Zorn disappointed with governor’s ‘reckless and senseless’ cuts

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday said he’s disappointed with much of the governor’s line-item vetoes in the fiscal year 2020 budget, including cuts to roads, schools and public safety.

“After working on the budget since March and throughout the summer — then experiencing the governor walking out of negotiations — the Legislature passed a budget supported by Republicans and Democrats to support continued economic growth, educational opportunities, improved public safety, and nearly $400 million in additional road funding,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The balanced budget plan did it all without raising the gas tax by $2.5 billion on Michigan families.

“Instead of funding opioid recovery, autism programs and environmental protections such as combating PFAS at local airports, Gov. Whitmer made reckless and senseless vetoes to cut nearly $1 billion in funding from the budget — a political move that has led to upheaval in our state departments and will affect every Michigan resident and visitor.”

Upon signing the state budget, the governor issued a historic 147 line-item vetoes to cut $947 million in funding approved by the Legislature, including $128 million from the K-12 school aid budget, $13 million for county sheriff secondary road patrols, $37.5 million for the Pure Michigan tourism promotion program, $37 million for the Going Pro job training program and $10 million for rural jobs and development.

“It was bad enough that the governor promised to fix the roads and then vetoed $375 million in additional road funding, but then to tell state workers that ‘she had their back’ only to slash the budget unnecessarily is disgraceful,” Zorn said “Many of those employees are now waiting to see if her cuts will mean lay-offs while our communities face a lack of services including in public safety.

“In my 40 years of public service, I have never seen anything more politically motivated and recklessly achieved than Gov. Whitmer’s veto actions.

“Even after all of this, the governor is now asking the Legislature for a new spending bill to restore a small fraction of the very cuts she just made.”

Here is a list of some of the cuts that will directly affect Monroe and Lenawee counties:
• Eliminating the county sheriff secondary road patrol will cost Lenawee County $103,000 and Monroe County $147,305, which will force the sheriff to eliminate the patrol positions and re-assign the officers. The Monroe County sheriff has indicated he would discontinue handling calls for service, traffic enforcement and patrolling on I-75, I-275, US-23, M-50, M-125 and US-24. The state police would need to assume that responsibly.
• Eliminating the County Jail Reimbursement Program will cost Monroe County $160,000 and Lenawee County $27,000.
• Additional cuts to the Michigan State Police include $654,500 for local law enforcement training grants; $600,000 for traffic safety during Michigan International Speedway events, and $20 million to the Civil Air Patrol that covers fuel and maintenance costs for both counties.
• Cuts to the School Aid budget include $10 million for school safety grants, $35 million for charter school operations, $16 million for career and technical education (CTE) equipment, $2 million for schools to use local produce for student lunches, $3 million to the Michigan Education Corps reading program, $1.5 million for a teacher job bank to address teacher shortages, $1.5 million for the Algebra Nation and Imagine Learning programs, and $5 million for the CTE per-pupil incentive program that pays $50 per student in CTE.
• Cuts to the Michigan Tuition Grants will affect 17,000 students, including 656 students at Siena Heights University.

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High PFOS result near Deerfield Filtration Plant intake due to lab error

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) late Tuesday contacted Sen. Dale W. Zorn, Rep. Bronna Kahle, the village of Deerfield, and the Lenawee County Health Department to inform them that a high result in late August of PFOS contamination in surface water at the intake of the Deerfield Filtration Plant was due to a lab error at the Vista Labs facility in California.

“I want to remind residents that the treated drinking water showed no evidence of PFOS, so there was never an issue to their water,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “While the summer notification for area families was unfortunate, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry when it comes to our drinking water.”

Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, can lead to adverse human health effects. Laboratory results received on Aug. 30 detected PFOS in a sample collected from EGLE’s monthly PFAS testing of the surface water at the intake to the Deerfield Filtration Plant. EGLE continues to test all public water systems with surface water intakes on a monthly basis.

The department said it is currently collecting weekly samples from Deerfield, Blissfield, Frenchtown and Monroe and results will continue to be monitored.

