Senate bills would end child marriage in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones and Sen. Margaret O’Brien have introduced legislation to prohibit children under the age of 16 from getting married in Michigan.

“I am outraged that a parent would allow their 14-year-old daughter to be married to an older man,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “It is unbelievable that this is even allowed in our state, since the age of consent for sex is 16. This legislation will end this archaic law and have Michigan’s age for marriage mirror the legal age of consent.”

The bills are the result of a TV report about a woman who was married at the age of 14 in West Michigan. The report highlighted Michigan law — dating back to the 1880s — that currently permits children younger than 16 to get married with parental consent and judicial approval.

“I was shocked to learn that Michigan law somehow permits the marriage of young girls and boys under the age of 16,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “While we have made great progress to protect minors from sexual assault, from predators like Larry Nassar and from human traffickers, it is clear that more must be done to protect our children.”

Senate Bill 1255 would end any marriages with minors under the age of 16 by establishing age 16 as the minimum age to marry in Michigan.

SB 1256 would require 16- and 17-year-olds to have written permission from both living parents to get married. Under the current law, written permission is only needed from one parent.

The bills are expected to be taken up on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Jones.


Senate committee approves Patty Birkholz tribute bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Rick Jones’ legislation to honor the service and legacy of the late Sen. Patty Birkholz by renaming the state’s recreation passport fee in her name.

Birkholz died in May after a short battle with cancer.

“Whether you have 10 inches of snow or 10 days of summer sun, enjoying Michigan’s great outdoors is part of what makes our state such a great place to live — and no one understood that more than Patty Birkholz,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Senator Birkholz was a fierce advocate for our natural resources and environment, and I can’t think of a better tribute to her lifetime of work and dedication to our outdoors than to name the program that engages people with Michigan’s natural beauty in her honor.”

Senate Bill 1141 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.”

SB 1141 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.


Senate panel OKs bills to help stop overdoses in libraries

LANSING, Mich. — A Senate committee on Tuesday approved legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones and Sen. Margaret O’Brien, that would allow public libraries to stock naloxone, an antidote used to treat an opioid overdose in an emergency.

“There has been a tremendous rise in opioid abuse in our state — including a drastic increase in the number of overdoes happening in public libraries,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “Libraries are open to the public and offer calm and peaceful places for people suffering with addiction. As a result, librarians are increasingly finding themselves on the front line of this epidemic.

“This legislation is designed to help save lives by giving our librarians the ability to administer a proven and effective remedy to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose — without fear of civil liability or criminal prosecution.”

Senate Bills 828 and 829 would allow public libraries to purchase and stock an opioid antagonist. Under the bills, library employees would be able to carry and administer the medication if they have been trained how to properly give an opioid antagonist and they have reason to believe the person is experiencing an opioid-related overdose.

The bills would provide similar civil and criminal protections to library employees that were enacted for school employees in 2016.

“It is unfortunate that our librarians are having to face these life-or-death situations,” Jones said. “Certainly, we should make sure they never have to consider the legal ramifications as they act to save lives.”


Sen. Jones statement on dismissal of federal female genital mutilation case

LANSING, Mich. — After U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman in Detroit on Tuesday declared the federal female genital mutilation (FGM) law unconstitutional and dismissed charges against two Michigan doctors and others in a case where minor girls were subjected to the procedure at a clinic in Livonia, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, issued the following statement:

“I’m angry that the federal judge dismissed this horrific case that affected upwards of a hundred girls who were brutally victimized and attacked against their will.

“This is why it was so important for Michigan to act. We set a precedent that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated here, and we did so by passing a state law that comes with a 15-year felony punishment. I hope other states will follow suit.”


Sen. Jones congratulates area schools receiving safety grants

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Rick Jones on Thursday congratulated area school districts that were recently awarded funds from the state’s Competitive School Safety Grant Program.

“This is about safer schools and safer kids,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We owe it to every Michigan student that we do everything we can to ensure they have a safe place to learn the skills needed to achieve the American dream — and many school have already made these critical investments. These grants are part of a comprehensive approach to protecting all our students and providing them a positive environment for learning.”

The Legislature dedicated $25 million in the state budget to provide grants to improve the safety and security of school buildings through the purchase of technology and equipment and through school building safety assessments.

The funding was part of a $58 million investment in school safety initiatives, which also included support to improve access to mental health programs and enhance the state’s OK2SAY confidential tip-line program.

Schools in the 24th Senate District awarded grants by the Michigan State Police are:
• Bellevue High School — $22,639
• Corunna Public Schools — $123,407
• Durand Area Schools — $118,858
• New Lothrop Area Public Schools — $250,000
• Owosso Public Schools — $164,794
• Pewamo-Westphalia Community Schools — $64,820
• St. Mary School, Charlotte — $24,860
• Williamston Community Schools — $110,222

A complete list of recipients is available at Click on School Safety.

According to the Michigan State Police (MSP), 407 applications were reviewed by a committee that included representatives from the MSP, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, school security personnel and the Executive Office of the Governor.