002 and beyond.
“The senator has been working on the budget, like everyone else,” he said. “Yet she plans to buckle down and work on the bills that she hasn’t been able to get to in a while.”
Among those bills is a mobile-home lemon law, a sex offender’s amendment, and a measure to make it illegal for a teacher to have sex with a student who has reached the age of consent, (16-years or older). She wants to try and get all of them passed before she leaves.
Michelle Walma of Cedar Springs, who works at the Greenville Community Center, said that she is glad that Emmons is working on the bill to incriminate teachers for having sex with students.
“I think that teachers need keep their relationships professional and students should know that (relationships) don’t happen that way.”
Although Emmons has plans to work on a couple of bills dealing with sex, Chadwick stressed that should not be her legacy.
“Senator Emmons’ legacy is doing what her constituents ask her to do,” he said. ” Each of those bills are because her one of constituents called and asked for her help with legislation.”
Emmons is the chair of the Finance Committee and a member of the Reapportionment Committee.
Chadwick, who would have been with the senator for eight years in December, said that she is a remarkable person and is well respected in Lansing. He also said that she plans to run for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees and become a full-time retired grandmother after she is out of the Legislature.
The term limit laws were passed in 1992 by nearly 60 percent of Michigan voters and have allowed new people to serve in the Legislature.
“It is very difficult to beat a sitting incumbent,” said Stacie Rumenap, executive director for U.S. Term Limits in Washington, D.C. “Term limits open up the process to people who would otherwise be shut out of the system.” She also said Michigan is a good example of effective term limits because there are now more women and minorities serving in office because of the law.
Although many of the constituents of DeVuyst and Emmons may not want to see them go, Rumenap assures them that good things are sure to come.
“I don’t believe for one minute that only one person can do a good job in office,” she said. “There are many creative people who could do a good job in the Legislature.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By AUDREY L. BARNEY