Senate legislation would protect victims of domestic violence, rape and human trafficking

LANSING, Mich. — Victims of domestic violence and sexual assault would be able to hide their physical addresses from their offenders under legislation being introduced by Sens. Margaret O’Brien, Tonya Schuitmaker and Rick Jones.

“It is time for the state to step up to help victims safely get a fresh start away from their offenders,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “This Senate legislation would help protect victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking by keeping their locations hidden from their offenders. For many women and children, this is a matter of life and death.”

The Senate legislation would create an address confidentiality program in Michigan. The program would enable victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking to obtain a confidential address to protect themselves from their past offenders.

The confidential address would be used on official documentations as well as mailing addresses.

“Keeping victims safe is the number one priority in this legislation,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “These individuals have already been through the most difficult of times, and I certainly think these bills can provide both closure and a bit of assistance.”

Under the bills, if a child is at risk of being threatened or physically harmed or they or their parents are victims of domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking, rape or sexual battery, they too would be eligible to apply as a program participant and receive an identification number. A school would not be allowed to disclose the address of a pupil or a pupil’s parent if they are program participants.

“With this legislation, Michigan would join 37 other states in offering address confidentiality programs for victims of abuse or assault,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “There are cases of victims who have been forced to leave the state or even the country to escape their attackers. By providing a confidential address under this legislation, the state can decrease the risk of victims being threatened or harmed again by offenders.”

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Jones sponsoring disabled combat veteran tax exemption bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones announced on Monday that he will be turning in legislation to ensure disabled combat veterans do not have to pay state income tax when the government forgives student loan debt due to the veteran’s combat injuries.

“This is like something out of a Dickens novel,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Only the IRS would be such a cold-hearted Scrooge as to demand that a totally disabled combat veteran pay income taxes on student loan debt that a kinder government official decided to forgive.”

Jones requested the legislation after being contacted by a local veteran who is permanently disabled due to injuries he sustained in combat. The veteran had outstanding student loans of more than $220,000. Due to his disability in the service of his country, the federal government forgave the debt.

However, the IRS treats debt cancellation as income, so the veteran is being asked to pay federal income taxes on the entire amount. He was able to reduce the loan forgiveness to $161,000, but the federal tax bill remains $62,000.

The state of Michigan basically follows the IRS lead on how debt cancellation is treated, so the state is also asking him to pay $8,000 in state income taxes and fees.

The veteran’s story was first chronicled by the Lansing State Journal and then picked up by several state and national publications over the weekend.

Jones’ bill would ensure that if a veteran is permanently disabled due to combat injuries, and the federal government cancels student loan debt because of that disability, then that debt cancellation will not be counted as income for tax purposes in Michigan.

“This veteran has a lien on his house and is having his disability benefits garnished. It is really shameful that the state and federal governments are making a disabled veteran go through this ordeal,” Jones said. “I hope that Congress acts to correct this terrible situation. In the meantime, my legislation will at least provide relief here in Michigan for disabled combat veterans with forgiven student loan debt.”

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**MEDIA ADVISORY** Sens. O’Brien and Jones to outline legislation to protect victims of domestic violence

LANSING, Mich. — Sens. Margaret O’Brien and Rick Jones on Monday, Oct. 23 will discuss coming legislation designed to protect victims of domestic violence.

Who:
Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

What:
A press conference announcing upcoming Senate legislation with Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, to create an address confidentiality program designed to protect victims of domestic violence.

When:
Monday, Oct. 23 at noon.

Where:
Michigan Capitol
Room 402/403
Lansing

Brief:
O’Brien, Jones and Schuitmaker will be introducing legislation to create an address confidentiality program.

The program would allow victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking to receive a confidential address to protect themselves from their past offenders.

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Senate committee OKs Jones’ clergy sexual assault bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to crack down on sexual assaults by members of the clergy.

“Pastors are supposed to be servants of God guiding the spiritual and personal growth of their parishioners,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Unfortunately, all too often we hear about clergy members taking advantage of vulnerable members of their church. This measure is about cracking down on sexual assaults by pastors by treating them criminally the same way that we do counselors, doctors and psychologists who abuse individuals who come to them for help.”

Jones said the legislation is in response to a recent case of a young woman being sexually assaulted by her pastor while he was performing a “religious” anointing ceremony.

Senate Bill 607 would prohibit a member of the clergy from sexual contact or sexual penetration of a person who has sought religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort. Under the proposed legislation, a violation would be entered as a charge of third- or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sexual penetration is third-degree criminal sexual conduct and is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual contact is fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.

SB 607 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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Jones’ bad cop bill signed by governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to ensure that a police officer’s bad behavior will not be hidden by that officer’s resignation.

“This new law is about helping improve the public’s trust in law enforcement throughout our state,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The overwhelming majority of police officers and sheriff deputies in Michigan are great public servants who are dedicated to honorably serving their communities, but it only takes one bad apple to spoil everything.

“Bad behavior by law enforcement officers should never be tolerated, and this new law will help ensure that it is never hidden from prospective new employers.”

Senate Bill 223, now Public Act 128 of 2017, requires 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 new law will 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’s department.

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House panel approves Jones’ police academy background check bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to allow the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to receive background check information on individuals entering police training academies.

“It was shocking to me that our police training academies were not already doing full background checks on all of their applicants,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “These important checks are the only way for the state to know if police academy applicants have criminal records. Without this safety check, it’s possible that our training academies could be providing firearms training to violent offenders.”

MCOLES currently does not have authority to gain information from the Michigan State Police (MSP) on fingerprints submitted for a criminal history record information check by persons wanting to enter a preservice college basic law enforcement training academy or a regional basic law enforcement training academy.

Senate Bill 524 would allow MCOLES to have the MSP conduct fingerprint background checks of applicants to law enforcement training academies through the MSP system and through the FBI.

“It is critical to keeping our communities safe that we do our best to ensure we have the best men and women possible to protect and serve Michigan residents,” said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff. “I want to thank the House committee for their support. I look forward to seeing the House quickly approve this measure and make sure that every prospective law enforcement officer passes a background check.”

SB 524 now heads to the full House for consideration.

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Jones introduces bill to prohibit clergy members from taking advantage of vulnerable parishioners

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Clergy would be added as a position of power to the state’s criminal sexual conduct law under legislation introduced by Sen. Rick Jones.

“We cannot allow any clergy members to take advantage of the vulnerable persons they are counseling,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Many times pastors act as counselors in the same way mental health counselors, doctors and psychologists do. They should come under the same laws and not be able to sexually assault a parishioner.”

Jones said the legislation is in response to a recent case of a young woman being sexually assaulted by her pastor while he was performing a “religious” anointing ceremony.

Senate Bill 607 would prohibit a member of the clergy from sexual contact or sexual penetration of a person who has sought religious or spiritual advice, aid or comfort. Under the proposed legislation, a violation would be entered as a charge of third- or fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Sexual penetration is third-degree criminal sexual conduct and is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Sexual contact is fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and is punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.

SB 607 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Jones’ police ‘bad behavior’ bill heading to the governor

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to ensure that a police officer’s bad behavior will not be hidden by that officer’s resignation is on its way to becoming law.

The House of Representatives approved the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to send it to the governor’s desk today.

“Although the overwhelming majority of police officers and sheriff deputies in Michigan are outstanding public servants, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the public’s trust,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This bill will help law enforcement improve community trust by ensuring that bad behavior by officers is not tolerated.

“I want to thank my colleagues for approving this important legislation, and I look forward to seeing the governor sign it.”

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’s department.

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