Jones bill aimed at shutting down pipeline in Mackinac straits

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation that aims to shut down oil pipelines in the Great Lakes.

Jones’ measure targets Line 5, a 64-year-old pipeline owned by Enbridge, and aims to stop the flow of crude oil from Alberta, Canada under the Straits of Mackinac to the Canadian Sarnia refinery in Ontario.

“This is about fulfilling my constitutional duty as a senator to protect our greatest natural resource, the Great Lakes,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Roughly 40 million people drink water from the Great Lakes every day, and the lakes support thousands of Michigan jobs and families. It is simply too much to risk so that Canada can have a shortcut for their oil.”

Enbridge’s Line 6B was the pipeline that caused the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010. This was one of the worst and most expensive oil spills in U.S. history. Line 6B was an aged pipeline that was built in the 1960s, much like Line 5.

Senate Bill 292 would amend the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act to stop future pipelines from running through the Great Lakes. It would also require operators of current oil pipelines to undergo a full risk analysis by a qualified independent third party and turn it into the state. If the preliminary analysis concludes that risks are high, the pipeline would be shut down immediately.

“I do not believe that it is a question of if the line will fail, but when,” Jones said. “A leak from the pipeline under the straits would devastate the state’s thriving boating, fishing and tourism industries and wreak havoc on the health of the world’s largest collection of fresh water.

“I fully expect the analysis will determine that keeping Line 5 open is too high of a risk, and it will be forced to be decommissioned under the straits.”

Jones’ bill has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee for consideration.

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Senate approves Jones’ police ‘bad behavior’ bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to ensure that a police officer’s bad behavior will not be hidden by that officer’s resignation.

“As a former sheriff, I know how important it is for the community to have trust in their local law enforcement officers,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “While the overwhelming majority of our police officers and sheriff deputies are outstanding public servants, 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 bill.”

Senate Bill 223 would require a law enforcement agency to maintain a record regarding the reason for and the circumstances surrounding a separation of service from a police department.

The bill would allow a prospective employing law enforcement agency to seek a copy of reasons and circumstances surrounding the separation.

Jones worked 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 and disappointed when I read about the actions of a deputy working in a department that I once led and in which I dedicated most of my life,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff. “However, I was deeply upset to learn that the deputy was not fired or charged and — while the county was negotiating a settlement as a result of his actions — he was able to leave and get a job with another sheriff’s department.”

In a 2016 article, a reporter described how he obtained 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 cell 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.

SB 223 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Bipartisan bills hold child abusers accountable

‘Wyatt’s Law’ would give parents access to critical information

LANSING, Mich. — Sens. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton; and Curtis Hertel, Jr., D-East Lansing; alongside state Reps. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores; Vanessa Guerra, D-Saginaw; and Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, have introduced a package of bills known as “Wyatt’s Law,” which would create and maintain a registry for those convicted of child abuse.

The House and Senate bills are identical pieces of legislation and match bills introduced in the House last session.

Inspiration for the bills came when the mother of Wyatt, the bill’s namesake, approached the Legislature following the abuse of her 1-year-old son at the hands of his father’s girlfriend. The mother had petitioned for sole custody due to unease about the father’s new girlfriend, but there was no way for her to check if the woman was a danger to her son. Wyatt suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of this woman. The mother didn’t learn until it was too late that the woman had two prior convictions for child abuse.

“Parents deserve to know who they are leaving their child with,” said Rep. Hertel, who represents the community where this incident occurred. “With a searchable database, we can give other parents access to important information they should have. I believe that this would never have happened had Wyatt’s mother been able to access the conviction information for free.”

“I sponsored a bill in this package last session and am pleased to sponsor it again this term because this story strikes you to your core,” said Guerra. “I’m looking forward to seeing these bills pass so that we have another layer of protection for our children who depend on us to take care of them.”

Schuitmaker echoed the importance of this legislation.

