Senate approves Jones bill to prohibit painfully addictive drug

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday passed Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to prohibit tianeptine sodium in Michigan.

“Tianeptine sodium is a painfully addictive compound that binds to opioid receptors in the brain like heroin and oxycodone,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Although this drug has never been approved by the FDA, it is available to unsuspecting consumers on the internet. To help protect our communities from the impacts of this highly addictive and dangerous drug, this legislation would prohibit the product in Michigan.”

Senate Bill 801 would add tianeptine sodium to Michigan’s list of Schedule 2 controlled substances, making it illegal to sell or possess without a valid U.S. prescription.

Jones said that tianeptine sodium was developed in France, where a suggested dosage of the drug as an antidepressant is 10-12 mg. However, it is being found to be administered by people without prescription at 500-3,000 mg.

“This substance has been described by medical professionals as a combination of Xanax, Prozac and morphine,” Jones said. “Abuse of tianeptine sodium has resulted in withdrawal symptoms that can be extremely painful and violent — leading many countries to already restrict its use.”

SB 801 has been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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**MEDIA REMINDER** Sen. Rick Jones handing out new state quarters

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones will be joining Lansing business and community leaders on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the kickoff of Liberty Coin Service’s “Cans for Quarters Food-raiser” benefitting the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

Who:
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge;
Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, Michigan’s only designer of a U.S. coin;
Todd Powell, food resources manager for the Greater Lansing Food Bank;
Liberty Coin Service employees; and
Local residents.

What:
Jones will be helping hand out new 2018 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore quarters in exchange for donations to the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

When:
Saturday, Feb. 10 at 10 a.m.

Where:
Liberty Coin Service
400 Frandor Ave.
Lansing

Brief:
In recognition of the debut of the U.S. Mint’s 2018 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Quarter, Lansing coin dealer Liberty Coin Service will give them away to people who bring to the store nonperishable food or cash donations for the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

Donors will receive one quarter for each of the first four items they donate and a 40-coin roll of Pictured Rocks quarters for cash donations of $25 or more.

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Jones handing out new state quarters

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has announced that he will be joining Lansing business and community leaders on Saturday at 10 a.m. for the kickoff of Liberty Coin Service’s “Cans for Quarters Food-raiser” benefitting the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

“No child should go to bed hungry, and struggling area families should never have to choose between paying the bills and feeding their children,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The demand on our food banks is especially great during the winter. This food-raiser is about helping encourage local residents to come out and support the Greater Lansing Food Bank while also celebrating one of our state’s greatest natural treasures.”

In recognition of the debut of the U.S. Mint’s 2018 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Quarter, Lansing coin dealer Liberty Coin Service will give them away to people who bring to the store nonperishable food or cash donations for the Greater Lansing Food Bank.

The food-raiser event brings on Saturday, Feb. 10 and will continue through March 31, 2018.

Residents can make their donations at the Liberty Coin Service store at 400 Frandor Ave. in Lansing. Donors will receive one quarter for each of the first four items they donate and a 40-coin roll of Pictured Rocks quarters for cash donations of $25 or more.

At the event, Jones will be joining Todd Powell, food resources manager for the Greater Lansing Food Bank and Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, Michigan’s only designer of a U.S. coin.

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Dem, GOP legislators announce Safer Drinking Water Initiative

Bipartisan group collaborates to prevent future environmental crises in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint; state Sens. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, and Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; and state Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, announced a legislative initiative on Thursday to increase Michigan’s environmental safety and drinking water transparency.

The seven-bill package was inspired by the events that led to the Flint water crisis. By creating a state employee ombudsman for employee reporting, establishing whistleblower protection, increasing penalties for officials who harm the public or violate the Safe Water Drinking Act, and requiring water suppliers to be transparent about how they set water rates, the bills create protective layers that will help prevent another environmental crisis and will give residents more access to information about the water they consume.

“An entire city was poisoned and more than 12 people died,” Ananich said. “The Flint water crisis is a tragedy that could have been prevented many times over if the proper care and concern was given to our water sources and infrastructure. We can’t change history, but shame on us if we don’t learn from it and change our future. This across-the-aisle collaboration shows our commitment to the belief that every single Michigander deserves access to clean, affordable water.”

