In this E-News:
Crime Victims’ Right to Know bill passes SenateCrime victims’ rights would be strengthened in Michigan under legislation I sponsored that passed the state Senate recently in a unanimous vote.
Senate Bill 1211 expands the focus of the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 1985 by allowing victims to present exhibits when testifying at parole or commutation hearings in order to more effectively portray the impact of the crime on their lives. Victims whose cases are dropped by prosecutors as part of a plea deal would also be granted victim status before parole boards.
In addition to current parole hearing notifications, the bill would further require that victims be notified when a prisoner has applied for reprieve, commutation or pardon; when the prisoner has absconded while on bail or other release; or has died while in custody. Perhaps the most significant change is that notifications regarding escapes and absconding would have to take place within 24 hours. Current state law does not provide for a specific timeframe for notifying the victims.
The legislation was inspired by the personal story of a resident in my district who was savagely attacked at a gas station by her estranged husband several years ago. Although the attacker was convicted and imprisoned, the victim and her family struggled to get information from state agencies on his later applications for medical commutation and his rumored passing. Innocent victims should have access to the status of their attacker’s incarceration, period.
The bill now heads to the House. For more information on crime victims' rights, please visit my website.
Veterans groups to see tax relief under legislationI introduced legislation last week exempting veterans service organizations (VSO) such as American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS, and others, from being required to charge or pay sales tax on fundraiser revenue if it is under $5,000 in a calendar year.
Current law already provides the exemption to nonprofit groups classified as 501(c)(3) organizations. VSO’s, chartered by Congress as 501(c)(19) groups, are not included in the state exemption.
VSOs provide extensive charitable and honorary services to local veterans and operate on a nonprofit basis. Michigan should recognize the critical role that these groups fill in assisting our veterans by changing tax rules to reflect their role as a charity. Without these dedicated posts in our communities, so many veterans would fall through the cracks. That to me is unacceptable.
Senate Bill 1266 will have a negligible impact on the state budget, but it will provide much-needed relief to veterans groups around the state that are facing difficult financial circumstances due to tough economic times and declining memberships. The change may be just enough to help a post keep its doors open and continue serving its local veterans.
I sponsored the measure after an American Legion fundraiser held in my district for a wounded soldier was subjected to the sales tax. The event proceeds were to help the soldier and his young family cope financially with the extensive treatment, therapy and specialized needs resulting from his injuries.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.
Protecting donations of land to conservation effortsLast week, I testified before the Senate Finance Committee in support of a bill I authored to protect certain land donated to conservation efforts from a sudden increase in property taxes.
In 2006, Public Act 446 was enacted to exempt transfers of conservation easements and qualified conservation contributions from “pop-up” property tax hikes that kick in after land changes hands. However, a 2009 attorney general opinion found that the law failed to protect those transfers initiated by a deceased person’s will.
Senate Bill 805 would expressly exempt this land from tax increases and thereby protect the final wishes of those who contribute to conservation efforts. The bill was passed by the committee and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
Lifeline Discounts Available to Low Income Telephone CustomersAs part of Lifeline Awareness Week held September 10-16, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is promoting a discount telephone service known as Lifeline available to low-income customers in our state. Lifeline is a very basic telephone service that helps ensure that eligible consumers have the opportunities and security that phone service brings, including being able to connect to jobs, family, and emergency services.
To qualify for Lifeline in Michigan, the customer's household income must be at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, or the customer must participate in certain assistance programs. All landline telephone service providers and some wireless companies offer Lifeline discounts.
More information is available on the Lifeline program website at: www.lifeline.gov.
September office hours in Bay CityI will be hosting September office hours in Bay City on Monday, September 24 at the Pere Marquette Depot, 1904 Room, 1000 Adams St., Bay City, from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m! Office hours provide you with an excellent opportunity to meet with me or a member of my staff to address issues related to state government. No appointment is necessary and I hope to see you there.
Should you have any questions on these or any other issues or need assistance with a state agency, please do not hesitate to call my office at (866) 305-2131 or visit my website at www.statesenatormikegreen.com.