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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter





A hot topic of conversation in Lansing as the calendar year comes to an end is that of municipal employee benefits reform, sometimes referred to as Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB). Many of these benefit programs are seriously underfunded. Retirees need reassurance that the promises that were made regarding these benefits will be promises kept.

Sen. Colbeck has indicated he will not vote for any related legislation that would take away employee benefits that have already been earned or accrued, but has acknowledged the need for substantive reform that will encourage corrective action by municipalities to improve their fund balances.

It is important to note, unfunded OPEB liabilities in the Detroit bankruptcy were valued at $5.7 billion. Overall in Michigan, municipalities are currently $10 billion in the red on their retirement health care obligations and $7 billion in the red on their pension obligations. Senator Colbeck issued the following press release on the matter earlier this week:

“As was the case last year when this issue was being examined, I’ve been firmly on record that I will not be supporting legislation that would get rid of employee benefits that have already been earned and accrued. Promises made should be promises kept.”

Sen. Colbeck then discussed the problem he believes any eventual legislation would be attempting to solve.

“We do need to acknowledge, however, that there is a real problem here that needs to be addressed. For example, while more than 300 Michigan local governments offer retiree health care, the average actual plan is only 19 percent funded. And many parties have noted that half the plans have no pre-funding at all. We saw what happened in Detroit when things like this aren’t addressed. Taxpayers can become part of bailouts, and bankruptcy can slash benefits that have already been earned, even for retirees. We do not want to go through any more municipal bankruptcy proceedings. Everyone loses when the financial situation becomes untenable and results in bankruptcy.”

To see the press release in its entirety please click HERE.


Are you interested in learning more about the financial health of the community you live in? The Michigan Community Financial Dashboard is designed to provide you with easy-to-use, visual data regarding municipalities throughout the state. The dashboard is maintained by the Michigan Department of Treasury using data collected by local units of government. On the website you can search at either the county, city, township, or village level. Data is current as of 2016, and will be continually updated as new information is obtained.

If you would like to start by examining some of the financials of Wayne County, you can do so by clicking HERE. As you explore the website, you can also contact respective units of local government for more detailed financial information. Similar to the local community dashboard, a school dashboard also exists and can be accessed by clicking HERE. Please note, this website is in the process of being updated by the state as a result of a recent survey that the state conducted with parents. We expect there to be more data available soon and in a more user friendly format.


Public school officials in the district have often asked for increased funding for schools. After years of examining best practices on this subject, Sen. Colbeck has introduced a suite of bills that will encourage additional funding for schools by expanding the tax exempt provisions currently leveraged through the Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP) to also include K-12 studies, vocational education and professional development. Senators Pavlov, Green and Emmons joined Senator Colbeck in the introduction of a bill package featuring SB 544-549 and SCR 25.

“Many parents, teachers, administrators, and elected officials are seeking to provide additional funding for public schools in Michigan,” Sen. Colbeck said. “Some people say that it is impossible to do so without increasing taxes, but other options do exist."

The Enhanced MESP program is modeled after funding programs leveraged by successful parochial schools such as Detroit Cristo Rey or Cornerstone schools. It is estimated that upwords of $3,000 more per pupil per year could be made available for public education via the student-specific Enhanced MESP savings accounts.

Under the proposed legislation, the services eligible for payments from the Enhanced MESP accounts would be determined by the Michigan Department of Education in accordance with the constraints of the Michigan Constitution. A likely list of eligible K-12 educational services could include things such as tutoring, band instruments, football uniforms, or out of pocket transportation expenses. Money not used for such K-12 purposes could also be used to help pay for higher education, vocational education, or professional development.

“Learning is a lifelong endeavor,” Sen. Colbeck said. “The proposed Enhanced MESP program is a great way to invest in education through all phases of one’s life. This innovative new program empowers parents and students of all ages to enhance funding for their K-12 education, lower the cost of college, promote skilled trades, and even explore career switches.”

During Senate testimony the American Federation of Teachers (MI) opposed the legislation because it would raise additional funds via private sources not via tax revenue, it empowered parents to determine how best to allocate funds from the account, and it required transparency as to how much it cost each school to educate students. Senator Colbeck was disappointed that AFT-MI and others aligned with them chose to prioritize control of funding over the best interests of parents and students seeking to shape their own education decisions

Senate Bills 544-549 were passed out of the Senate Education Committee on September 20th. SCR25 was voted out of the Senate Education Committee this week. It calls in part on the federal government to expand tax exemptions and contribution limits for state-sponsored education savings accounts, and is designed to work in conjunction with the bill package.

It is anticipated that the legislation will be voted off the Senate floor next week. You can view the Senate committee hearing on the package of bills HERE.


