Jones, Barrett seek to protect School Aid Fund, equalize per-pupil spending

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced two joint resolutions designed to protect school funding and equalize per-pupil funding throughout the state.

“This is about keeping our word to our schools and ensuring that all Michigan students are given the equal chance to learn,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I have been opposed to raiding the School Aid Fund ever since Governor Granholm first started shifting school aid dollars to colleges. Voters approved Proposal A with the expectation that the fund would be used solely to support our K-12 and special education schools, and that is what this reform would ensure.”

Senate Joint Resolution A would propose an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to remove “higher education” as one of the allowed uses of the state’s School Aid Fund.

SJR B would propose a constitutional amendment requiring that all local school districts receive the same amount of total state and local per-pupil revenue for school operating purposes by no later than the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Rep. Tom Barrett will be sponsoring similar measures in the House of Representatives.

“The students and teachers of Eaton County are expected to meet the same standards as everyone else, yet most of our local schools receive the minimum in per-pupil funding from the state,” said Barrett, R-Potterville. “Our kids are worth every bit as much as kids in any other part of Michigan. I look forward to working with Senator Jones to close the disparity gap between our highest- and lowest-funded school districts.”

Jones said, “The vast majority of Michigan schools receive the minimum per-pupil allowance, including every school district in Clinton and Shiawassee counties. It’s not fair that other schools in our state are receiving much higher per-pupil funding, and it needs to be fixed.”

Both of Jones’ resolutions have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature, the proposals would be submitted to the voters for final approval.

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Sen. Jones aims to give Michigan companies a fair shot

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation to ensure that Michigan companies receive an equal playing field when involved in a procurement process.

“This is about keeping Michigan strong and giving our companies a fair chance,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We cannot give other countries a leg up and allow them to abuse our FOIA system to harm Michigan businesses.”

Senate Bill 69 would exempt a bid, quote or proposal involved in a procurement process from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) until the final notification that the contract is awarded. This would prohibit a company from being able to see other bids before a final decision is made.

“Recently, a Canadian salt company was able to FOIA the bids of other competitors in an effort to underbid everyone else and win the contract,” Jones said. “Michigan businesses, including the Detroit Salt Company, have continued to be underbid by Canadian companies cheating the system, and it needs to stop.”

SB 69 has been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration.

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Sen. Jones introduces police ‘bad behavior’ bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

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

“After more than 30 years in law enforcement, I know how important it is for the community to have trust in their officers,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The vast majority of our police officers and sheriff deputies are good public servants. Unfortunately, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the public’s trust. Building trust in the community starts with ensuring that bad behavior is not tolerated, and that is the purpose of this legislation.”

Senate Bill 53 would require a law enforcement agency to maintain a record regarding the reason for and the circumstances surrounding a separation of service of a police department and would allow a prospective employing law enforcement agency to seek a copy of reasons and circumstances surrounding the separation.

Jones worked with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) on the legislation after learning that an Eaton County Sheriff deputy, who was accused of making an “abusive and improper arrest” in 2014, resigned and got a job with another sheriff department.

“I was surprised when I read the ‘Traffic Stop Gone Bad’ article last year in two Lansing papers and viewed the video, but I was shocked to learn that the accused deputy was able to go right out and get a job in another law enforcement office,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff.

In the article, the reporter described 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 recorded the incident with his phone.

The article described how the man was stopped for having a tail light out and then an “abusive and improper arrest” was made. After the video surfaced, the man was released from jail and was not charged by the prosecutor.

The Eaton County sheriff did not fire the deputy or seek charges against him. While the young man’s attorney was negotiating a settlement with Eaton County, the deputy resigned and got a position with another sheriff’s department.

SB 53 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Senate panel approves Jones bill to help protect children with special needs

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to help lost or injured people with special needs.

“These measures are about ensuring the safety of Michigan’s children with special needs and the peace of mind of their families,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “If children with special needs are injured or wander away, they are often unable to help law enforcement contact their caregivers.

“This initiative would give parents the ability to have photographs and fingerprints of their special needs children entered into a statewide system that could be used by law enforcement officials to reunite families when someone with special needs is unable to assist them.”

Senate Bill 36 would allow parents and guardians of special needs children to voluntarily add children with special needs to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) database and the statewide network of agency photos maintained by Michigan State Police. SB 38 would allow guardians to make the same requests for adults with special needs under their care.

“This program would be completely voluntary, and there would be no cost to taxpayers,” Jones said. “Caregivers would pay the state police for the costs, and the photographs and fingerprints would be removed from the databases at any time if requested by the parent or caregiver.”

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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Jones, Barrett introduce bills to repeal pension tax

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Tom Barrett have introduced legislation to repeal the pension tax.

“I think it is extremely unfair for people who planned for their retirement to suddenly, in the midst of their retirement, get hit with a new tax,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I am proud to be working with Representative Tom Barrett to stand up for our retirees by repealing the cruel pension tax.”

Senate Bill 41 would repeal the 2011 reform, commonly known as the pension tax, which introduced a tiered structure for taxing retired public employee pensions.

