Jones working to make ‘minor in possession’ a civil fine

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones announced on Wednesday that he is drafting a bill to make Minor in Possession (MIP) a civil fine for the first two offenses.

“Prosecutors have advised me that Minors in Possession are clogging up the court system – with some judges giving jail time and others not,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Under the bill I am working on, the misdemeanor charge for first and second offenses would be replaced with a civil fine.”

Under Jones’ proposal, the first MIP would be punishable with a $100 fine, the second offense would be a $200 fine and the third time would be a misdemeanor.

“As a former sheriff, I take underage drinking seriously, but I don’t want a student to miss out on an employment opportunity because he or she got caught with a can of beer in high school or college,” Jones said. “The problem now is that a student makes a mistake with a can of beer and ends up with a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their life.”

Jones’ measure is likely to be introduced after spring break.


Jones’ bill would ban powdered alcohol

LANSING—Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones is introducing legislation this week that would make powdered alcohol illegal in Michigan.

“This is about stopping a product from coming to Michigan before it begins affecting the safety of our children and the public,” said Sen. Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “When I was a sheriff, I saw many young people die due to alcohol poisoning, and I am afraid that such tragic losses of life will dramatically increase if powdered alcohol is allowed in our state.”

Jones’ bill would prohibit the sale, distribution and possession of powdered alcohol, currently marketed as Palcohol.

“This product is marketing flavors that appeal to kids, like ‘lemon drop,’ and young children might not be able to distinguish between a powdered alcohol packet and one for Kool-Aid,” Jones said. “I am also concerned that someone could be victimized by a predator who slips this product into the person’s drink – greatly increasing its alcohol content.”

Jones said that many states have already banned powdered alcohol and other states are considering bans, including New York and Ohio.

“We have the opportunity this spring to be proactive and protect the public rather than respond later once powdered alcohol begins impacting Michigan families,” Jones said.

Jones’ bill is expected to be formally introduced and referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Thursday for consideration.


Bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced to crack down on animal abusers

LANSING—Four lawmakers on Wednesday re-introduced legislation in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to keep animals out of the hands of convicted animal abusers.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge; Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit; Rep. Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City; and Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, joined forces last year to form a unified front on cracking down on animal abuse in Michigan.

“As a former sheriff I have unfortunately seen a lot of animal abuse,” Jones said. “This legislation will make sure that once a person has victimized an animal they will not be allowed easy access to another victim.”

Santana said the subject of the bills is an excellent opportunity to work together with all of his legislative colleagues.

“There are no Republican dogs or Democratic cats,” Santana said. “The issue of animal abuse reaches across party lines and concerns people on both sides of the aisle. Having legislators from both parties and both chambers just makes sense.”

The measures are Senate Bills 219 and 220 and House Bills 4353 and 4355.

Under the bills, people convicted of animal abuse crimes would be placed into the Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) database – a system set up and maintained by the Michigan State Police to allow the public to search for criminal offenders. Animal shelters and animal control organizations would have access to the ICHAT system free of charge and would be required to check it prior to adopting out an animal. If a person is found to have been convicted of an animal abuse offense within the past five years, the organization would be prohibited from releasing the animal to that person.

Bieda pointed out that this legislation would not only protect animals throughout Michigan, but could prevent human violence as well. Bieda said, “There is well-documented evidence of a connection between animal abuse and human violence. Many serial killers have admitted that they started torturing and killing animals before they moved on to their human victims. With the passage of this legislation, we may be preventing human violence in the future.”

The bills would also require a person convicted of an animal abuse offense to be prohibited from owning animals for a period of five years.

“It is our duty to protect Michigan’s animals,” Muxlow said. “I decided to be a sponsor on this bill package after my office was contacted about a dog, Logan, having acid thrown on his face. How a person can do that to another living being is beyond me. And if it can happen in Port Huron, it can happen anywhere in our state.”

Last session, the bill package made it through both House and Senate committees but died during lame duck on the Senate floor. All four legislators are hopeful and optimistic that this session, the bills will make it to the governor’s desk.

“We had a lot of support for this bill package from both sides of the aisle last session,” Santana said. “We’ve worked with all the stakeholders, and I firmly believe our colleagues will understand the importance and need for this legislation.”


