Zorn supports landmark $4.7B infrastructure plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted for legislation to invest $4.7 billion in making critical improvements to the state’s infrastructure. The bill now heads to the governor.

“This landmark funding plan will make historic investments in our state’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, our local communities, and our parks and trails,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Rather than waste our federal funding on simply expanding the size of government, we’re putting it to good use to make positive, long-term improvements that will help make Michigan a better and safer place to live and work.

“In addition to the nearly $317 million in federal funding in the bill to fix aging roads and bridges, I was able to secure $3 million for a congestion relief project on Secor Road in Monroe County. This critical funding will help make this local construction project a reality.”

Senate Bill 565 would use $4.1 billion in federal funding and $571 million in state resources to make important infrastructure investments across the state, including over $1.7 billion to help communities improve their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure — with at least 25% of drinking water funds dedicated to replacing lead pipes.

The bill features $250 million to help improve broadband connectivity to more households and small businesses, $250 million to rebuild dams destroyed or damaged in 2020 and prioritize risk reduction projects at other dams in the state, over $322 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for small local governments, $504 million in federal rental and mortgage assistance funding for those experiencing a pandemic financial hardship, and $450 million to make infrastructure upgrades at state and local parks.

SB 565 also designates $50 million to help install filtered water stations in schools, $60 million to help reduce PFAS or other contaminants from drinking water, $35 million to fix failing septic systems, and $92.8 million for airport infrastructure projects.

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Senate passes Zorn bill to help alleviate substitute teacher shortage

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to allow retired school employees to return to the classroom as substitute teachers after only four months instead of having to wait at least one year.

“This reform is the result of looking at other states and working with educators to see what we can do to solve the substitute teacher shortage problem while still ensuring kids get a quality education,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Schools throughout Michigan continue to face a critical shortage of substitute teachers, which caused some schools to close or switch to remote learning because they simply didn’t have enough teachers and substitutes.”

Under current law, school retirees may come back and work as a substitute teacher without 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 to four months for retired school employees to return to work as a substitute teacher without impacting their retirement benefits.

As passed by the Senate, the bill also eliminates the cap on earnings for those who return to substitute teach — as well as the requirement for the district to pay toward the unfunded liability in the retirement system on behalf of these individuals — for two years.

“The shortage of substitute teachers has been an issue for years, but now it’s affecting the ability of Michigan students to get a good education,” Zorn said.

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 found that 86% of responding school districts reported a moderate or severe decline in the number of available substitute teachers.

SB 726 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Zorn: Whitmer ‘apathetic’ to challenges facing Michigan people

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Friday expressed his criticism of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of a bipartisan $2.5 billion tax cut plan to reduce the state’s personal income tax rate, provide families with a $500 per child tax credit, and protect more income for Michigan’s seniors.

“By vetoing this measure to provide significant relief to struggling families and seniors — at a time when the state is seeing record revenues and a historic surplus — the governor has shown just how apathetic she is to the everyday challenges facing the Michigan people,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As the cost of almost everything continues to climb, Michigan families need this relief, and I am very disappointed the governor chose more government spending over helping people make ends meet.

“I am especially disappointed that she vetoed the significant tax deduction increase for our seniors, many of whom live on a fixed income and are least able to deal with high inflation.”

Senate Bill 768 would reduce the state’s personal income tax back to 3.9% and create a $500 tax credit for each child under the age of 19. The legislation would also increase the tax deduction for seniors up to $40,000 for individuals and $80,000 for couples and lower the age of eligibility from 67 to 62.

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Zorn applauds clean water grant for Berlin Charter Township

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday applauded the announcement that Berlin Charter Township in Monroe County is one of six communities to be awarded state grants to help make vital community water infrastructure improvements.

“This grant will help Berlin Charter Township improve their water infrastructure,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “While this is great news for the people of Berlin Charter Township, many communities have similar needs. That is why I supported legislation last year to invest $3.34 billion in making critical upgrades to water quality and infrastructure throughout our state.”

Berlin Charter Township has been awarded a $489,552 Drinking Water Asset Management (DWAM) grant by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

Other communities receiving a DWAM grant were the cities of Bad Axe, Lincoln Park, Mount Pleasant, Southgate and Woodhaven.

DWAM is a one-time, $36.5 million grant program developed by EGLE that helps drinking water suppliers develop and update asset management plans, and/or develop a Distribution System Materials Inventory to identify materials that are part of the distribution system, such as lead service lines.