Barrett, R-Potterville, has introduced House Bill 4052 to also repeal the tax.

“It was unfair to institute a new tax on retirees once they were on a fixed income,” Jones said. “Our seniors could not have foreseen the change, and it was too late for many of them to go back to work. Many seniors tell me they are taking up legal residence in other states to avoid the tax.”

Under the pension tax, retirees born before 1946 are still exempt from the income tax and seniors born before 1952 have limited deductions. Jones said that the tiered structure could result in two retirees being taxed at different amounts due to an age difference of just a few days.

“It is fundamentally unfair to tax our retirees in a way that they could not anticipate throughout their working careers,” Barrett said. “Our seniors deserve better than this tax on their already reduced income.”

SB 41 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration, and HB 4052 has been referred to the House Tax Policy Committee for consideration.

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Jones working to ensure licensing integrity

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones announced on Thursday that he is drafting a bill to ensure that anyone who has been a registered lobbyist in the last five years may not apply to be on a state of Michigan licensing board. A marijuana licensing board will soon be created by the state.

“It has come to my attention that lobbyists would like to serve on the Michigan Marijuana Licensing Board,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The board will be responsible for licensing the growing, transporting and dispensing of medical marijuana. The board must have full integrity and any appearance of impropriety must not be allowed. Some lobbyists have been paid by marijuana groups and should have no power over licenses.”

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Jones introduces bill to ban e-cigarettes for minors

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation to protect children from nicotine abuse in Michigan.

“Currently, there is a loophole allowing children under age 18 to purchase electronic cigarettes,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This measure would close that loophole and protect Michigan children from e-cigarettes. If an adult wants to smoke, that is their decision. However, I believe that it is irresponsible and dangerous for us to allow young people to be introduced to a culture of smoking before they can fully understand the gravity of choosing to smoke.

“And let’s make no mistake about it, using e-cigarettes can be just as addictive as smoking traditional cigarettes.”

Senate Bill 37 would prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes and nicotine cartridges to minors as well as ban minors from possessing these objects.

Under Jones’ legislation, stores that sell electronic cigarettes or nicotine cartridges to minors would be treated the same as if they sold them tobacco. Minors who possess these items would be treated the same as if they were in possession of tobacco.

SB 37 has been referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee for consideration.

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Jones reintroduces charitable gaming bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones on Wednesday reintroduced legislation in the Senate to allow charity poker rooms to operate in Michigan.

“Allowing charitable gaming in Michigan is about helping support local charities — not making huge profits for casinos,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I am proud to once again be working with Representative Tom Barrett to stand up for charitable organizations and community groups that benefit from these types of fundraising events, such as the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs; area schools; and police, firefighters and veterans groups.

“I continue to hear from local charities about the tremendous impact the loss of charitable gaming has had on their ability to support their causes and our communities.”

In 2015, the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the governor filed emergency rules after the current rules were challenged in court because charities said they would drastically limit their fundraising ability.

Last session, the Senate passed legislation in an attempt to codify the emergency rules into statute with some changes. The measure was supported by numerous groups, including the Michigan Jaycees and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Senate Bill 35 is a reintroduction of that legislation.

Rep. Tom Barrett will be sponsoring a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

“I appreciate Senator Jones’ partnership with this issue affecting our community,” said Barrett, R-Potterville. “Charities are important, and I am excited to continue working together to help our charities and protect this fundraising mechanism.”

SB 35 has been referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, which Jones serves on as vice chair.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Jones welcomes local barbershop owner to Capitol for State of the State address

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, proudly welcomed Mark Hughes to the Capitol on Tuesday night. Hughes is the owner of Jerry’s Barber Shop in Charlotte and accompanied the senator for Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2017 State of the State address.

Mark is the son of the late Jerry Hughes, who founded the barbershop. Jones started going to Jerry’s Barbershop 43 years ago and has continued his patronage ever since.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph of Jones with Hughes is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at www.SenatorRickJones.com/Photowire.

Governor signs Jones’ bill allowing landowners to ban growing, smoking of medical marihuana

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to allow landlords to ban tenants from growing or smoking medical marihuana in their rental properties.

“This is about helping ensure the safety of all renters and enabling landowners to protect their private property from destruction,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We had two rental homes totally destroyed in my district after they were turned into greenhouses to grow marihuana without permission. With this new law, we are clarifying that growing medical marihuana doesn’t trump safety or private property rights.”

Senate Bill 72, now Public Act 546 of 2016, amends the voter-approved Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) to specify that landlords can include a prohibition on growing or smoking medical marihuana in a rental property’s written lease.

Jones said the new act codifies a related 2011 Attorney General opinion, which said that under the MMMA, “an owner of a hotel, motel, apartment building, or other similar facility” can prohibit the smoking and growing of marihuana.

“This law does not prevent patients from using non-smokable forms of medical marihuana, such as edibles, creams and oils,” Jones said. “We acted earlier this year to allow Michigan patients to use these non-smokable alternatives because they are safer.”

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