Governor signs 2018-2019 state budget into law

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker joined fellow lawmakers in applauding Gov. Rick Snyder as he signed into law legislation that will fund the state of Michigan for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“My colleagues and I worked hard to reduce the state budget by 2 percent and use taxpayer dollars more efficiently than last year,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “I am happy to have been a part of this collaborative effort on behalf of Michigan taxpayers.”

The School Aid (K-12) budget invests $14.8 billion into Michigan schools, which is the largest investment in the state’s history. Schools will see a foundation allowance increase of between $120 and $240 per pupil. Skilled trades programs will also see $40.9 million to prepare workers for high-demand jobs.

The 2018-2019 budget also increases funding for the state’s aging roads and bridges.

“Our roads and bridges are suffering,” Schuitmaker said. “Poorly maintained roads are not specific to urban areas or rural areas. They are affecting our entire state, regardless of location. The additional appropriations in this budget put us in a position to start making much-needed upgrades to our state’s infrastructure. This budget increases the total new investment in our roads to $2.4 billion since 2017.”

The Legislature also included appropriations to improve public safety for Michiganders. The budget includes money to hire more state police troopers, more corrections workers and more conservation officers; funding to further improve sexual assault programs on our state’s campuses; and $58 million in school safety initiatives like OK2SAY that keep our students safe.

Also included is funding to increase revenue sharing for local governments to spend on their needs; a boost to the state’s rainy day fund, bringing the state’s savings to over $1 billion; and a more than $80 million investment to protect our Great Lakes and natural resources.

“One of my biggest priorities as a legislator has been using taxpayer dollars responsibly,” Schuitmaker said. “This budget funds vital state programs, begins fixing our pothole-ridden roads, increases public safety and focuses on our students. I am happy to have supported this budget and to protect Michigan’s hardworking families.”

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Senate approves auto insurance reforms

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker on Friday applauded Senate passage of several reforms to the state’s no-fault auto insurance system.

“Residents are tired of high premiums,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Michigan drivers pay the highest premiums in the country, and that is a direct result of the current system. While some promote the program’s success, it is clear that something needs to be done to address the exorbitant costs.”

Michigan is one of 12 states that currently operate under a no-fault system of automobile insurance. Under the current system, a driver’s own insurance company covers all accident-related medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who caused the accident. Because of this, all motorists in the state are legally required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which pays for an individual’s medical expenses resulting from injuries sustained in an auto accident.

“The legislation approved by the Senate includes a $400,000 cap for personal injury protection for people who have never paid into Michigan’s no-fault system,” Schuitmaker said. “This would reduce costs and bring Michigan more in line with neighboring states. There is no reason for Michiganders to be covering unlimited PIP claims for out-of-state residents.”

There are, however, many reasons for Michigan’s high rates. Michigan’s unique uncapped benefits, fraud and increasing health care costs are just a few examples.

Senate Bill 1014 would address the rampant fraudulent activity within the system by creating the Michigan Automobile Insurance Fraud Authority within the attorney general’s office. The authority’s primary operation would be investigating insurance fraud, which according to the Insurance Institute of Michigan is estimated to be about $400 million per year.

The bill would also make changes to attendant care, setting limits on the amount that could be paid to family and household members to help protect against inflated costs. Coverage for the first 56 hours of attendant care provided in a week would be limited to a reasonable and customary amount, and coverage of care in excess of 56 hours would be limited to $15 an hour.

Included in the package is legislation that would allow Michigan residents age 65 or older the option to choose a capped auto-insurance policy. SB 787 would set the cap at $50,000 and personal insurance or Medicare would cover remaining medical expenses from an automobile accident after the $50,000 limit is reached. Seniors who opted for the limited coverage would see their catastrophic claims assessment drastically reduced.

Seniors would also have the option to remain in the current no-fault system.

“Michigan has the highest average annual premium in the nation at $2,394, while the national average is $1,318,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to work to close that gap and do better for hardworking Michigan taxpayers.”

