Senator Brandenburg District Update

Senate approves brownfield redevelopment bills

Many communities across Michigan are burdened with what’s known as brownfield properties — sites that sit empty or vacant because they are too costly to clean up, restore or redevelop. The Senate recently approved legislation to help transform these hard-to-develop properties or abandoned buildings into large-scale projects that create jobs and promote growth.

Senate Bills 111-115 would allow such “transformational brownfield plans” to keep part of the new tax revenue they generate in order to make the projects fiscally feasible while the rest of the revenue would go to local governments and the state. To qualify for an economic incentive, a project would have to receive approval from the local government, the Michigan Strategic Fund and the state treasurer. In addition, the project would have to meet a minimum investment threshold and result in a net fiscal benefit to the state.

The legislation would limit the redevelopments to five projects each year. In addition, each city would be limited to one approved plan per year, ensuring the program’s benefits would be spread across the state.

The bill package has been sent to the House for consideration.

Sen. Brandenburg supports new law to expand training for Michigan firefighters

Today’s firefighters are often the primary responders to any number of local hazards, not only fires. Senate legislation signed into law earlier this year will help ensure firefighters have access to the education and training they need to perform their duties.

The new law expands training programs eligible to receive grants to include emergency medical service, hazardous material response, technical rescue, airport rescue and firefighting, fire inspection and investigation, and fire safety education. Funding for training opportunities comes from the fireworks safety fee assessed on the sale of all fireworks in Michigan.

Free financial counseling available to delinquent student loan borrowers

Michigan student loan borrowers who are delinquent on their federal student loans can receive free one-on-one counseling under a pilot program announced by the state Department of Treasury in partnership with a division of the National Student Loan Program.

As part of the program, participants work with counselors to develop a repayment plan that helps them return to good financial standing. Find more information, including eligibility requirements, at www.loanassistmichigan.org.

Hunters win the hunt of a lifetime!

Three lucky hunters from Kent, Lapeer and Montcalm counties were recently announced as the 2017 Pure Michigan Hunt winners by the Department of Natural Resources. Along with elk, bear, spring and fall turkey and antlerless deer licenses to be used in 2017, the winners will also get first pick opening morning of the waterfowl season at any of Michigan’s managed waterfowl hunt areas. In addition, each hunter receives a package of hunting gear donated by Michigan businesses and organizations valued at more than $4,000!

The 2017 drawing had a total of 51,090 applications, generating more than $259,000 to help fund wildlife habitat restoration and improvements in Michigan. Applications for the next Pure Michigan Hunt drawing will be available starting March 1. More information is available at www.mi.gov/pmh.

Senator Brandenburg District Update

Senate approves criminal justice reforms

The Michigan Senate recently approved criminal justice reforms to help reduce the cycle of imprisonment while ensuring public protection and safety.

The package of bills addresses issues throughout the entire system — those facing prisoners, individuals on probation or parole and those working to assimilate back into society. Reforms include ways to better track and evaluate recidivism data, speed up medical commutation hearings, and help prisoners transition back into their communities.

Michigan has a recidivism rate 20 percent higher than the national average for probationers and parolees. The bills refocus Michigan’s criminal justice system on rehabilitation to help break the cycle of crime. Many of the reforms are based on the success of programs in other states.

Senate Bills 5-24 and 50 have been sent to the House for consideration.

 

Reading alert!

March is Reading Month and a great time to share the benefits of reading with young students. Each year, I travel to elementary schools in the district to participate as a classroom guest reader and share my love of reading. I am also pleased to provide a colorful bookmark as a reminder to keep up the reading habit! Please let me know if you would like to receive one.

 

Free taxpayer preparation guide now available

I am pleased to provide a free resource that may be helpful in filling out state income tax forms for the 2016 tax year.

Though not a substitute for Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets, the 2017 Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide provides useful information on Michigan’s individual income tax and property taxes. The booklet also features contact information for obtaining state agency tax assistance and copies of the most commonly used tax forms.  Please visit my website for a link to the tax guide or contact my office for a print copy.

 

Healthy students learn better

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is encouraging those schools taking action to promote healthy eating, physical activity and a tobacco-free lifestyle to apply for the 2017 School Wellness Award.

Healthy schools can help students achieve their academic potential. The deadline for schools to submit applications is midnight, April 19. More information, including the application, FAQs, and a list of the 2016 award winners, is available at http://swa.mihealthtools.org.

Along with MDHHS, partners include the Michigan Department of Education, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Action for Healthy Kids and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.