Zorn bill seeks to improve safety at railroad crossings

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to create a program aimed at enhancing safety and traffic flow at rail crossings.

“The goal is to help the state and local communities resolve long-standing congestion issues at railroad crossings and improve the safety of Michigan drivers by reducing — and eventually eliminating — the chance of a collision with a train,” said Zorn, R-Ida.

Senate Bill 364 would create a new Local Grade Separation Grant Program to provide state matching funds for local governments and the rail industry interested in pursuing high-priority 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.

“As the rail industry becomes more efficient and trains increase in length, they will block crossings for longer periods of time,” Zorn said. “This is bad for first responders for whom time is critical, manufacturers whose workers or trucks are delayed, and local businesses who lose customers as drivers take different routes to avoid a blocked crossing.”

According to the Michigan Railroads Association, Michigan ranks 15th worst in the nation for the number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“My bill is modeled after a program in Indiana and will create partnerships between the state, local governments and the industry to address this growing infrastructure problem,” Zorn said.

SB 364 has been referred to the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for consideration.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes Monroe County assistant prosecutor to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, welcomed Monroe County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison Arnold to the state Capitol on Tuesday.

Arnold was in Lansing to testify in support of Zorn’s legislation to allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of someone who consumes the drugs or dies in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

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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: Enjoy free outdoor summer fun this weekend

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn is reminding residents that they can enjoy some of their favorite summertime outdoor activities this Saturday and Sunday at no cost.

“This weekend, Michigan is offering a great opportunity for Michigan anglers and out-of-state visitors to experience some of the world’s best fishing — free of charge,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I encourage families to take advantage of this free weekend of summer fun to relax while enjoying some world-class fishing or rev it up during the first of the state’s two summer free ORV weekends.”

Since 1986, Michigan has celebrated the free fishing weekend as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources and to give families a great chance to pass along the joy of fishing to the next generation. It concludes Michigan Boating Week, which offers many opportunities to start boating, get back onboard or learn some new skills.

During June 8-9, all fishing license fees will be waived, but all fishing regulations still apply. The state will also waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee for vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas.

On Saturday and Sunday, off-road enthusiasts can ride designated routes and trails without an ORV license or trail permit. Riders can find out more at www.Michigan.gov/ORVInfo.

For more information on the Summer Free Fishing Weekend, including a list of activities across the state, visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

There are two local events listed on the site. The annual Tecumseh Free Fishing Derby for kids age 12 and under is on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. at Tecumseh City Park, 403 Adrian St. in Tecumseh.

Also on June 8, is a night of free fishing at Sterling State Park, located at 2800 State Park Road in Monroe. It runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Bait, tackle and rods will be provided.

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Senate passes Zorn’s high school press box exemption bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to clearly state that football stadium press boxes, concession stands and ticket booths do not need to be heated as “occupied” spaces.

“We need to insert some common sense into the current law and end a ridiculous delay to a local high school construction project,” said Zorn, R-Ida.

Madison School District in Adrian is trying to build a press box this summer as part of a larger upgrade to their football and track facilities. However, state building inspectors are interpreting current mechanical codes to say that the press box is an “occupied space” and must have permanent heating facilities capable of maintaining a minimum room temperature of 68 degrees.

“Now that the Senate has approved this reform, I hope the House will act quickly to resolve this disagreement and prevent local taxpayer dollars from being wasted,” Zorn said.

Senate Bill 294 would amend Michigan’s construction code to clarify that interior spaces, such as press boxes, that are built as viewing areas for outdoor sporting activities are exempt from the permanent heating requirements.

As passed by the Senate, the bill would also exempt ticket booths and concession stands from the heating requirement. The bill also adds clarity to the existing exemption that press boxes with an aggregate area of 500 square feet or less are not required to have an elevator.

“Requiring heat for a seasonal building used periodically through the fall athletic season is not only unnecessary but would substantially increase construction costs related to the project,” said Dr. Ryan Rowe, superintendent of Madison School District.

