Schuitmaker supports Senate override of Snyder veto

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Wednesday supported an override of Gov. Rick Snyder’s vetoes of Senate Bills 94 and 95.

“We originally approved this legislation because it would help Michigan families save money when purchasing a new vehicle,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “The governor vetoed these bills because of financial concerns and the administration and the Legislature were never able to come to a final agreement beyond that — which is why we saw today’s action.”

With approval from both the Senate and the House, the override eliminates the governor’s veto and speeds up the implementation of what has been coined “sales tax on the difference.”

As passed, SBs 94 and 95 increase the dollar amount that is excluded from taxation when a motor vehicle is traded in for a new or used vehicle. The bills increase the cap on the trade-in value from $3,500 to $4,000 beginning Jan. 1, 2018 and to $5,000 by Jan. 1, 2019. The cap then increases by $1,000 annually until the reforms are fully implemented in 2028.

For example, once fully implemented, if a car valued at $14,000 is traded in and the owner applies the trade-in value toward the purchase of a $24,000 car, the sales tax would only be applied to the $10,000 difference.

“Michigan is one of only six states — and the only Great Lakes state — that still taxes the value of trade-ins,” Schuitmaker said. “The current system goes against everything we have represented and fought for over the last eight years. This policy costs Michigan consumers more money and puts businesses at a disadvantage — it is clear that change is needed.”

Schuitmaker added that though she doesn’t take choosing to override an administrative veto lightly, it was an action she was proud to be a part of.

“Today’s action by the Senate is a full representation of our system of checks and balances,” Schuitmaker said. “I was proud to support this effort on behalf of Michigan’s taxpayers.”

The House also approved the measure Wednesday afternoon, formally completing the override process.

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Schuitmaker, Colbeck resolutions see committee approval

LANSING, Mich. — Two resolutions urging the U.S. Senate to cut funding to sanctuary cities and to pass Kate’s Law received approval from the Senate Committee on Judiciary Tuesday afternoon.

“Many citizens, including myself, cannot understand why cities are getting away with knowingly violating federal law,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “This is purely a matter of public safety. We cannot condone welcoming people who come here illegally and providing a safe haven for them.”

Michigan Senate Concurrent Resolutions 20 and 21, sponsored by Schuitmaker and Sen. Patrick Colbeck, urge the U.S. Senate to approve Kate’s Law, which was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in early June. The pair of resolutions also urge the federal government to cut funding to any city that proclaims itself a sanctuary city.

U.S. House Resolution 3004, which is commonly referred to as Kate’s Law, increases penalties for those who are deported and caught trying to return to the U.S. The legislation is named after Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman who was killed by a man who had been deported numerous times, but was able to enter the U.S. again. Many attribute Steinle’s death to the city’s sanctuary city status, a term coined for cities that limit cooperation between their workers and federal officials attempting to enforce federal immigration law.

“When political considerations circumvent the rule of law, our citizens suffer — sometimes fatally, such was the case with Kate Steinle,” said Colbeck, R-Canton. “We need to restore respect for the rule of law.”

Both resolutions will now go before the full Senate for further consideration.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality photograph from Wednesday’s bill signing is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

PHOTO CAPTION: State Sens. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton and Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, testify before the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Senate Concurrent Resolutions 20 and 21.

Schuitmaker co-sponsors tax relief for Michigan families

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker co-sponsored legislation that would restore the Michigan personal tax exemption that was lost in the recent federal tax reform.

“This legislation would ensure the state’s personal exemption remains regardless of changes on the federal level,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Additionally, the bill increases the personal exemption amount and would put more money in the pockets of taxpayers.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in addition to lowering income tax rates, included a streamlined exemption process that eliminated the $4,050 personal exemption at the federal level, setting it to zero.

Senate Bill 748 makes necessary changes to maintain the state’s personal exemption and provides an increase in the state personal exemption by $500 to $4,800 by 2021, while remaining tied to inflation.

Michigan’s current state income tax law ties the state’s personal exemptions to the federal number of exemptions. Without a revision to the law, Michigan taxpayers would no longer be able to claim the personal exemptions on their state taxes — which would cost state taxpayers around $1.5 billion a year.