SBs 787 and 1014 have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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Schuitmaker welcomes Paw Paw veteran to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed Spc. David Hagen, United States Army, to the Capitol for the Michigan Senate’s 24th Annual Memorial Day Service on Thursday.

Hagen is a resident of Paw Paw and joined Schuitmaker on the Senate floor as members paid tribute to those who gave their lives defending our country.

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Editor’s note: A print-quality photograph of Schuitmaker welcoming Thursday’s guest 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, stands on the Senate floor with Spc. David Hagen of the United States Army after Thursday’s Memorial Day Service.

 

 

Candlelight vigil honors victims, families at state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker was joined by dozens of elected officials, law enforcement officers, advocates, friends and family members of victims and victims themselves Wednesday evening at the state Capitol to celebrate the 30th annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil.

The event was hosted by the Crime Victim Foundation and takes place at the Capitol every April.

“This year’s event focused primarily on getting victims the care they need,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “When someone is a victim of a crime, their life changes through no fault of their own and they deserve every possible effort that could return their life to how it was before the crime was committed. Far too many victims face additional trauma because the lack of help or resources available to them.”

During the event, Schuitmaker presented the Beyond the Call of Duty award to two law enforcement officers who have gone significantly above and beyond their required duties.

Sgt. Bill Darnell of the DeWitt Police Department was recognized for his heroic actions while responding to a domestic dispute. Darnell was ambushed and shot in the forehead and face during the encounter, yet he did not give up. Having heard shots fired from upstairs, Darnell returned fire, eliminating the threat with the help of a fellow officer.

Also presented with the award was Detective Lt. Andrea Munford for her work investigating the allegations against then-Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar. Munford was originally approached by Rachael Denhollander, one of Nassar’s victims, and as the investigation continued she provided endless assistance to Denhollander and other victims.

“Michigan is a better place because of Sgt. Darnell and Detective Lt. Munford,” Schuitmaker said. “These two are shining examples of how law enforcement officers should serve their communities and I could not be more honored to recognize their bravery and commitment this evening.”

Schuitmaker also introduced Senate Resolution 156 during Wednesday’s session to recognize and acknowledge the importance of crime victims’ rights here in Michigan. SR 156 had a host of bipartisan co-sponsors and was unanimously adopted by the Senate.

“Attending this vigil is always a very moving experience for everyone,” Schuitmaker said. “The pain of losing a loved one never goes away, but through discussion and positive action, we can share stories and find closure with one another. I’ve met some incredible people throughout my tenure as co-chair of the crime victim’s caucus and look forward to further strengthening those relationships as we continue to fight for victims together.”

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Editor’s Note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting Schuitmaker’s website at www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com. Click on “Photowire” under the Media Center tab. Audio of Schuitmaker discussing Wednesday’s event is also available on her website.

Photo caption: State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, stands with Sgt. Bill Darnell after he received the Beyond the Call of Duty award at the 30th annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil Wednesday evening.

 

 

Schuitmaker to co-host Crime Victim Foundation’s annual vigil

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker will join elected officials, representatives from the legal community and other advocates at the Crime Victim Foundation’s annual vigil on Wednesday, April 25.

The Michigan Crime Victims Vigil serves as a remembrance for victims, along with families and friends of those who have been impacted by a crime. The primary focus of this year’s event is to create a discussion on how we can better serve victims and ensure they have the resources they need. For more information, please contact Schuitmaker’s office at (517) 373-0793 or SenTSchuitmaker@senate.michigan.gov.

Who:

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton;

Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren;

Attorney General Bill Schuette; and

Speakers, volunteers and advocates from around the state of Michigan.

What:

The Michigan Crime Victim Foundation’s 30th annual vigil

When:

Wednesday, April 25 at 6 p.m.

Where:

Michigan Capitol

Rotunda

Lansing, MI

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Schuitmaker welcomes Paw Paw pastor to state Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, welcomed the Rev. Joseph Xavier to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. Xavier serves as pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Paw Paw 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 her desk on the Senate floor with the Rev. Joseph Xavier after Xavier delivered the invocation before Senate session Wednesday morning.

