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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter
 

SERVING THE STATE SENATE 7TH DISTRICT

HEADLINES FROM THIS EDITION

- Impacts of federal income tax reform
- What else could voters be voting on in 2018?
- Investigation into improper electric shut-offs by DTE
- Human Trafficking Awareness Month
- Coyotes in the 7th District
- Scammers taking advantage of DTE shut-offs
- Be “winter wise”
- January district hours with Sen. Colbeck

IMPACTS OF FEDERAL INCOME TAX REFORM

Because of potential concern over how new federal tax reform is worded, efforts are underway to make sure state income taxes are not negatively impacted. SB 748 has been introduced in the Senate, which would begin an increase to $4800 per person the deductible personal exemptions available on our state income tax forms. Sen. Colbeck will be cosponsoring this bill, which would result in a net tax decrease for Michiganders. It is expected that hearings on the legislation will begin relatively soon.

“I’m happy to see a media spotlight regarding federal income tax changes, because it helps bring attention to what we need to do at the state level,” said Sen. Colbeck. “But federal tax changes can’t distract us from also getting the pension tax eliminated and looking at broader state income tax issues. Changing personal exemptions should only be a start and not an end to itself.”

Respected economists and members of Congress have indicated that the federal tax changes should not negatively impact the way we count personal exemptions for Michigan income tax purposes. While legislation will help to ensure that, it has to be looked at in the proper context.

“We must make sure this new bill doesn’t unintentionally stymie our ability to get rid of the pension tax,” said Sen. Colbeck. “We still need to minimally do that, and ideally continue the push to eliminate the entire state income tax as well. It won’t be enough to just increase exemptions for Michigan taxpayers, we need to think about our seniors and our tax system overall.”

Colbeck said the state would also be looking to see if other changes are necessary to make sure no potential unintended tax consequences might exist for small business entities.

WHAT ELSE COULD VOTERS BE VOTING ON IN 2018?

Our office receives many questions about potential referendums and ballot initiatives, especially as signature counts begin that will determine whether some of these efforts will lead to issues actually being placed before voters.

While it is not anticipated that all of the proposals at the following link will make the cut, the Secretary of State provided an update in December of last year that you can read by clicking here.

Michigan State University also hosted a symposium for legislators this week in Lansing that looked specifically at legislative redistricting, one of the issues that appears to have the highest chances of potentially passing muster to get onto the ballot.

If it has enough signatures, it will be a complex issue for voters to examine. One of the more hotly contested concerns with modified redistricting would be in newly allowing for so-called “communities of interest” to be taken into account, which is a vague term not based on municipal legal boundaries that has led to confusion.

Current redistricting law doesn’t allow for “communities of interest”, and relies heavily on using existing legal boundaries for cities and counties as basic building blocks in creating legislative districts. Outside of heavily populated areas, this for example leads to one state senator singly representing and championing most counties, instead of situations where a state senator might have multiple partial portions of several counties, or causing even rural counties to have multiple state senators. Trying to determine what a “community of interest” would legally mean, and what “its interest” would be based upon, will be a key issue needing exploration if the measure makes it onto the ballot.

“I’m concerned that a new system that would rely less on municipal boundaries by allowing for ‘communities of interest’ could end up creating more districts that have stranger looking shapes not based on city or county lines, not fewer,” said Sen. Colbeck. “People are focused on what they don’t like about the current system, but not every alternative is necessarily an improvement. So called ‘communities of interest’ appear to allow for more arbitrary changes to districts, not less.”

Redistricting will continue to be a hot topic in the months to come, not just in Michigan but across the country. You can read more about redistricting at the bi-partisan National Conference of State Legislatures NCSL website by clicking HERE.

INVESTIGATION INTO IMPROPER ELECTRIC SHUTOFFS BY DTE

Late last year and early into 2018 Michigan has been on a very frigid cold streak. It is one reason why people improperly having their power disconnected by DTE over the past several months has been especially troubling. Because of a new computer system the company was using, and because of rules not being followed properly in general, at least 288 homes were improperly disconnected. Most of the people who contacted our office indicated they were without power for several days.

Senator Colbeck had asked the MPSC to take action, and the MPSC opened an official investigation on Dec 20th of 2017. Legislative hearings regarding these shut-offs are also scheduled to occur next week in the Michigan House, which Sen. Colbeck is planning to attend.

Sen. Colbeck submitted testimony at the Dec 20th MPSC meeting that initiated the investigation, and issued the following press release. You can read the full press release HERE, or read parts of it below:

Colbeck welcomes formal MPSC investigation

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, said on December 21st that he welcomed the announcement of a formal investigation into the electric shut-off practices of DTE and called for a moratorium on such practices until the investigation was completed.

“In October our office began to see a big increase in the number of constituents contacting us and complaining about inappropriate shut-off notices and other problems that we reported to the MPSC,” Sen. Colbeck said. “As the months got colder those problems shockingly got worse instead of better. This formal investigation by the MPSC is going to clearly show that people were being threatened with shut-off notices they never should have received, resulting in turn with many of them then having their power inappropriately disconnected. In addition, getting power turned back on also took much longer than it is legally supposed to. This has gone beyond just minor billing snafus and has unacceptably created significant stress, hardship, and endangerment for hundreds of people whose simple wish is to pay their bills and receive electric service. Especially in Michigan where people can’t just change their utility provider when they’re treated like this, it is imperative that we hold both our utilities and our oversight 110 percent accountable.”

