Sen. Rick Jones named ‘Great Lakes Champion’

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones was named 2015-16 Great Lakes Champion by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters on Thursday.

Jones was specifically recognized for his leadership in the effort to ban commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes and Michigan inland waterways and to shut down a 64-year-old oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

“In Michigan, it is my constitutional duty as a senator to protect our greatest natural resource —the Great Lakes,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “While it is an honor to be named a Great Lakes Champion for defending our lakes and waterways, the real reward is knowing that I am doing all I can to ensure Michigan has clean water for drinking, fishing and outdoor recreation for generations to come.”

When it became clear in 2015 that some companies were interested in opening up factory fish farms in the Great Lakes, Jones introduced Senate Bill 526 to ban net pen fish farming in the Great Lakes and connected waterways in Michigan. Net pens are cages that house farmed fish in lakes and streams.

“Allowing commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes is too much of a risk for virtually no reward,” Jones said. “They are proven sources of pollution, invasive species, disease and fugitive fish that could wreak havoc on Great Lakes fisheries. Fish farms can release massive amounts of waste into the water that could threaten our fishing and outdoor recreation industries as well as the drinkability of our water.”

Jones sponsored Senate Bill 880 in 2016 with the aim to stop future oil pipelines from running through the Great Lakes and shut down Enbridge’s Line 5, a 64-year-old pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. It would have required operators of current oil pipelines to undergo a full risk analysis by a qualified independent third party. If the analysis concluded that risks were high, the pipeline would be shut down immediately.

“The bill was about securing the safety of our waters,” Jones said. “Roughly 40 million people rely on drinking water from the Great Lakes. I do not believe that it is a question of if the line will fail, but when. Providing Canada with a shortcut for its oil is not worth the risk of an oil leak that would devastate the health of the world’s largest collection of fresh water.”

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Sen. Rick Jones honored as 2016 Legislator of the Year by Michigan dentists

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones was named 2016 Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Dental Association (MDA) on Friday.

MDA President Dr. Larry DeGroat of South Lyon presented the award to Jones in recognition of his efforts to make dental cone beam computer tomography (CT) available to dentists.

CT is a new type of X-ray equipment that is used when regular dental x-rays are not sufficient. The technique provides 3-D images of a section of teeth, tissue and nerves in a single scan, reducing radiation exposure and pain for the patient.

“It is an honor to receive this award from the Michigan Dental Association that does so much to help keep our residents healthy,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Providing Michigan families access to dental care is a top priority. I fought to have this device more accessible to Michigan dentists because it can provide a 3-D view of nerves and blood vessels and could result in better dental surgery outcomes and less pain for patients.”

After Jones introduced Senate Bill 741 last session, the state acted to deregulate dental CT scanners. Prior to the state’s action, Michigan and Rhode Island were the only states in the country that had the restrictive regulation. Dental CT scanners continue to be regulated by Michigan’s Radiation Safety Section to ensure safety standards are met for the well-being of the public.

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

Senate approves Jones bill to give all bidders a fair shot

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to ensure that all companies compete on an equal playing field when bidding for a public contract.

“It is ridiculous that vendors could use FOIA to look at bids from their competitors before a final decision has been made on the project contract — giving them an unfair advantage,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The abuse of our FOIA system to undercut Michigan businesses needs to stop. Without this change, the state could also be missing out on savings because companies can use FOIA to see the current lowest bid and then come in just under it — even if they were going to offer a much lower bid.”

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.

The bill would also exempt trade secrets and financial or proprietary information from FOIA.

“We want to attract the best companies to Michigan, but many businesses are refusing to participate in our procurement process because they fear that their trade secrets or financial information will be compromised,” Jones said. “This legislation would put us in line with 41 other states that protect financial and proprietary information by exempting it from FOIA.”

Jones said that the proposed reform would only change the timing of bid disclosure information, and there would still be transparency once the contract has been awarded.

SB 69 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Jones, Bizon introduce bills to create African American Affairs Commission

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Dr. John Bizon have introduced legislation to establish an African American Affairs Commission in the state.

“It’s important for the state to take into consideration the entirety of our population,” said Bizon, R-Battle Creek. “This commission will address specifically the needs of our African American community, making sure they are benefiting from state decisions. This legislation will ensure that our black community has a direct line to the governor in making policy beneficial to all residents of the state of Michigan.”

Jones has introduced Senate Bill 165, which would establish an African American Affairs Commission within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). Bizon has introduced House Bill 4223 to also create the commission.

