Governor signs Zorn rental property bill, vetoes local public servant reform

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday signed Sen. Dale Zorn’s measure to increase flexibility for transferring rental property but vetoed another bill allowing certain local government board members to serve their communities in public safety roles.

Senate Bill 16, now Public Act 14 of 2021, allows rental property owners more flexibility when transferring property between entities.

“I want to thank the governor for finally helping us end this form of double dipping,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Before this reform, Michigan rental properties were subject to unnecessary and costly reinspections when they were transferred from one type of entity to another — even if the owners of both entities were the same people. With the governor’s signature, that extra red tape has been cut for these limited situations.”

Whitmer vetoed SB 17, which would have helped 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 have expanded the population limit to 40,000.

“It is disappointing and frustrating that the governor rejected allowing more local elected officials who have the necessary training to also serve their communities in lifesaving roles,” Zorn said. “This option is already allowed for small local units, so this wasn’t a new idea. It was simply about providing more flexibility to more communities struggling to find enough first responders to protect their families — an issue that has become more difficult during the pandemic.”

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes National Guard members to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, on Thursday welcomed members of the Michigan National Guard to the state Capitol. The guests are part of Task Force Spartan to ensure Michigan health care agencies have the personnel to deliver the vaccine in their communities.

Pictured from left are Spc. Peter Churchill, Capt. Geoffery Miller, Zorn, Spc. Dustin Hoekwater, Pfc. Levi Collins, and Spc. Melissa Preston.

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

Zorn supports balanced 2022 state budget plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn this week voted to support a Senate budget plan that provides critical services and increases support for important priorities like K-12 education and public safety.

“As conditions in Michigan slowly improve, this Senate budget plan is focused on doing what we can to support healthy families and communities while also building a stronger and healthier future for everyone in our state,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Along with protecting the health of our people and energizing our economy, supporting our students is one of the most important investments we can make — and in this budget plan we’re continuing to direct record levels of support for our schools to teach our children.

“We are also putting a priority on fixing local roads, getting people back to work, supporting our direct care workers, and keeping our communities safe.”

Senate Bill 83 would invest $15.8 billion in K-12 education, an increase of $249 million. The bill would increase the minimum foundation allowance by $250 to $8,361 per pupil, dedicate an additional $20 million to assist students dealing with mental health challenges and boost preschool funding by $32 million to help reduce class sizes. It also dedicates $1.7 billion to help cover the costs of school employee retirement.

The 17-bill budget plan includes $72 million for competitive and need-based scholarships for higher education students, $40 million in the Going Pro program to provide grants to support employee training, $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide tuition-free community college and training, $77 million to provide child care for more families, and $161 million for wage increases for direct care workers and front-line workers at child care institutions.

The bills prioritize more revenue sharing funding for local governments, more resources for state road and bridge construction, $2.2 billion for local transportation infrastructure projects, a 50% boost for grants to help struggling veterans with expenses, and a new program to incentivize local governments to reduce their long-term debts.

SBs 77 and 79-94 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration

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Zorn urges public comment on making MIOSHA rules permanent

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday said that Michigan residents can submit comments through a new Senate website on the governor’s plan to make the state’s current COVID-19 emergency workplace rules permanent.

“I was disappointed, but not surprised, that the governor was working to make the COVID-19 workplace restrictions permanent at the same time she was telling the people about her plan to lift the restrictions as vaccination rates improved,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “When she announced her plan, I said that although Michigan families can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is nothing to stop the governor from changing direction on the benchmarks. While the benchmarks remain, the train we didn’t see coming was making the restrictions permanent.

“Thankfully, the Michigan people get a chance to have their say in this process, and we have created a new website to allow them to submit their thoughts.”

After the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in October 2020 that Gov. Whitmer did not have the authority to continue issuing executive orders by declaring a state of emergency, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration used its ability to put in place COVID-19 emergency workplace safety rules.

MIOSHA’s second six-month extension of the rules expires on Oct. 14, so the agency has announced it is taking steps to make them permanent. As part of the rule-making process, any department rule changes are subject to a public comment period and a public hearing. The MIOSHA rules are scheduled for a virtual hearing on May 26 at 9 a.m.

Comments on the proposed rules can be made during the public hearing or can be submitted in advance by mail or email until May 26 at 5 p.m.

A Senate website has been launched where residents can provide input on the proposed rules. The information provided will be sent directly to the department as a public comment. To submit a comment, visit www.MISenateGOP.com/WhitmerEmergency.

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Zorn reintroduces railroad crossing safety reform

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has reintroduced legislation aimed at enhancing safety and traffic flow at rail crossings in Michigan.

“With railroads improving efficiency, more Michigan businesses and manufacturers are using them to transport products and materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Although increased train usage can help reduce the wear and tear on our roads, it also can mean more frequent times of trains crossing roadways and longer periods of trains blocking roads — affecting access to local businesses and increasing both emergency response times and the chances for vehicles colliding with a train.

“The goal of these measures is to help local governments and the railroad industry work together to solve these long-standing safety and economic issues.”

Senate Bill 425 would create a new Local Grade Separation Grant Program to provide state matching funds for local governments and the rail industry interested in taking on railroad grade separations on local roads. The funds would be used to transform a crossing so that road traffic would travel either over or under the railroad.

SB 426 would establish a scoring system for determining which rail projects to fund, and SB 427 would create the Local Grade Separation Fund within the Department of Treasury to reserve funds for these projects.

According to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics, Michigan ranked 15th worst in the nation in 2020 for the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“Even before the pandemic, many local agencies could not afford to make these railroad crossing improvements,” Zorn said. “This new program would help them improve driver safety by eliminating the chance of a deadly train-vehicle collision at the new separated crossings.”

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