“If someone has stood trial and been convicted of child abuse, there need to be consequences,” Schuitmaker said. “We have to hold people accountable. No parent should ever be left feeling like they ‘should have done more.’”

Lucido agreed, stating, “After spending nearly 30 years in a courtroom, I have seen all too often how many preventable injuries and deaths occurred because of sheer lack of information. I am proud to step up and take part in this effort.”

Sen. Hertel, a father of four, is confident in the support for the legislation.

“I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass Wyatt’s Law,” Hertel said. “We have a genuine opportunity to help protect kids and there is nothing more important.”

Jones concurred on the importance of working across the aisle.

“I think seeing the bipartisan sponsorship of this package helps people see how crucial it is,” Jones said. “Any parent or grandparent will tell you they use their intuition in making childcare decisions, and this registry helps give them peace of mind if something doesn’t seem right.”

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Jones resolution backs Schuette’s opposition to federal attempt to weaken state ballast water laws

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones has introduced a resolution in support of Attorney General Bill Schuette’s opposition to federal legislation that would weaken federal and state ballast water laws protecting the Great Lakes from aquatic invasive species.

“The Great Lakes are the world’s largest collection of fresh water, and we have a constitutional duty in Michigan to protect them,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Aquatic invasive species are one of the most serious threats to the health of the Great Lakes and the people and businesses that depend on them. This resolution is about taking a stand with the attorney general that we must be able to protect our waters from invasions that could decimate our economy and wreak havoc on the ecosystems of the Great Lakes and all its inland lakes and rivers.”

Senate Resolution 22 says that more than 180 nonnative aquatic species have been introduced into the Great Lakes. Over the last 60 years, most of these species, including zebra and quagga mussels, have been introduced from oceangoing ships discharging ballast water.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would limit Michigan’s and other states’ ability to protect their waters from aquatic invasive species.

“Michigan is a leader in efforts to stop aquatic invasive species and was the first state to require oceangoing ships entering state waters to treat their ballast water to kill any invasive species,” Jones said. “Once these species invade, they are nearly impossible to eradicate and can cause millions of dollars in damage and control costs. The invasive species already in the Great Lakes cost the region more than $100 million per year, and we must fight any effort that weakens our ability to protect our waters and jeopardizes the Great Lakes ecosystem.”

Jones was recently named 2015-16 Great Lakes Champion by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters for his leadership in defending the lakes.

“This resolution is part of a continued and dedicated effort to ensure we take every reasonable and responsible step to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come,” Jones said.

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Jones ‘surviving spouse’ bill headed to the governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Tuesday enrolled legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones that alleviates the responsibility of funeral directors from having to make a legal decision about whether a spouse is truly a surviving spouse. The bill is on its way to the governor’s desk.

“As a happily married man of 43 years, this is a rather odd topic for me to work on. However, it is becoming more common in our society for married couples to separate and not legally get divorced,” said Jones, R- Grand Ledge. “The spouses will then move on with their lives and oftentimes move in with a significant other. Then when that person dies, who has the right to make funeral arrangements? This has been the situation that funeral directors have been dealing with.”

Senate Bill 39 would relieve funeral directors from having to make a decision determining a surviving spouse if there is a conflict and allow for an appeal process in probate courts to determine the issue.

In Michigan, the list of who can make funeral arrangements for a decedent includes, in order: a designated individual; a surviving spouse; and the decedent’s children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents and siblings.

“Under this legislation, if there is a disagreement on who is the surviving spouse and who has the authority to make decisions on right to disposition, those persons can appeal in probate court,” Jones said. “This is not a decision that funeral directors should have to make.”

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Jones, Barrett welcome three-star general to Michigan Capitol

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, welcome retired Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins (center) to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday. Atkins is the current president and CEO of the Military Officers Association of America. The retired Air Force general visited the Capitol as part of a nationwide tour to discuss ongoing military and veterans issues.

