Sen. Jones working to help small businesses


LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is taking action to help bars that have been adversely impacted by the state’s smoking ban.

“The smoking ban has had a massively negative impact on small businesses, Michigan Lottery sales and the state budget,” Jones said. “Numerous bar owners have repeatedly approached me about the need to do something about how the ban is affecting their business and livelihoods.”

The lawmaker introduced Senate Bill 352 to allow small business owners to have a separate room for smokers. Under the bill, wait staff working at restaurants and bars with smoking rooms would not have to serve individuals seated in smoking rooms or on open air patios.

From May 2010, when the ban took effect, to July 2010, overall sales were down nearly 28 percent for small businesses impacted by the smoking ban. According to the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, in that same period, alcohol sales were down about 28 percent, while food sales were down 20 percent.

A report from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth shows that approximately 10,000 jobs were lost in the leisure and hospitality sector from October 2009 to October 2010.

The Michigan Lottery has also been negatively affected by the ban. Keno sales are down about 15 percent since the ban took effect. That translates into approximately $17 million less in school funding and less profits for business owners who receive 6 percent of Keno sales at their establishments.

According to information obtained from the Michigan Lottery, Keno is losing more than $1.5 million a week and more than $80 million annually compared to sales before the ban.

“My measure does not overturn the smoking ban,” Jones said. “It simply allows business owners to have a separate room for smokers that is ventilated or has double doors. This is a solution to help our small businesses but also ensure that we are protecting our residents.”

Under Jones’ proposal waitresses and waiters will never have to work in smoke and patrons will not have to go outside in rain, snow and ice.

Sen. Jones responds to attacks


LANSING—State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, reported yard signs are popping up around his district attempting to attack him for not working because the Legislature is not in session. The signs say: “Senator Rick Jones, Gone Fishin’, Out of Town, Out of Touch.”

“I think it’s hilarious that someone would spend money on nice union-made signs to advertise my name,” said Jones. “I have not taken any legislative break and continue to work at least six days a week. In fact, every day I post on Facebook what I will be doing for that day.”

This past week, among his many activities, Jones attended and spoke at the Eaton County Farm Bureau breakfast, met with seniors at the Meijer coffee shop, spoke at the Lansing Community College groundbreaking for new training of utility workers, and spoke at the Charlotte School and Potterville School forums.

He also met with constituents in Eaton Rapids, met with Michigan’s Chief Information Officer David Behen on state contract concerns, worked with Sen. Steve Bieda on legislation, and attended numerous meetings at the Capitol on a variety of issues. Some meetings started at 7 a.m. and went well into the night.

Sen. Jones is usually at the Capitol five days a week and has meetings in three different counties in the 24th Senate District, sometimes 7 days a week.

“When we are not in session, a lot of work gets done,” Jones concluded.

Sen. Jones: Bridge Cards not for gambling


LANSING — Bridge Card users would be prohibited from using them to withdraw cash from casino ATMs under legislation approved by the Michigan Senate Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

According to the Michigan Department of Human Services, instead of paper food stamps and paper checks, individuals needing assistance are issued an “Electronic Benefit Transfer” debit card known as a Bridge Card to purchase food products and access cash benefits.

“Cash assistance is meant for basic needs of life, not for parents to be gambling and drinking,” Jones said.

Jones’ measure, Senate Bill 109, complements the pledge made by Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan to stop Bridge Card abuse in the state.

Recently, DHS ended Bridge Cards for many college students in the state who should not have been eligible to receive these benefits.

“My measure will go a long way to helping ensure that those who really need assistance to feed their families and survive get it, not those who want to abuse the system and gamble with taxpayer money,” Jones said. “Taxpayer funds should not be used for gambling and my bill will help put an end to this deplorable abuse.”

According to DHS, more than $87,000 was withdrawn from Detroit’s Motor City Casino ATMs using Bridge Cards between July 2009 and July 2010.

SB 109 will now go before the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Sen. Jones meets with CMU student


LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, (right), welcomes Central Michigan University student Justin Mendoza of Otsego to the state Capitol for CMU Day at the Capitol. The annual event provides students an opportunity to give and discuss their research presentations with a variety of people such as legislators, staffers, lobbyists, and judges associated with Michigan politics and policy. Mendoza’s project is on the neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer’s.

Editor’s note: The above photograph of Sen. Jones and Justin Mendoza is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s photowire at:

Senate Judiciary Committee passes change in parental rights


LANSING — Legislation designed to update Michigan’s outdated paternity act was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chair of the panel.

Senate Bill 256 would allow a possible biological father to file a petition to determine paternity under certain circumstances. Current state law does not give a possible biological father legal standing to file a paternity action to show he may be the biological father of a child born to a married woman.

According to Jones, the measure was introduced following the tragic story of a Fenton father, Daniel Quinn, who has been fighting to obtain parental rights of his child (after she was used to sell drugs by another man).

“This case shows that the Michigan Paternity Act needs updating,” Jones said.

