**Media Advisory** Sen. Jones to participate in Special Olympics ‘Legislative Polar Plunge’ at Capitol

<strong>Who:</strong>
Sen. Rick Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

<strong>What:</strong>
2015 Legislative Polar Plunge

<strong>When:</strong>
Thursday, March 5. The plunge will begin at 3 p.m.

<strong>Where:</strong>
State Capitol
West Lawn
Lansing, MI

<strong>Brief:</strong>
Jones, R-Grand Ledge, serves on the board of the Michigan Special Olympic Committee and will be participating in a Polar Plunge for the fifth time.

Funds raised by the plunges assist nearly 21,000 athletes who participate in Special Olympics Michigan, a year round program offering sports for those with intellectual disabilities.

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Sen. Jones honored by pastors for work supporting children, families

LANSING—Members of Shepherding the Next Generation (SNG) presented Sen. Rick Jones with the 2014 Fellowship & Stewardship Award at an Honors Breakfast in Lansing on Tuesday. 

Jones was recognized for outstanding fellowship shown to Michigan’s children and families through support of proven programs that help prepare the next generation of family and community leaders.

“I am truly honored to receive this award from pastors and ministry leaders who are dedicated to strengthening our families and communities through education,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I have long supported early-childhood education programs that have a proven record of benefitting both students and taxpayers. By better ensuring that children are prepared to learn, we can help improve a child’s chance at success and also reduce the number of students who need to repeat grades, which can save Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

Pastor Chris Carter, youth pastor at Northpointe Community Church in Dewitt and an executive committee member of SNG, presented the award.

“Shepherding the Next Generation’s member pastors are pleased to acknowledge the work of Senator Rick Jones and present him with our Fellowship & Stewardship Award,” said Carter. “It is in recognition of his support for our children through funding of quality preschool for eligible 4-year-olds in Michigan. This program is essential to prepare the next generation of community leaders.”

The effort to fully fund the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) – Michigan’s state-funded preschool – was spearheaded by Gov. Snyder, who indicated in his State of the State address that he wanted to make Michigan a “no-wait” state for preschool.  The governor was also presented the Fellowship & Stewardship Award for his collaboration with lawmakers to increase the GSRP by $130 million to provide access to high-quality preschool for all eligible 4-year-olds.

Shepherding the Next Generation – Michigan is part of a national nonprofit membership organization of evangelical pastors and ministry leaders who are committed to strengthening families and communities by strengthening the next generation.

According to SNG, “For young children, early education can help lay the foundation for future academic and social success. For many children at risk, their parents cannot always afford quality early education programs and the surrounding circumstances often take priority over a parent ensuring their child is ready for school. As a result, too many disadvantaged children start school already behind their classmates in early math and reading skills. They often lack the social skills needed to follow teachers’ directions and get along with their peers. These problems can create a pattern of failure that lasts a lifetime. High-quality early childhood education can give at-risk children the strong start they will need in school and in life. Research of the Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti shows that, among participants in the program versus those not in the program, high school graduation was significantly higher, students graduated on schedule and had higher incomes. This adds greatly to individual, family and community stability.

“Further, the programs save valuable taxpayer dollars though substantial savings produced when successful students are less reliant on social welfare or involved in the justice system.”

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Senate approves Jones’ foster children bills

LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children was approved on Thursday by the Michigan Senate.

“During my time in law enforcement, I saw first-hand some of the horrible situations many young children must endure in Michigan,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “As a foster grandpa, I have also seen the strength that children possess to make it through hard times.”

Jones said that the University of Michigan Law School Legislation Clinic brought the measures to his attention.

“I have been working with them, the Children’s Law Section Council and the state Department of Human Services, to make sure that we are helping our foster children,” Jones said.

Senate Bill 994 would allow for reinstating parental rights if a biological parent has proven that he or she is now fit to care for their child and if that child is still a legal orphan.

SBs 995-997 would place a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with both siblings and parents. If siblings cannot be placed together, then a priority of visitations and ongoing interaction will be emplaced to ensure a sibling bond. SB 997 would allow visitation between non-custodial, biological parents and their children with approval of the court.

“It is important to keep family units together, and a bond between siblings is one of the most cherished parts of a family,” Jones said. “I have seen the positive impact of placing siblings together in my own daughter’s home. Likewise, as long as there is no harm to a foster child seeing their biological parent, they should be able to spend time together and preserve their family bond.”

SBs 994-997 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Sen. Jones urges Congress to stop closure of Lansing mail processing center

LANSING—A resolution sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones formally requests Congress to prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from closing or consolidating the mail processing and distribution center on Collins Road in Lansing.

