Special Olympics tax check-off passes House and Senate

Special Olympics tax check-off passes House and Senate
 

LANSING– Legislation that would create an income tax check-off was approved by the Michigan Senate on Wednesday, said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

Senate Bill 381, sponsored by Jones, and House Bill 4632 sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R- Mt. Pleasant, create a check-off box on state income tax returns that would allow taxpayers to easily donate money to help fund Special Olympics Michigan athletes.

“As a long-time chaperone to Special Olympics Michigan, I know how important this program is to the athletes and their families,” Jones said.  “This legislation will make it easier for people to voluntarily donate to this great organization.”

Special Olympics Michigan President and CEO Lois Arnold added, “We are so appreciative of Senator Jones and Representative Cotter ushering this legislation through the state Legislature. Senator Jones and Representative Cotter know firsthand the positive impact of Special Olympics programs in the lives of our athletes and their families. Special Olympics Michigan offers a year-round program that promotes physical fitness and healthy lifestyles while also working to build a culture of inclusiveness and acceptance of those with intellectual disabilities.” 

“As the representative from Mt. Pleasant, where Special Olympics Michigan is based, it has been a privilege to sponsor legislation creating this income tax check-off benefitting nearly 20,000 athletes,” said Cotter. “I’m looking forward to spending time with athletes at State Summer Games, which kick off on the campus of Central Michigan University tomorrow.”

Special Olympics Michigan provides opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to experience physical fitness, inclusion, joy, and friendship through year-round athletic training and competition. Special Olympics Michigan gets no state funding. The programs exist because of the support of sponsors, donors and fundraisers. Any costs for administering this check-off program would come directly from the money raised with the program. It would not cost taxpayers any money.

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Reps. Hughes, Opsommer, Sen. Jones host press conference to offer in-state tuition to veterans

Reps. Hughes, Opsommer, Sen. Jones host press conference to offer in-state tuition to veterans

State Reps. Holly Hughes and Paul Opsommer, along with state Sen. Rick Jones today hosted a press conference to discuss legislative measures that would require Michigan’s public universities and community colleges to consider enrolling veterans as residents of the state of Michigan when determining tuition rates.

House Joint Resolutions JJ and MM would require public universities and community colleges to consider honorably discharged and active duty veterans in-state students when establishing a tuition rate.

“Michigan needs to do more to welcome home our veterans, and this is a huge step in that direction,” said Hughes, R-Montague. “Making Michigan veteran-friendly is vital to our state and to our families who sacrifice time and resources to send their loved ones off to serve our country. If we provide a way for veterans to receive affordable, quality educations in our state, everyone will benefit from that.”

Past legislatures have taken up the issue before.

Opsommer, R-DeWitt, addressed why immediate action is needed on both resolutions: "I introduced two pieces of legislation in 2007 similar to these bills. At the time, we were assured by the universities and community colleges that policies were going to be put into place. Now that the schools didn’t follow through on those assurances, this legislation is needed to support the veterans in Michigan.”

Said Sen. Jones, R-Grand Ledge: “This Memorial Day, as we reflect on those who made the ultimate sacrifice, we must remember our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who need to find work when they return home. Public universities and community colleges must consider veterans as state citizens when deciding their tuition rate. Anything else would be un-American.”

Hughes also spoke to the unemployment rate among Michigan veterans.

“We have 29 percent unemployment for Michigan veterans, which is two and a half times the national average. Texas offers free tuition. Minnesota has over 300,000 veterans with over 15,000 attending college. Michigan has over 700,000 veterans eligible and only around 13,000 attending college. I think Michigan can do better in helping our veterans improve their education and skills they need for jobs to support their families,” Hughes said.

HJRs JJ and MM are currently under consideration by the House Education Committee.

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Leo’s Law ready for governor’s signature

Leo’s Law ready for governor’s signature

LANSING — The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation establishing new standards for removing children from their parents, said sponsor state Sen. Rick Jones.

Senate Bill 320 would ensure that Michigan law meets the constitutional standards as defined by several of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The proposal has four parts:
• Standard for emergency police removals;
• Process for judicial officer review of emergency placement;
• Standards for ex parte court-ordered emergency removals; and
• Preliminary hearing pretrial placement standards.

A notorious foster care case occurred when 7-year-old Leo Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers ball game with his father in 2008. Leo was placed in foster care for three days and two nights when his father Christopher Ratte, a classics professor at the University of Michigan, inadvertently gave him a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not knowing it was an alcoholic drink.

Leo was placed in foster care, even though physicians from Children’s Hospital found no alcohol in his blood and determined he was fine. When his mother Claire Zimmerman tried to get her child, she was denied although there were no charges against her.

“This case was a simple misunderstanding, and it should have been cleared up in a matter of hours, not days,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I want to ensure that a child who is in immediate danger is protected, but also ensure that proper standards for removal are detailed in state law.”