Quinn was in a relationship with Candace Beckwith while she was still married to another man, since her divorce was not yet legal. A child was born as the result of their relationship and Quinn helped raise the child for two years. Eventually, Beckwith moved back in with her estranged husband, Adam Beckwith, in Ohio.

The little girl was used as a shield in a drug trafficking operation and Adam Beckwith went to prison. Now Quinn, the biological father, has no rights under Michigan law to gain custody of his daughter Maeleigh.

The bill would allow biological fathers to claim parental rights within a year of their child’s birth if the mother is married at any time from conception to the birth of a child and her husband denies paternity, or if a relationship is established between the biological father and the child. The measure would also give judges the ability to rule what is best for the child on a case-by-case basis.

“I believe that Michigan’s 1956 Paternity Act has become archaic and needs to be updated,” Jones said. “That’s why I’m a sponsor of Senate Bill 256 and want to work in a bipartisan manner to reunite children with their fathers.”

Governor to sign new laws on sex offender registry

LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, reports that Gov. Rick Snyder will sign the new sex offender registry bills into law at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 12.

The bills will bring the state into compliance with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection Act. Offenders will be put into three tiers. The most dangerous offenders will be added to the list for life and will be required to report to the police every three months.

The proposals will also take “Romeo and Juliet” cases off the offender list. These cases are typically described as a 17-year-old boyfriend involved with a 15-year-old girlfriend.

The purpose of the proposed laws is to make the sex offender registry list more effective for Michigan residents to check on offenders in their neighborhood.

Sen. Jones: cut extra judges to save millions of tax dollars


LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, announced a plan Friday to cut extra judges saving Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars every year.

The State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) is the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court. Each year the administrative office recommends removing or adding judicial positions based on caseloads. The typical trial court judge cost about $460,000. On average, $160,000 of that amount is state costs and $300,000 in local government cost.

“I believe that at times in Michigan history, some judge positions were created for political reasons,” Jones said. “In other instances caseloads have dropped because of population shifts. The taxpayers cannot continue to pay for unneeded judge positions.”

Jones has introduced Senate Bill 319 to start the process. This measure would cut judicial positions where vacancies have occurred in the Court of Appeals, the 3rd Circuit Court in Wayne County, the 26th District Court for Ecorse/River Rouge, and the 85th District Court for Benzie and Manistee counties.

According to Jones, the SCAO will recommend all the final cuts in August.

“It’s possible that we could have as many as 34 positions that need to be cut,” Jones said. “That could save taxpayers more than $15 million.”

Sen. Jones bill to address child welfare in Michigan law

LANSING — Legislation establishing new standards for removing a child from its parents has been introduced in the Michigan Senate, said sponsor Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand ledge.

Senate Bill 320 would ensure that Michigan law meets the constitutional standards as defined by several of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. The proposal has four parts:

  • Standard for emergency police removals;
  • Process for judicial officer review of emergency placement;
  • Standards for ex parte court-ordered emergency removals; and
  • Preliminary hearing pretrial placement standards.

“The Michigan child protection system could result in both over and under-intervention in families when removing children,” said Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This could increase the number of children in foster care.”

A notorious foster care case occurred when 7-year-old Leo Ratte attended a Detroit Tigers ball game with his father in 2008. Leo was placed in foster care for three days and two nights when his father Christopher Ratte, a classics professor at the University of Michigan, inadvertently gave him a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, not knowing it was an alcoholic drink.

Leo was placed in foster care, even though physicians from Children’s Hospital found no alcohol in his blood and determined he was fine. When his mother Claire Zimmerman tried to get her child, she was denied although there were no charges against her.

According to Jones, this embarrassing case received international attention including articles in Great Britain reflecting on the state of personal liberty in America.

“I believe that no state has a lower threshold for removal of children into foster care than Michigan,” Jones said. “I want to ensure that the child who is in immediate danger is protected, but also ensure that proper standards for removal are detailed in state law.”



Sen. Jones seeks change in teacher retirement


LANSING — State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is working on a measure to change the school retirement system to a 401k style.

Jones previously sponsored House Bill 6131 in May 2010 while serving in the House of Representatives. The new proposal is a re-introduction of HB 6131.

“It is time to change the system,” Jones said. “The current retirement plan is not sustainable.”

According to two superintendents in Jones’ district, for every dollar spent on a teacher this fiscal year, 20.66 cents goes into the retirement plan and that percentage is projected to go up to 27.37 in fiscal year 2012. The budget proposal currently being debated cuts schools $300 per pupil foundation grant. The federal money from last year is gone, cutting another $170, bringing the total to a $470 reduction.

“I have not supported the cuts or the transfer of school aid funding to colleges or universities,” Jones said. “But, I believe now is the time to change retirement plans for future teachers.”

Current school employees in the system would keep their plan and are guaranteed payment of their retirement by the Michigan Constitution.

State employees (including legislators) have already been changed over to 401k type programs.