Jones’ foster children bill signed into law

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children.

“I am glad to see the governor signed this legislation to help protect the cherished bond between siblings in foster care,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “As a foster grandparent and a former member of law enforcement, I have seen both the good and bad of family life. I’ve seen young children endure terrible situations.

“However, I’ve also seen the strength of children who overcome tough challenges and the positive impact of siblings in persevering — which is what this new law seeks to preserve.”

Senate Bill 483, now Public Act 191 of 2016, puts a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with siblings. If siblings cannot be placed together, then a priority of sibling visitations and ongoing interaction will be arranged to ensure a sibling bond.

The new law requires frequent visitations between non-custodial, biological parents and their children unless the court determines that the parenting time would be harmful to the child.

“As long as there is no harm to a foster child seeing their biological parent, they should be able to spend time together and preserve their family bond,” Jones said. “I want to thank the University of Michigan Law School Legislation Clinic for bringing this issue to my attention and the Children’s Law Section Council of the State Bar and the state Department of Health and Human Services for their collaboration in helping our foster children.”

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Governor signs Jones bill to help protect national security

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to help a local Anthrax vaccine maker to better secure its operations.

“Emergent Bio-Defense Systems operates a local facility and are the only makers of Anthrax vaccine,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This lab is critical to keeping our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines supplied with protection against Anthrax.”

Senate Bill 844, now Public Act 179 of 2016, will allow the state to sell a piece of unwanted and unused land and vacant building to Emergent Bio-Defense Systems — with the transaction conducted in the same process as any other piece of land sold by the state.

“Acquiring this land will enable the company to improve security at one of its entrances,” Jones said. “Considering the unique service Emergent provides our servicemen and women, helping them make their lab more secure is also about protecting our national security.”

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Jones: Bad behavior should not be hidden by resigning

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones announced on Tuesday that he has introduced legislation to ensure that bad behavior by a police officer will not be hidden by that’s officer’s resignation.

“I was shocked when I read the ‘Traffic Stop Gone Bad’ article in the Lansing City Pulse and viewed the video in April,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I was even more shocked to read that the Eaton County Sheriff deputy went right out and got another police job.”

The Lansing City Pulse article, written by reporter Todd Heywood, describes how he obtained a cell phone video of a June 2014 traffic stop through the Freedom of Information Act. The deputy in the video was not wearing his body camera, but the young man who was stopped, Todd Brenizer, recorded the incident with his phone.

The article described how Brenizer was stopped for having a tail light out and then an “abusive and improper arrest” was made. According to the article, after the video surfaced Brenizer was released from jail and not charged by the prosecutor. While Brenizer’s attorney was negotiating a settlement with Eaton County, the deputy resigned and got a job with another sheriff’s department.

After working with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), Jones drafted Senate Bill 1022, which would require that a law enforcement agency shall maintain a record regarding the reason for and the circumstances surrounding a separation of service of a police department and shall allow a prospective employing law enforcement agency to seek a copy of reasons and circumstances surrounding the separation. In addition, the law enforcement agency would be immune from civil liability.

“After 31 years in law enforcement, I want to ensure that Michigan has the best police officers on the road,” Jones said. “Bad behavior should never be hidden by the officer resigning.”

SB 1022 was introduced on June 8 and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Jones, Liberati introduce legislation to increase penalties for assaulting a person with a developmental disability

LANSING, Mich. — As co-chairmen of the legislative Disabilities Awareness Caucus, Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Frank Liberati have introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase penalties for assaulting an individual with a developmental disability.

“As a board member and long-time volunteer of the Michigan Special Olympics, I find it horrific that someone would knowingly assault a person with special needs,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “People with disabilities can often have difficulty caring for themselves and protecting themselves. We must crack down hard on the kind of criminal who would assault a person with a disability.”

Senate Bills 1017 and 1018 and House Bills 5728 and 5729 aim to prevent harm to individuals with disabilities by creating a harsher punishment for those who know of a person’s disability and are guilty of assault or assault and battery on that person.

Under the bills, a first offense for someone convicted of assaulting an individual with a developmental disability and knowing that individual has a disability would be guilty of a misdemeanor and face up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Subsequent offenses would result in felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

“Not only does this legislation increase penalties for assault of a person with a disability, it gets to the bigger issue of needing to create a culture of respect and dignity,” said Liberati, D-Allen Park. “It is time to show this community has a voice and through this legislation they will be heard.”

The Disabilities Awareness Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral effort that focuses its attention on policy issues facing those with a disability.

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Senate sends Jones’ foster children bill to the governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday enrolled Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children. The bill now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

“During my time in law enforcement, I saw some of the terrible situations many young children endure in Michigan,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “As a foster grandparent, I have also seen the strength that children possess to make it through hard times and the positive impact of keeping siblings together.

“I look forward to seeing the governor help us protect the cherished bond between siblings in foster care by signing this legislation.”

Senate Bill 483 would put a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with siblings. If siblings could not be placed together, then a priority of sibling visitations and ongoing interaction would be arranged to ensure a sibling bond.

The bill would require frequent visitations between non-custodial, biological parents and their children unless the court determines that the parenting time would be harmful to the child.

“As long as there is no harm to a foster child seeing their biological parent, they should be able to spend time together and preserve their family bond,” Jones said.

Jones said that the University of Michigan Law School Legislation Clinic brought this issue to his attention.

“I have been working with them, the Children’s Law Section Council of the State Bar and the state Department of Health and Human Services to make sure that we are helping our foster children,” Jones said.

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Jones’ Red Cross income tax donation bills heading to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan residents would be able to make voluntary donations on their state tax returns to help support the American Red Cross under legislation on its way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 429, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, would create an individual income tax checkoff in support of the American Red Cross in Michigan. This would allow taxpayers to choose to direct $5, $10, or more of their income tax return to the American Red Cross in Michigan.

“For more than a century, the American Red Cross has been one of our country’s most impactful and dedicated humanitarian organizations,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I look forward to seeing the governor sign this legislation — giving Michigan taxpayers a chance to support the Red Cross and its mission by simply checking a box on their state income tax form.”

SB 428 would require the creation of the American Red Cross Michigan Fund within the Department of Treasury. The fund would receive donations from the income tax checkoff to be given to the mid-Michigan chapter of the American Red Cross for distribution to all of the Michigan chapters.

“While these donations would have no impact on the state budget, they could help make possible a tremendous amount of good work,” Jones said. “As a donor who has given more than 22 gallons of blood, I have seen first-hand the Red Cross’ outstanding work as the country’s largest single supplier of blood and blood products. They are also there in times of great need — from helping a single family after a home fire to assisting an entire community after a natural disaster.”

There were eight funds with checkoffs still on the 2015 state income tax form. Those funds raised nearly $600,000 during the 2014 tax year.

Michigan law limits the number of income tax checkoffs allowed in a single year to 10 and requires that a checkoff that failed to raise at least $50,000 in a single tax year for two consecutive years must be removed from the income tax form.

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