Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Brandenburg backs bills to protect jobs and tipped wages          

The Michigan Senate recently passed reforms to improve citizen initiatives that increase the state’s minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick leave.

Senate Bill 1171 would increase the minimum wage to $12 per hour through a more gradual increase so businesses have time to adjust. The bill also would retain the tipped wage. Many restaurant workers in my district contacted me with their opposition to ending the tipped wage because they believe eliminating it would cut their take-home pay. Under Senate Bill 1175, all eligible employees would accrue one hour of paid medical leave for every 40 hours worked, up to 36 hours per benefit year (unless their employer provides more). The legislation would provide leave time benefits to more employees while protecting job providers from new, increased costs that could effectively put many small companies out of business.

Both reforms preserve the goals of the initiatives while encouraging a better environment for job growth. The bills have been referred to the House for consideration.

Bills to keep taxpayer money in the classroom gains approval

School funding should be focused on students and teachers in the classroom, not to pay for former employees now working for a union.

In 2015, 67 school districts in Michigan had collective bargaining agreements that allowed paid release time for union representatives to conduct union business, with an estimated cost of $2.7 million each year. I supported Senate Bill 796to end this practice and prohibit school districts from paying for the salaries and benefits of union lobbyists. The bill exempts police officers and firefighters.

I also backed another bill to bar school employees from accruing pension credit while on union release time. Senate Bill 795 would close a loophole that has been used to inflate pension payouts to individuals who are not school employees but work for a union. Retirement benefits should go to the actual school teachers and school employees who earn them.  The legislation has been sent to the House for consideration.

Pure Michigan Travel Guide now online

The Pure Michigan Winter Travel Guide highlights cold weather fun and adventure, including snowmobiling, skiing and Houghton’s lively winter carnival.  There’s even a feature on capturing Michigan’s scenic beauty in great outdoor photos!

The travel guide also contains shopping and culinary destinations and memorable spots for indoor and outdoor family activities. Check the digital magazine at www.michigan.org and start planning your trip.

Home heating help

With the winter heating season in full swing, some households may need help with their heating bills. Energy assistance programs to help prevent shut-offs include:

  • Winter protection plans for senior citizens and low-income customers;
  • State emergency relief;
  • Medical emergency shut-off protection; and
  • Shut-off protection for active duty military personnel.

Find more information at www.michigan.gov/bewinterwise.

Sen. Brandenburg District Update

Brandenburg backs legislation to ban marijuana-infused alcohol 

Several states that allow the recreational use of marijuana have seen a rise in popularity of marijuana-infused alcohol products, especially in Colorado and California. 

I recently supported legislation now signed into law that pre-emptively prohibits the sale and use of marijuana-infused beer, wine and spirits. Under Public Act 346 of 2018, violators are guilty of a misdemeanor. Adding marijuana to alcoholic beverages makes it more difficult for law enforcement and others to judge when someone is intoxicated and could lead to more traffic safety problems.  

The new law also applies to nonalcoholic beverages such as nonalcoholic beer or wine.  

New website provides resources on opioid epidemic 

The opioid epidemic has touched communities across our state, claiming the lives of more than 6,000 Michigan residents in the past four years. A new website featuring information and resources was recently launched to help stop this tragic crisis. 

The new site — www.michigan.gov/opioids  — makes it easier for people to find help and access information more quickly. It includes maps showing where licensed treatment centers and takeback sites to dispose of unneeded medication are located. Along with information to find and get help, the website provides information on prescription data of controlled substances for prescribers and pharmacists. A special section includes legislation enacted into law to better protect Michiganders, with a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) information sheet on Michigan opioid laws.  

Firearm deer season opens Nov. 15 

Hunting is a valued way of life in Michigan. Hunters play an important role in wildlife conservation and management while contributing more than $2 billion to the state economy and supporting 25,500 direct jobs. 

More than 90 percent of hunters purchase a deer license. Last year, nearly 575,000 deer hunters harvested about 376,000 deer. Good luck, hunters, and stay safe! 

Firewood: Buy it local, burn it local 

Hunters and other outdoors enthusiasts planning to camp or enjoy a bonfire this fall are reminded to burn only certified firewood or buy it where you burn it. Aged or seasoned wood can still harbor invasive species, moving pests from one location to another. Wood that looks clean can have insect eggs or fungi spores that could lead to a new infestation.  

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that invasive insects and diseases have killed millions of trees in Michigan, often after hitching a ride on firewood. 

Prepare for hazardous winter weather 

With winter weather upon us, the Michigan State Police (MSP) advises Michigan residents to plan for hazardous conditions. Severe weather can mean freezing pipes, power outages and stranded vehicles. Safety planning tips include:  

  • Installing carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas; 
  • Having your fireplace and furnace cleaned and inspected; and 
  • Preparing an emergency kit for both your house and your car. 

Find more information, including the publication, How to Prepare for a Winter Storm, at www.michigan.gov/miready.