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Zorn’s energy independence resolution adopted by Senate

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday adopted Sen. Dale Zorn’s resolution urging the adoption of policies that will lead to energy independence and lower energy costs in the United States, including ending the state’s efforts to shut down Line 5.

“In the past few weeks, Michigan drivers have seen gasoline and diesel fuel prices skyrocketing to record highs — forcing many families to choose between buying gas to go to work or buying food to put on the table,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Energy independence is important for a thriving economy. Ensuring that our economy is able to support itself without relying on adversarial nations and without risk of foreign political disruptions is critical to job growth here in Michigan and across the country.”

Senate Resolution 114 was adopted by the Michigan Senate. It says, “Plentiful affordable energy is essential for the well-being of the American people. The lack of an adequate energy supply leads to higher prices, fewer jobs, and threats to public health and safety. It should be the policy of the government at every level to ensure that energy is available, accessible, reliable and as affordable as possible.”

“We must focus on policies that increase the production and use of U.S. energy resources, including boosting American oil and natural gas production, increasing investments in renewable energy, and continuing the safe operation of the Line 5 pipeline here in Michigan,” Zorn said. “The actions of President Biden, Gov. Whitmer, and other elected officials have harmed our ability to achieve energy independence, such as the president’s decision to halt the Keystone XL pipeline and the governor’s continued attempts to shut down Line 5 — which is a critical source of energy for millions of Michigan families and small businesses.”

SR 114 also says, “As a direct result of both federal and state policies and foreseeable world events, gas prices in the United States are rising at the fastest pace recorded since 2000. Not only are rising gas prices eating away at recent wage growth and increasing the risk of a recession, they also could have sweeping impacts for U.S. consumers as higher diesel prices raise the cost of shipping goods through already stressed supply chains, disproportionately affecting low-income families and citizens.”

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Zorn votes to send $2.5B tax cut plan to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted to finalize a historic $2.5 billion tax cut plan that would reduce Michigan workers’ personal income tax rates and provide families with a $500 per child tax credit — sending the measure to the governor.

“At a time when the state is looking at how to spend a historic surplus, this measure would return some of it to Michigan taxpayers still struggling with high inflation and effects of the governor’s unilateral shutdowns,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I have long supported cutting taxes on retirement income, and this plan would provide significant tax savings for our seniors.

“The people need this relief more than they need more government, and I hope the governor will reconsider her veto threat and instead reduce the tax burdens on Michigan families by signing this legislation.”

Senate Bill 768 would reduce the state’s personal income tax back to 3.9% and create a $500 tax credit for each child under the age of 19. The legislation would also increase the tax deduction for seniors up to $40,000 for individuals and $80,000 for couples and lower the age of eligibility from 67 to 62.

The bill now goes to the governor for consideration.

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Senate approves Zorn’s low-income heating extension bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to continue assisting low-income residents to reduce their home heating costs.

“As we face soaring inflation, we need to do what we can to help struggling families reduce their energy costs by improving their homes’ heating efficiency,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “By continuing this effective program, we can help low-income families save money for important household needs and improve the overall efficiency of our state power supply — which can benefit all Michigan consumers.”

Senate Bill 727 would extend weatherization assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) 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 would also 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 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Zorn’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month resolution adopted

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn’s resolution to recognize March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Michigan was adopted by the state Senate on Wednesday.

“Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented with timely screenings to find and remove pre-cancerous polyps,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “According to the National Cancer Institute, the rate of colorectal cancer has more than doubled among adults younger than 50 since the 1990s and younger people are dying from this disease. This rapid increase in younger adults is especially puzzling because the rate of colorectal cancer has gone down among older adults.”

During his remarks on the Senate floor, Zorn mentioned the case of a former staffer of his and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

“A few days before her 29th birthday, Bel Martin was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. She underwent multiple surgeries and 13 rounds of chemotherapy to beat the cancer,” Zorn said. “She is doing well now, but this really underscores that colorectal cancer can affect people of all ages and the importance of paying attention to the signs and symptoms of this disease.”

Senate Resolution 112 recognizes March 2022 as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and urges all citizens to observe this important occasion.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. Colorectal cancer is expected to cause just over 52,000 deaths during this year. Last year, over 151,000 people were diagnosed with this disease and even more are expected to be diagnosed this year.

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

Photo caption: Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, urges support for his resolution to recognize March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Michigan. During his remarks, Zorn mentioned that colorectal cancer can affect people of all ages and highlighted the importance of everyone to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of the disease.