November was Michigan Scholarship Month, and we want to remind students and their families about various scholarships that are offered by the state of Michigan.
Awards are paid directly to the institution on the student’s behalf, and most of these scholarships are restricted to tuition and fees. They include:

Children of Veterans Tuition Grant (CVTG) – The CVTG provides undergraduate tuition assistance to the children of Michigan veterans who are totally and permanently disabled, missing in action or who have died while serving. Students may receive scholarship assistance for up to four academic years for a total of up to $11,200.

Fostering Futures Scholarship (FFS) – The FFS provides scholarships to young adults who have experienced foster care in Michigan. Awards are paid directly to the students’ institution to assist with unmet needs in tuition, fees, room, board, books or supplies.

Michigan Competitive Scholarship (MCS) – The MCS program is available to undergraduate students pursuing their first degrees at an approved Michigan postsecondary institution. Students must demonstrate both financial need and merit based on a qualifying SAT score.

Michigan Tuition Grant (MTG) – The MTG is available to undergraduate students and is based on financial need for use at independent, non-profit degree-granting colleges and universities in Michigan.

Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivor Tuition Grant (STG) – The STG provides for a waiver of tuition at state public institutions of higher education for children and surviving spouses of Michigan police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) - The TIP encourages eligible students to complete high school by providing tuition assistance for the first two years of college and beyond. Students must meet a Medicaid eligibility history requirement and apply prior to high school graduation.

To learn more about the state of Michigan’s available scholarships and other financial aid resources, visit the MI Student Aid website at


You may have read news reports with sensationalist, misleading headlines such as “Senate OK’s Guns in Schools”. These stories were issued in response to recent legislation passed by the Michigan Senate to replace current law that allows Concealed Pistol License (CPL) holders to “open carry” in so-called gun-free zones such as schools with a new statute that only allows “concealed carry” in these buildings. You can read a press release from the Senator by clicking HERE.

It is also important to note, this would only be allowed by people with valid CPL licenses who have passed a background check, who also receive extra training, and are in areas where private property right owners do not forbid such carry. Private property rights would continue to dictate where concealed carry can occur, and those in violation would continue to be breaking the law and in violation of trespass. The ability to lawfully carry concealed in public areas is an important constitutional right for people seeking the ability to defend themselves.


Earlier this month our newsletter featured a phone number you can call regarding the recent lengthy road blockages at railroad tracks that is occurring in the district. Sen. Colbeck made the following statement at that time:

“These long waits are more than just a routine inconvenience no matter how you want to look at it. When something like this is 9 hours long it is not a delay – it’s a blockage, and it puts lives at risk. While most of the solutions here will need to take place at the federal level because of the nature of railroad authorities, I know firsthand how hard local officials are working to get both answers and solutions. My office will also continue to be committed to do everything it can to help the situation.”

In discussing the issue with MDOT, it has been affirmed that previous Michigan laws that attempted to regulate this issue were struck down in court, and that the court ruled that freight rail regulation was almost entirely under federal purview. Attempts to find a state level legislative solution that could survive a court challenge have not been found but are still being pursued. Sen. Colbeck and his staff have had several discussions with MDOT, CSX, local leaders and federal members of Congress to continue to change the business practices of CSX that have led to these problems.

A recent meeting with the Regional Director for CSX also occurred in the district this week, and the company announced they would be making changes to equipment that they feel is contributing to the problem. If you find yourself stuck at a railroad crossing or see a railroad emergency, you can call CSX Railroad at 1-800-232-0144.


Senator Colbeck recently commended the creation of the state’s new Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Response Team. For many years, PFAS chemicals have been widely used within industry and on military bases. While the use of the chemicals has been declining, investigations looking into the public health effects of potential contamination are being conducted. The chemical is used across Michigan and throughout the country. PFAS chemicals had been commonly used in firefighting foams, cleaning products, household cookware and carpets, and some food packaging.

“The governor’s formation of the PFAS Response Team is a responsible, proactive first step toward defining the scope and significance of the PFAS contamination issue throughout our state. It is important that we ensure people are informed on this issue and others that potentially impact their health. My staff and I will be coordinating with both the DEQ and the new state PFAS Response Team to see what areas of concern might exist in our district.”

Current known areas of high concentration exist in certain parts of Grand Rapids due to industrial operations of the Wolverine shoe tannery that occurred in the 1960s. The PFAS Response Team will be responsible for coordinating efforts between 10 different state agencies to ensure the public is well-informed on the issue. To learn more, visit the state website


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Michigan’s 7th Senate District

The 7th State Senate District proudly serves the following areas: Canton Township, city of Livonia, city or Northville & Northville Township, city of Plymouth & Plymouth Township, and the City of Wayne.

Senator Patrick Colbeck

201 Townsend St., Suite #3400
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Phone: (517) 373-7350

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