The district is preparing to put in bleachers in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and build a new press box and team room near the football field and track.

SB 294 now heads to the House of Representatives.

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Zorn applauds area Marshall Plan for Talent grants

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Monday applauded seven area school districts that are part of three talent consortiums recently awarded Marshall Plan for Talent grants to improve the state’s talent development and education system.

“The Marshall Plan for Talent brings education, business and community leaders together to encourage more students to pursue new, in-demand careers and ensure they are prepared to succeed in those careers,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I applaud these area schools and their community partners for earning these competitive grants that will help them provide students access to innovative ways of learning and industry connections that can give them a huge advantage in having a long career in exciting, high-wage fields.”

The Align Lenawee consortium was awarded $788,976 in the latest round of Marshall Plan for Talent Innovation Grants announced on May 31 by the Michigan Talent and Economic Development Department and Department of Education.

Align Lenawee will serve 8,970 students and includes Adrian Public Schools, Clinton Community Schools, Hudson Area Schools, the Madison School District, Onsted Community Schools, and the Lenawee ISD. It also features several area partners, including Adrian Steel, Anderson Development, Kapnick Insurance, ProMedica Bixby and Herrick Hospitals, PlaneWave Industries, Adrian College, Jackson College, Siena Heights University, the Human Resource Association of Southeast Michigan, Michigan Works! Southeast, One Lenawee and Lenawee Now.

Monroe Public Schools is one of seven K-12 partners in the Geospatial Technologies Talent Consortium, which was awarded a grant of $988,707. The consortium will serve 12,466 students and includes the Monroe County Planning Commission Planning Division among its 30 partners.

Hudson Area Schools is also one of six school districts in the Great Lakes Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, which received a $3 million grant. The consortium includes 29 partners in six counties and will service 12,340 students.

Of the nearly $14 million in grants awarded statewide, $6.89 million will go to purchasing state-of-the-art equipment students can use to learn with hands-on techniques and $6.14 million will help develop world-class curricula for each consortium. The remaining funds will go toward evolving some districts to a competency-based education model and hiring career navigators who will help students explore career options and pathways while providing needed support to overwhelmed school counselors.

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Zorn applauds MDOT grant for local road work in Hudson

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn announced that the city of Hudson will receive a $190,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for work on North Maple Grove Avenue.

“Improving our transportation infrastructure is vital to supporting local businesses and attracting new job creators,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Many small towns simply don’t have the resources to keep up with deteriorating roads, and this new initiative was created last year to help fund road projects in small communities.

“This grant will help Hudson improve road safety in their community as we continue to work on a long-term road-funding solution.”

Hudson is one of 23 villages and cities in Michigan with populations of less than 10,000 awarded grants — ranging from $24,000 to $250,000 for road resurfacing, culvert replacement, pavement crack sealing and shoulder paving — through the new Community Service Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) program.

According to MDOT, successful projects were selected, in part, because they are paired with planned infrastructure work, coordinated with other road agencies, focused on extending the useful life of the road, and lacked other funding sources.

The $390,000 project in Hudson will receive $190,000 from the state and $200,000 in local matching funds.

The Transportation Economic Development Fund Category B, or the CSIF, provides up to $3 million in grants per year for road improvements in cities and villages with populations of up to 10,000 people. For more information about the program, visit www.Michigan.gov/TEDF.

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Sen. Zorn supports historic auto insurance reform

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Friday voted to support a bill to lower auto insurance rates in Michigan.

“The auto insurance reform is a good step forward that will provide personal injury protection rate reductions from 10% to 100% by capping medical fees, removing rating factors and requiring prompt insurance payments to providers,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “While no bill is perfect and knowing that unforeseen consequences may arise that will need to be reexamined, I will continue to work on better access to long-term, post-acute rehabilitation.”

