Zorn visits sites of new MDOT garages in Monroe County

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn joined Michigan Department of Transportation Director Paul Ajegba and other MDOT officials on Friday for a tour of two MDOT garages being built in Monroe County.

“Once completed, these two new garages will be home to MDOT trucks and workers dedicated to keeping our roads safe,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I was able to help secure funding for these facilities to be built and properly staffed so that Monroe County gets effective and timely road maintenance — especially clearing and deicing our highways during Michigan’s tough winters.”

The fiscal year 2022 general omnibus budget signed in late September includes $2.9 million for increased MDOT staff in Monroe County to perform road maintenance.

One of the garages is being built on Telegraph Road in Carleton near I-275 and the other is being constructed on N. Ann Arbor Road in Dundee near U.S. 23.

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Photo caption: Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, joins Michigan Department of Transportation Director Paul Ajegba and other MDOT officials at an MDOT garage under construction on Telegraph Road in Carleton near I-275. It is one of two garages being built in Monroe County. The second garage is located on N. Ann Arbor Road in Dundee near U.S. 23.

Help replace the Line 5 pipeline, not unilaterally shut it d

There have been numerous reports recently that the Biden administration is weighing the potential market consequences of shutting down Line 5.

Just a few months ago, a Russian cyber-attack on a major pipeline from the Gulf Coast to the New York region resulted in gas shortages in multiple states. When asked about using rail cars to transport fuel during the closure, former Michigan governor and current Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said that “pipe is the best way to go.”

Meanwhile, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues her unilateral efforts to shut down the Line 5 pipeline without a viable alternative way to safely transport its energy resources to homeowners in the U.P. and refineries here in the Toledo and Detroit areas. Now it appears the president is also looking into it.

The governor announced she was revoking a 1953 easement that allows Enbridge Energy to run the dual pipeline through the Straits of Mackinac. Questions about her actions and if she even has the power to take those actions on an international pipeline are pending in both state and federal court.

However, if the governor is successful in her reckless attempts to shut down the pipeline, it would be devastating to our economy and the lives of millions of struggling families and small businesses.

It has been estimated that over 500 direct jobs at the Toledo PBF refinery could be lost and workers at the Toledo-area BP-Husky refinery and the Marathon Petroleum refinery in Detroit would also be affected. Union workers from the Toledo PBF facility came to Lansing in May to show their opposition to the governor’s efforts.

In addition to the lost jobs, shutting down the pipeline would affect millions of other Michigan families through increased prices for gasoline, products that rely on trucks to bring them to consumers and propane used to heat most homes in rural areas.

As a small business owner and avid outdoorsman, I understand the need to balance protecting our environment and supplying Michigan families with affordable and reliable energy.

In 2018, I supported legislation to replace the aging Line 5 pipeline with a new pipeline housed in a multiuse tunnel 100 feet under the straits. The tunnel would virtually eliminate any risk to the Great Lakes, and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy in January issued some of the permits required to build the tunnel — concluding it can be done in compliance with our environmental laws.

To transport these resources without the pipeline would require tens of thousands more rail cars and trucks as well as oil-carrying barges and tankers on the Great Lakes — at a much greater risk to our water and our people.

Instead of trying to unilaterally shut down Line 5, the governor and the president should get out of the way and allow Enbridge to construct a tunnel — at its own cost — below the Straits of Mackinac as soon as possible and safely replace the existing pipeline.

Zorn sponsors low-income heating extension bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to continue assisting low-income residents to reduce their home heating costs.

“This bill will continue an effective program designed to help struggling families reduce their energy costs by improving their homes’ heating efficiency,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “By making this smart investment, we can help low-income families save money for important household needs and improve the overall efficiency of our power supply — which can benefit all consumers.”

Senate Bill 727 would extend weatherization assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) for through fiscal year 2026-2027. The LIHEAP is a federally funded program for heating, cooling and weatherization assistance.

To ensure proper oversight of the program, the bill also would continue the current requirement that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services report to the Legislature by July 1 of each year on the operation and effectiveness of home heating and weatherization programs funded by LIHEAP.

SB 727 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

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Zorn bill would help alleviate substitute teacher shortage

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday introduced legislation to allow a retired  school employee to return to the classroom as a substitute teacher after only two months instead of having to wait at least one year.

“Schools throughout Michigan are facing a critical shortage of substitute teachers, which has caused some schools to close or switch to remote learning because they simply don’t have enough teachers and substitutes,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This reform is the result of working with local educators and looking at other states to see what we can do to help address the substitute teacher shortage in our state.”

Under current law, school retirees may come back and work in a critical shortage area without it affecting their retirement benefits until July 2025 — but only if they have been retired for at least 12 months.

Senate Bill 726 would reduce the wait time from 12 months to two months for retired school employees to return to work without impacting their retirement benefits.

“This timeframe mirrors laws in Ohio and Tennessee that allow retired teachers to return to teaching after two months,” Zorn said. “Although the current situation has been exasperated by the pandemic, the shortage of substitute teachers has been an issue for years. The difference now is that is it affecting the ability of schools to stay open and teach our kids.”

According to research from Michigan State University in 2019, 64% of Michigan school districts said they were not able to find a substitute multiple times a week and another 21% had unfilled vacancies once a week. The study also said that 86% of responding school districts reported a moderate or severe decline in the number of available substitute teachers.

SB 726 has been referred to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee for consideration.

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