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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter
 

SERVING THE STATE SENATE 7TH DISTRICT

Headlines from this edition:

- Enhanced Education Savings Program (E-MESP) legislation introduced
- 2nd Amendment rights for foster parents trampled upon
- Public Service Commission rules would increase electric rates
- Civil Rights Commission lobbied to “reinterpret” laws
- Proposed Constitutional Amendment SJR M
- Canton Senior Summit a success
- September is “National Preparedness Month”
- Michigan Treasury to provide filing relief to storm victims
- Area gas leak concern thankfully a false alarm

ENHANCED MESP LEGISLATION

The Michigan Educational Savings Program (MESP) is a great way to save for your child’s future. The MESP allows for tax-free contributions to educational savings accounts, but can only be used for college. Senator Colbeck has introduced legislation that would change that by creating new Enhanced MESP (E-MESP) accounts that would extend eligible uses beyond college to also include tutoring, certain K-12 school expenses, later-in-life professional development and more. You can read the press release from the senator HERE, or read portions regarding committee testimony from the release below:

“Current tax-advantaged education savings programs don’t go far enough because they can only be used for college,” said Sen. Colbeck, R-Canton. “The Enhanced MESP accounts are designed to help make education a lifelong pursuit in this ever-changing world. Eligible education services could include special education services, extracurricular activities currently not funded by schools, skilled trades preparation, and later-in-life professional development.”

Sen. Colbeck said he was surprised that Senate Bills 544-549 were opposed by the American Federation of Teachers-MI and several other educational organizations because they have traditionally wanted to see more money made available for education.

“I was disappointed by the testimony by AFT-MI in opposition to additional funding for education on the grounds that these additional funds would be controlled by parents rather than what they termed as ‘public direction,’” Sen. Colbeck said. “To make matters worse, they also took issue with cost transparency provisions within the bills saying that they were concerned with putting a ‘price tag on individual services.’”

In addition to the American Federation of Teachers-MI, the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, Wayne RESA, Oakland Schools, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Middle Cities, Michigan League for Public Policy, and the Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Jackson, Lenawee, and Monroe Intermediate School Districts opposed the legislation.

Participation in the Enhanced MESP program would be entirely voluntary for parents and public schools. Under the proposed legislation, the educational categories eligible for payments would not include what are defined as “core services.”

Core services are already provided free of charge to public school students under the Michigan Constitution. The list of eligible services would ultimately be defined by the Michigan Department of Education in accordance with the constraints of the Constitution. The Michigan Constitution prohibits the use of tax-advantaged funds to pay for tuition at private schools.

Under the law, funds from private sources such as businesses, charities, family or friends could be deposited into E-MESP accounts. These contributions would be exempt from taxation by the state of Michigan. Sen. Colbeck is also pursuing exemption from federal taxation with officials in Washington.

One of the private sources highlighted during the committee testimony pertains to businesses that contribute as much as $7,000 per year to the education of students participating in work-study programs. In addition to these funds, students earn valuable work experience and insight regarding where they may wish to focus future studies.

Michael Khoury, President of Detroit Cristo Rey High School, testified before the Senate Education Committee on how their work-study program works. As a parochial school, Detroit Cristo Rey would not be affected by the legislation, but Mr. Khoury testified as a means of demonstrating how the program might benefit public schools.

To view committee testimony describing a work-study program example click HERE. Senate Bills 544-549 now head to the Senate floor for further consideration.

SENATE JUDICIARY HOLDS HEARING ON 2ND AMENDMENT INFRINGEMENTS AGAINST FOSTER PARENTS

When a Michigan couple was asked to be foster parents to their grandchild, state caseworkers asked for the serial numbers for all of their firearms and allegedly told them, "if you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights." Why might this happen? Sen. Colbeck made inquiries with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and they confirmed in their statements that the department had placed expanded storage requirements on firearms. This policy overreach prohibited foster parents who possessed Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs) to even carry a firearm in their own home. This Michigan family is being asked to choose between protecting their family by taking in their grandchild or by protecting their family by keeping their Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Colbeck sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee that saw hearings on the matter last week, and is committed to finding a way to solve the problem without also codifying administrative rules that would place unlawful restrictions on the people’s ability to defend themselves and their family.