Sen. Jones celebrates ‘March is Reading Month’ with area students

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is celebrating “March is Reading Month” by reading to hundreds of students at local elementary schools throughout mid-Michigan.

In an effort to promote the importance of reading, Jones read to Laingsburg Elementary School students on Thursday and will be visiting schools this month in Vernon, Corunna, Owosso, Grand Ledge and Lansing. On Monday, the senator read to students in St. Johns.

“I encourage parents to join in the effort to help our children succeed through reading,” Jones said. “A simple way parents can help is by picking up a book and reading to their children each night. Reading to children at a young age has been shown to generate an interest in learning, a creative spirit and a confidence in academic ability later in life.”

Jones said that although there is a direct correlation between literacy and success in the workforce, only one-third of all students nationally entering high school are proficient in reading.

“Teaching our children the importance of reading this month – and every month – is vital to preparing our students for success in school and in their career,” Jones said.


Editor’s Note: The above photo of Jones reading to students is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: Click on Photowire.


Sen. Jones honored by American Radio Relay League

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, accepted the newly created Legislative Leadership Award from the Michigan Section of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) on Tuesday. Jones is the first recipient of the award and was recognized for his leadership on Public Act 556 of 2014 that supports amateur radio operators.

Amateur radio, commonly known as “ham radio,” is a two-way, noncommercial, personal connection exchange. The new law codifies a federal order into state law and creates standards for the height of amateur radio antenna structures in Michigan to prevent inconsistent restrictions of these structures by local municipalities.

“Amateur radio operators play an important role in the Michigan State Police and federal Homeland Security emergency preparedness plans, largely because they can help in times of disaster and emergencies when traditional communications are down,” Jones said. “It is an honor to be recognized for working to bring clarity to Michigan’s ham radio operators, which will help reduce costly legal battles and possibly even help save lives.”

Michigan is also the first state in the nation to create an advisory board consisting of members from the Michigan ARRL, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Townships and Michigan State Police to help mediate and provide assistance in any disputes that may arise due to amateur radio antenna or tower structure installations.


Editor’s Note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting Jones’ website at: Click on “Photowire.”

Sen. Jones, Rep. Barrett introduce bills to protect charitable gaming

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Tom Barrett on Thursday introduced legislation in the Senate and House that would allow charity poker rooms to continue to operate in Michigan.

“Charitable gaming in Michigan is not about making huge profits for casinos, it is about raising funds to support local charities and organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs; schools; and police, firefighters and veterans groups,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I am proud to be working with Representative Barrett to support Michigan charities. Our bills would simply put into law the emergency rules signed by the governor – allowing our local organizations to continue to use charitable gaming to support their causes.”

The measures are in response to rules proposed by the Michigan Gaming Control Board that charities say would drastically limit their fundraising ability.

“I appreciate Senator Jones’ partnership with this issue affecting our community,” said Barrett, R-Potterville. “Charities are important. As the emergency rules are set to expire in July of this year, I am excited to continue working together to help our charities and protect this fundraising mechanism.”

Jones’ measure, Senate Bill 187, has been referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, on which Jones serves as vice-chair. Barrett’s bill is House Bill 4293 and has been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for consideration.

In 2014, the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Jones to protect and regulate charitable gaming. That measure was supported by numerous groups, including the Michigan Jaycees and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.


**Photo Advisory** Sen. Jones takes ‘Polar Plunge’ at Capitol to support Special Olympics

LANSING—Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, plunges into an ice-cold pool in front of the Capitol on Thursday. Jones and other legislators participated in the 2015 Legislative Polar Plunge to help raise money for Special Olympics Michigan, a year round program offering sports for those with intellectual disabilities.

Jones is a member of the Special Olympics Michigan board and participated in his sixth polar plunge. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and members and staff of the Michigan House and Senate also took the plunge.

Editor’s note: A print-quality version of the Jones photo is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: Click the Photowire link.


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

Sen. Rick Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee

2015 Legislative Polar Plunge

Thursday, March 5. The plunge will begin at 3 p.m.

State Capitol
West Lawn
Lansing, MI

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.