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

Jones’ criminal justice reform bills headed to the governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday sent a bipartisan criminal justice reform package to the governor. The 20-bill package makes reforms throughout the criminal justice system, from probation to prison time to parole and integration back into society.

Included in the package are two measures by Sen. Rick Jones to allow judges to shorten an individual’s probation term as a result of good behavior and to allow an expedited process for release based on a prisoner’s medical condition.

“I was proud to be a part of a bipartisan reform effort that seeks to create a smarter and more efficient criminal justice system that protects our families and achieves better outcomes for everyone,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The vast majority of the 42,000 people in our prison system right now will one day return to our communities. That is why it is so important that we effectively rehabilitate offenders to give them the best shot at a successful and productive life after prison.”

Senate Bill 15 would allow a judge to reduce an individual’s remaining probation term by up to 100 percent if the individual has already served half of his or her probation term, the judge determines that the individual’s conduct while on probation would warrant a reduction and the reduction is recommended by the probation officer.

“My bill would provide a way for probationers who do everything right and are good citizens to have their probation cut by up to half,” Jones said. “Putting an incentive on good behavior is critical to achieving a goal of having a criminal justice system that costs less, keeps Michigan communities safe and breaks the cycle of crime.”

Jones also sponsored SB 12, which would enable the governor to request the parole board to expedite the review and hearing process for a reprieve, commutation, or pardon based in part on a prisoner’s medical condition.

“This is about being compassionate to people who are dying and pose no further risk to the public,” Jones said. “Michigan’s medical commutation process can take more than 400 days, and prisoners can die before the process is completed. The bill keeps the current system and safeguards, but speeds it up — reducing the timeframe up to 10 months.”

Jones said that shortening the timeframe would allow dying offenders to receive end-of-life care from their families or in a hospice — at a fraction of the cost to Michigan taxpayers of providing that care in a state prison.

Senate Bills 5-13, 15-24 and 50 now head to the governor to be signed.

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House approves Jones bill to give all bidders a fair shot

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives 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.

The Senate will enroll the bill and send it to the governor to be signed.

“It is unfair that vendors could use FOIA in our state to look at bids from their competitors before a final decision has been made on the project contract,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Without this change, state taxpayers could 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. Companies can also use FOIA to find out how much money the state can spend on a particular project.

“I look forward to seeing the governor sign this measure and stop the abuse of our FOIA system to undercut 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. The bill would also exempt trade secrets and financial or proprietary information from FOIA.

Jones said that many businesses are refusing to participate in the procurement process in Michigan because they fear that their trade secrets or financial information will be compromised.

“We want to attract the best companies to Michigan, and this legislation would put us in line with 41 other states that protect financial and proprietary information by exempting it from FOIA,” Jones said. “Importantly, the reform would only change the timing of bid disclosure information. There would still be transparency once the contract has been awarded.”

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Rick Jones takes ‘Polar Plunge’ to support Special Olympics

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, plunged into an ice-cold pool in front of the Capitol on Thursday. Jones and other legislators participated in the 2017 Legislative Polar Plunge to help raise money for Special Olympics Michigan, a nonprofit organization offering year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Jones is a member of the Special Olympics Michigan board and participated in his eighth polar plunge. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and members and staff of the Michigan House and Senate also took the plunge.

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

***MEDIA ADVISORY*** Jones to participate in Special Olympics ‘Legislative Polar Plunge’ at Capitol

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones will plunge into an ice-cold pool in front of the Capitol on Thursday as part of the 2017 Legislative Polar Plunge to help raise money for Special Olympics Michigan.

Who:
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and
Other legislators and staff.

When:
Thursday, March 2 at 3 p.m.

Where:
State Capitol
East lawn
Lansing

What:
Jones is a member of the Special Olympics Michigan board and will be participating in his eighth polar plunge.

Funds raised by the plunges help more than 23,000 athletes participate in Special Olympics Michigan, a nonprofit organization offering year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

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