Senate approves Jones tax relief for disabled veterans with forgiven loans

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to ensure disabled veterans do not have to pay state income tax on student loan debt that was forgiven due to the veteran’s injuries.

“I sponsored this bill after hearing about the shameful actions by the IRS against a permanently disabled veteran in my district who honorably served his country,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Due to the service-related disability of this local veteran, a compassionate federal official forgave his student loans. Then the cold-hearted IRS demanded the disabled veteran pay income taxes on the more than $220,000 in forgiven student loans all at once.”

Senate Bill 642 would ensure that if a veteran is permanently disabled as a result of military service, and the federal government cancels student loan debt because of that disability, then that debt cancellation would not be counted as income for tax purposes in Michigan.

Jones said that since the IRS treats debt cancellation as income, the veteran in his district 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.

“It’s a disgrace what our government is doing to this disabled veteran — including garnishing his disability benefits and putting a lien on his house,” Jones said. “I am hopeful that Congress will correct this terrible situation. In the meantime, my bill would ensure that no disabled veteran is ever treated like this when it comes to their state income taxes.”

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**MEDIA ADVISORY** Jones to take polar plunge for Special Olympics at state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones will plunge into an ice-cold pool in front of the Capitol on Thursday as part of the 2018 Legislative Polar Plunge to help raise money for Special Olympics Michigan. This will be the seventh polar plunge Jones has done at the Capitol and his 10th overall.

Who:
Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge,
Other legislators and staff.

When:
Thursday, March 1 at 3 p.m.

Where:
State Capitol
East lawn
Lansing

What:
Jones is a member of the Special Olympics Michigan board and will be taking his seventh polar plunge at the Capitol and his 10th overall.

Funds raised by the plunges help more than 23,000 athletes participate in Special Olympics Michigan, a nonprofit organization offering year-round sports training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

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House panel OKs bills to clarify veterans club law

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The House Regulatory Reform Committee on Wednesday approved bills sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, to 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.

“This legislation would establish traveling memberships for these organizations and is supported by the Liquor Control Commission and nonprofit veterans and fraternal groups,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our nation. This reform would ensure that Michigan veterans could visit their fellow veterans in another town and purchase a beer at the local veterans club.”

Senate Bill 662 and House Bill 5260 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 of the same organization from across the state.

The Senate unanimously approved SB 662 in January. Both SB 662 and HB 5260 now head to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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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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