Senate Bill 1 would rein in out-of-control medical costs, cut fraud and conflicts of interest in the auto insurance system, and offer drivers choices in addition to the option of keeping unlimited coverage similar to what is currently required.

Drivers with qualified medical coverage — such as employer health insurance or Medicare — would now be able to fully opt out of personal injury protection coverage if that insurance allows medical coverage for auto-related injuries.

“The key cost savings in this reform addresses the problem of auto insurers paying some hospitals and health care providers 400% more than what health insurers pay — which results in ridiculously higher rates for our auto insurance,” Zorn said. “Bringing these inflated medical costs in line with regular health care, reigning in fraud and reducing lawsuit abuse will achieve significant rate reductions while still protecting Michigan drivers.”

SB 1 would also cut the announced $220 annual Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) fee by 80% for all options other than unlimited coverage. People already receiving care through the MCCA will continue to get lifetime care under their current unlimited benefit policy as promised.

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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes Vietnam War veteran to Senate Memorial Day Service

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, welcomed Vietnam War veteran Larry Cymbola to the state Capitol on Thursday as his special guest for the Michigan Senate’s 25th Annual Memorial Day Service, which honored Michigan’s fallen soldiers.

Cymbola is commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6462 in Dundee.

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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 participates in inaugural meeting of new aerospace and defense caucus

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Tuesday participated in the first meeting of the new Michigan Legislative Aerospace and Defense Caucus in Lansing.

“The aerospace and defense industries offer tremendous opportunities for growth in our region and throughout the state,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As a member of the MiSTEM Advisory Council, I want to make sure that Michigan students are prepared to succeed in these types of cutting-edge, in-demand careers. I look forward to working with this bipartisan caucus to help expand new investments and jobs in these exciting fields in our state.”

The caucus is co-chaired by Sen. Michael MacDonald, R-Macomb Township, and Rep. Joe Tate, D-Detroit. Its inaugural meeting included a presentation on the Michigan Launch Initiative (MLI) by IQM Research Institute President and retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Dudzik.

The MLI is a proposed public-private nonprofit entity that would provide a collaborative platform for academia, industry and governmental agencies to provide low Earth orbit and hypersonic launch technology for commercial and defense applications.

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Editor’s note: The above photographs are available by clicking on the images or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/photowire.

Zorn supports balanced 2020 budget plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn this week supported Senate passage of a fiscal year 2020 budget plan that increases funding for roads and schools to record levels while living within the state’s means.

“The Senate’s budget lays out a blueprint on how to make smart investments in top priorities facing Michigan families with existing revenues,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This is a balanced budget that supports our students, fixes our roads, protects our communities and helps attract new investment and jobs.

“Under this budget plan, school funding for next year would increase by almost $400 million, and most schools in Monroe and Lenawee counties would get their largest per-pupil foundation allowance increase in 18 years.”

Senate Bill 146 would invest $15.2 billion in education, representing a more than $2.6 billion increase in state funding for schools since FY 2011.

Under the bill, Michigan schools would see a foundation allowance boost of between $135 and $270 per pupil — which is $107 million more of a foundation allowance increase than the governor’s plan.

The Senate-passed budget includes an additional $51.2 million for constitutional revenue sharing for local governments, graduates 85 new state police troopers, invests $120 million for drinking water protections and fully implements $1.2 billion from the 2015 roads plan a year ahead of schedule — investing an additional $132 million entirely to local roads.

“We have long heard that the Michigan people want more funding put into improving the roads and this budget prioritizes existing tax dollars to do that,” Zorn said. “While talks continue on a long-term road funding solution, we need to work toward enacting a responsible state budget on time that provides the essential services people use every day.”

The Senate budget would also restore the governor’s planned funding cuts to programs that improve access to OB-GYN services in rural areas, strengthen rural hospitals, boost the number of medical residents in underserved areas, and support skilled trades training.

SBs 133-149 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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