S.S. Badger Guest Column by State Sen. Rick Jones

Some of my fondest memories in life have been spent outdoors in Michigan. The beautiful shorelines, bucolic farm land and breathtaking sunsets are natural wonders that we must cherish and protect.

Along with its natural beauty, Michigan is also home to many world renowned travel destinations. Mackinac Island, Meijer Gardens and the Holland Tulip Festival are just a few examples of locations and activities that draw in record crowds each year.

Another storied Michigan travel vacation option is the S.S Badger ferry.  For decades, the S.S. Badger has been transporting Michiganders and Wisconsinites between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin, allowing passengers to sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Unfortunately, reports show the S.S. Badger dumps 509 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan containing mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals. According to federal records, that amount far exceeds waste jettisoned by all 125 other freighters on the Great Lakes. 

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the owners four years to find a solution.  As the EPA deadline draws near, the owners again want to delay a fix until 2017.

Recently, I asked the owners of the Badger to ‘Go Green!’  They have stalled long enough.  It’s time to capture and contain the toxic coal ash or convert the ship to a clean power source. The world’s finest example drinkable freshwater, that supports a billion dollar fishing industry must not be polluted so that they can make more profit.    

Our Great Lakes are a national treasure and we must do everything possible to protect them. I hope the Badger owners will take swift, responsible action and generations of Michiganders will be able to enjoy taking a trip on the S.S. Badger.  

Double homicide shows problems with inmate work release system

LANSING—State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, joined the Eaton County Sheriff Department and the Michigan State Police (MSP) at their news conference on Thursday regarding the double homicide that occurred in Delta Township in September. 

Michael Greene, a retired MSP sergeant, and his wife Terri Greene were brutally murdered in their home.  Sheriff Mike Raines asked Jones to come to the press conference and work on new state requirements for inmate work release.

“Mike and Terri Greene were personal friends of mine; this horrible crime could have been prevented. If the Circuit Court Probation Department did a proper job then they would have known this suspect has a history of fraud and was not a good candidate to put on work release,” said Jones.

Currently, to be considered for work release an inmate must provide proof that they have valid job to go to.  Factors such as behavior, the nature of their offense and substance abuse history are also taken into consideration.

The Circuit Court Probation Department investigates and determines potential candidates and advises the judge presiding over the case. Once the judge makes a decision, a court order mandating the inmate’s release is sent to the sheriff in the county where they will be working.  

The suspect accused of murdering the Greenes was on court-ordered work release. Further investigation by the sheriff found that the suspect falsified fraudulent job information and an employer that did not exist. This allowed the suspect to have unfettered access to the outside world and the freedom and ability to commit this terrible crime.

“I’m drafting legislation that would require the Circuit Court Probation Department to check to make sure a work release inmate is reporting to a legitimate job on time,” Jones said. “This could easily be done with a phone call or an e-mail.  The legislation would further require that any felon released from jail on work release would wear a tether with GPS which would be paid for the by inmate and fortunately would not be a burden to taxpayers.”

State Sen. Rick Jones to attend double homicide press conference at Eaton County Sheriff Dept.

LANSING— State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, will attend a press conference today where the Eaton County Sheriff and Michigan State Police (MSP)  will discuss the double homicide that occurred in Delta Township last September. The victims in the homicide were Mike Greene, retired MSP sergeant, and his wife Terri. Jones has been invited to speak on legislation to prevent this crime from occurring again under these circumstances.

Who:
Members of the Eaton Country Sheriff Department;
Members of the Michigan State Police; and
State Sen. Rick Jones

What:
Press conference on double homicide and new work release legislation

When:
Thursday, Dec. 22
10a.m.

Where:
Eaton County Sheriff Department
1025 Independence Blvd.
Charlotte, MI 48813

State Sen. Rick Jones asks the Badger’s owners to go green!

Lansing— State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, today asked the owners of the SS Badger to clean up their act and stop polluting Lake Michigan. Sen. Jones’ district includes Lake Michigan shoreline from Holland to Saugatuck. 

It has been reported that the SS Badger, which runs from Manitowoc to Ludington, dumps 509 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan containing mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals. Additional reports indicate federal records show that amount far exceeds waste jettisoned by all 125 other freighters on the Great lakes. 

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the owners four years to find a solution.  As the EPA deadline comes to an end, the owners again want to delay a fix until 2017.

“Today I’m asking the owners of the Badger to ‘Go Green!’  They have stalled long enough.  It’s time to capture and contain the toxic coal ash or convert the ship to a clean power source,” said Jones. “The worlds’ finest example of drinkable freshwater, with billions of dollars in fishing industry, must not be polluted so that they can make more profit.”     

The Badger’s coal-burning technology was becoming obsolete when the ferry began operation in Lake Michigan.  It started carrying railroad cars for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in 1953.  Similar ships were retired or converted to cleaner-burning diesel fuel. 

