In this issue:
Amendment strikes funding for student health data trackingThe Michigan Senate on Thursday approved an amendment I offered striking $1.8 million in funding from a supplemental appropriations bill, Senate Bill 608, for web-based software to track the health and diet habits of individual grade-schoolers.
While it is important to teach kids of all ages proper diet and exercise habits in and out of school, the bill would have created a new, government-funded online database on children from a very young age to track weight, physical health, salt and caloric intake, body mass index, fat percentage, and sleeping habits.
It would have set the stage for the possible theft or misuse of personal data of students and would have created a slippery slope towards such a program becoming mandatory. Such sensitive information belonging to children should be reserved for use by parents and their health professionals alone without government involvement or tax dollars.
The state's efforts should be focused on devoting limited resources to improving the quality of education students receive and getting dollars to the classroom where they belong, not on new government programs and databases.
The full appropriations supplemental bill without the funding was approved by a vote of 32-6 and is now in the Michigan House.
Senate approves pothole repair fundingAs passed by the Senate, SB 608 retained an amendment I supported to provide $100 million in funding to repair potholes on roadways and streets. The appropriation comes from the Roads and Risks Reserve (RRR) Fund.
Repairs to our transportation infrastructure are desperately needed due to the harsh winter season. The current pothole conditions are extremely dangerous. One unfilled pothole can cause thousands' worth of damage to an untold number of cars.
The RRR Fund was created out of the 2014 General Government budget. The $100 million approved will be divided among state roads (39.1 percent), county roads (39.1 percent) and city/village roads (21.8 percent). By allocating money to different areas we are allowing priority repairs to be made throughout the state.
The bill must still be approved by the House and signed by the governor before taking effect.
Reporting a potholeIf you notice a pothole forming on a statetrunkline, which is an "M," "US," or "I" route, you can report it by calling the Pothole Hotline at 888-296-4546. To report potholes and other problems related to local roads, contact your local city or county road commission.
The state has a claims process for motorists whose vehicles have been damaged by hitting a pothole on a statetrunkline, but conditions apply. For more information, go to http://www.michigan.gov/mdot/0,4616,7-151-9615_30883-93194--,00.html.
New budget year work beginsAlthough the supplement bill I've discussed deals with updating appropriations for the current fiscal year, work has already begun on developing the 2014-15 budget.
Governor Snyder recently presented his recommendation for the next state budget. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and chairman of three appropriations subcommittees, I look forward to working with the governor and my fellow legislators to craft a final budget that builds upon our efforts over the past three years to make Michigan a great place to live, work, create jobs and raise a family.
My focus will be on developing a budget that is first and foremost fiscally responsible but that also strengthens our commitment to major priorities such as agriculture, education and natural resources; invests in our deteriorating roads and bridges without tax increases; and includes tax relief for all Michigan taxpayers.
CPL process reforms would modernize systemThis week I introduced legislation to make Michigan's concealed pistol license (CPL) process more efficient and cost-effective without changing the current makeup of existing "pistol free" zones.
Michigan residents currently pay one of the highest CPL fees in the nation, yet they must deal with inconsistent requirements from county to county and experience some of the longest delays in receiving a license.
We are the only state in the nation that still uses obsolete gun boards created in 1927 to issue CPL's. In an era of modern technology and record-keeping, we can do better and folks deserve better for their hard-earned dollars.
Senate Bill 789 will make the CPL process more efficient and cost effective by eliminating these boards, delegating their authority to county clerks, maintaining stringent eligibility requirements, establishing a strict 45 day deadline for license decisions, transferring background check responsibilities from sheriffs to the state police, and reducing the renewal fee to $90.
This approach will better serve law-abiding citizens while freeing up local law enforcement resources in the sheriff's department and prosecutor's office from bureaucratic tasks to focus on public safety in their communities.
Senate Bill 789 is supported by the National Rifle Association and the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners and has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.
Property Tax Town Halls ReminderI am hosting two town halls to inform home and property owners about the proper procedure under state law for appealing inaccurate property tax assessments.
Tonight, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m!!!Mayville District Library
6090 Fulton St., Mayville
Monday, March 3 at 6 p.m.Bay City Boys and Girls Club
300 West Lafayette St., Bay City
There is no cost to attend. RSVP's are not required. Individuals unable to attend may request a free Property Tax Assessment Appeal Guide from my office.
Student art on display in my Capitol office!
Recently, impressive art collections from Millington schools St. Paul Lutheran and Kirk Elementary were on display in my Capitol office. Created by students of teachers Amy Baldwin and Deborah Oakwood, the art was also featured in a regional art fair.
That display has been followed by another impressive collection of works by sixth- through ninth-grade students of teacher Bre Barnett at Bay City Academy!
I regularly display student art in my office as part of the "Kids of the 31st!" program that highlights the talent and positive behavior of youth in the district.
Educators and parents from throughout the 31st District who are interested in participating in the program should contact my office at (866) 305-2131 or SenMGreen@senate.michigan.gov. The 31st district includes Arenac, Bay, Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.
At your service,
PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT GUIDE
Do you think your property tax assessment is incorrect? If so, you may appeal the assessment. First, a few reminders may be helpful. "Taxable value" (TV) is the value used to calculate your property taxes. Annual growth in taxable value is capped at the rate of inflation, or 5 percent, whichever is less.
It is important to remember that your property taxes are no longer based on the State Equalized Value (SEV) but on the taxable value as established on the date of purchase. Changes to your home's assessed value will reduce your taxes only if it is an amount lower than the taxable value.
Please review my Property Tax Assessment Guide for information on understanding and, if necessary, appealing your property tax assessment to your local Board of Review and subsequently the Michigan Tax Tribunal.