Legislative Update: New laws to help families, veterans and communities

The Michigan Senate Republicans have accomplished much already in 2016 to help support our families, veterans and communities. Here are some highlights of legislation recently signed into law and previously approved laws that are going into effect in July:

Helping communities respond to disasters and emergencies
The governor has signed Senate legislation to allow the state to better respond to emergencies.

Ensuring more funds are available in the event of an emergency or natural disaster will allow the state to react fast and better protect Michigan families.

Public Act 220 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Mike Nofs, increases the amount the state can hold in its Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund from $4.5 million to $10 million. The fund has been used to help cover the cost of response efforts in Flint and for severe storm cleanup in parts of the state when federal emergency reimbursement is not available.

Standing up for foster siblings
Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children.

“I am glad to see the governor signed this legislation to help protect the cherished bond between siblings in foster care,” said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, sponsor of the bill. “As a foster grandparent and a former member of law enforcement, I have seen both the good and bad of family life. I’ve seen young children endure terrible situations. I’ve also seen the strength of children who overcome tough challenges and the positive impact of siblings in persevering — which is what this new law seeks to preserve.”

Public Act 191 of 2016 puts a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with siblings. If siblings cannot be placed together, then a priority of sibling visitations and ongoing interaction will be arranged to ensure a sibling bond. The new law requires frequent visitations between non-custodial, biological parents and their children unless the court determines that the parenting time would be harmful to the child.

Increasing oversight, accountability in veterans facilities
The Michigan Senate Republicans stood up for our heroes — securing more funding to assist homeless veterans and create a new Michigan Veterans Facility Ombudsman to ensure our veterans receive the proper care they earned serving our nation.

Michigan’s military veterans have given so much in the service of our country, and an independent ombudsman will be able to identify, investigate and recommend fixes for problems at the state’s veterans homes, so we can ensure that our veterans have safe and secure places to enjoy their retirement.

Public Act 198 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Peter MacGregor, requires that the Legislative Council appoint an ombudsman to investigate complaints filed by resident veterans, their family members or legal guardians, or a legislator and then report the findings and recommendations.

The ombudsman will investigate Michigan veterans facilities for acts or conditions that allegedly violate law or policy or that pose significant health or safety issues. The ombudsman will be able to inspect a facility at any time, on its own accord or by request, and conduct investigational hearings and subpoena individuals and documents.

Ushering in new state laws in July
Several important new laws take effect this month:

Public Act 85 of 2016, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, establishes the CARE Act to help train and support in-home caregivers. Under the new law, hospitals are required to allow patients to designate a caregiver and develop a discharge plan to help the caregiver provide after-care assistance.

• Public Acts 87 and 88 of 2016 increase protections for pregnant women by expanding the penalties for assaulting a pregnant woman. The crime would be treated as a domestic violence crime with stricter punishment, especially for repeat offenses.

• Public Act 62 of 2016 raises public awareness about human trafficking. The law requires the National Human Trafficking Hotline number (1-888-373-7888) to be posted at rest stops and welcome centers, bus and rail stations, airports and other places in the state.

May is National Foster Care Month

There are about 14,000 children in foster homes in Michigan and about 300 kids who are waiting to find one.

In each case, the goal and most common outcome is for foster youth to be reunited with their families. But sometimes foster kids find a permanent home with foster parents. There is always a need for good foster homes and Michigan offers resources for adults interested in providing safe, nurturing homes.

In the Senate, Republicans are working to improve the lives and outcomes for our foster youth.

Sen. Rick Jones, who is a foster grandparent, has legislation that would ensure the best care for foster children by placing a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with siblings.

If siblings could not be placed together, then a priority of sibling visitations and ongoing interaction would be arranged to ensure a sibling bond. The bill would require frequent visitations between non-custodial, biological parents and their children unless the court determines that the parenting time would be harmful to the child.

“I know the positive impact of keeping siblings together,” Jones said. “A bond between siblings is one of the most cherished parts of a family.”

Foster youth often face disadvantages most others do not. For example, 70 percent of the teens who emancipate from foster care report that they want to attend college, but fewer than 10 percent who graduate from high school ever enroll in college. A growing number of Michigan youth are reaching adult age while in foster care and have no resources to attend college when they age out of the system.

Michigan taxpayers would be able to donate a portion of their tax return to the Fostering Futures Scholarship Trust Fund under a bill introduced by Sen. Peter MacGregor.

The fund provides eligible foster youth with scholarships to assist with tuition, room and board and other costs associated with enrollment. Scholarships are available for students enrolled in Michigan degree-granting colleges and universities.

“My bill would provide the scholarship trust fund with another source of much-needed revenue so more foster youth can attend college,” MacGregor said. “It would also make it easier for residents to show their support by donating a portion of their tax return with a simple checkbox.”

In celebration of National Foster Care Month and foster children through our state, we encourage residents to consider making a difference in the life of a child by becoming a foster parent.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Throughout Michigan today, many families will celebrate their Irish heritage by wearing green and possibly enjoying a traditional Irish dinner. Sen. Peter MacGregor recently sat down to briefly talk about his Irish roots.

Getting to Know… Sen. Peter MacGregor

50?!? Yes, Sen. Peter MacGregor is celebrating his 50th birthday today.

He recently sat down for a light-hearted interview in the latest installment of the Michigan Senate Republican Blog’s “Getting to Know You” series.

What would his boys say is his favorite movie? What life lesson did he learn mowing lawns as a 12-year-old?

Learn about these questions and more as Sen. MacGregor, R-Rockford, opens up about the advice he gives young people and what motivates him to achieve his goals.

Michigan’s Capitol Renovation

In the immediate years following the end of the Civil War — an era known as Reconstruction — a different type of construction was happening in Lansing.

On Oct. 2, 1873, officials in Lansing held a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of what would become our state’s permanent Capitol building. More than 140 years later, the Capitol is undergoing renovation to restore its iconic dome and sandstone façade.

After Michigan was admitted as the 26th state to the Union, Detroit served as our capital until 1847, when in accordance with the constitution, the state Legislature would elect a new city to serve as the state’s seat of government. In early March of that year, the governor signed the law declaring Lansing as the new capital city. Soon, a temporary structure was constructed to serve as the Capitol and a city began forming in the adjacent lands, which had been for the most part unsettled until that time.

By 1871 it was clear the 20-plus-year-old “temporary” building was no longer suitable nor befitting our state. A nationwide contest was held to select an architect for a permanent Capitol. Elijah Myers was awarded the job and responsibility of overseeing the $1.2 million project (about $23 million in today’s dollars). Continue reading