“Not only does this plan ensure Michigan residents are able to keep this much-needed exemption, it also includes an increase in the personal exemption to $4,800 — going above and beyond the $4,500 recommendation of Gov. Rick Snyder,” Schuitmaker said.

Currently, the state’s personal tax exemption is scheduled to increase from $4,000 to $4,300 over the next three years.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty regarding the federal changes and what they might mean for Michigan residents,” Schuitmaker said. “Now that our budget has begun to stabilize and we’ve approved numerous reforms that have drastically improved the state’s financial outlook, it is time to give relief to families throughout my district and our state.”

According to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Brandenburg, the sponsor of SB 748, the committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

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Senate adopts Schuitmaker’s ‘Human Trafficking Awareness Day’ resolution

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker designating Jan. 11, 2018 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Michigan.

“Unfortunately, due to Michigan’s geographical location, we are a hotspot for abductions and human trafficking,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Far too many women and young girls have become victims to this heinous criminal behavior.”

Schuitmaker authored Senate Resolution 117 to bring attention to the horrific trauma caused by this criminal activity and educate people on how to avoid becoming a victim. According to the U.S. Department of State, human trafficking is the fastest-growing crime in the world after drug trafficking.

In recent years, Michigan has gained national attention on both the state and federal levels as a model for passing legislation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking. Michigan was also named the most improved state in 2015 by Shared Hope International for approving these and other measures addressing sex trafficking.

“I am proud to have worked on these crucial reforms that have made Michigan safer for women. Though we are a national leader in approving policies that effectively deter abductions and human trafficking, there is much to be done.” Schuitmaker said. “I encourage all Michiganders to use this day as an opportunity to educate themselves about human trafficking and be aware of how to stay safe.”

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Sen. Schuitmaker announces January office hours

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, announced that January office hours are scheduled for the 26th Senate District.

Schuitmaker’s district director, Deb Shields, will be available to meet with constituents at the following dates, times and locations:

Monday, Jan. 22

  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

The Breakfast Place

206 N. Main St.

Lawton

Tuesday, Jan. 23

  • 10 – 11 a.m.

Mugshots Coffee House

340 Water St.

Allegan

  • Noon – 1 p.m.

Plainwell City Hall

211 N. Main St.

Plainwell

Tuesday, Jan. 30

  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Gaines Township Hall

8555 Kalamazoo Ave. SE

Gaines Township

Schuitmaker welcomes area residents to attend mobile district office hours this month hosted by District Director Deb Shields throughout Van Buren and Allegan counties, as well as Kentwood and Gaines Township.

Shields will be on hand to answer questions and respond to concerns that residents of the district may have. No appointment is necessary.

For more information, please contact Deb Shields at (269) 303-5564 or by email at DShields@senate.michigan.gov.

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Calley signs Schuitmaker legislation to curb prescription drug abuse

LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan effort aimed at curbing prescription drug addiction and overdoses received final approval from Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Wednesday afternoon.

State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the lead sponsor of both bills, said she was thrilled to see this measure signed into law.

“These new laws will save countless lives,” she noted. “Doctors will have the opportunity to review a patient’s full controlled substance prescription history before making a decision to prescribe addictive drugs.

“Countless families have been devastated from the current opioid epidemic. Approval of these bills is just one step the state has taken to combat this public health crisis.”

Senate Bills 166 and 167 are now Public Acts 248 and 249 of 2017.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality photograph from Wednesday’s bill signing is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

PHOTO CAPTION: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, joins members of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force along with other medical and law enforcement professionals involved in the legislation’s success. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed Senate Bills 166 and 167 into law on Wednesday.

Schuitmaker urges House to approve additional measures to prevent sexual assault

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Thursday said she would like to see the state House approve legislation that would eliminate the state’s statute of limitations law regarding criminal sexual conduct.

Schuitmaker, who co-sponsored Senate Bill 52, says this is common sense legislation that should have been easily approved in both chambers and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder by now.

“The Michigan Legislature has championed many reforms aimed at providing sexual assault victims with justice,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Unfortunately, the trauma from this violence can leave many victims suffering for years before they are able to speak out against their abuse and share what happened to them.”

