Zorn escorts Whitmer for 2020 State of the State, welcomes Ryan and Dory Philbeck as his guests

Senator issues statement following the governor’s address

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, escorted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer into the House chamber on Wednesday night to deliver her 2020 State of the State address.

Zorn and his wife Cindy welcomed Ryan and Dory Philbeck of Monroe to the Michigan Capitol as the senator’s guests for the governor’s address. Ryan is the CEO of the Patriot Group, a construction company based in Monroe, and Dory is the president of the Philbeck Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to help local at-risk children.

After listening to the address, Zorn issued the following statement:

“Michigan has come a long way since I joined the Legislature in 2011. We created a positive business environment that has created new jobs and opportunities, energized our outlook on the future and enabled us to increase our investments in key priorities. We need to build on that success to solve the challenges we still face.

“Last year was full of ups and downs. We achieved historic auto insurance reform to reduce costs on Michigan drivers, and we once again increased school funding to record levels. But we also had the governor wipe out nearly a billion dollars in vital funding — including almost $400 million for local roads — in retaliation for us not passing her $2.5 billion gas tax increase.

“We need to improve our roads, but I’m concerned about using bonding to do it. Bonding is not a long-term funding source, it’s a short-term financing fix — that we will be paying off for decades to come.

“We have a responsibility to the people of Michigan to make divided government work to improve their lives and our entire state.

“I remain committed to working together with the governor on responsible solutions that fix our roads, protect our water, support our students and continue our state’s comeback.”

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Editor’s note: The above photographs are available by clicking on the images or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Photowire.

Senate approves Zorn’s local road agency bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved legislation by Sen. Dale Zorn to help local road agencies make important infrastructure improvements.

Senate Bill 522 would put into state law an existing grant program, which directs funding to a local road agency association for local technical engineering assistance in the permitting process and in complying with state and federal requirements.

“As part of a multi-bill package to improve road policies in Michigan, my bill would establish a position within the Transportation Asset Management Council to help our local communities navigate the cumbersome bureaucratic process,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Local road agencies with limited resources can often struggle with the complex state and federal requirements, and this would help solve that problem.

“The goal of this measure and the entire package is to help ensure Michigan families are getting the most effective use of their taxpayer dollars.”

The Senate Republican road policy reforms would also:
• Maximize the use of federal transportation funding that the state receives;
• Improve current road warranty program to provide better value;
• Require Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to study the feasibility of tolls on Michigan bridges or roadways;
• Improve collaboration between the state and local roads agencies by extending local asset management horizons and ensuring MDOT continues to supply long-range plans; and
• Require MDOT to develop a road construction inflation index to measure changes in cost within the highway construction industry annually.

SBs 515-520 and 522 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Governor signs Zorn bill cutting interstate tow truck fees

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday signed Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to reduce registration fees for certain trucks involved in interstate towing operations.

“After a state reinterpretation of a federal law in 2018, some towing operators were being charged an additional $100 in Michigan on each of their trucks,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This reform will now give some relief to local small business owners who are paying duplicative state and federal registration fees. With this relief, we’ve reduced those costs and enabled these towers to continue to service our communities and keep our roads clear and safe.”

In 2005, the federal government enacted the Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) system, allowing certain commercial vehicles engaged in interstate (or international) trucking to register through the UCR and pay a single fee as a way of eliminating the need to register with each state that the business may travel through.

At the time, the Michigan Public Service Commission had oversight of the registrations and determined that UCR-registered vehicles did not need to also register and pay an additional fee to the state.

Oversight was transferred to the Michigan State Police in 2011, and the new Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division informed businesses in 2018 that the MPSC had been interpreting the UCR law incorrectly. This year, the division began requiring UCR-registered trucks to also be registered with the state and pay the additional fee.

After being signed on Friday, Senate Bill 309 reduced the annual registration fee paid by trucks engaged in interstate nonconsensual towing operations from $100 to $50 per vehicle.

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**PHOTO & VIDEO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes Pastor VanOudheusen to Capitol for Senate invocation

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, welcomed the Rev. Melodye Surgeon VanOudheusen to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. VanOudheusen serves as pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Monroe and delivered the invocation before Senate session.

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Editor’s note: The above photographs are available by visiting Zorn’s website at www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Photowire.

Video of VanOudheusen’s invocation is available by clicking here or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Video.