“No one should be required to choose between their family and their 2nd Amendment rights,” said Sen. Colbeck. “The rules that were promulgated by the state administrators here are clearly wrong and counter to law, and can’t be allowed to stand.”

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION ATTEMPTS RULES CHANGE THAT WOULD FURTHER RAISE ELECTRIC RATES

Last year saw passage of major changes to Michigan’s utility law. Sen. Colbeck voted “no” on these bills because they preserved the monopoly status of our utilities in Michigan, didn’t help to protect consumers, and were being pushed because of a President Obama era rule that in the minds of many was an illegal abuse of executive power. The bills were strongly supported and advanced by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) as well, who was able to get the vast majority of changes they were advocating for. The legislation did not provide for true meter choice.

Just as disappointingly this year however, the MPSC has decided to try to craft new rules counter to the legislative intent of the new law and that go beyond what was agreed to. If successful, their proposed change would gut savings to electric ratepayers that occur because of the procurement of out of state electric generation. Sen. Colbeck cited the MPSC’s push for the new rules as an example of administrative overreach by bureaucrats who feel they can unilaterally change the way the law works despite the legislative process.

“I voted ‘no’ on these utility bills last year regardless because they didn’t help ratepayers, but there were many other legislators that only voted ‘yes’ on them because there was an agreement that out-state electric generation could still be robustly used,” said Sen. Colbeck. “Bait and switch tactics such as these show that too many important decisions that directly impact all of our lives are not only bypassing but directly contradicting the legislative process.”

Sen. Colbeck said that he supports efforts taking place in the House Energy Committee to have the MPSC voluntarily rescind their proposed new rule. Ultimately however, Sen. Colbeck stressed the need for a mechanism that could directly address such rogue attempts at bureaucratic governance.

CIVIL RIGHTS COMMISSION LOBBIED TO
BYPASS LEGISLATURE AND 'REINTERPRET' LAW

Sen. Colbeck attended a recent Michigan Civil Rights Commission meeting that became controversial after a group known as ‘Equality Michigan’ began lobbying the commission to reinterpret the state’s civil rights laws. The group’s request effectively asked the commission to bypass the Legislature and to change how provisions of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act would work.

“Regrettably, actions such as these taken by extreme activist groups such as Equality Michigan are becoming more common,” Sen. Colbeck said. “Equality Michigan appears to have decided that if they can’t successfully get a new law passed by the Legislature, they will seek out other government organizations in an attempt to try to reinterpret what the law says. Quite simply put, they are asking the Civil Rights Commission to do something that they cannot legally do.”

Per the Michigan Constitution, changes in laws can only be enacted by duly elected officials, and not by unelected commissioners or bureaucrats. You can read more about the issue by reading the Senator’s press release on the meeting by clicking HERE.

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL
AMENDMENT, SJR M

Because of the many examples of potential misapplication of bureaucratic rules such as the ones mentioned above, Sen. Colbeck has introduced a state constitutional amendment that would appropriately apply a check on the executive branch and its rules when warranted. The introduced legislation is Senate Joint Resolution M (SJR M), and you can listen to a floor speech the Senator made by clicking HERE.

Here are some portions of the Senator’s September 14th press release:

“A properly functioning government is one that is accountable to the people and features a balance between three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial,” Sen. Colbeck said. “But now we have an executive branch that continues to promote regulations that go well beyond expressed legislative intent. That needs to change considering the real world impacts these regulations have upon the people we serve.”

The push to rein in the powers of the executive branch has a renewed sense of urgency in light of proposals to reduce the influence of the legislative branch via a part-time legislature. Michigan is one of only 12 states that have a full-time legislature. Sen. Colbeck is a strong and long-time supporter of a part-time legislature, but he has also indicated he wants to make sure that any power lost by the legislature goes to the people and not to the executive branch.

