To a conference room of about 20 people, State Representative Tom Barrett of Michigan’s 71st district held a coffee hour at the Charlotte Community Library. During the event Barrett fielded questions on a number of topics about his district and about issues in the state and country as a whole.

As is his style, Barrett didn’t have a hard stop to the coffee hour, ensuring everyone who wanted to voice a concern or a question had the opportunity.

Some of the topics covered during the coffee hour included the protection for the Great Lakes, state senate bills to change restrictions on gun carry laws, and Michigan’s pension problem.

“There’s a chronic underfunding in a lot of communities,” said Barrett. “On the whole, in the state many of these municipalities are unfunded either on the healthcare side or the pension side.”

The pension discussion took up a large portion of time during the event. Barrett cordially went back and forth with several attendees on the topic. The state constitution protects pensions for retirees, but it doesn’t protect health care benefits. According to Barrett, health care is the more underfunded benefit in smaller communities. Some of the concern from the floor had to do with communities losing benefits, even if they are putting aside enough money for pensions and healthcare.

“I want to make sure we get the absolute most amount of protection for people who have worked their whole life,” said Barrett.

Another significant concern brought to the representative’s attention was the senate bills changing gun carry restrictions. The question of how such laws will effect churches and schools was left simply with a reminder of what is public vs. private. One of the senate bills would make an allowance for concealed carry in schools and other gun free zones, given the carrier goes through extra training.

On the topic of the Great Lakes, Barrett addressed concerns about ballast water standards. A bill recently passed by the legislature will allow boats to dump ballast water within state waters, whereas before companies among other organizations were having to dump ballast water in other parts of the same lake. The bill does nothing to increase or decrease the amount of possible pollutants coming into a lake, but saves the cost and time of taking ballast water to another part of the lake. The worry among attendees was that such a change is a subtle shift in the wrong direction as it relates to protecting the Great Lakes.

Although the purpose of the coffee hour was not for campaign purposes, Barrett did address a question regarding his run for state senate. Barrett periodically holds coffee hour events within his district and indicated he would continue to do so through his tenure as representative. To learn more about Tom Barrett, his voting record, and his campaign readers are encouraged to visit,, or visit Tom Barrett’s Facebook page.