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LOCAL NEWS

Office hours in Mio on Feb. 8

I will have office hours in Mio this coming Monday, February 8 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Oscoda County Library at 430 West 8th Street in Mio. Office hours are open to anyone who wants to express their opinions or concerns about state government or needs assistance with a state issue. My aim is to provide the best service possible for the hardworking people of the 36th District.

Sen. Stamas offers free tax preparation guides online

Getting ready to file your state tax forms and want to know if there are any changes this year? Need a copy of the forms?

To meet your needs, Sen. Jim Stamas announced today that Michigan residents can download a free copy of the Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide 2016 by visiting the senator’s website.

The guide, which is a reference for the 2015 tax year, is designed to help residents prepare their state tax returns.

When Michigan families fill out their tax returns or pay their property taxes, it is important that they have accurate and thorough information. As a service to the residents of the 36th Senate District, I am pleased to offer a useful taxpayer guide at no cost on my website. I encourage constituents to use this resource to help take some of the confusion out of filing state tax returns and paying property taxes.

The booklet contains information on Michigan’s income tax, property taxes and tax credits. Included is a year-long listing of important property tax dates and deadlines as well as copies of the most commonly used tax forms.

The guide also features addresses, phone numbers and email information for obtaining state agency tax assistance. The guide is meant as a helpful resource and not as a substitute for Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets.

Free copies of the Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide 2016 may be downloaded by visiting www.SenatorJimStamas.com. The guide is on the main page and under the “Publications” tab.


19 counties able to better serve local veterans through MVAA grants

At county veterans service offices, veterans and their families can file for federal benefits with accredited benefits counselors, learn about state and local resources and much more. Now, through the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency’s County Incentive Grant program, veterans in 19 counties throughout the state will find it easier to access these services. County Incentive Grants are awarded to counties looking to create local departments of veteran’s affairs, hire additional accredited benefits counselors or upgrade or invest in new technology — all to better connect those who have served in the Armed Forces with the benefits they’ve earned.

“MVAA works closely with our county partners to ensure veterans can access local, state and federal benefits right where they live and work,” said MVAA Director Jeff Barnes. “Callers to 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838) are always asked if they are up to date on their federal VA claims. If they are not, we refer veterans and their families to their local county veteran’s service office, so they don't have to navigate the claims process alone. There are veterans in every one of Michigan’s 83 counties, and the County Incentive Grant program allows us to better serve them.”

In Fiscal Year 2016, MVAA will disperse $250,000 through the program. So far, more than $198,000 in one-time grant funding has been distributed to 19 county veterans’ service offices.

MVAA’s first round of Fiscal Year 2016 grants in my district include:

$5,000 to Gladwin County to upgrade or invest in new technology;
$10,000 to Montmorency County to offer an additional eight hours per week of part-time accredited benefits counselor availability; and
$10,000 to Presque Isle County to maintain current hours of operation at 35 hours per week and upgrade or invest in new technology.
 

Since FY 2013, MVAA has awarded $638,100 in one-time grants to 44 counties. Counties interested in applying for the grants are encouraged to email their MVAA Regional Coordinator.

Veterans can find their nearest benefits counselor by visiting www.MichiganVeterans.com or calling 800-MICH-VET (800-642-4838).

Stamas applauds ACC recognition as one of America’s best community colleges

The Aspen Institute recently announced that Alpena Community College has been selected as one of 150 community colleges in the nation eligible for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. This tremendous recognition illustrates the reasons we are all so proud of our area schools and colleges. The Aspen Prize sets an extremely high bar for student success and for the use of innovation to achieve consistent improvement. This recognition speaks highly of the excellent leadership at ACC and the hard work and dedication of the staff and students.

ACC was one of only five community colleges in Michigan to make the list. The $1 million Aspen Prize, awarded every two years, is the nation’s preeminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.

LANSING NEWS

2016 new laws

Several new laws passed in 2015 take effect this month. Laws of interest to veterans, motorists and parents include:

Public Acts 144-147 of 2015 help people with disabilities — including military veterans — and their service dogs access public places like businesses and schools. Service animals are trained to provide assistance to people with disabilities, including those with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. People can voluntarily register their animals and receive a Registered Service Animal ID card for themselves and a patch for the dog’s vest or harness. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/serviceanimals.
Public Act 135 of 2015 allows drivers to show law enforcement an electronic copy of their proof of insurance on their cell phone or other mobile device. Michigan now joins 37 other states that permit motorists to use this technology.
Public Act 165 of 2015 bans the sale, distribution and possession of powdered alcohol. With packaging and flavors that can appeal to kids, this pocket-sized product poses too great a potential for abuse, especially among teens and those too young to drink.
 

Laws would provide law enforcement with easier access to emergency contact info

In an emergency, time is of the essence, which is why I recently supported Public Acts 4 and 5 to help make emergency contact information accessible to emergency personnel to identify family members at the scene of an accident. In turn, that could allow family members to make important medical decisions in a more timely fashion. It could also offer peace of mind to families with loved ones suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Ullom family testifies on Stamas’ memorial bill

The family of U.S. Navy Corpsman Aaron Ullom testified in support of Sen. Jim Stamas’ legislation to permanently honor their son, Aaron D. Ullom, who was killed in Afghanistan in July 2011 while saving the life of a marine.

