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.


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.”


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.”


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.