Schuitmaker, Higher Education subcommittee hear testimony from interim MSU president

LANSING, Mich. — Members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education on Thursday continued a series of meetings to discuss current sexual misconduct policies at Michigan’s public universities and necessary changes that would further ensure the safety of their students.

Thursday’s committee meeting focused on the ongoing issue at Michigan State as lawmakers took testimony from former governor and Interim President of Michigan State University John Engler.

The presentation was meant to take a further look into actions the new administration is taking to address the Dr. Nassar scandal, while also discussing with Engler new initiatives to ensure the safety of current and future students as well.

“Recent events have shown us that discussing current policies and attempting to increase protections for students is absolutely a top priority and must be addressed as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who chairs the Senate subcommittee. “Committee members and I wanted to hear what the new administration’s plans are moving forward. We are going to continue these hearings and continue looking at what we can do to create a safe learning environment for students.”

Future meetings can be found by clicking here, or on the Legislature’s home page at www.legislature.mi.gov and by clicking “Committee Meetings” on the left side of the screen.

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 Editor’s note: A print-quality photograph from Thursday’s hearing 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, listens to former governor and Interim President of Michigan State University John Engler as he speaks about actions taken by the school to remedy the injustices suffered by the victims of Dr. Nassar and new initiatives taken by the school to ensure the safety of all current and future students.

 

Senate adopts ‘Women in Public Office Day’ resolution

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Tuesday approved a resolution co-sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker designating March 19, 2018 as Women in Public Office Day in Michigan.

“Unfortunately, history has shown that women are traditionally underrepresented in the realm of public office,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “These numbers have steadily increased in recent years with 2018 being a major breakout year. In 2018 we saw a record number of women pursuing elected office, and I hope to see that trend continue.”

Schuitmaker joined Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, in introducing Senate Resolution 140. Schuitmaker, who is only the second woman in the state’s history to serve as president pro tempore of the Senate, said she hopes this will encourage more women to run for office.

“Since the 1970s, the number of women serving in state legislatures across the United States has increased drastically,” Schuitmaker said. “Michigan’s female legislators bring a unique perspective to the state Legislature — and we have championed numerous legislative efforts that may have otherwise not been considered. I hope that more young women consider public office as they move into their professional careers.”

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Sen. Schuitmaker announces March office hours

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, announced that March 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:

Thursday, March 15

10 – 11 a.m.

Antwerp Township Hall

24821 Front St.

Mattawan

Noon – 1 p.m.

Railroad Café

555 Railroad St.

Bangor

1:45 – 2:45 p.m.

Saugatuck-Douglas Library

10 Mixer St.

Douglas

 

Monday, March 19

10 – 11 a.m.

Mug Shots Coffeehouse

340 Water St.

Allegan

Noon – 1 p.m.

Plainwell City Hall

211 N. Main St.

Plainwell

 

Wednesday, March 21

10 – 11 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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Tax relief legislation sees final approval from Legislature

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation co-sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker would ensure state and local exemptions remain in place despite recent changes on the federal level.

“The recent federal changes were largely welcomed in my district, though many have shown some confusion or uncertainty as to what the federal changes may mean for next year’s taxes,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “These measures will ensure Michigan residents are able to claim the personal exemption on their state and local income taxes.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in addition to lowering income tax rates, included a process that set the federal personal exemption to zero. Though the exemption is not explicitly eliminated by the new law, 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.

Senate Bill 748 makes necessary changes to maintain the state’s personal exemption, while SB 750 would provide the same assurance for city income taxes.

SB 748 would also increase the state’s personal exemption to $4,900 by 2021. In 2018, the exemption would be $4,050. It would increase to $4,400 in 2019, to $4,750 in 2020 and finally to $4,900 in 2021.

“These bills allow residents to keep these much-needed, and much-deserved exemptions,” Schuitmaker said. “When coupled with the recent federal tax reforms, Michiganders should be able to start putting more of their hard-earned money in their pockets.”

The bills will now go to Gov. Rick Snyder for further consideration.

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