Zorn urges investigation of Whitmer’s coronavirus nursing home policies

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has joined some of his Senate colleagues in calling for full state and federal investigations into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its relation to the governor’s nursing home policy.

Zorn signed on to separate letters sent Wednesday to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson making the requests.

“Instead of doing everything possible to protect our most vulnerable residents from the virus, the governor’s policies put patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities — with deadly consequences,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I’m deeply concerned about the governor’s silence about what happened, the accuracy of the reported numbers of nursing home cases and deaths, and whether the situation has been addressed to protect our at-risk seniors.

“A full investigation is even more important in the wake of the controversary in New York, where federal officials are looking into Gov. Cuomo’s handling of the nursing homes in that state during the coronavirus outbreak.”

The letters state that COVID-19 cases and deaths among the elderly have soared over the last year. The administration has been questioned repeatedly about unintended consequences of the governor’s policies and discrepancies in the reported numbers of cases and deaths in the state’s long-term care facilities. It has now come to the senators’ attention that these reporting errors have likely not been resolved.

The letter to Nessel formally requested the attorney general immediately open a full investigation to review the critical matters, including:
• The processes and policies that may have contributed to the spread of the virus among our most vulnerable nursing home residents across the state;
• The accuracy of the data reported by the administration, taking into consideration the discrepancies in facility reporting policies as identified in the letter, to include the failure of some nursing homes to cite cases when a positive result comes back after a transfer to a hospital;
• Compliance with all CDC guidelines and reporting requirements; and
• Compliance with Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

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Bringing people together

The people of Michigan have been through a lot during this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. We in the Legislature have a responsibility to all of them to overcome our divisions and come together to defeat the coronavirus, build back our economy, improve their lives and restore their trust in government.

During his inaugural address last month, President Joe Biden focused on the theme of uniting together. He said, “To overcome these challenges — to restore the soul and to secure the future of America — requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

Our country was founded on the idea that “We the People” have the power to choose our leaders. Key to that principle is that after the people’s voices are heard, we have an orderly and peaceful transfer of power. As we welcome a new president, we must unite as a nation for the good of our people, our republic and liberty throughout the world. We are still facing historic challenges, and I wish President Biden success in working together to meet our challenges and improve the lives of all Americans.

Gov. Whitmer also talked about working together in her State of the State address, in which she said that we need to “focus on what unites us” and that her “mission is to find common ground, so we can emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.”

I wholeheartedly agree with the president and the governor that we need to unite as a country and as a state. It is what our people expect and deserve.

I remain committed to working with the governor to protect the lives and livelihoods of all Michigan families. We owe it to the people to restore their voice in government decisions that will have both short- and long-term effects on them and their way of life.

Only by uniting as state leaders on addressing the enormous issues facing our state can we effectively and safely get through this pandemic, protect our people from the virus, support our local businesses and workers, ensure our students are prepared for success, attract new talent and job providers to our state, and emerge better and stronger at the end.

Our state and nation have faced great and grave challenges in the past. Each time we rallied around each other to meet the challenge and improve our communities.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Answering that question has been a driving force that has guided me during my more than three decades in public service in local and state government, and it will continue to lead my efforts to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle to improve the lives of families in Monroe and Lenawee counties and throughout Michigan.

Senate approves Zorn’s Physical Therapy Licensure Compact bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to improve access to physical therapy.

“My goals with this reform are to help increase access to physical therapy and better meet the health care needs of Michigan families,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Joining the other 28 states in the compact can help us achieve these goals without requiring licensed physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in good standing to go through a lengthy licensure process.”

Senate Bill 18 would enter Michigan into the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact, which gives the option for eligible physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) to obtain a “compact privilege” in other participating states.

“If we join the compact and Ohio follows our lead, PTs in our state would be able to help patients across the border in Ohio and PTs from Ohio would be able to treat patients in Monroe and Lenawee counties,” Zorn said.

Among the eligibility requirements for PTs and PTAs are holding a valid license in their home state, having no disciplinary action during the previous two years and meeting any jurisprudence requirements of the other participating states.

Zorn said the compact does not change the scope of practice of PTs and PTAs in any state. Any PT or PTA working in a state under the compact would be required to follow the practice law of that state.

SB 18 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Zorn comments on governor’s 2022 budget recommendation

LANSING, Mich. — After listening to state Budget Director Dave Massaron present Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fiscal year 2022 state budget recommendation on Thursday, Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, issued the following statement:

“We are still facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that continues to have a huge effect on our families, workers, students and local businesses. It is critical that we help students safely return to in-person learning, support our struggling job providers, and reenergize our economy while also continuing our extensive efforts to protect people from the virus.

“To improve our state and the lives of all Michigan families, we must work together. While we haven’t had much success with that recently, we agree on much of our top priorities, such as increasing COVID-19 testing and vaccine availability, strongly supporting education and worker training, helping our local governments, fixing our roads, and helping get Michigan working again.

“My top priority is to help improve the lives of families in Monroe and Lenawee counties and throughout the state. I look forward to coming together to enact a smart spending plan that helps achieve that goal and build a healthier and stronger Michigan.”

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Senate approves Zorn’s rental property and local government bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate has approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s measures to increase flexibility for transferring rental property and serving on local boards.

On Wednesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 16, which would allow rental property owners more flexibility when transferring property between entities. It is a reintroduction of a bill passed by the Legislature last year only to be pocket vetoed by the governor.

“While I was disappointed the governor didn’t sign this reform last year, I am hopeful that we can find common ground on ending this form of double dipping,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Currently, rental property in Michigan is subject to unnecessary and costly reinspections simply based on the transfer of a property from one type of entity to another — even if the owners of both entities are the same people. This fixes that for these limited types of transfers.”

On Thursday, the Senate approved SB 17, which would help more local communities fill first responder and public safety positions. A public servant of a Michigan township, city, village or county with a population of 25,000 or more cannot serve that community as an EMT, firefighter, police officer or public safety officer. SB 17 would expand the population limit to 40,000.

“Some Michigan townships are struggling to find enough first responders and police officers, especially those with populations just above the limit,” Zorn said. “This bill would give more communities much-needed flexibility by allowing more local public servants — who have the necessary training — to serve their communities in their lifesaving roles.”

Both bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Zorn applauds Whitmer for listening, allowing sports to resume

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday applauded Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Health and Human Services for listening to the Michigan people and allowing sports to resume play.

“This is an example of the change that can happen when the people speak up for what is right,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I was proud to lead the Senate effort to fight for our student athletes and join the voices of thousands of Michigan parents, coaches, athletes and supporters. As a direct result of our actions, the state has now reversed course, acknowledged that our student athletes can compete safely, and will let them play.”

Last week, the Senate approved Zorn’s resolution urging Whitmer and the DHHS to lift the suspension on high school and youth sports and allow play to resume immediately. Then on Saturday, thousands of people came to the state Capitol on a cold winter day for a Let Them Play rally, in which Zorn spoke about the benefits of high school sports.

“School sports foster valuable life skills, promote healthy living and help kids build lifelong friendships,” Zorn said. “I am glad that the state is giving back these rewarding experiences to our children while also ensuring they stay safe.”

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