Sen. Brandenburg District Update

The year in review

As we look ahead to a new year of challenges and opportunity, I would like to share a last look at some important 2017 legislative accomplishments. Please visit www.misenategop.com for information on these and other legislative efforts.

 

Michigan is the Comeback State!

At 4.5 percent, Michigan’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and more than 500,000 private sector jobs have been added to our economy in nearly seven years — more than any other Great Lakes state!

For seven years in a row, Senate Republicans have passed a balanced budget ahead of schedule, and we have turned a $1.8 billion structural budget deficit into a nearly $900 million surplus in the state’s rainy day fund.

 

Education is a top priority      

Over the last seven years, we have put $1.8 billion more into public education. Forty-six cents of every state tax dollar goes to public education. This year, we allocated nearly $28 million for a third-grade reading initiative as well as $244 million for preschool funding.

We also increased skilled trades funding to prepare future workers for in-demand jobs in career and technical education.

 

Honoring those who protect us

We owe so much to those who keep us safe. To make sure veterans receive the proper care they deserve, Senate Republicans increased funding for more staff and training at our veterans homes.

In addition, the budget invests $12.2 million to hire 150 new state police troopers to keep our communities secure, and $1.5 million to boost efforts to prevent, detect and investigate cybercrimes.

 

Fighting back against the opioid epidemic

We took action to help combat the abuse of prescription drugs in an effort to curb the rising opioid abuse epidemic. New laws will better educate patients about the dangers of addiction to doctor-prescribed painkillers and ensure better reporting by physicians.

 

Moving Michigan into the future

Michigan Thrive and Good Jobs for Michigan were Senate Republican priorities to revitalize downtown areas across the state, spur economic development in our urban cores, and attract new businesses that create well-paying jobs.

We also created the Michigan First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account — a tax-deductible savings plan — to encourage young adults to purchase their first home here in Michigan and remain in our great state.

 

Protecting our natural resources

From hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and more, Pure Michigan offers unmatched recreational opportunities. We invested an additional $13 million in the fiscal year 2018 budget in our state parks and trails for continued improvements, upgrades and developments.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs bills to increase road safety

A study last year by CarInsuranceComparison.com ranked Michigan motorists as the eighth-best drivers in the country. Legislation recently passed by the Senate would help make driving on Michigan roadways even safer if signed into law. The legislation includes:

  • Senate Bill 521 would require drivers to treat intersections where a traffic signal is out as a four-way stop. The bill doesn’t apply to traffic signals that are only active at certain times, such as those outside a school or fire department.
  • Senate Bill 477 would require drivers to slow down and “move over” when approaching a vehicle with amber flashing lights, such as a utility or tow truck. Drivers are already required to move over if an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is on the side of the road, or if unsafe to do so, pass with caution at a safe, reduced speed.

Both bills have been sent to the House for consideration.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports legislation to protect local retirement benefits

In Michigan, local governments are nearly $19 billion in the red on their pension and retirement health care obligations.

I recently supported legislation to better protect the retirement benefits promised to local workers, including law enforcement and firefighters. The bills require uniform and consistent reporting by local governments with unfunded liabilities to accurately assess retirement costs and taxpayer obligations. Communities can then develop plans to get control of their debt. It’s important to ensure existing problems do not get bigger or go unaddressed.

In related news, a new website provides important financial data about Michigan’s counties, townships, cities and villages. Visit www.michigan.gov/treasury and click on MI Community Financial Dashboard to learn about a community’s revenues and expenditures, as well as long-term debt and unfunded pension liability costs.

 

Travelers: most rest areas open during winter

Nearly all of the state’s 78 rest areas are scheduled to remain open this winter. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close five rest areas because of reduced use during winter months and safety concerns. The following are closed and set to reopen in April:

  • Ignace Rest area on southbound 1-75 in Mackinac County
  • Ludington Rest Area on northbound US-31 in Mason County
  • Topinabee Rest Area on northbound 1-75 in Cheboygan County
  • Hebron Rest Area on southbound 1-75 in Cheboygan County
  • Hart Rest Area on southbound US-31 in Oceana County

 

Home heating help

As the weather turns cold, some households may have trouble paying their winter heating bills. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) urges customers to first contact their utility company if they are unable to pay their bill on time, before receiving a shut-off notice. Seniors and low-income customers may be eligible for the Winter Protection Plan, a program to protect against service shut-off and high utility payments between Nov. 1 and March 31. Contact the gas or electric company to apply. Other assistance programs are available for shut-off protection, including the State Emergency Relief program and utility help for active duty military families. For more information as well as weatherization tips, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc and type in the keywords MPSC Be WinterWise Program.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Sen. Brandenburg backs new law to protect personal information

Consumers will have better protection against fraud at the gas pump under Senate legislation recently signed into law.

Public Act 168 of 2017 (Senate Bill 415) requires greater security measures at the pump to restrict the unauthorized access of customer payment card information and prevent the use of skimmers. Skimmers are small devices that can be hidden in gas pumps to copy credit and debit card personal information. Approximately 82 skimmers have been found in Michigan since 2015. While many gas stations have security measures already in place, all stations will now be required to provide additional protections for consumers.

The new law takes effect Feb. 19, 2018.

 

Sen. Brandenburg supports new law strengthening high school career counseling

Many students and their parents are unaware of the trends in today’s changing job market and college selection process. That’s why it is important to ensure high school guidance counselors are better able to assist students with information on their college and career opportunities after leaving high school.

I supported a new law that requires high school counselors to dedicate 50 hours of their required 150 hours of professional development to college preparation and career counseling, including careers in the skilled trades, as well as technical and military careers. Public Act 151 of 2017 (House Bill 4181) will apply to school counselors renewing their credentials two years after the effective date of January 2018.

 

MET enrollment

The Michigan Education Trust (MET) has reopened enrollment in time for holiday gift givers to buy or contribute toward a child’s 529 prepaid tuition contract. Family members or friends can purchase a new MET prepaid tuition contract in a child’s name or contribute money toward an existing contract. Contract holders qualify for a tax deduction on their Michigan tax returns for purchases or contributions made by Dec. 31.

For more information, visit www.SETwithMET.com or call 800-MET-4-KID.

 

Pure Michigan Hunt application deadline nears

The “hunt of a lifetime” offers three lucky winners the opportunity to obtain licenses for spring and fall turkey, antlerless deer, bear, elk and first pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area, along with a prize package valued at more than $4,000. Applications for the 2018 drawing are $5 each and available at license agent locations and online at www.mdnr-elicense.com until Dec. 31.

The 2017 Pure Michigan Hunt generated nearly $260,000 to help fund wildlife habitat restoration and improvements in Michigan. Find more information at www.michigan.gov/pmh.

 

Travel guide showcases Michigan winter

The Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide highlights great cold weather fun in our state, including skiing and snowmobiling, even dog sledding! The publication also includes a guide to indoor culinary and entertainment destinations and a winter events calendar. Access the digital edition at www.michigan.org  or contact my office for a free print copy.