“It is long overdue that Congress and President Obama come together and finally fix the postal service,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Closing the Lansing mail processing center could lead to a slippery slope where mail in mid-Michigan is eventually delivered only a couple times a week.

“The president sends billions of dollars overseas – taxpayer dollars that could be better put to use ensuring the U.S. Postal Service provides efficient daily mail service. Keeping open the Lansing facility is part of that effort.”

Senate Resolution 189 states that the U.S. Postal Service plans to close or consolidate the Lansing facility on Jan. 5, 2015.

The resolution urges congressional intervention to stop the proposal, which “will cause the delay of mail and elimination of overnight delivery of first-class mail.”

Once adopted by the Senate, copies of Jones’ resolution would be sent to the president of the U.S. Senate, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representative and each member of the Michigan congressional delegation.  

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Sen. Jones applauds voter approval of expanded BWL representation

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones on Wednesday applauded the nearly 2-to-1 approval by Lansing voters to amend the city charter to create three non-voting seats on the Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) to represent the utility’s suburban customers.

“I am very happy with the overwhelming results of the Lansing election concerning regional representation and accountability at the Board of Water & Light,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. 
“I have fought for outside oversight of the BWL, and this will give a voice to the nearly 39 percent of BWL customers who live outside the city of Lansing. Now, the communities of Delta Township, East Lansing and other areas will have three new members of the Board of Commissioners looking out for them.”

Under the new charter terms, one new BWL board member will represent East Lansing, one will represent Delta Township and one at-large seat will rotate annually between Meridian, Delhi, DeWitt and Lansing townships.

A second reform giving the mayor emergency authority over BWL during a crisis was also approved.

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Governor signs Jones bills to help ensure justice for rape victims

LANSING—Comprehensive measures sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to support victims of sexual assault were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday.

“As a father and former sheriff, I know all too well about the devastation these crimes can bring,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I want to thank Governor Snyder and the bipartisan team of lawmakers for their help in bringing some justice and relief to victims.”

Public Act 318 of 2014, sponsored by Jones, will create a commission consisting of high-level state officials and victim’s rights organization members who are experts in this matter and will place a high priority on the well-being of victims throughout the process. The commission will be tasked with establishing a system to track, audit and fund the submission of all released sexual assault evidence kits.

Jones’ other bill, PA 321, will, upon the victim’s request, require medical testing for venereal disease, hepatitis B and C, and HIV within 48 hours of indictment of an offender for criminal sexual conduct.

The governor on Tuesday also signed PAs 319 and 320, sponsored by Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit. These laws will require law enforcement agencies to inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits and set timelines concerning the kits from the time a health care facility obtains consent to release an evidence kit to the time it must be analyzed.

House OKs Jones bills to help ensure justice for rape victims

LANSING—Comprehensive measures sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to support victims of sexual assault were approved on Thursday by the Michigan House of Representatives.

“After months of hard work, Michigan is taking a critical step toward ensuring justice for survivors of sexual assault throughout our state,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This effort came about after more than 11,000 rape kits were discovered – untested – in a Detroit warehouse. I was proud to join a bipartisan team of lawmakers to help prevent such a catastrophe from reoccurring in the future.

“As a father and former sheriff, I want to thank the House for quickly passing this legislation, and I look forward to seeing it signed by the governor. It’s about more than getting rape kits analyzed; it’s about standing up for and seeking justice on behalf of brave victims who come forward after an assault.”

Senate Bill 998, sponsored by Jones, would create a commission consisting of high-level state officials and victim’s rights organization members who are experts in this matter and will place a high priority on the wellbeing of victims throughout the process. The commission would be tasked with establishing a system to track, audit and fund the submission of all released sexual assault evidence kits.

Jones’ other bill, SB 1036, would, upon the victim’s request, require medical testing for venereal disease, hepatitis B and C, and HIV within 48 hours of indictment of an offender for criminal sexual conduct.

Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, and Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, sponsored bills to require law enforcement agencies to inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits and set timelines concerning the kits from the time a health care facility obtaining consent to release an evidence kit to the time it must be analyzed.

Walsh’s bill was signed by the governor in July and is now Public Act 227 of 2014. Johnson’s bills, SBs 1004 and 1021, were approved by the House on Thursday along with Jones’ bills. 

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Senate approves Jones bill to protect women in domestic violence situations

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation designed to protect women in domestic violence situations who are seeking a divorce was approved Wednesday by the Michigan Senate.

Jones’ bill addresses a practice commonly referred to as “trolling” for potential divorce clients.

