Senate passes Zorn’s drug-death jurisdiction bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of a resident in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

“This is about helping local prosecutors seek justice and provide closure for local families dealing with the loss of a loved one to a drug overdose,” said Zorn. R-Ida. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan continues to face an epidemic of opioid addiction.

“I have worked together with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and law enforcement leaders for a couple of years on this commonsense legislation to address our opioid crisis by punishing drug dealers.”

According to the governor’s office, opioid overdoses have killed 8,000 Michigan residents over the last five years, and the crisis has become even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic with calls to emergency medical services for opioid overdoses 22% higher from April to July 2020 than during the same period in 2019.

Senate Bills 20 and 21 would broaden the potential for prosecution of delivery of a controlled substance causing death to three possible venues: The county where the drugs were delivered, the county where the drugs were consumed, or the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison Arnold of the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office said, “If a Monroe County resident is killed by illegal drugs bought someplace else, we should still be able to seek justice in Monroe County, and that’s what these reforms will allow. I want to thank Sen. Zorn for his commitment and hard work on this issue. This came about due to a real case in our community, and all we’re asking for is to enable our community to take action if one of our own loses their life to drugs.”

Zorn’s bills are the result of a 2016 case involving the heroin-overdose death of a man in Monroe County. The cause of death was toxicity from fentanyl, which is sometimes used by dealers as a cutting agent to make heroin more potent. The dealer was charged in Monroe County with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death. However, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the Monroe Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the drugs were obtained in Wayne County.

The bills now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Zorn supports approval of FY 2021 state budget

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday voted to support a fiscal year 2021 budget plan that balances the state’s deficit and increases investments in important priorities like K-12 education and public safety.

“This budget balances the deficit in the wake of COVID-19 while still providing critical support to our schools and local governments — without raising taxes,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “At a time when our state and nation continue to face historic challenges, we worked together in a bipartisan way to pass a budget on time that provides important funding for services Michigan families use every day.”

Senate Bill 927 is an education omnibus budget featuring a $65 per student increase in state aid payments for all schools in addition to restoring the $175 per pupil reduction made to balance the FY 2020 budget. It also includes an additional $66 million for growing schools, $37 million for student mental health support and $3 million more for early childhood literacy.

House Bill 5396 is a general omnibus budget that increases local revenue sharing, fully funds the 2015 plan to help fix the state’s roads and deposits $35 million in the state’s rainy day fund. It also includes $20 million to ensure nursing homes have adequate personal protective equipment to protect staff and residents, $7 million to graduate at least 50 new state troopers and maintain trooper strength, $26 million for the Going Pro program to help train employees, and $30 million for Michigan Reconnect to help people complete an associate degree or skills certificate.

“Education and public safety continue to be top priorities, and this budget increases funding for schools to prepare our children for success and protects funding for local governments to support law enforcement and firefighters who protect all of us,” Zorn said. “This budget plan also supports our seniors, invests in our roads, and improves our economy.”

The budget bills now head to the governor for consideration. Michigan’s 2021 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

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Senate panel approves drug-death jurisdiction bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn to allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of a resident in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

“As we continue to battle the epidemic of opioid addiction, we need to give prosecutors more tools to punish drug dealers,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I have worked together with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and law enforcement across the state for a couple of years on this commonsense legislation to help provide closure for families devastated by drug overdoses.”

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison Arnold of the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office testified before the committee in support of Zorn’s bills.

“If a Monroe County resident is killed by illegal drugs bought someplace else, we should still be able to seek justice in Monroe County, and that’s what these reforms will allow,” Arnold said. “I want to thank Sen. Zorn for his commitment and hard work on this issue. This came about due to a real case in our community, and all we’re asking for is to enable our community to take action if one of our own loses their life to drugs.”

Senate Bills 20 and 21 would broaden the potential for prosecution of delivery of a controlled substance causing death to three possible venues: The county where the drugs were delivered, the county where the drugs were consumed, or the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

The bills are the result of a case involving the heroin-overdose death of a man in Monroe County in 2016. The cause of death was toxicity from fentanyl, which is sometimes used by dealers as a cutting agent to make heroin more potent. The dealer was charged in Monroe County with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death. However, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Monroe Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the delivery of the drug occurred in Wayne County.

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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Zorn applauds Michigan letting fall sports play

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday applauded the executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a vote of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Representative Council to allow high school sports to be played this fall, including football.

“I am pleased that the governor and the MHSAA listened to all of us and have decided to give our high school student athletes the opportunity to play the sports they love and compete to be the best they can be,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “In addition to having fun and staying in shape, students in sports learn important lessons about teamwork, leadership and perseverance.”

Last Friday, Zorn participated in a “Let Them Play” rally on the steps of the state Capitol with coaches, parents, student athletes and supporters to urge the governor and the MHSAA to allow state high schools to play sports this fall.

“The process has been a very emotional roller coaster for everyone involved, more importantly the student-athletes,” said Rob Beaudrie, Erie Mason High School football head coach. “The support of the parents, coaches, ADs and superintendents has been outstanding to say the least. All these athletes have just witnessed how to never give up and settle and fight for what you believe in. A very, very important life lesson.”

Jayme Ansel McElvany, founder of the Let Michigan high school football play Facebook group and whose son plays for Milan High School, said, “My son is ecstatic! He never truly believed that this could happen. Even more than him getting his football back, I am thankful that he got to see how people stood up for their rights, fought for what they believed in, and trusted God through it all. I am even more happy for the other kids and families in this state than I am for my own! I can only imagine the smiles, tears and screams across the state right now, and it makes all of this so worth it.”

“I am so thankful for all of the parents who came together for the kids! It’s great to know we still live in a society where ‘We the People’ still have a voice,” said Stacy Johnson, superintendent of Britton Deerfield Schools. “Senator Zorn was with us in this fight from the beginning, and I am very grateful for the support and help for our children. This is the time of their lives!”

As a result of Thursday’s actions, high school football teams can start practicing next week and play games starting Sept. 18. Volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming and diving can begin Wednesday, Sept. 9 when gyms and pools are allowed to reopen statewide.

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