“All Michigan families should have access to clean drinking water,” said Kahle, of Adrian. “Although the residents of Deerfield now have the peace of mind that their water is safe, I am going to continue working hard to get answers from the state about the situation and to pass important reforms to improve our PFOS and PFAS testing.”

In 2017, the state created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), which is leading state efforts in finding and managing the presence of these chemicals in local water systems and our response to their discovery. For more information, including test results, visit www.Michigan.gov/PFASresponse.

In June, Kahle led a bipartisan group of legislators introducing new reforms to Michigan’s PFAS/PFOS testing and response system. The groundwater quality package includes her bill, House Bill 4745, to deliver critical resources to the MPART effort and fund geological surveys that can find contamination before it enters municipal water systems.

Zorn and Kahle highlighted that the budget approved by the Legislature on Tuesday includes Senate Bill 137, which features $120 million for drinking water protections, including funds to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants and for a new private well testing grant program.

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Zorn supports sending balanced 2020 budget to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has voted to send the governor a balanced fiscal year 2020 budget that increases investments in key priorities while living within the state’s means.

“Michigan families and job creators deserve a responsible state budget on time that provides the essential services people use every day,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This is a balanced budget that supports our students, invests in our roads, improves our economy and protects our water — all without the governor’s $2.5 billion tax increase.”

Senate Bill 137 features $120 million for drinking water protections, including funds to address PFAS and other emerging contaminants and for a new private well testing grant program.

“This funding will help ensure that Michigan families continue to have access to clean and safe drinking water,” Zorn said.

SB 149 would invest $5.4 billion in transportation in FY 2020, an increase of more than $2 billion since FY 2010.

“I regularly hear from residents that we need to invest more in improving the roads, especially local roads,” Zorn said. “This budget prioritizes existing tax dollars to increase funding by $400 million to help improve local roads and bridges.

“In addition to putting $400 million more in local roads, this budget increases school funding by nearly $400 million. If the K-12 budget is signed by the governor, most schools in Monroe and Lenawee counties will receive an increase of $240 per pupil as well as additional resources to control school retirement costs and improve access to skilled trades education.”

Last week, the Legislature finalized the school budget. House Bill 4242 would invest more than $15.2 billion in K-12 education, a boost of over $2.2 billion in school funding since FY 2011.

The budget bills given final legislative approval on Tuesday would also increase funding to local governments, train more state troopers and corrections officers, assist efforts to respond to public health hazards, and fund programs that support rural hospitals and help improve access to OB-GYN services in rural areas.

SBs 134, 137-139, 141, 144, 147 and 149 and HBs 4229, 4231, 4232, 4236, 4238, 4239, 4241 and 4242 will be presented to the governor this week.

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Zorn supports record K-12 school aid budget

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted to send a K-12 school aid budget to the governor that increases school funding to record levels without the governor’s proposed $2.5 billion gas tax increase.

“This K-12 budget increases school funding by $391 million to a record of $15.2 billion, which is over $2.2 billion more than when I joined the Legislature in 2011,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “If the bill is signed by the governor, we will be investing $304 million more in the foundation allowance. That means most schools in Monroe and Lenawee counties will receive an increase of $240 per pupil as well as additional resources to control school retirement costs and improve access to skilled trades education.”

Under House Bill 4242, Michigan schools would see a foundation allowance boost of between $120 and $240 per pupil, $522 million invested to help at-risk students, a $21.5 million increase in career and technical education funding, and a $60 million increase for special education.

“From the beginning of the budget process, I said we have a responsibility to the people of Michigan to enact a balanced budget using current revenues as work continues on achieving a long-term road funding solution,” Zorn said. “Sending the governor the K-12 budget is a step toward enacting a responsible state budget on time that invests in our students and roads, provides the essential services people use every day, protects our families and improves our economy.”

The Legislature will send the remaining budget bills to the governor next week.

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**PHOTO & VIDEO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes Pastor Freysinger to Capitol for Senate invocation

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, welcomed the Rev. Robert J. Freysinger to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday. Freysinger serves as pastor at Ida United Methodist Church in Ida and delivered the invocation before Senate session.