Sen. Colbeck said while the main concern is for seniors, especially those who live by themselves, that in today’s high tech world a lack of power impacts everyone. The Senator also highlighted that because the MPSC only knows what it is told that it is critical that people call the MPSC to lodge complaints. If people don’t call, the extent of the investigation will be understated. People should call 1.800.292.9555 for any complaint they have, even if the incident occurred several months ago or longer.

“For a start we need to change the rules that allow for such meter-choice related shut-offs, that encourage lax reporting, and that allow utilities to take too long restoring power without experiencing any real ramifications. Waiting a week to get power restored in the cold is simply too long, especially when the person shouldn’t even be getting their power cut in the first place.”

Sen. Colbeck said that the type of behavior being exemplified by the shut-offs shows why both utility choice and meter-choice urgently need to be reexamined.

“Until people can vote with their feet we’ll continue to see these problems,” Sen. Colbeck said. “People deserve the right to flee poor service when it jeopardizes their health and well-being.”

Senator Colbeck’s initial press release which helped to spur the investigation can be read HERE.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. To help end this tragedy takes changes that will go beyond simply passing new legislation, but as the infographic shows below, Michigan has passed many laws over the past several years to help combat this truly evil industry. The legislature is looking at more things it can do in this area, and passed a resolution to help raise public awareness on the issue yesterday. You can read the resolution HERE.

Download images to view this graphic.

It is important to note, our office also received several inquiries about a potential human-trafficking incident in a Canton area parking lot. The Senator took this potential incident very seriously, but was told at the time that even though the story went viral on Facebook that it was a hoax. Because more people recently asked about this again, we wanted to share a news story where the Michigan State Police talk about the hoax. You can read about it by clicking HERE. The Senator has contacted the MSP to see if there are any new updates.

Please do your part to help end the tragedy that is human trafficking by reporting suspicious activity to the police and by helping to raise awareness on the issue. Human trafficking is not just something that happens in other countries.

COYOTES IN CANTON, NORTHVILLE

Canton Public Safety has posted an important video regarding more interactions that have been taking place between people and animals in the district. You can read their post and view an informational video by clicking here:

https://www.canton-mi.org/1033/Coyotes-in-Canton

For those that were not aware of the issue, a small dog was recently attacked by a coyote in the area of 7 Mile Road and Beck, across from Maybury State Park. A story on the attack can be read here:

https://www.wxyz.com/news/region/wayne-county/coyotes-kill-familys-dog-in-northville-township

We thank Canton Public Safety and other local leaders for highlighting this issue, which can end in tragedy for young children and our pets.

SCAMMERS TAKING ADVANTAGE OF
DTE SHUT-OFFS

As highlighted by a recent incident in Wayne but also being reported in other areas, scammers are trying to take advantage of power disconnection confusion and the threat of cold weather shut-offs to force people to pay bills over the phone or face immediate shut-off of power. The person who pretended they were from DTE demanded payment within an hour on a pre-paid card as the only form of acceptable payment. DTE will never demand payment in such a manner, even if the criminals are using “spoofing” technology to make it appear as if they are calling from DTE.

The following “know the facts” sheet was developed by the Michigan Public Service Commission to help, you can access it in full by clicking HERE.

-Always ask for a utility worker ID, whether you’re contacted in person or on the phone. You have a right to document their worker ID for your records, and they can not hide it from you or not provide it.

-If you suspect a call to be fraudulent, hang up and immediately call your utility at the telephone number on your bill and ask to speak with a customer service representative. It is safer to initiate a call than to receive one.

-If you’ve mistakenly provided financial information or money to suspected crooks, call your local police department. Consider placing an initial fraud alert on your credit report for at least 90 days.

-Call the MPSC 800-292-9555.

As an important reminder, by rule DTE is not allowed to turn power off to a residential customer who is age 65 or older between the dates of November 1st and March 31st. If a utility tries to do so, immediately inform the utility of your age. If you are age 65 or older also call the MPSC immediately if the utility sends you a shut-off notice or verbally tells you they will shut off your power between these dates. You can also file a complaint with the MPSC if you are being threatened with a power shut-off but have not received a shut-off notice in writing, or you feel you have been treated improperly for other reasons.

BE WINTER WISE

Be winter wise! Learn how to stay warm, avoid frostbite, and prepare your car and home for unexpected winter emergencies. Many communities also offer “warming stations” when the weather gets particularly cold. Call your local city or township hall for more details. As an example, the City of Wayne wanted to convey that it offers the following warming station locations to be used when frigid temperatures arrive:

"HYPE Recreation Center", open during select hours:
Monday - Friday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sundays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The City of Wayne Police Department lobby is open as a warming station 24/7.

You can also dial 2-1-1 from your phone to talk to the United Way, which can help give you options in your area if you lose power to your home and are too cold to stay there. Visit the Michigan website on winter weather by clicking HERE, or visit the Senator’s webpage on emergency preparedness HERE for more tips and information.

Download images to view this graphic.

JANUARY DISTRICT HOURS

This month’s district hours will be January 19th in Livonia. Please click HERE for more information. We hope to see you there!

LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION ON YOUR STATE GOVERNMENT? VISIT OUR WEBSITE

www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com

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THE MICHIGAN STATE SENATE
7th DISTRICT

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

Email: SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
Please include name, address, and phone number.
Our website: www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com
 

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