Each of the bills announced on Thursday were recommended proposals in the October 2016 final report of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency. Stamas, who served as chairman of the committee, hopes that these bills send the message that the Legislature is committed to protecting Michigan’s drinking water and all those who consume it.

“Across the state, residents are concerned that their community will be the next to be hit by a serious water crisis,” Stamas said. “These bills aren’t just lip service to what happened in Flint; they are initiatives with the teeth to actually protect those we serve. After all, we’re the Great Lakes state. This is one big step on the path to becoming the national leader in drinking water safety, a title we should have achieved a long time ago.”

The legislation will:

• Establish a state employee ombudsman within the Michigan Legislative Council and provide whistleblower protection for state employees who report misconduct [SB 788 – Stamas, SB 789 – Hune];
• Enhance criminal penalties for egregious crimes committed by public officials who cause bodily injury to members of the public. The crime would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or up to a $25,000 fine [SB 791 – Jones, SB 792 – Ananich];
• Require water suppliers to be more transparent about how they determine their water rates, billing, and shut-off policies. Water suppliers would need to file a report annually with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and include detailed information on their website [SB 790 – Stamas, HB 4121 – Chang]; and
• Establish a new tiered system of penalties and fines for violating the Safe Drinking Water Act in order to strengthen enforcement mechanisms that help ensure compliance:
• First offense: up to a one-year misdemeanor and/or a fine not to exceed $7,500 per day.
• Repeat offenses: up to a two-year felony and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000 per day.
• Offenses that cause any person physical injuries requiring medical care: up to a five-year penalty and/or fine not to exceed $10,000 per day [SB 793 – Ananich, SB 794 – Jones].

“As a former sheriff, I know that everyone should be held accountable to the law, and public officials should be no exception to that rule,” Jones said. “Our goal is to make this abundantly clear, and we’re doing that by increasing penalties for crimes committed by public officials that harm the public. Tremendous responsibility comes with public service, and the Legislature expects each official to treat that responsibility with the seriousness it deserves.”

In addition to holding public officials accountable, the bill package attempts to remedy the culture problems at certain state departments that prevented lifesaving information from reaching the public.

“Department employees who have concerns for the safety of Michiganders need to step up and speak out, and it’s our job as legislators to make sure brave whistleblowers are protected,” Hune said. “With these bills, the days of operating in secrecy and burying critical information in fear of bad PR or retribution from the boss will be over.”

The bills have been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

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Jones introduces bill to prohibit painfully addictive drug

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation to prohibit tianeptine sodium, a painfully addictive compound that binds to opioid receptors in the brain like heroin and oxycodone.

“This is an extremely addictive drug that has been described by medical professionals as a combination of Xanax, Prozac and morphine,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This drug was developed in the 1960s and has never been FDA-approved. Unfortunately, the drug has become available on the internet, and we must classify it as a Schedule 2 to restrict access to this highly addictive and dangerous drug.”

Senate Bill 801 would add tianeptine sodium to Michigan’s list of Schedule 2 controlled substances, making it illegal to use or possess without a valid U.S. prescription.

“This product was developed in France, but other countries, such as Russia, have restricted this drug because of the high rate it is being abused,” Jones said. “In France, a suggested dosage of this antidepressant is 10-12 mg. However, it is being found to be administered by people without prescription at 500-3,000 mg and withdrawal symptoms are extremely painful and violent.

“To help protect our communities from tianeptine sodium, this legislation makes it clear that this substance is not allowed in Michigan.”

SB 801 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Senate approves Jones bill to clarify veterans club law

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation that would allow a veterans club to sell beer to members of different chapters of the same organization.

Last year, the Liquor Control Commission (LCC) told a Veterans of Foreign Wars club that they could not sell beer to visiting members from other VFW clubs.

For decades, the American Legion, VFW, Eagles, Moose, and Knights of Columbus clubs allowed visiting members of another club within the same organization to purchase a beer. The LCC had been interpreting the law differently than current club practices.

“Many people join nonprofit veterans and fraternal groups to make a difference in their communities and to connect with their brothers and sisters who served our nation,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “This legislation will ensure that Michigan veterans can visit their fellow veterans in another town and purchase a beer at the local veterans club.”