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

Video of Freysinger’s invocation is available by clicking here or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Video.

Zorn introduces local road agency advocate bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday introduced legislation as part of a 10-bill package to make important infrastructure policy reforms in Michigan.

“In the roads policy workgroups held over the summer, senators heard horror stories about local road agencies with limited resources struggling to meet the complex permitting demands of various state departments,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “My bill would put in place an advocate to help our local communities navigate the bureaucratic process — streamlining permitting time and costs for local governments.”

Senate Bill 522 would establish a local road agency advocate to be appointed by the Transportation Asset Management Council. The advocate’s primary functions would be to assist local road agencies in the permitting process with any state agency and help the local agencies with developing plans to comply with federal requirements.

The Senate Republican road policy reforms would also:
• Require the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to increase transparency about individual road projects;
• Improve our current road warranty program to provide better value;
• Maximize the use of federal transportation funding that the state receives;
• Require MDOT to study the feasibility of tolls on Michigan bridges or roadways;
• Improve collaboration between the state and local roads agencies by extending local asset management horizons and ensuring MDOT continues to supply long-range plans;
• Require MDOT to develop a road construction inflation index to measure changes in cost within the highway construction industry annually;
• Take steps to stop abuse of farming and logging vehicle registrations; and
• Require local units of government, when adding new roads to their system or planning new infrastructure, to include how maintenance will be paid for.

“This is a road policy reform package aimed at maximizing road funding efficiency,” said Sen. Tom Barrett, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “These reforms resulted from several workgroup meetings this summer and are about improving policies so that local and state agencies can better meet our road infrastructure needs.”

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Zorn applauds local electronics recycling grant

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Wednesday that Goodwill Industries of Southeast Michigan is one of 14 organizations to be awarded a Rural Electronics Recycling grant by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).

“As people buy more and more electronics, older devices are regularly being thrown away,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The problem is that many old electronics contain toxic substances, including lead and mercury, and when old devices are tossed into landfills, these chemicals can get into the soil and ground water.

“This grant will help Goodwill Industries of Southeast Michigan recycle old electronics in our region and help protect our valuable water and natural resources.”

Goodwill Industries of Southeast Michigan will receive $60,000 to establish six permanent collection sites in Lenawee, Monroe and Washtenaw counties and support the purchase of a box truck to transport electronics from Goodwill retail locations to a consolidation location.

According to EGLE, the $269,540 in grants will fund 18 community electronics drop-off locations and multiple community collection events in rural communities across the state. Community events provide affordable and convenient electronics recycling opportunities to residents, and using properly registered recyclers assures that the electronics are properly managed through their end of life.

For more information, visit Michigan’s Electronics Recycling Program at www.Michigan.gov/EGLEeWaste.

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Tracy Oberleiter to serve as Zorn district liaison

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Monday that Tracy Oberleiter has joined his office as his new district liaison.

“Tracy has served Monroe County families for five decades, and I am delighted that he will continue to serve the community through my office,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “His exceptional experience helping people and small businesses and his tremendous knowledge of the issues facing our region and state will be invaluable to me and the residents of the 17th Senate District.”

Oberleiter recently retired from Monroe Bank & Trust after nearly 50 years of service, most recently as senior vice president and senior business development manager, and has been appointed to serve on the Regional Advisory Board for the Michigan Region of First Merchants Bank. He is a graduate of the American Institute of Banking and the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin.

He has served as chairman of the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation for the past 11 years and as a member of the Kiwanis Club of Monroe for 40 years.

Oberleiter is currently state treasurer and state chairman-elect of Michigan Ducks Unlimited, treasurer and executive board member of the local Monroe chapter of Ducks Unlimited, and treasurer and board member of the Miss Monroe County Scholarship Program.

He is a past president of the Monroe Jaycees, a member of the Michigan JCI Senate and past treasurer and chairman of the United Way of Monroe County. He lives in Monroe with his wife Marsha and has three grown daughters.

