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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter
 

SERVING THE STATE SENATE 7TH DISTRICT

HEADLINES FROM THIS EDITION

- PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT FOR MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
- BILLS OVERHAULING UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY PASSED
- A NEW VETERANS HOME FOR SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN
- SOME TRAINS ARE OVERSTAYING THEIR WELCOME
- PLYMOUTH LIBRARY TRAIN EXHIBIT RETURNS
- INVESTIGATION CONTINUES AT POLICE RANGE IN NORTHVILLE TWP
- PAYING ATTENTION AT THE PUMP
- PURE MICHIGAN HUNT APPLICATION DEADLINE
- SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS APPOINTMENT

PROMISES MADE, PROMISES KEPT FOR MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES

True to his word, Senator Colbeck advocated for and voted in favor of legislation last week that stayed within the bounds of the agreements reached between state officials, municipal employee unions, and municipal governance representatives regarding municipal pension and benefits reform. These agreements were documented in the Responsible Retirement Reform for Local Government Task Force report. In the end, a bi-partisan package of bills was passed out that was supported by nearly all stakeholders and sometimes saw unanimous votes.

The legislation codified many of the suggestions found in the report, but also ensured that the transparency and community assistance steps taken in the bills to help address the problem did not jeopardize benefits for any employees that they had already earned or accrued. The latter had been a key condition in order for Sen. Colbeck to vote “yes” on the legislation, and for that reason he was not able to fully support the bills as originally introduced. Senator Colbeck felt it was still critically important to pass needed changes to address what the Senator has described as a huge problem, and he worked with his colleagues to pass the reworked bills.

“The bills as introduced were focused on the right problem but were attempting to solve it in the wrong way,” Sen. Colbeck said. “What we ultimately passed is a necessary step towards ensuring we have the information necessary for local municipalities to address the issue in a responsible manner.”

Underfunded pension plans and unsustainable benefit programs are two of the biggest ways both state and local governments can be brought to the brink of financial disaster, and indeed many such programs are severely underfunded in Michigan. 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. While more than 300 Michigan local governments offer retiree health care, the average actual plan is only 19 percent funded.

The complex issue now sees thirteen bills being sent to the Governor, who is widely expected to sign them. Those interested in reading the full text to the report associated with the bills can do so by clicking HERE.

BILLS OVERHAULING UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY PASS

Legislation considered to be part of a major overhaul of the state Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) also passed last week. The UIA had seen severe problems that led to the removal of leadership and other changes.

The eight bills in the package were designed to address the persistent problems that had plagued the agency, which when faced with unemployment fraud turned to a new computer system that inappropriately flagged not just true fraudsters but also those who were supposed to legitimately be able to access the funds. This created a dire situation where efforts to stop those looking to cheat the system ended up causing significant disruption for people who needed true help at a critical time in their lives. In other cases, identity thieves had been stealing resources from the agency, a problem that was sometimes only discovered when the real person sought to seek unemployment benefits for the first time.

“The problems at the Unemployment Insurance Agency were beyond unacceptable, and the steps taken last session both in terms of changing personnel and policy are now much more complete in overhauling the agency with the passage of these bills,” said Sen. Colbeck. “Our office helped affected constituents who got inappropriately trapped in these situations, and I fully support the additional long run changes these bills will put into place to make sure these problems don’t happen again. We needed to completely overhaul the UIA, and these bills substantially do that. By the same token, my staff and I have talked with the UIA closely regarding our constituent cases and we are monitoring things to make sure the problems don’t reappear.”

Changes would be made throughout the unemployment benefits system for both those claiming benefits after losing their jobs and for the employers funding the system.
New procedures will also be implemented to address the problem of imposter claims, where identity thieves file claims for benefits in someone else’s name. Past procedure made it too easy for such identity theft to take place.

The bi-partisan legislation was sent to the House for expected concurrence.

A NEW VETERANS HOME FOR
SOUTHEAST MICHIGAN

Sen. Colbeck has long been a proponent of a new veterans home in Southeast Michigan. During his tenure as the Chairman of the DMVA budget, he openly advocated for such a home as a complement to the current homes in Grand Rapids and Marquette. Southeast MI has the largest concentration of veterans in the state. It only makes sense that it should be the location of one of our homes for veterans.

The Senator recently voted in favor of an amendment that would guarantee that a proposed new home for veterans that is slated for construction would be built within the counties of Wayne, Oakland or Macomb. This amendment was defeated and the veterans home will now also be able to be built in Washtenaw or Livingston county. While disappointed that the amendment failed, the Senator still supported the bill that would finally open the door to a home for our veterans closer to their loved ones in Southeast Michigan.

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES AT POLICE RANGE IN NORTHVILLE TWP.

Our office has received several phone calls regarding the police range in Northville Township. Senator Colbeck had requested that the range be shut down pending an investigation of the source of at least three errant rounds that landed in the neighborhood to the south of the range. The range has been shut down pending the results of the investigation. The Senator has requested that a community briefing discussing the results of the investigation with interested citizens be conducted prior to any potential re-opening of the range. Northville Township officials have agreed to host such a briefing once the investigation results are ready.

We realize this is a very serious concern for the people who live in the area. The good news is that in working with the Michigan State Police they have been just as equally concerned and responsive. They have assured us that everything is being done to determine if the bullets were indeed shot from the range and if so how they were able to escape the containment area.

Sen. Colbeck will work to make sure the investigation is handled thoroughly and personally inspected the site today.

