Mich. Bill Gives Upper Peninsula Some Respect

Michigan State Rep. Michael Lahti is sponsoring legislation to mandate that the entire state be shown on official state publications. The move follows a tourism commercial produced by the state that omitted the Upper Peninsula, which makes up one-third of the state. Lahti discusses his legislation.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

If you look at a map of the United States, it's easy to spot Michigan. It's the one shaped like a mitten, with its thumb sticking out into Lake Huron. But that is only part of the state. There's also the Upper Peninsula way up north, and it's about a third of Michigan. Sometimes, though, the mitten part of the state forgets about the U.P.

Last year, a state-sponsored tourism commercial only showed the mitten. Well, Michigan State Representative Michael Lahti says enough is enough. He has sponsored legislation that requires any official state publication to show both parts of the state. He's from the U.P., but he joins me now from the mitten part in the state capital of Lansing, Michigan. Welcome to the program.

Representative MICHAEL LAHTI (Democrat, Michigan): Yeah, thank you, nice to be here.

BRAND: So why does your part, the U.P., get forgotten?

Rep. LAHTI: Well, we do have 30 percent of the land area, but we only have 3 percent of the population and - which is that most of the population is down here, we want to make sure that - hey, we want to be part of Michigan. We don't want to be part of Wisconsin. We like it here in Michigan. So I know the country's got some tough times; Michigan's got some tough times, but this is still serious stuff for us in U.P. Hey, we're used to national maps that, you know, stick us in Wisconsin so what. But I'm thinking that in the -

BRAND: Well, are you physically attached to Wisconsin?

Rep. LAHTI: Yeah, oh, sure.

BRAND: And not physically attached to Michigan?

Rep. LAHTI: Exactly, right. So…

BRAND: Right.

Rep. LAHTI: As long as we have something to say about it here in the state. The state office's picture, we - if you depict the whole state, we get the whole state in both upper and the lower.

BRAND: Now, I read a little history about the U.P.

Rep. LAHTI: Yeah.

BRAND: And apparently, you were part of the bloodless Toledo War.

Rep. LAHTI: Yeah.

BRAND: What was that?

Rep. LAHTI: Well, you know, that's great. The state of Michigan got the U.P. and gave up Toledo.

BRAND: Toledo, Ohio?

Rep. LAHTI: Toledo, Ohio. So, that's - I think the state got a bargain. And we've had many years of copper booming industry, iron industry that's still there; we've got all these miles of shoreline and beautiful, pristine woods. So it's a great place to be. If you haven't been to…

BRAND: Not that there's anything wrong with the Toledo. 'Cause…

Rep. LAHTI: Well, no.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Rep. LAHTI: I don't - I think it's good, too. But I think it's in the bargain -if you're going to weigh the two, I think Michigan came out pretty good.

BRAND: Now, you call yourselves UPers?

Rep. LAHTI: Yes, we do. I'm just starting to use that term UPer now. You know, 20 years ago, when it came, I kind of thought it was a term of derision. But now I've turned to like it as well. So, we are - we're UPers.

BRAND: UPer Michael Lahti is a Michigan state representative. He's sponsoring legislation that would require any official state publication to show his part of the state. Thank you very much.

Rep. LAHTI: Yeah, thank you, Madeleine, it's good to be here.

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