“I want to thank Senator Zorn for this opportunity to continue serving the community,” Oberleiter said. “I look forward to working in partnership with the senator and the people of Monroe and Lenawee counties to help improve our region and our quality of life.”

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Panel OKs Zorn bill to improve railroad crossing safety

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to enhance safety and traffic flow at rail crossings.

“As the railroad industry becomes more efficient, manufacturers are increasingly looking at rail to transport their products and bring in needed materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As result, trains will increase in length and block road crossings for longer periods of time. That is bad for everyone, especially our first responders for whom time is critical and local businesses who lose customers as drivers avoid blocked crossings.

“This legislation will help fix those problems and, most importantly, improve the safety of Michigan drivers by reducing the chance of a collision with a train.”

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.

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.

“Many local agencies do not have the funds to make these improvements as more resources go toward fixing our local roads,” Zorn said. “My bill is modeled after a successful program in Indiana to create partnerships between the state, local governments and the railroad industry to resolve this long-standing infrastructure issue.”

SB 364 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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PFOS found near Deerfield Filtration Plant intake, but not in treated public drinking water

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) last night notified state legislators and local officials it has found evidence of possible PFOS contamination in surface water at the intake of the Deerfield Filtration Plant. Perfluorooctane sulfonic acids, or PFOS, can lead to adverse human health effects.

Laboratory results received on August 30 detected PFOS in a sample collected from EGLE’s monthly PFAS testing of the surface water at the intake to the Deerfield Filtration Plant on July 29. However, testing of the finished drinking water coming out of the filtration system on July 29 showed no detections for PFOS. There is no data at this time to suggest finished drinking water is being impacted, but further testing will continue on the river upstream and downstream of the Deerfield filtration plant. EGLE will also retest finished drinking water in Deerfield, Adrian, Blissfield, Frenchtown and Monroe. These public water systems were tested last year by EGLE as part of its state-wide sampling effort and none of them showed significant PFAS contamination.  EGLE continues to test all public water systems, like Deerfield, with surface water intakes on a monthly basis.

Rep. Bronna Kahle and Sen. Dale W. Zorn will deliver more information to the public as soon as they receive it.

“People in this community have long had concerns about our local water quality, and we deserve peace of mind about what’s happening at this site,” said Kahle of Adrian. “I am going to continue working hard every day to get answers from the state about what happened, seek firm plans about what the experts plan to do next, and to keep a close eye on the cleanup efforts to make sure we all get access to the clean natural resources we need and deserve.”

“Deerfield is fortunate to have a municipal water filtration system that removes such chemicals,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “However, municipal water plants upstream and downstream of the River Raisin should have an aggressive investigation to locate the cause. I will continue to monitor EGLE with daily briefings.”

In 2017, the state created the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), which is leading state efforts on finding and managing the presence of these chemicals in local water systems and our response to their discovery. More information, including test results, data on contaminated sites around the state and information on its health impacts can be found on their website: www.Michigan.gov/PFASresponse.

In June, Rep. Kahle led a bipartisan group of legislators introducing new reforms to Michigan’s PFAS/PFOS testing and response system. The groundwater quality bill package includes her bill (HB 4745) to deliver critical resources to the MPART effort and fund geological surveys that can find contamination before it enters municipal water systems.

“PFAS and PFOS contamination is still an emerging issue around Michigan, and state officials are still learning all they can,” said Kahle. “We have made progress in the last couple of years funding research surveys and advanced testing, and I am glad to see officials were able to find this contamination before it got into our drinking water. But today is a reminder there is no such thing as good enough. We can and will do more to find PFAS and PFOS in our area and protect local residents from these harmful chemicals.”

Local residents who are concerned about the findings, have questions about the process going forward or would like to share their concerns may contact Rep. Kahle at 517-373-1706 or by email at BronnaKahle@House.MI.gov or Sen. Zorn at 517-373-3543 or by email at SenDZorn@Senate.Michigan.gov. Residents can also contact the state department working on this issue directly by calling 800-662-9278 or by email at EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov.

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