“This is about preventing greedy attorneys from putting women in danger,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “When a woman is a victim of domestic violence and decides to file for divorce from her abusive husband, she should not have to worry about a trolling attorney tipping off her husband before she has time to protect herself and her children by taking actions like moving into a shelter house and getting a personal protection order.”

Senate Bill 981 would prohibit a lawyer from contacting a party of a divorce action with direct solicitation of legal services before the expiration of 14 days after the proof of service to the other party has been filed. A first violation would be a misdemeanor with up to a $1,000 fine. A second violation would be punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

“During my time as a sheriff, I unfortunately saw firsthand the impact of domestic violence on the lives of women and children,” Jones said. “These situations are filled with emotion, and the last thing that is needed is the insertion of a lawyer trolling for clients. The 14-day period will give abused women reasonable time to take care of important legal matters that will help ensure their safety.”

Jones noted that the Family Law Section of the Michigan State Bar supports the bill and has argued that the trolling practice is unsafe for women in domestic violence situations by allowing the other party to take measures prior to receiving court orders.

SB 981 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Jones: Bills ensure no victim of rape is ignored

LANSING—Comprehensive, bipartisan legislation designed to aid victims of sexual assault were approved unanimously on Tuesday by the Michigan Senate, said Sen. Rick Jones, a key sponsor of the measures.

“After more than 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in Detroit, I joined lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers to come together to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “After long and hard work, we have taken an important step toward ensuring justice for survivors. This legislation is about much more than simply getting rape kits analyzed. Each kit represents a brave victim who came forward after an assault. This is ultimately about people’s lives.”

Senate Bill 998, sponsored by Jones, would establish the Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Tracking and Reporting Act for the purpose of creating a system to track, audit and fund the submission of all released sexual assault evidence kits.

“My bill would also create a commission consisting of high-level state officials and victim’s rights organization members who are experts in this matter and will place a high priority on the wellbeing of victims throughout the process,” Jones said. “Our efforts are about bringing justice to victims. As a father and former sheriff, I am focused on ensuring all sexual assault kits are tested and encouraging survivors to come forward and report such awful incidents.”

Jones’ other bill in the package, SB 1036, would, upon the victim’s request, require medical testing for venereal disease, hepatitis B and C, and HIV within 48 hours of indictment of a defendant for criminal sexual conduct.

SB 1004, sponsored by Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, would require law enforcement agencies to inform victims of the availability of sexual assault evidence kits and other information relating to evidence and investigation of the case. SB 1021 would extend the period evidence kits must be offered to victims to 120 hours after the crime. This would bring Michigan in line with medical advances in kit testing.

House Bill 5445, sponsored by Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, was signed by the governor in July. Public Act 227 of 2014 establishes timelines concerning sexual assault kits from the time a health care facility obtaining consent to release a kit to the time the evidence must be analyzed.

SBs 998, 1004, 1021 and 1036 have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senate stands up for active-duty military parents

LANSING—The Michigan Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation that would ensure active-duty military parents are not punished for not appearing in court over custody disputes while serving overseas and that they would retain custody as long as the child is in a safe environment.

“This bill is about protecting the rights of America’s servicemen and women, who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The Michigan Senate today unanimously stood up for every active-duty military parent and protected their rights so they can fulfill their service without fear of losing custody of a child.

“Personally, I think that it’s unfortunate that we even have to have this discussion or that this legislation is necessary.”

Senate Bill 1015 would mandate that – unless the best interests of the child are being violated – the court shall not modify the current parenting time order if one of the parties has filed a motion of stay under the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The bill was inspired after a Michigan judge this summer held U.S. Navy Petty Officer Matthew Hindes in contempt of court and ordered his arrest after he failed to appear in court for a custody hearing, despite the fact that he was on duty aboard a submarine in the Pacific Ocean.

After lifting those orders under public pressure, the judge recently ordered Hindes’ six-year-old daughter be temporarily removed from his custody while he remains on deployment.

Hindes was given custody of his daughter in 2010 following the child’s removal from the mother’s home by Michigan child protective services due to neglect and reports of abuse. His attorney asked for a stay in the case under the federal act, but the judge held that the law allows her to temporarily place the child in the mother’s care pending the outcome of a new custody petition.

“The child in this case was in no inherent danger, and by placing the child in the mother’s care at this point is insulting and implies that a parent serving his country is worse for a child than one with a history of neglect,” Jones said. “My legislation will ensure Michigan respects previous custody rulings while a parent is serving the nation overseas and will fill in loopholes in the law so that no member of our armed forces has to go through this type of ordeal.”

SB 1015 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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