Senate Bill 662 would allow a local club of a nonprofit veterans or fraternal organization that is currently allowed to sell alcohol to its members to be able serve alcohol to members of different branches or chapters from across the state of the same organization. The bill has 33 co-sponsors.

SB 662 now heads to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation has been introduced by Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville.

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Jones bill to cut auto insurance rates for seniors

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones on Thursday introduced legislation to reduce auto insurance rates for seniors in Michigan.

“I have supported auto insurance reform for 13 years for everyone,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “However, the House has not found the votes to get it done.”

In Michigan, when drivers turn age 65 and go on Medicare, their auto insurance rates go up because Medicare does not coordinate with Michigan auto insurance. Michigan’s auto insurance law includes unlimited coverage for catastrophic injuries with no cap. The other 49 states all have a cap.

“Most seniors live on a fixed income and cannot afford the skyrocketing auto insurance rates,” Jones said.

Under Senate Bill 787, seniors age 65 and older could have an option to leave the system and request a cap on their auto insurance. They also would not have to pay into the catastrophic fund.

“Seniors have worked hard all their lives, and they deserve to have an option to choose a different auto insurance system they can afford,” Jones said. “I will continue to fight for comprehensive auto insurance reform for everyone. A good start would be to help seniors.”

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Senate panel OKs Jones’ tax relief for disabled combat veterans with forgiven loans

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Disabled combat veterans would not have to pay state income tax on student loan debt that was forgiven due to the veteran’s injuries under legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones and approved by a Senate committee on Thursday.

“I sponsored this bill after hearing about the disgraceful actions of some cold-hearted IRS tax collectors against a permanently disabled combat veteran who honorably served his country,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Due to the service-related disability of this local veteran, the federal Department of Education forgave his outstanding student loans.

“It was a great story of compassion, until the IRS crashed the party — demanding the disabled veteran pay income taxes on more than $220,000 in forgiven student loans all at once.”

Senate Bill 642 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.

Since the IRS treats debt cancellation as income, 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 follows the IRS on how debt cancellation is treated, so the state is also asking him to pay $8,000 in state income taxes and fees.

“This disabled veteran deserves to be treated with honor — not have his disability benefits garnished and a lien put on his house,” Jones said. “I urge Congress to correct this terrible situation. In the meantime, my bill would ensure that no disabled combat veteran is ever treated like this when it comes to their state income taxes.”

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House approves Jones bill to reduce state judgeships

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to reduce judgeships statewide by two will soon head to the governor following approval by the Michigan House on Thursday.

The bill is based on the changes proposed by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) in its 2017 Judiciary Resources Recommendations Report.

“Since 2011, the number of judges in Michigan has been decided scientifically, based on a study by SCAO,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We need to make sure there are enough judges to effectively handle caseloads, while also ensuring that taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.

“By applying the data collected by SCAO to help determine the number of judges needed throughout the state, we have saved taxpayers almost $20 million, and this bill will save an additional $320,000 each year.”

Senate Bill 525 would add one circuit court judgeship and eliminate one circuit court judgeship and two district court judgeships — for a net reduction of two judgeships statewide.

Under the bill, the 44th Circuit Court in Livingston County would gain one judge, while the 10th Circuit Court in Saginaw County, the 36th District Court in Detroit and the 53rd District Court in Livingston County would all lose one judge.

SB 525 would allow the 38th District Court (consisting of the city of Eastpointe) and the 39th District Court (consisting of the cities of Roseville and Fraser) to consolidate on Jan. 1, 2020 and also allow the 18th District Court (consisting of the city of Westland) and the 29th District Court (consisting of the city of Wayne) to consolidate on Jan. 1, 2020.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Jones sets up Nativity scene on Capitol lawn

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, set up a Nativity scene on the east lawn of the Michigan Capitol on Thursday morning. Jones encourages the public to come out to see the display. He will make the trip to the Capitol every day through Dec. 20 to put up the Nativity scene in the morning and then dismantle it each night by 9 p.m., in accordance with Capitol Commission rules.

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Editor’s note: The photographs are available by clicking on the images or by visiting www.SenatorRickJones.com/Photowire.