State senator visits local third graders

After state Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, received letters from third grade students who attend Pinewood Elementary School, he decided he wanted to meet them.

On the afternoon of June 7, Wojno visited with the school’s two third grade classes — under teachers Pam Ansell and Courtney Joondeph — to talk about state politics, his role as a senator and more. Pinewood is part of Warren Woods Public Schools.

Ansell said the students have been learning about government in Michigan, including how to create and pass a law.  

“We’ve been talking about Michigan all year,” Ansell said. “They love social studies. They love learning.”

In their letters to Wojno, the students wrote about various concerns, including the environment, stranger danger and road construction.  

“I noticed there was a lot in your letters,” Wojno said. “We’re working on a lot of bills in Lansing to protect the environment for cleaner water. There’s a lot of road construction around the area. When driving here, I ran into two areas of construction. Right now the governor is very interested in better roads.”

Wojno, who represents the 9th District, also offered some safety advice.

“You’re concerned about your safety. You never want to talk to strangers,” the state lawmaker said. “Always, always, always try to be safe and try to be on your guard.”

Wojno began his first term as senator in January. He previously served as Warren city clerk. Prior to that, he served as a state representative from 1996 to 2002.

The Senate is primarily in session Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in Lansing. He said the sessions begin at 10 a.m., followed by committee meetings and then more correspondence. Wojno, a married father of three children, drives back and forth each day to the state capital.

“When I drive home, I get stuck in a lot of traffic,” the 1974 Center Line High School graduate said. “I don’t stay unless we get a lot of snow.”

He told the students he currently serves on the Senate Elections Committee, the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee, and the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.

Wojno explained that the House and the Senate vote on bills that eventually become laws unless the governor vetoes them. Bills may be introduced in either house of the Legislature. The Legislature may override the veto by a two-thirds vote of the members in each house. The bill then becomes law.

While visiting, Wojno and the students held a mock vote on whether or not the school year should be shorter with longer summer and Christmas vacations. One group of students was the “House” while the remaining students served in the “Senate.” Wojno pretended to be the governor. While the bill passed in both the Pinewood House and Senate, Wojno vetoed it.

“When the governor vetoes the bill, that means the governor says ‘no’ to the bill,” Wojno said. “If the governor vetoes a bill, they usually give a reason to veto a bill.”

He also told the students about the large board that displays how each lawmaker voted: yay or nay. He also said there is a one-minute warning for the representatives to get back to their seats and vote on the bills before them.

“The bills are dated and the time is logged when the governor puts bills into law,” Wojno said about when a bill is passed.

Wojno also answered questions from the students. One student wanted to know if he likes President Donald Trump.

“I have to work with everybody. I don’t have a lot of interaction with him,” Wojno said. “I respect the office. I respect the individual who is ever the president of the United States. This is the way the process works.”

Wojno met former President Bill Clinton in 1997 when he visited Lansing.

“We got to go in a room one at a time and talk to the president of the United States,” Wojno said. “I got to shake his hand and get a picture of him. He was so warm. He was down-to-earth. He asked you your name, where you were from and what do you do.”

Also, on June 3, the students welcomed state Rep. Lori Stone, D-Warren. Stone was a teacher in Warren before being elected to the House last year.

“They were starstruck to see her,” Ansell said.

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