Zorn sponsors bills in Senate election reform package

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday introduced a pair of election reform measures as part of a comprehensive package to ensure election access and integrity in Michigan.

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical to the future of our system of government,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “These reforms are focused on improving our elections so that everyone has the right to have their voice heard and the people have confidence that the election was fair and accurate. I am pleased to be a part of this comprehensive effort to preserving our democracy, and I look forward to working together to enact smart and effective solutions that will make it easier to vote, improve the security of our ballots and restore the public’s trust.”

Senate Bills 273-311 cover a wide variety of issues dealing with processes before, during and after an election, such as restricting the unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, requiring signature verification, establishing a chain of custody for absentee ballots, ensuring audits are bipartisan and open to the public, improving the management of the state’s Qualified Voter File, and making it easier for active duty military members to securely vote while overseas.

Zorn sponsored two bills. SB 299 would allow clerks to submit official results by noon the day after the election, and SB 305 would ban the name or likeness of the secretary of state, county clerk or local clerk from appearing on materials promoting election activities.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Elections Committee for consideration.

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Zorn votes to reject DHHS Director Hertel appointment

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Tuesday voted to reject the appointment of Elizabeth Hertel as director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Michigan families need a state health director who will protect and serve them, respect our system of government, understand the effect her actions have on their lives, and show them the science and rationale behind her decisions,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I was hopeful Elizabeth Hertel would offer new leadership to work with us on better solutions and to be more open with the Michigan people. I opposed her appointment because — in both her actions and comments as director — she has failed to meet those goals.”

Zorn previously signed onto a letter with five other senators and 25 House members urging the Senate Advice and Consent Committee to unfavorably report Hertel’s appointment and for the full Senate to then reject her appointment.

Under the Michigan Constitution, the Senate has 60 days to disapprove of an appointment through a formal vote. Tuesday was the last day to reject the Hertel appointment. Since a majority of the Senate didn’t vote against Hertel’s appointment, it becomes official.

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Senate approves Zorn’s drug-death jurisdiction bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday 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.

“During the global pandemic, the opioid abuse epidemic has continued to affect people in our communities — and in many places the situation has gotten even worse,” said Zorn. R-Ida. “We should ensure our local prosecutors have all the necessary tools to protect our people and provide closure for families who lose a loved one to a drug overdose.

“I am proud to continue to be working with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and local law enforcement leaders on this reform to help combat our deadly opioid crisis and crack down on drug dealers.”

Senate Bills 14 and 15 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, and the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

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.

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.

SBs 14 and 15 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Sen. Zorn named to national nuclear legislative work group

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn was recently appointed to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Nuclear Legislative Working Group, which offers legislators a forum to discuss nuclear energy and waste management issues and guide advocacy before the federal government on behalf of state legislatures.

“As nuclear power continues to be a significant source of energy in Michigan and throughout the country, we need to ensure state and federal officials take the smart and responsible steps to provide families affordable power and safely protect our local communities,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “For several years, I have worked to try and get the federal government to live up to their obligations to the American people and open a permanent storage site for spent nuclear fuel — so that this waste will not continue to be stored at dozens of temporary sites around the country, including here in Monroe County.

“In addition to learning about best practices in other states, serving on this work group will give me an opportunity to fight for a permanent storage solution instead of storing nuclear fuel on the shores of the Great Lakes.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nuclear power provided about 20% of the electricity produced in the U.S. in 2020. In Michigan, nuclear power plants provided 28% of the electricity generated in the state in 2020.

The work group is made up of legislators from select states who are appointed by state legislative leadership for two-year terms. It typically meets two times per year, in addition to holding various webinars and other video calls throughout the year.

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Zorn signs letter urging rejection of DHHS Director Hertel appointment

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday signed onto a letter urging the Senate Advice and Consent Committee to unfavorably report Elizabeth Hertel’s appointment as director of the Department of Health and Human Services and for the full Senate to then reject her appointment.

“When former Director Gordon stepped down in January, I was hopeful the new director would provide our state with better solutions and be open and transparent with the Legislature and the Michigan people,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “In both her actions as director and her comments to the committee, she has failed to meet those goals. She extended the severe restrictions on restaurants and small businesses without sharing the data behind the orders, and it turns out she apparently didn’t even know the reasoning behind limiting indoor dining in restaurants to 25% capacity.

“For those reasons and more, I oppose her appointment as the state’s health director.”

The letter was signed by six senators and 25 House members and says that “perhaps the most concerning piece of testimony is Director Hertel’s absurd and blatantly unconstitutional belief that her authority to micromanage our lives and our livelihoods could last, as she admitted upon questioning, ‘forever.’… It is deeply troubling that an unelected appointee could issue sweeping orders to close businesses and schools or limit gathering sizes — effectively exercising legislative powers — unilaterally and indefinitely. Any unelected official who believes they have the authority to bypass another branch of government completely is unacceptable as a department director.”

The letter also mentions that “Hertel assured the committee that she makes the ultimate decision on the epidemic orders, as stipulated in the cited statute. However, she said she did not know the metrics used to determine the 25% capacity limit for indoor dining, as that restriction was merely duplicated from Director Gordon’s previous order and she was not involved in that discussion.”

“In the end, the Michigan people need a health director who will protect and serve them, respect our co-equal, separate branches of government, understand the effect of her actions, and be able to share with the people the data and reasoning behind her decisions,” Zorn said.

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Zorn says relaxed COVID-19 restrictions ‘a good step’ but still ‘a long way to go’

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, issued the following statement after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Department of Health and Human Services announced they are reducing the state’s restrictions on Michigan small businesses, including in-person dining at restaurants:

“I’m thankful the governor has decided to let our struggling Michigan restaurants and small businesses further reopen. It is a good step forward to allowing them to safely serve their customers and make ends meet, but there’s still a long way to go.

“Locally owned businesses and their workers deserve to be treated fairly. The governor and her officials have been extremely harsh on our job providers for months. While they were quick to shut down thousands of family businesses, they have been shamefully slow in allowing them to safely reopen. Even now, the governor is still imposing a 50% capacity limit on restaurants when none of our neighbors have any statewide dining restrictions.

“Considering everything we’ve been through, the Michigan people and our small businesses deserve to know what metrics the governor is using. Last month, the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association outlined a commonsense plan tying decisions directly to the rate of positive coronavirus tests. It might not be perfect, but it’s a clear set of guidelines that lets everyone know what to expect.”

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