The formers owners moved to abandon the Lake Michigan ferry in the late 1970s.  The boat was rescued from the scrap yard in the 1980s, and the new owners sought special exemptions so they could continue to pollute.  The ship is now billed as a nostalgic travel option taking cars and people back and forth across Lake Michigan. 
 

State Sen. Jones supports cutting road commissions

LANSING—Legislation that would allow road commissions to be cut by local governmental units passed the Senate on Thursday.

Michigan is currently the only state that has road commissioners. While some are elected, many are appointed and have little to no accountability to the citizens of the county they serve. Currently, Wayne and Macomb are the only Michigan counties with legislative authority to dissolve their road commissions so this measure would not affect these counties.

House Bills 5125 and 5126 would allow for the consolidation of county road commissions by transferring the duties and responsibilities to the county board of commissioners.

“I have heard from many citizens in both Ingham and Eaton Counties that they want to cut their road commissions and save the money for road repair,” said Jones. “Today the Senate passed legislation allowing local control and the termination of road commissions.”

Road commissioners serve the county as a whole, not a representative district. Under the bills, county commissioners who are already elected by a district will represent road issues of that district. Additionally, county commissioners are elected every two years, compared to a six-year term of road commissioners, making county commissioners more accountable to the electorate.

State Sen. Jones encourages legislators to take Polar Plunge

LANSING—State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, reported that the Michigan Special Olympics is planning a special legislative “Polar Plunge”. The event is held annually across the state to raise money for the athletes to participate in the summer and winter games.

Last year, Jones was the only legislator to participate in the event.  Jones has served as a volunteer for the summer games many times.

The Michigan Special Olympics plans to place a pool in front of the Capitol so that legislators can easily participate in the plunge. The tentative date for the event is Thursday, Feb. 23 at 4 p.m.

“This year, it would be great to see more members from both parties support the athletes,” said Jones. “Seeing as how the event is in her district, I fully expect Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer to participate in the event and would be happy to offer her some tips on her inaugural plunge.”

Sen. Jones’ bill would deter theft

LANSING- Legislation that would reduce theft and lower costs for milk producers as well soft drink and beer vendors and distributors was approved by the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Thursday, said sponsor Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

"Currently, no proof of ownership or identification is needed to sell plastic shipping containers to be melted down," said Jones. "This lax policy encourages theft in order try and make a quick buck, I am confident that this measure will help to curb this problem."

Senate Bill 721 would mandate that anyone wishing to sell ten or more plastic shipping containers show proper identification as well as a written statement that they own or are authorized to sell the container. This measure would require these records to be kept for one year.

"It is currently estimated that Michigan soft drink distributors are losing more than $3 million a year due to the theft of these shipping containers," said Jones. "This is money that is being stolen from Michigan businesses instead of being reinvested in our state's economy. In short, my bill will lower costs for dairy producers, soft drink and beer distributors or anyone who uses plastic shipping containers."

Violating this act would result in the same penalties as those for buying or selling knowingly stolen nonferrous metals, a statutory maximum five-year sentence or fine of more than $5,000.

Jones' measure closely mirrors legislation recently passed in Texas and Arizona as well as bills introduced in Ohio and Wisconsin.

SB 721 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, proudly welcomed Rev. Robert Crouch to the Capitol on Tuesday.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, proudly welcomed Rev. Robert Crouch to the Capitol on Tuesday. Rev. Crouch, pastor of Charlotte First Baptist Church, gave the invocation before the start of Senate session.

Editor’s note: The above photograph of Sen. Jones and Rev. Robert Crouch is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s photowire at:

http://www.MISenateGOP.com/senators/photowire.asp?District=24.

Bullying legislation signed into law

LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones (left), R-Grand Ledge, and state Rep. Phil Potvin (right), R-Cadillac, joined Gov. Rick Snyder at the Capitol Tuesday as he signed Public Act 241 of 2011 (House Bill 4163) into law.

The new law requires that all Michigan schools implement an anti-bullying policy. Both lawmakers had a student commit suicide in their district, and earlier this year they made it a goal to pass an anti-bullying bill. 

"I'm very happy that this bill has been signed into law", said Jones, “It has been a privilege to work with Representative Potvin in order to accomplish our goal."

Editor’s note: The above photograph of State Rep. Potvin, Sen. Jones and Gov. Snyder is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s photowire at: http://www.MISenateGOP.com/Photowire2/24/20111206_162429_24_tn.jpg
 

Michigan Farm Bureau backs DNR?s ban on feral swine

LANSING– Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is happy to report the Michigan Farm Bureau voted to support the Department of Natural Resources ban on feral swine at their annual meeting.

In July of this year, legislation was proposed to regulate the sporting swine industry, but the measure was never voted on.  In the absence of laws regulating the industry, the ban was imposed by the DNR.

“I am thrilled Michigan Farm Bureau members voted to support the DNR ban on this dangerous and invasive species,” said Jones.