Senate legislation outlaws female genital mutilation in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — Bills that will be introduced in the state Senate would make the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Michigan a felony crime punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment.

Senate Bill 337 would establish the crime, while SB 338 would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines. The bills are expected to be formally read in on Thursday.

“Female genital mutilation is a horrible procedure that permanently deforms girls and stands against the rights of girls and women that so many have fought for in our country,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of SB 337. “We must put a stop to it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, female genital mutilation refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

The department states federal law prohibits anyone in the country from knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age. Michigan would join at least 24 other states that have laws prohibiting the procedure.

“There is no place for this type of barbarism in Michigan,” said Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, a co-sponsor. “This legislation will help to ensure that those convicted of this heinous act receive the justice they deserve.”

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform female genital mutilation on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“FGM is a violation of human rights. It is an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women and we want Michigan to join 24 states that have outlawed FGM,” said Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsor of SB 338. “My bill makes it possible for the person who does this procedure to receive 15 years in prison. Our bills say ‘Never in Michigan.’ This evil, horrific act against little girls is demonic.”

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Bills heading to the governor would protect children with special needs

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Ben Frederick to help lost or injured people with special needs will soon be on its way to the governor’s desk.

“This is 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 legislation 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.”

House Bill 4137 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.

Senate Bill 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.”

On Wednesday, the Senate approved HB 4137 and the House approved SB 38. The measures now return to their respective chambers to be enrolled and sent to the governor.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Jones welcomes Rabbi Zimmerman to lead the Senate invocation

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, proudly welcomed Rabbi Michael Zimmerman (right) to the Michigan Senate on Tuesday. Zimmerman serves as rabbi at the Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing and delivered the invocation before the start of Senate session.

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

**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Rick Jones honored by Michigan Interscholastic Press Association

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, was presented with the 2017 John V. Field Award by the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA) on Tuesday.

Journalism students from Grand Ledge assisted in presenting the award to Jones, who was recognized for his work last year advocating for the First Amendment rights of student journalists. Jones sponsored legislation to create the Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act, specifying that a student journalist would have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media.

The John V. Field Award recognizes a person who is not currently a student media adviser for their significant contributions to scholastic journalism in Michigan. The award was first given in 1972 to John Field, who served as executive director of MIPA for more than 20 years.

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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.

Sen. Jones sponsoring internet privacy bills

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones is working on legislation to protect the privacy of Michigan residents using the internet.

“In today’s digital economy, consumer information can be valuable and — if in the wrong hands — can be dangerous,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “In the marketplace of information, each Michigan resident deserves the ability to have a say about what kind of data about them is being collected and sold. That is what my bills will do.”

The federal government recently repealed internet privacy rules that would have required internet service providers to get consent from their customers before using or selling their sensitive data for targeted advertisements. Data protected by the rules would have included web browsing history, app usage history, geolocation and financial and medical information.

“In my opinion, the federal government really dropped the ball in the protection of citizens using the internet,” Jones said. “My bills would ensure that Michigan residents have the ability to browse the web without billion-dollar corporations looking over their shoulder.”

Jones’ bills would prevent internet service providers from selling a consumer’s private information without permission and also extend those requirements to internet search engines, like Google and Facebook.

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Jones ‘surviving spouse’ bill signed by governor

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed 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 purpose of this new law was to address a growing situation that funeral directors were dealing with in Michigan: determining if someone is a surviving spouse,” said Jones, R- Grand Ledge. “It is becoming more common in our society for married couples to separate and not legally get divorced. In these cases, the spouses move on with their lives and oftentimes move in with a significant other. The problem arises when that person dies. Who has the right to make the funeral arrangements?”

Senate Bill 39, now Public Act 20 of 2017, relieves 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.

“If there is a disagreement now on who is the surviving spouse and who has the authority to make decisions on right to disposition, those people can appeal in probate court,” Jones said. “This was a decision that funeral directors should never have been forced to make, and now it will go to a family court judge who is best trained for these emotional legal disputes.”

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Governor signs Jones bill to ensure fair bidding, protect proprietary information

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to ensure that all companies compete on an equal playing field when bidding for a public contract.

Senate Bill 69, now Public Act 21 of 2017, exempts 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.

“I thank the governor for signing this measure and stopping the abuse of our FOIA system to undercut Michigan businesses,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Before this change, vendors could unfairly use FOIA to find out how much money the state can spend on a particular project and also look at bids from their competitors before a final decision has been made.

“As a result, state taxpayers could have been missing out on savings as companies could prepare their bids based on information gained through FOIA instead of simply offering the lowest possible price.”

The new act also exempts 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.

“As we try to attract the best companies to our state, this will put Michigan in line with 41 other states that protect financial and proprietary information,” Jones said. “The new law will only change the timing of bid disclosure information. There would still be transparency once the contract has been awarded.”

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