Zorn’s high school press box bill sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate has enrolled Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to clearly state that football stadium press boxes, concession stands and ticket booths do not need to be heated as “occupied” spaces. The bill now heads to the governor.

“I’m happy that the Madison School District in Adrian was able to move on with an important improvement project for its student athletes without further delays or costs,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Hudson Schools are going through the same situation now, and it doesn’t make any sense to have our schools waste valuable time and money on a burdensome appeals process. My bill is a commonsense reform to ensure that no other school in Michigan has to deal with this type of bureaucratic quagmire.”

Last summer, Madison School District was putting in bleachers in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and building a new press box facility near the football field and track. However, state building inspectors had initially interpreted the mechanical code to say that the press box would be an “occupied space” and would need permanent heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degrees.

In July, the district won its appeal to the Michigan Construction Code Commission, allowing it to proceed with the project without the additional costs.

In response to the initial ruling, Zorn sponsored Senate Bill 294, which would amend Michigan’s construction code to clarify that interior spaces, such as press boxes, that are built as viewing areas for outdoor sporting activities are exempt from the permanent heating requirements. The bill would also exempt ticket booths and concession stands from the heating requirement.

“I hope the governor will sign the bill and ensure local school dollars are not wasted,” Zorn said.

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Zorn resolution urges permanent solution for nuclear waste

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn on Tuesday introduced a resolution calling for federal action on a solution for safe storage or reuse of spent nuclear fuel.

“The federal government continues to skirt its obligations to the American people to open a permanent storage site for spent nuclear fuel — which means the waste will continue to be stored at more than 80 temporary sites around the country, including here in Monroe County,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Nuclear power continues to be a significant source of energy in Michigan and the U.S., and the federal government’s inaction to safely store the spent fuel in a long-term facility continues to put the safety of our local communities at risk.

“This is especially true for everyone in the Great Lakes basin who relies on the world’s largest collection of fresh water.”

Senate Concurrent Resolution 19 urges the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to fulfill their obligation to establish a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste.

The federal Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 called for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to begin collecting spent nuclear waste and develop a long-term plan for storage of the material. In 2002, Congress approved Yucca Mountain in Nevada as the site of a safe nuclear waste repository, but the DOE halted the project in 2010 despite the Nuclear Waste Fund receiving billions of dollars in revenue from electric customers throughout the country in order to construct the facility and store the spent fuel.

“With this resolution, Michigan would — once again — call on our federal government to do its job and open a permanent storage facility for the over 90,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel currently stored at temporary sites around the country, including locations in Michigan,” Zorn said.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nuclear power provided about 20% of the electricity produced in the U.S. in 2019, and Michigan’s three nuclear power plants provided 26% of the electricity generated in Michigan.

SCR 19 has been referred to the Senate Energy and Technology Committee for consideration.

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Zorn bill part of effort to reduce health care costs, increase access to care

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn and Dr. Elias Kassab, M.D. on Wednesday told the Senate Committee on Health Policy and Human Services about the need for Zorn’s reform to cut unnecessary red tape, reduce health care costs, improve access to care, and ensure patient safety.

“New technologies enable outpatient health care providers to offer lifesaving medical care at a much lower cost,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “My bill would eliminate burdensome regulations for cardiac catheterization procedures that can be safely performed in an outpatient setting.

“Access to safe and affordable medical care cannot be delayed by obsolete state government requirements.”

Senate Bill 675 would eliminate the certificate of need for outpatient cardiac catheterization services for which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has already approved a Current Procedural Terminology reimbursement code as an outpatient service.

A certificate of need (CON) is a legal document that enables the establishment or expansion of health care facilities or services in Michigan. A commission appointed by the governor governs the CON standards; regulates proposed increases in the number of hospital, nursing home and psychiatric beds; and oversees a variety of specialized medical services.

Zorn’s bill is part of a seven-bill package designed to reduce medical costs and provide more access to medical care by eliminating some unnecessary medical care CON requirements.

SB 669 would eliminate covered capital expenditures from the CON process. SB 670 would exempt critical access hospitals over 35 miles away from another hospital from having to be regulated by CON, and SB 674 would repeal the CON requirement for air ambulance services.

SBs 672 and 673 would repeal the CON requirement for psychiatric beds and would require, as a condition of licensure, a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric unit to accept public patients and maintain 50% of beds available to public patients. SB 671 would add two new public members to the CON commission and make it easier to appoint members to standard advisory committees.

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Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/photowire.