Sen. Zorn votes to override governor’s whistleblower protection veto

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted to override Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of legislation to ensure whistleblower protections for state employees.

“When trying to ensure we have efficient and effective government, it is vital to have access to reliable information,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Key to getting that reliable information about state government is the ability of any state employee to tell their elected representatives about problems or wasteful spending they see firsthand. Without these protections, state employees risk being fired simply for trying to improve their state. It’s wrong.

“It was disappointing that the governor chose to veto a bill allowing state employees to talk to their legislators and blow the whistle. Just as disappointing is that Senate Democrats voted against overriding the governor’s veto after all of them earlier voted for the bill.”

The Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act was created 40 years ago to protect employees from retribution if they report their employer to a public body for violation of a law, rule or regulation. It applies to all public and private employees except state classified civil service employees.

Senate Bill 686 would have amended the act to protect state employees who communicate with members of the Legislature.

The veto override failed because the Senate vote did not meet the two-thirds requirement.

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Zorn bill would protect employers following COVID-19 safety guidelines

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to protect employers from liability as long as they are in compliance with a COVID-19 public health guideline or regulation regarding worker safety.

“As Michigan businesses continue to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should do all we can to incentivize employers to protect their workers and customers and also protect them from unreasonable and costly lawsuits,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This is a simple solution that encourages job providers to take the responsible steps to provide a safe workplace and still holds them accountable if they fail to do so.”

Under Senate Bill 1019, an employee would not be eligible for paid compensation if their injury was the result of their exposure to COVID-19 during the state of emergency as long as the employer was in compliance with a federal or state law, regulation, executive order, or public health guidance regarding exposure to COVID-19.

The legislation would cover the time from the onset of the declared state of emergency, March 11, until there is no longer a state of emergency.

“To be clear, this is not blanket immunity to all businesses during the COVID-19 health crisis,” Zorn said. “The protections in my bill would only cover businesses that follow official guidance to protect workers and customers. Those who fail to take the applicable steps would not be protected.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

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Zorn supports measures to resolve FY 2020 budget deficit

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday supported measures to resolve a $2.2 billion deficit in fiscal year 2020 and directing federal COVID-19 relief funds to education and vital services that were hit hardest by the virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on family incomes, small businesses’ bottom lines, and our state budget,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I am proud to support this bipartisan solution to balance a historic deficit in the current budget year while also protecting critical support for local governments and schools.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an executive order from the governor to reduce current-year spending. As part of a bipartisan agreement, most state agencies will see reductions, including the executive and legislative budgets.

Under the agreement, the state will save $936 million in fiscal year 2020 by reducing spending and other cost-saving measures. The budget plan also uses $350 million from the state’s rainy day fund to support funding for critical programs.

With passage of two supplemental budget bills, the state will have directed over $3 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to schools, communities, job creators, workers and families for costs resulting from the pandemic, including:
• $555 million for schools;
• $200 million for universities and community colleges; and
• $350 million for local governments.

“Education continues to be a top priority, and this plan will provide schools a $175 per student increase to ensure Michigan children can safely return to learn this fall,” Zorn said. “It also will give our teachers $500 in one-time hazard pay in recognition of their commitment to finding innovative ways to educate our kids during this global pandemic.

“Although the current-year deficit is resolved, we face a huge challenge with the 2021 budget. I am committed to working together to meet that challenge and protect vital funding for our schools, families and communities.”

Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 5265 will be sent to the governor to be signed after being finalized by the House.

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Zorn’s electronic prescription bill becomes law

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn to require prescriptions for opioids to be transmitted from the doctor to the pharmacy electronically was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday.

Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, is the use of a technological system by prescribers to write and transmit a patient’s prescription to a participating pharmacy.

“This is a good law that will leverage e-prescribing to improve patient safety and efficient access to necessary medications,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Importantly, it will also help combat the opioid abuse epidemic that still plagues Monroe County by essentially eliminating so-called ‘doctor shopping.’”

Senate Bill 248, sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, which was also signed, requires the electronic prescribing of prescription drugs in Michigan by Oct. 1, 2021. If a prescriber cannot meet the electronic transmission requirements due to a technological limitation that is not reasonably within their control, they can apply for a waiver from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

Zorn’s bill, SB 254, applies to prescriptions for controlled substances containing opioids or benzodiazepines.

According to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bills, at least 23 states require e-prescribing with certain exemptions.

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Zorn mourns loss of Toledo officer, a former Monroe County resident

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Dale Zorn on Monday expressed sorrow and offered condolences to the family of Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia, originally from Monroe County and a Bedford High School graduate, who died in the line of duty on Saturday.

“The senseless killing of Officer Dia is another sobering reminder of the great risk our law enforcement officers take each day to protect and serve our communities,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Cindy and I mourn the loss of this fine young man and are praying for God’s comfort and healing for his wife and children in their grief as they are left to move on without a husband and father.”

According to the Toledo Blade, Dia, who was 26, responded to a call concerning a drunken man at a Home Depot parking lot whereupon he was shot and killed. He leaves behind a wife of eight years and two sons who are eight and six.

Police said the suspect, a 57-year-old man, was later found dead by suicide.

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Zorn applauds grant for downtown Adrian rental rehabilitation project

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Wednesday that the city of Adrian will be able to help transform two vacant historic buildings downtown into residential units thanks to a recently approved state grant.

“These funds will help Adrian continue its downtown revitalization efforts, which is great news for local families and the entire area,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Our downtown areas are the heartbeat of our communities, and I applaud the local leaders for working together with state officials and private developers to make this project a reality. By rehabilitating these historic buildings, we can help attract more economic activity and people to downtown Adrian.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded Adrian $242,790 in Community Development Block Grant funds for a downtown rental rehabilitation project that includes renovating two vacant historic buildings into four new residential apartments, three of which will be reserved for low- to moderate-income households.

The project is expected to generate private investment of $219,053.

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