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Gov. Snyder signs municipal jail reimbursement bill

Gov. Snyder signs municipal jail reimbursement bill

LANSING— Legislation allowing local municipal jails to collect from the inmates costs associated with their stay was signed into law by Gov. Snyder on Wednesday, said sponsor state Sen. Rick Jones.

Country jails can force inmates to reimburse them for costs associated with their stay. However, before Jones’ measure was signed into law, a municipal jail or lock-up that typically holds a prisoner for 1 to 3 days could not recoup any costs.

“If counties can seek reimbursement for the costs associated with housing inmates, than local municipalities should be able to as well” said Jones R-Grand Ledge. “Local municipalities should have the same tools as counties in order to help them cover their corrections costs.  This measure gives them that ability.”

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Jones and Shaughnessy announce legislation for work release

Jones and Shaughnessy announce legislation for work release

LANSING— A package of legislation designed to strengthen oversight for prisoners on work or school release was introduced on Thursday, said the bills’ sponsors, state Sen. Rick Jones and state Rep. Deb Shaughnessy. 

Senate Bill 1126, sponsored by Jones, requires that once a prisoner is approved for release, the Department of Corrections Bureau of Probation must provide verification of employment or enrollment to a judge before the inmate is released.  This verification must take place within seven days of the prisoner being approved for work release.

Jones also introduced SB1127, which requires that any felon on school or work release wear an electronic monitoring device, which would be paid for by the inmate.

In 2011, an Eaton County Circuit Court Judge granted work release to a convicted felon based on a phony document provided to the inmate’s attorney from an acquaintance.  Instead of working, this inmate allegedly committed a series of break-ins and then allegedly committed a double homicide against a retired state trooper and his wife. 

This legislation will ensure that an inmate’s work or school has been thoroughly verified and the court is aware of his or her location in an effort to protect Michigan’s citizens from violent felons.

“If these two laws were in place, my friends Mike and Terri Greene would still be alive today, said Jones, R-Grand Ledge.  “There’s no excuse to allow felons on work release without first ensuring public safety.”
Shaughnessy agreed.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure this never happens again,” said Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte. “These were horrific murders that took the lives of two public employees, and this legislation will go a long ways toward protecting the public.  If you are going to be out on work release, it should be verified you have a job before you are let out of jail.  It’s common sense.”

Shaughnessy has two identical measures that she introduced on Thursday in the House, House Bills 5638 and 5639.

Schuette testifies in support of Jones’ measure

Schuette testifies in support of Jones’ measure

Lansing— The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would keep violent offenders in prison for longer periods of time, said sponsor state Sen. Rick Jones.

Senate Bill 1109 would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to require a sentence of at least 25 years imprisonment if the offender had been convicted of three or more felonies and subsequently convicted of a serious crime such as assault with intent to murder, manslaughter or kidnapping.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and multiple other law enforcement officials were on hand to testify in favor of the bill. Prior to this hearing, the attorney general contacted Jones and other committee members and asked that this matter be taken up.

“This bill sends a clear message to repeat violent offenders that their behavior will not be tolerated,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “After three felonies, people have proven that they are not capable of rehabilitation, and a long-term sentence is in the best interest of public safety.

“This will only send a small number of people to prison-those who have been given chance after chance and have committed felonies time after time. This measure will make sure that repeat offenders are kept behind bars where they belong. We are approaching a major problem with a scalpel instead of a club.”

SB 1109 will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Editor’s Note: For a full list of what is considered a serious crime please click here.

***Media Advisory*** Attorney General Bill Schuette to testify on Jones bill

***Media Advisory***
Attorney General Bill Schuette to testify on Jones bill

WHO: Attorney General Bill Schuette, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; members of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and interested parties.

WHAT: Committee hearing on Senate Bill 1109 and testimony by Schuette

WHEN: Today, May 8
               2:30 p.m.

WHERE:Farnum Building
                 Room 110
                125 W. Allegan St.
      
BRIEF:   SB 1109 would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to require a sentence of at
least 25 years imprisonment if the offender had been convicted of three or more
felonies and subsequently convicted of a serious crime.

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Jones measure alters retired legislator benefits

Jones measure alters retired legislator benefits

Lansing— Legislation that would increase the amount retired lawmakers pay for their health insurance is headed for the Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee, said sponsor Sen. Rick Jones.

Senate Bill 26 would mandate that all retired legislators pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, instead of the current 10 percent.

“Elected officials need to set an example,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We have asked other public employees to pay more for their health care, and we should be willing to make the same sacrifices that they are.”

The most recent version of SB 26 is a substitute of the original version drafted by Jones. The substitute requires that retired legislators pay 20 percent of their health care premiums.

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