Dear Neighbors -
Winter continues to keep northern Michigan in its grip. Please continue to look in on those who may need assistance during this time of severe weather.
As always, please contact my office if I can ever be of service. I am also happy to meet with you locally at your convenience!
2013 State of the State Message
I welcomed retiring Clare High School Principal Lee Turner, Gabe Ambrozaitis and Carolyn Curtin to Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address in the House chamber late last month.
Seeing Michigan’s economy moving in the right direction and hearing about how the governor hopes to continue the positive momentum is exciting. There is certainly more to do, but we can be happy with the fact that jobs are being created by Michigan employers and that our population loss has lessened drastically over the last few years.
While a lot of the ideas the governor touched on are important, matching people to jobs is at the top of my list, especially through career technical education for high school students. I hope to see a continuing focus on those efforts as legislation is debated. I also appreciated the governor’s call for a balanced budget amendment in Washington, D.C., so that our federal government will have to live within its means as our local families must do. Ending the out-of-control borrowing in D.C. is common sense.
NOTE: Listen to my audio commentary following the Governor’s recent State of the State Message:
Governor extends statewide energy emergency due to prolonged propane shortage
Gov. Rick Snyder issued Executive Order 2014-3, lengthening Michigan’s energy emergency as a result of continued heating oil and propane shortages across the Midwest.
Record low temperatures, heavy snowfall and poor driving conditions, combined with pipeline issues and other factors have all contributed to Michigan’s propane shortage. The state is working to alleviate supply problems while continually monitoring the situation, and Snyder this week directed state agencies to reach out to consumers affected by the shortage.
“The propane shortage affecting the Midwest continues to impact residents in our state, particularly in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan,” Snyder said. “This executive order extending the hours-of-service exemption for individuals transporting the fuel will better allow them to connect with customers.”
This executive order amends Executive Order 2014-1, declaring the initial state of emergency in January. Originally set to expire at midnight tonight, the energy emergency will now extend through Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Motor carriers and drivers carrying propane on Michigan highways will continue to be exempt from state and federal hours-of-service regulations in order to guarantee the most efficient delivery of resources. As a result of the extended waiver, drivers may continue to exceed the number of consecutive days and total hours in which they can operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Transport vehicles and employees currently subject to an out-of-service order, in which operations are prohibited, are not eligible for the exemption and suspension until the out-of-service order expires or the conditions for rescission have been satisfied. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Michigan State Police require that drivers for motor carriers operating under the Declaration of Energy Emergency must have a copy of the declaration in their possession. It is available at www.michigan.gov/snyder.
Residents in need of heating assistance are asked to call 211 or visit michigan.gov/heatingassistance for help. Customers who are concerned about possible price gouging should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388 or file an online complaint at michigan.gov/ag. The Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division also offers information about being prepared before, during and after an emergency or disaster, at www.michigan.gov/beprepared.
EO 2014-3 is effective immediately and remains in effect until it is rescinded or until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 11, 2014, whichever first occurs.
State offers free program to protect kids online
Are your children safe while online? Michigan families, especially minors, are becoming flooded with advertisements from alcohol, tobacco, pornography and gambling marketers through different Internet and cell phone inboxes. Thankfully, the state of Michigan offers a free program to stop adult advertisements from reaching certain e-mails, mobile phones (text messaging ads) and instant messenger IDs. The Michigan Child Protection Registry is a free do-not-contact service for Michigan’s families and schools and can be located at www.protectmichild.com.
I encourage you to sign your entire family up for the registry and inform your friends and colleagues about how they can protect children and families from unwanted adult advertising.
House approves legislation offering consumer protection on changes to health care premiums
Two measures approved by the Michigan House recently give citizens information about how the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is impacting their health insurance premiums, while providing peace of mind to consumers that they will be able to buy insurance outside of the exchanges set up by the federal law.
House Bill 4816 requires the financial impact of the ACA on people’s health care premiums, positive or negative, to be clearly stated by their insurer. This provides Michigan residents with a clear understanding of how this law is affecting their insurance, providing greater transparency to the hard-working taxpayers of Michigan. Utility customers are already provided with a similar line-item notice in their bills regarding government-mandated renewable energy requirements, so why shouldn’t we provide health insurance customers with the same notice?
Another measure, House Bill 4044, ensures that Michigan residents will be able to purchase health care outside of an ACA exchange. This protects and preserves the long-standing free market principles our country was founded on. Both patients and health care providers in Michigan should and will continue to have the option to purchase or offer health care benefits outside of an exchange under this legislation.
Both bills are now up for consideration in the Senate.
Governor signs mental health court legislation
A new law recently signed by the governor gives Michigan communities the ability to create mental health courts. These new laws allow Michigan individuals suffering from a mental illness to receive necessary help instead of being treated simply as a criminal.
With roughly 20 percent of Michigan inmates suffering from a mental illness, our prisons are currently serving as hospitals for our mentally ill population. This is unacceptable.
Safeguards have been put in place to make sure that violent offenders are not eligible to participate in the program and that offenders cannot get “more than one bite at the apple” and have multiple charges dismissed by going through the program.
These court systems are open to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. Some of the services offered include mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, counseling, drug testing as needed, referrals to community services (clothing, housing, transportation), education (e.g., GED classes) and assistance with employment.
It costs approximately $34,000 a year to house an inmate in Michigan and the costs of housing mentally ill inmates can be much higher. Our prisons aren’t set up to treat the mentally ill. By helping our mentally ill get the treatment they need, we can help them lead full and productive lives.
Michigan House approves safe harbor legislation to combat human trafficking
Human trafficking (broadly defined as the selling of any person, often children, into sexual slavery) is a monstrous crime which destroys lives. The Michigan House is taking significant steps to address this problem. Recently, we unanimously voted in favor of House Bill 5012, commonly known as safe harbor legislation, which requires minors who are coerced into prostitution to be treated as victims instead of criminals.
Many human trafficking victims are forced into prostitution at a young age. However, this fact is not accommodated by Michigan law, which currently treats minors involved in prostitution as criminals, instead of victims. By adopting this legislation, we can ensure that these victims are treated as such, thus providing them with access to the help and services they need.
This is simply a first step to combatting this horrible crime, which is more of a problem in Michigan than many people think. Because of our status as a border state, we are especially affected by the increase in crimes of this nature. The Michigan Human Trafficking Commission has made several recommendations for legislation to combat this issue, and work will continue during this legislative session.
If everyone knew all there is to know, they would not do half the things they do, including myself, therefore I must foregive them, including myself.