SB 52 would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to eliminate the statute of limitations for a second-degree criminal sexual conduct in which the victim was under 16 years of age. The bill also would increase the statute of limitations for third-degree criminal sexual conduct to 20 years after the offense was committed or the victim’s 31st birthday, whichever was later.

Currently, complaints must be filed within 10 years after the offense is committed or by the victim’s 21st birthday, whichever is later.

“With the massive increase in sexual assault claims we are seeing, we must change our laws to ensure that victims have a course of remedy,” Schuitmaker said. “This is just another tool we can give prosecutors in bringing criminals to justice and providing victims with the closure they deserve.

Schuitmaker points to the case of the convicted Dr. Larry Nassar as the primary reasoning for her support for this legislation. She said the legislation came up in a recent meeting with Rachael Denhollander and Sterling Riethman, both victims of Nassar, and they were very supportive of the measure.

“These girls were very young when this happened to them,” Schuitmaker said. “Victims in general, especially young girls, are often cautious about coming forward in a timely manner because of what it may mean for them. These bills would create a longer time frame for perpetrators to be brought to justice.”

SB 52 was unanimously approved by the Senate in October and is currently before the House Committee on Law and Justice.

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Opioid reporting bills head to Gov. Snyder

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Wednesday concurred with House amendments on a pair of bills that seek to prevent prescription drug diversion and reduce overdoses in the state of Michigan.

“Though many tragedies have happened in recent years, these bills are a culmination of hard work from every end of the spectrum to help put an end to this crisis,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “My colleagues and I have heard from parents of victims, individuals who have suffered from addiction, medical specialists, law enforcement and many others. This has been an amazing collaborative effort.”

Schuitmaker, who sponsored both bills and has remained at the forefront of the legislative effort against opioid abuse, says illegal diversion is the root cause of the epidemic that is currently sweeping the nation.

Senate Bills 166 and 167 would require all prescribers who prescribe Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances to review a Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS report prior to issuing a prescription for a controlled substance.

The report lists which substances a patient has received and who has prescribed them. A MAPS report could indicate to the physician or health care provider that abuse or doctor shopping may be occurring.

“This would put an end to pill mills and other illegal operations by creating a paper trail for every Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substance,” Schuitmaker said. “A quick, three-second search gives health care professionals a complete outline of a patient’s prescription history; allowing them to see if something doesn’t look right.”

Michigan currently has a system that tracks prescriptions, but Schuitmaker says many physicians don’t use it properly, or even at all.

“The bills would ensure all prescribers use the system and thoroughly examine a patient’s medical need for such medications,” Schuitmaker said. “The bills also include guidelines for punishing those who fail to do their due diligence.”

SBs 166 and 167 now advance to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder for final consideration.

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UIA legislation move to Gov. Snyder’s desk

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — A bipartisan effort to address the ongoing problems at the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) received final approval from the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon.

House Bills 5165-5172 would make significant changes throughout the unemployment benefits system. The primary focus of this package is both reducing fraudulent claims and giving affected employers and employees a means to address claims filed by imposters.

“These benefits are meant to be used in an emergency situation,” said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Instead of providing assistance to those who needed a hand up while they got back on their feet, as the agency was intended to do, the system created a massive debacle  that resulted in many Michigan residents being wrongly accused of fraud and losing their assistance.”

The bills also require the UIA to increase reporting requirements to the Legislature and implement several additional internal measures that would better determine if claims are fraudulent or filed through a stolen identity. If a claim is determined to be fraudulent, the UIA will then cancel all benefits on a claim.

The agency would also then be required to credit an employer’s account for benefits paid to an impostor that were charged to the account.

“These are necessary reforms that will ensure the system works as it is meant to,” Schuitmaker said. “Simply stating that ‘a computer error’ falsely accused and caused more than 37,000 people to lose their benefits is not enough. We need to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

HBs 5165-5172 will now go to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

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Schuitmaker welcomes Plainwell pastor to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed the Rev. Steve Smail to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. Smail serves as senior pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Plainwell and delivered the invocation before Senate session.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality version of the above photo is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click “Photowire” under the Media Center tab.

Photo Caption: Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, stands at the rostrum with the Rev. Steve Smail and his wife Sharon after Smail delivered the invocation before Senate session Wednesday morning.