PAYING ATTENTION AT THE PUMP

Consumers will have better protection against fraud at the gas pump under Senate legislation recently signed into law.

Public Act 168 of 2017 (Senate Bill 415) requires greater security measures at gas pumps to restrict the unauthorized access of customer payment card information and prevent the use of skimmers. Skimmers are small devices that can be hidden in gas pumps to copy credit and debit card personal information. Approximately 82 skimmers have been found in Michigan since 2015. While many gas stations have security measures already in place, under the new law all stations will now be required to provide additional protections to try to better safeguard consumers.

The new law takes effect Feb. 19, 2018. There are however important steps you can also take for yourself while filling up at the gas pump:

Be suspicious if the gas pump has a broken security seal or seal that says “void” near the credit card reader. These are security seals that may have been tampered with or removed. You can view pictures of the seals by clicking HERE.

Choose pumps closest to the physical building. Thieves installing skimmers often choose pumps that are the furthest away from peering eyes or security cameras.

If you have doubts, pay inside with a credit card or cash.

Consider using a credit card, not debit card, when you pay.
Credit cards have greater consumer protections for unauthorized transactions. A stolen debit card number can yield far worse damage if hackers can later associate it with your PIN number.

To see the Michigan State Police brochure on identity theft and active steps you can take both at and away from the pump click HERE. The Michigan state police warn as technology changes so do the ways that thieves will try to tap into your wallet.

"PURE MICHIGAN" HUNT

Application Deadline Approaching

The last Pure Michigan Hunt, a special state hunting license application that raises money to help fund wildlife habitat restoration, generated nearly $260,000. You can find more information at www.michigan.gov/pmh.

Download images to view this graphic

This year’s “hunt of a lifetime” offers three lucky winners the opportunity to obtain licenses for spring and fall turkey, antlerless deer, bear, and elk, as well as first pick at a managed waterfowl hunt area. The prize package is valued at more than $4,000. Applications for the drawing are $5 each and available at license agent locations and online at www.mdnr-elicense.com, but only until December 31st.

The money goes directly to pay for wildlife habitat management and restoration in Michigan. This is the sixth season offering the special application. So far, over $350,000 have been raised.

Also generating money for wildlife habitat in Michigan is the state’s wildlife license plate. A new version of the license plate became available on December 1st to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the reintroduction of elk in Michigan.

Download images to view this graphic.

If you are interested in getting the new wildlife plate for your car or truck please visit your local Secretary of State office or click HERE for more information.

SUPERVISOR WILLIAMS APPOINTMENT

It is always a good thing for the area when more local leaders become involved with state commissions to help improve public policy. Canton Supervisor Pat Williams was recently appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to serve on the state’s Trial Court Funding Commission.

The 14-member commission is tasked with the following:

• To review and recommend changes to the trial court funding system
• To review and recommend changes to the methods by which the courts impose and allocate fees and costs
• To suggest statutory changes necessary to effectuate recommended changes
• To file a report with the governor and legislature regarding its activities and findings

You can read more about the MI Trial Court Funding Commission by clicking HERE.

SOME TRAINS ARE OVERSTAYING THEIR WELCOME

CSX trains continue to have prolonged stays that block major roadways in our district. The Senator has been in communications with senior CSX representatives in order to resolve these issues. In support of these efforts, please contact our office with details of any prolonged road closures due to trains on tracks. It helps us to know the duration and location of all closures in support of our advocacy on your behalf.

New railroad air compressors have been installed in the area designed to shorten the length of any delays. Pneumatics are used in railroad brakes and become depressurized when trains are decoupled, so having the ability to more quickly restore proper air levels to the trains will help to get them on their way when problems occur. Three new such air facilities have been installed.

While the Senator is glad to see the new equipment, meetings regarding the railroad blockages showed that there were many reasons for the delays beyond equipment. Sen. Colbeck will continue to work with CSX to make sure other areas are addressed as well, including federal regulations that could reduce the maximum length of the trains and new business practices that would lessen the need to decouple trains near locations that cause delays in the first place.

“While I am cautiously optimistic about some of the more recent changes with equipment and schedules, this is not the first time we’ve seen well intended efforts not result in the changes we’ve been asking for,” said Sen. Colbeck. “There will always be things that happen that one can’t control, but we won’t tolerate the continued level of disruption that has occurred in our communities that also puts safety at risk.”

If you find yourself stuck at a railroad crossing or see a railroad emergency in the area you can call CSX Railroad at 1-800-232-0144.

PLYMOUTH LIBRARY TRAIN EXHIBIT RETURNS

As federal, state, and local officials continue to work on ending the frequent railroad track blockages that have been occurring in the district, it is good to highlight some better news regarding trains, even if they are of the much smaller variety.

The Friends of the Plymouth District Library want you to know that “the trains are back!”, and invite you to come and enjoy the special exhibit of a modular HO scale model railroad and village that has become a top library attraction.

Download images to view this graphic.

The European Train Enthusiasts Great Lakes Chapter will share this extensive display, featuring European model trains running through cities and countryside. Hours of the exhibit are:

Thurs, December 28, 9:30 a.m.—9 p.m.
Friday, December 29, 9:30 a.m.—6 p.m.
Saturday, December 30, 9:30 a.m.—5 p.m.
Tuesday, January 2, 9:30 a.m.—9 p.m.

Download images to view this graphic.

We hope you can find time to bring the kids to see them before they are gone.

WE WANT TO WISH EVERYONE A MERRY CHRISTMAS & SAFE HOLIDAYS WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY

 

LOOKING FOR MORE INFORMATION? 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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