“Currently, the state has several commissions, including the Hispanic/Latino Commission, the Asian Pacific American Commission and the Council on Arab Chaldean American Affairs, and my goal is to make an African American Affairs Commission,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “As we celebrate Black History Month, it is just common sense that we have a commission that will monitor, evaluate, investigate and advocate for the betterment of African Americans throughout Michigan.”

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Jones introduces new pipe material reform

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones on Tuesday introduced legislation designed to help reduce the cost of replacing Michigan’s aging water infrastructure.

“Many of our state’s pipes are nearing or have passed their effective life, making it critical that we address Michigan’s aging water infrastructure,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Much of the problem lies with the tremendous costs of replacing miles of water and sewer pipes. Thankfully, new technology now offers us plastic pipes that could effectively replace much of our failing infrastructure at a lower cost to taxpayers.

“My bill would ensure that Michigan communities consider all qualified materials for public works projects — potentially enabling them to save money that could be used for other priorities or passed on to area residents.”

Senate Bill 157 would require that when state funds are used for water infrastructure projects, all materials that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) or American Water Works Association (AWWA) standards should be considered. Under the bill, if a pipe or piping material meets or exceeds the recognized standards for similar projects as determined by the ASTM or AWWA, then a public entity shall not exclude that piping material when soliciting bids for a public works project.

“This reform would allow new technologies that meet current standards for safety, strength, temperature and performance to be given a fair chance in the bidding process,” Jones said. “Replacing Michigan’s aging water infrastructure will be costly; by removing a virtual monopoly of outdated legacy materials and allowing all materials to be considered on projects, we could significantly lower costs to taxpayers.”

SB 157 has been sent to the Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee for consideration.

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Senate approves Jones’ charitable gaming bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to allow charity poker rooms to operate in Michigan.

“We need to put people over profits. This is about helping local charities raise the necessary funds to do tremendous good work in our communities — not protecting huge profits for casinos,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Senate passage of this measure is the first step to finally standing up for our charitable organizations and community groups such as area schools; police, firefighters and veterans groups; and Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs.

“Many organizations have seen a real impact in their fundraising ability with the loss of charitable gaming events.”

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.

Senate Bill 35 would codify the emergency rules into statute with some changes. The measure is supported by numerous groups, including the Michigan Jaycees and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, has sponsored a similar bill in the House of Representatives.

SB 35 has been sent to the Michigan House for consideration. Barrett’s bill is House Bill 4081 and has been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for consideration.

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Jones bill would create hate crime for targeting public safety personnel

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — People who attack a police officer, firefighter or EMT would be guilty of a hate crime under legislation introduced by Sen. Rick Jones.

“Assault and hatred against police officers is on the rise nationally, which is both alarming and dangerous for the safety of our communities,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “It is time that we take a stand for our public safety officers and first responders and defend these brave men and women who put their lives on the line to protect all of us.”

Under Senate Bills 127 and 128, a person who commits, or attempts to commit, a felony in which the victim is targeted because they are a police officer, firefighter or an emergency medical services personnel would be found guilty of a felony punishable by up to two years in prison, to be served consecutively to any other term of imprisonment.

“The vast majority of our police officers are good and honorable public servants,” Jones said. “I am against hate, and anyone who targets a law enforcement officer solely because they hate the police deserves to do an extra two years of prison time.”

SBs 127 and 128 have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Sen. Jones stands up for Michigan mom-and-pop stores

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — At the request of Sen. Rick Jones, the Attorney General’s Office recently issued an opinion that will protect small business owners against city ordinances that conflict with state law.

In August, the city of Ann Arbor passed a local ordinance banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under age 21. Under the ordinance, which went into effect on Jan. 1, retailers could be fined up to $500 for selling tobacco products to anyone under 21. Ann Arbor was the first city in Michigan to raise the legal purchasing age above 18.

“Ann Arbor’s ordinance would have done nothing to stop people from smoking; adults who chose to smoke would have simply gone outside the city to buy tobacco products,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I requested the attorney general’s opinion out of concern that this ordinance — and possibly similar ones in other cities — would harm owners of small mom-and-pop stores and gas stations throughout the state.”

In Opinion 7294, the attorney general ruled that Ann Arbor’s tobacco ordinance is unlawful because it conflicts with Michigan’s Age of Majority Act of 1972, which set the “age of majority” at 18 and prohibited younger adults from being treated differently than people older than 21.

“The power to limit adults from buying and consuming legal products is given to the state, and rules like this ordinance could create a patchwork set of laws that would unfairly burden locally owned convenience stores that are struggling to survive,” Jones said. “I also think it was tremendously hypocritical that this ban was put in place by Ann Arbor, a city that openly encourages smoking of recreational marijuana.”

Jones has previously sponsored legislation to prohibit a local unit of government from banning a legal product to supersede state law.

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