Corpsman Aaron Ullom is an American hero who gave his life saving a fellow soldier in defense of our nation, our liberty and our way of life. The people of Midland and the entire state are proud to call Aaron one of our own, and this measure is about expressing our appreciation for his service and sacrifice.

Senate Bill 513 would designate the bridge on US-10 over Eastman Avenue in Midland as the “Corpsman Aaron D. Ullom Memorial Bridge.” The legislation was recently passed with unanimous support out of the House Transportation Committee.

Bill directs $28 million for Flint

The Senate recently took quick action to help address the current water emergency in Flint and help ensure the health of the city’s residents. Along with an earlier $9 million appropriation to return the city to the Detroit water system, the Senate approved $28 million in immediate state aid to:

Supply free bottled water, faucet filters, and testing kits for Flint residents;
Put nine nurses in local schools to monitor student health and well-being;
Provide better nutrition for students and infants through WIC and in-school nutrition programs;
Replace fixtures in schools, daycare facilities and nursing homes;
Provide for an infrastructure study using independent experts;
Treat any children who have high lead levels in the blood, using diagnostic testing, nurse visits and environmental assessments in the home; and
Help the city of Flint relieve residents of water bill payments.
 

The funding will help meet critical needs and recovery efforts as the focus turns to long-term reforms and solutions. The Senate also adopted a resolution to extend the state emergency declaration in Flint until April 14 to continue providing resources to protect public health and safety.

Where the money goes…


Lately, I have been receiving lots of inquiries asking where the state lottery money goes. Many people are surprised to learn that the Michigan Lottery has contributed more than $17 billion to Michigan’s educational system since 1972, including more than $600 million in 13 of the past 15 fiscal years.

Lottery revenues comprise approximately 6.6 percent of the School Aid Fund, with the remaining coming from the state’s sales and use tax, earmarked income tax and state education property tax, as well as cigarette, liquor and other taxes.

See below for a graphical representation of how each dollar spent on Michigan Lottery games is used.

Where lottery money goes

OUTDOOR NEWS

Free Fishing Weekend

Pure Michigan: Winter

The 2016 Free Winter Fishing Weekend is scheduled for February 13-14. All fishing license fees will be waived for two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish. All fishing regulations will still apply.

Be careful on the ice

Be careful on the ICE!

Ice is very unpredictable and conditions can change rapidly due to unpredictable weather, making ice very thin and dangerous. River anglers should be aware that ice damming issues above dams can create large changes in flows downstream and should monitor river conditions at the U.S. Geological Survey website.

Snowmobilers, ice anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts — be careful! The Michigan Department of Natural Resources offers ice safety tips that could save a life:

Be aware of your surroundings at all times;
Never go out on the ice alone without having a plan;
Carry rope, ice picks and a flotation device; and
Call 911 immediately if you see someone fall through the ice.
 

If you do fall through the ice:

Try to remain calm;
Do not remove winter clothing. Heavy clothing can actually trap air to provide warmth and flotation.
Turn toward the direction you came, it is probably the strongest ice;
Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface. Kick your feet vigorously and use ice picks if you have them to get back onto solid ice;
Roll away from the area of weak ice. Rolling helps distribute your weight to avoid breaking through again.
Get to a warm, dry and sheltered area and warm yourself immediately; and
Seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia (the life-threatening drop in the body’s core temperature).
 

HELPFUL INFORMATION

Free Tax Preparation

Volunteers from local community organizations help prepare basic tax returns for the elderly and for low- to moderate-income constituents (approximately $49,000 and below). Contact these organizations for their days, hours of operation and locations: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) at 1-800-906-9887 and the AARP at 1-888-227-7669 or visit their website.

Michigan Agency for Energy Home heating credits now being processed

The Michigan Department of Treasury is now processing Michigan Home Heating Credits for the 2015 tax year. The credit assists low-income customers with winter energy bills. The average credit in 2015 was $135. Instruction booklets and forms have been mailed out by the department. 

Forms and instructional materials area available online or by calling (517) 636-4486.

In addition, forms will be available at many libraries and post offices in Northern Michigan and Department of Health and Human Services branch offices across the state. Heating assistance information is available at www.michigan.gov/heatingassistance. Michigan energy agency’s Be Winter Wise website also provides useful information.

THE 36TH DISTRICT

Senate District 36 Map

The 36th Senate District

The 36th Senate District is made up of 10 counties, which includes: Presque Isle, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda, Alcona, Iosco, Arenac, Gladwin and Midland counties.

Contact Me

Serving the constituents of the 36th Senate district is very important to me and I encourage you to contact me with any state issues. You may contact me by calling toll-free 1-855-347-8036 or emailing senjstamas@senate.michigan.gov. Also, please check out my Facebook page. I look forward to serving you, and I encourage you to contact me if I can assist you in any way or if you have an idea to help move our state forward.

Thank you for subscribing to my electronic newsletter! I am honored to represent you in the 36th Senate District of Michigan. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. Please feel free to forward this on to others who may be interested in receiving the 36th District E-news. You may sign up for it also at my website or via Facebook.

Senator Jim Stamas
920 Farnum Bldg.
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Visit my website at: www.SenatorJimStamas.com

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