“Part-time legislatures work just fine in the majority of other states,” Sen. Colbeck said. “But one of the keys to success for a part-time legislature is an appreciation for limited government. Full-time legislatures are typically found in states known for big government policies where the people depend heavily upon government services. Our challenge in Michigan after decades of big government policies is to restore an appreciation for freedom and the empowerment of our citizens to manage their own lives.”

Colbeck’s proposed legislation would amend Articles IV and V of the Michigan Constitution. The Article IV changes would improve regulatory oversight by the legislature. The Article V changes would also provide improved transparency regarding executive budget priorities and agency performance.

“No matter how clear we as legislators try to be with the letter of the law, and despite assurances from staff attorneys on what the laws that we send to the governor mean, there is all too frequently what can only be described as a willful amnesia and creative interpretation over what some of our laws were explicitly designed to do.”


If approved by both chambers, SJR M would be subject to a vote of the people before any changes would be made to the Michigan Constitution.

CANTON SENIOR SUMMIT A SUCCESS

Canton Senior Summit

Senator Colbeck enjoyed speaking at the recent Canton Senior Summit, a worthwhile event he always looks forward to attending. He also joined Canton Township Supervisor Pat Williams for this year’s September 11th event. It’s a fun day set aside just for the seniors and offers lunch and games along with education on issues such as elder safety, personal financial protection, health instruction and more. Thank you to everyone who helps to put this great event together.

NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS MONTH

National Preparedness Month

While September is National Preparedness Month, it is always a good time to make sure you and your family have a plan in place for natural or man-made disasters. You can find an important list of minimum supplies to keep on hand by clicking HERE. Having emergency supplies available is important, but can also be worthless if they are not accompanied by a plan you've actively discussed as a family and that can be followed by everyone. Many disasters strike without warning, and family members may not all be in the same place when it happens. Cell phones and other types of communication may not work (including land lines). It’s important to have a plan for getting in touch with each other when possible, knowing where to meet in advance when you cannot, and to practice the plan well before an emergency happens.

For additional information, plan templates, and more, please visit the state’s preparation page at www.michigan.gov/michiganprepares. While Michiganders don't need to worry as much about some types of disasters as we see in other states, it is important to always expect the unexpected. Our cold weather coupled with a long term power outage could importantly be just as deadly as the fiercest tropical storm. Click HERE to learn more about winter emergency preparedness, or visit my webpage to find slides you can share on additional preparedness tips.

MICHIGAN TREASURY TO PROVIDE
FILING RELIEF FOR STORM VICTIMS

With natural disasters affecting widespread areas of both the state and nation, the Michigan Department of Treasury is providing the opportunity for state tax filing relief to those directly impacted by specific large storm events.

Individual and business taxpayers who were affected by the June 22-23 severe storms and flooding in Michigan’s Bay, Gladwin, Isabella and Midland counties, as well as those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, may now have additional time to file their state tax returns. Penalties and interest may also be waived. Please click HERE for more information and to learn how to contact Michigan Treasury to see if you are eligible.

AREA GAS LEAK CONCERN A FALSE ALARM

Area Gas Leak

Local officials received multiple calls today about a potential gas leak in and around the Senate 7th District. It is now being reported that there is no leak and it was a false alarm. Consumers Energy instead found that when they were recently adding odorant to their system that they added too much and caused the smell to be carried by the wind into the surrounding area. Odorant is intentionally added to natural gas, which otherwise can build up in a house or other confined space without people being able to detect it. Consumers Energy said there is no threat to the public and that the smell should dissipate by the end of the day. Thank you to all of the vigilant people who did call in.

If you ever suspect a natural gas leak follow these steps (click HERE) and immediately dial 9-1-1 or contact your utility after you have gotten to a safe location. Consumers Energy can be reached by calling 800-477-5050. To read a news story on the odor error you can click HERE.

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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
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Visit my website at: www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com
 

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