Senate approves Jones bill cracking down on threats to judges, police officers

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to protect judges, peace officers and their families from threats intended to affect the legal process.

“I introduced this reform after hearing from judges and law enforcement officers that they and their families were being threatened and harassed in an effort to change the outcome of a case,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “That is totally unacceptable. A cornerstone to our justice system is that we have honest and dedicated peace officers and judges who uphold the law and ensure fairness — free of intimidation or threats.”

Senate Bill 973 would amend the description of hindering, intimidating or obstructing a public officer or employee in the discharge of their duties. The bill would add threatening a public officer or a member of their immediate family to the list of prohibited behaviors and require that the intent must be to interfere with the legal process.

Actions on social media to harass, harm, intimidate or influence a public officer or a member of their immediate family would be covered under the bill.

“The attempts to harass and intimidate the judges and public officers on social media have been increasingly brutal and unsafe,” Jones said. “Public officers sign up to serve the people and some put themselves in dangerous situations on a regular basis for the good of our communities. They should never have to fear that someone might harm their family as a result of them doing their job.”

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Jones introduces Patty Birkholz recreation passport bill

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones on Wednesday introduced legislation to honor of the service and legacy of the late Sen. Patty Birkholz by renaming the state’s recreation passport fee in her name. Birkholz passed away in May after a short battle with cancer.

“Enjoying our great outdoors is part of what makes Michigan such a great place to live, work and raise a family,” said Jones, R- Grand Ledge. “No one understood that more than Patty Birkholz. She was a fierce advocate for Michigan’s natural resources and environment, and it would be a fitting tribute to Patty’s lifetime of work and dedication to our outdoors that we name the program that engages people with Michigan’s natural beauty in her honor.”

Jones’ bill would rename the current Michigan Recreation Passport Fee the “Senator Patty Birkholz Recreation Passport Fee” as a testament to Birkholz’s efforts to protect Michigan’s natural resources and ensure Michigan’s state parks were safe and accessible for generations to come.

Birkholz was first elected to the Michigan Legislature in 1996. She served in the House from 1997 to 2002 and in the Senate from 2003 to 2010.

Upon leaving the Senate, Birkholz was appointed director of the Office of the Great Lakes by Gov. Rick Snyder and as the Michigan representative to the Great Lakes Commission.

“It will be hard for anyone to match Patty’s contributions to our state,” Jones said. “In addition to the state parks passport program, she led the effort to have Michigan join the Great Lakes basin compact and enact significant laws to protect our waters — including ballast water standards to prevent the spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes.”

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Jones bill would clarify restrictions of weapons in airports

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones has introduced legislation to update Michigan law prohibiting carrying a weapon into an airport.

“The Prosecuting Attorneys Association advised me that current Michigan law concerning someone carrying a gun into an airport needs to be updated,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Our state law needs to meet the current federal definition about weapons in airports so that prosecutors will be able to press charges against those who violate the law.”

Currently, Michigan has an outdated reference to federal law in state statute, creating the uncertainty of the exact locations that weapons cannot be possessed or carried in commercial airports.

Senate Bill 1099 would update the definition of “sterile area” to coincide with the current federal definition, to clearly state where a firearm, explosive, knife, razor, or a dangerous weapon is prohibited in an airport.

According to the Transportation Security Administration’s Year in Review report, a record-high number of firearms were discovered last year in carry-on bags across the country. The nearly 4,000 guns found at airport security checkpoints in 2017 is roughly a 17 percent increase from 2016.

“As a former sheriff, safety and security is of the utmost importance to me — especially in airports,” Jones said. “I also want to make sure the main focus of our security efforts in airports remains on those who have bad intentions and are trying to hurt people — not on those who are allowed to carry weapons and simply forgot they were in their luggage.”

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