During the holiday season, many people are inspired to be charitable. Unfortunately, this time of year is also when scammers try to take advantage of your generosity. Before making a donation, do your research to avoid scammers and ensure your money goes to those who are truly in need.
On Wednesday, November 29, I welcomed Pastor Steve Smail and his wife, Sharon, to Lansing. Pastor Smail offered an inspiring prayer before Senate session began. Pastor Smail joined the Lighthouse Baptist Church of Plainwell in 2005. Before being chosen as the Senior Pastor in March of 2014, he served as the Associate Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Director of the Bus and Visitation Ministries for the church. Pastor Smail’s devotion to his faith, congregation, and community is truly inspiring, and it was an honor to have him join us at the Capitol.
Michigan patients should have access to the most effective chemotherapy treatments to successfully treat their cancer.
Yet high costs in the way some medications are administered can be a deciding factor in a patient’s treatment decision. If a patient in Michigan needs anticancer medication in pill form, it is often covered as a health insurance plan prescription benefit, requiring a patient to pay for part of the treatment. This out-of-pocket cost can run thousands of dollars each month. Intravenously administered or injected chemotherapy medications are commonly covered as a health insurance plan medical benefit and don’t require the patient to pay an additional fee for the medication.
I recently supported legislation that would create parity among the way health insurance policies cover oral cancer treatments and intravenously or injected anticancer treatments are covered. A patient should not have to worry about the cost of medicine when fighting for his or her life.
Senate Bill 492 has been sent to the House for consideration. If the legislation is adopted and signed into law, Michigan would join 43 other states with oral chemotherapy parity.
Legislation that I introduced would restore the income tax credit for donations made to food banks and other community foundations. Senate Bill (SB) 405 would allow taxpayers to claim a nonrefundable income tax credit of up to 50 percent of the totally cash value of any food items they donate to a shelter for homeless people, food kitchens, food bank, or any other entity in Michigan that provides accommodation, food, or meals to people who are indigent.
A report conducted in 2014 by the Council of Michigan Foundations found significant decreases in charitable giving, totaling a loss of more than $1.15 million in charitable donations following the elimination of these credits in 2011. SB 405 would encourage people to once again make these important contributions to support Michigan’s homeless shelters and food banks, so they may continue to serve those who need assistance.
SB 405 was approved by the Senate Committee on Finance, and has been sent to the Senate floor for further consideration.
Starting Dec. 1, a new wildlife license plate will be available in Michigan. The current common loon plate will be replaced with an elk plate to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the reintroduction of elk in Michigan.
“We are excited for the changing of the guard,” said Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “The loon license plate has had a long run, helping to raise over $2.6 million for wildlife habitat since 2001, and will continue to raise money for the nongame fish and wildlife fund.”
Next year marks 100 years since elk were reintroduced to Michigan, and celebrations are planned throughout the year.
Once common in Michigan, elk had disappeared from the state in the 1800s due to unregulated take and lack of habitat.
In 1918, seven elk were brought from the western United States to Wolverine, Michigan. The healthy and abundant elk population in the state today is a result of intentional land management and increased law enforcement.
“All funds from the sale of the elk license plate will continue to help wildlife management,” said Mason. “This funding is extremely important because it helps all wildlife.”
Those interested in purchasing the current common loon plate have until Nov. 30. Those who already have the loon license plate can keep it, with thanks from the DNR for supporting wildlife.
A new license plate can be purchased from the Secretary of State at any time for $35. An additional $10 specialty license plate fee is charged annually when drivers renew their registration. The funds from this renewal fee are given directly to the DNR for wildlife habitat work.
Order specialty license plates by mail or fax or at any Secretary of State branch office. To purchase a plate by mail or fax, complete and print the Wildlife Habitat License Plate Order Form. The plate will be mailed within 14 business days from the date it is ordered.
- Nov. 30 – last day to purchase the loon license plate.
- Dec. 1 – first day to purchase the new elk license plate.
To learn more about the state’s elk population and history, visit michigan.gov/elk.
A package of bills I introduced to reduce recidivism and provide assistance to individuals as they get their lives back on track has been sent to the Governor for final approval. Senate Bills 435-438 will give those in need of help an opportunity to get their lives back.
Problem-solving, or specialty courts, are those dedicated to individual issues such as drugs, veteran treatment, mental health, and alcohol-related driving offenses. Currently, specialty courts do not require state certification to operate. However, a recent change made by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) would require state certification beginning with Fiscal Year 2018.
This legislation is needed so that Michigan has a more consistent and effective approach for the courts and participants. SBs 435-438 will help ensure that all treatment courts are employing national best practices, for the best possible outcomes.
Without guidelines in place, specialty programs employ various tactics to achieve the end goal of their institution. Unfortunately, this system has not yielded the results we are aiming for. All problem-solving courts statewide should be adhering to the same policies and procedures — this will improve outcome consistency across different jurisdictions throughout the state.
On Thursday, October 26, I was joined by Genevieve Marnon, Michigan Right to Life, Rebecca Kiessling, and Tiffany, a sexual assault survivor, to discuss legislation that is needed to protect victims of sexual assault and children conceived through rape.
Women who become pregnant as a result of a sexual assault should be protected by the state as best as possible. Unfortunately, a loophole in current law allowed for a tragic incident to put a victim and her child in harm’s way.
Tiffany, a young woman from Sanilac County, became pregnant after she was kidnapped and raped at the age of 12. In her victim statement, Tiffany informed the judge and prosecutor that she was pregnant from the assault. Her rapist spent six and a half months in prison before attacking another victim.
About eight years later, the Sanilac County prosecutor granted her rapist custody of her son and parenting time without notifying her or taking into consideration the best interests of the child.
Inconsistencies in our state custody laws must be addressed to prevent this from happening to other sexual assault survivors and their children. I will continue to work diligently to ensure that this tragic situation does not happen again.
According to a Michigan Cyber Initiative report, the state of Michigan blocks more than 650,000 cyberattacks daily, ranging from spam to web browser attacks to network intrusion. The Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps (MiC3) was launched in 2013 to help the state’s ongoing cyber defense.
This rapid response team is a group of trained cybersecurity experts who volunteer to provide expert assistance when activated under a governor-declared state of emergency. I supported legislation that would expand the role of the Corps. House Bill 4508 would provide liability protection and allow volunteers to be assigned to nongovernmental groups such as businesses and nonprofits during cybersecurity incidents.
Cyberattacks are a growing threat to security and privacy. It makes good sense to strengthen our cybersecurity services in the event of a major incident.
Individuals and families can find information about staying safe online at www.michigan.gov/cybersecurity.
A package of bills that will further the state’s efforts against the growing prescription drug and opioid epidemic advanced from the House Committee on Health Policy and currently awaits a vote on the House floor.
Every community across our state has experienced the devastating effects of prescription drug and opioid abuse. This is not something that we can simply legislate away. It takes diligence and cooperation on every level.
Because of their direct involvement with the process, this legislation focuses on what have come to be known as “doctor shopping” and “pill mills.” As a result, I introduced Senate Bills 166 and 167 to hinder this process and crack down on any collusion between pharmacies and physicians.
Doctors and pharmacies working together to illegally prescribe medications for a quick buck is a recipe for disaster. These so-called medical professionals clearly do not have the patient’s best interest in mind. They are not only violating the law, but the ethics of the oath they took to become a physician as well.
These bills would make sure doctors who prescribe Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances consult the Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS, prior to doing so. The bills also outline punishment guidelines for those who fail to do so or are negligent.
MAPS was designed to prevent drug diversion by collecting prescription data and loading it into a database made available to all Michigan prescribers. This allows health care professionals to see a full picture of the controlled substances that a patient has received and from which prescriber. A MAPS report could indicate to the physician or health care provider that abuse or doctor shopping may be occurring.
On October 26, President Trump also took a stand against the opioid crisis by directing the Department of Health and Human Services to declare this a public health emergency. As a nation, we need to ensure opioids stay out of the hands of those who do not truly need them.
State Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) and I introduced a pair of resolutions on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 urging Congress to cut funding cities and pass Kate’s Law.
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 United States. 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.
This man should never have been here and Kate should still be with her loved ones. This was a senseless, devastating crime that could have and should have been prevented. I applaud the House taking action and approving this measure, but the Senate needs to act quickly and get this to the president’s desk before this happens again.
Michigan Senate Concurrent Resolutions 20, which I sponsored, and 21, sponsored by 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.
It baffles me that cities across the United States are not only getting away with knowingly violating federal law, but are also advertising their sanctuary city status and encouraging more people to violate the law. This is not only a matter of public safety, but a matter of preserving the rule of law. We cannot let local governments decide which federal laws they choose to follow.
Both resolutions were referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary for further consideration.