Senate panel approves drug-death jurisdiction bills

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn to allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of a resident in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county.

“As we continue to battle the epidemic of opioid addiction, we need to give prosecutors more tools to punish drug dealers,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I have worked together with the Monroe County prosecutor’s office and law enforcement across the state for a couple of years on this commonsense legislation to help provide closure for families devastated by drug overdoses.”

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Allison Arnold of the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office testified before the committee in support of Zorn’s bills.

“If a Monroe County resident is killed by illegal drugs bought someplace else, we should still be able to seek justice in Monroe County, and that’s what these reforms will allow,” Arnold said. “I want to thank Sen. Zorn for his commitment and hard work on this issue. This came about due to a real case in our community, and all we’re asking for is to enable our community to take action if one of our own loses their life to drugs.”

Senate Bills 20 and 21 would broaden the potential for prosecution of delivery of a controlled substance causing death to three possible venues: The county where the drugs were delivered, the county where the drugs were consumed, or the county where the victim died from using the drugs.

The bills are the result of a case involving the heroin-overdose death of a man in Monroe County in 2016. The cause of death was toxicity from fentanyl, which is sometimes used by dealers as a cutting agent to make heroin more potent. The dealer was charged in Monroe County with one count of delivery of fentanyl causing death. However, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Monroe Circuit Court lacked jurisdiction because the delivery of the drug occurred in Wayne County.

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

###

Zorn applauds Michigan letting fall sports play

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday applauded the executive orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a vote of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) Representative Council to allow high school sports to be played this fall, including football.

“I am pleased that the governor and the MHSAA listened to all of us and have decided to give our high school student athletes the opportunity to play the sports they love and compete to be the best they can be,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “In addition to having fun and staying in shape, students in sports learn important lessons about teamwork, leadership and perseverance.”

Last Friday, Zorn participated in a “Let Them Play” rally on the steps of the state Capitol with coaches, parents, student athletes and supporters to urge the governor and the MHSAA to allow state high schools to play sports this fall.

“The process has been a very emotional roller coaster for everyone involved, more importantly the student-athletes,” said Rob Beaudrie, Erie Mason High School football head coach. “The support of the parents, coaches, ADs and superintendents has been outstanding to say the least. All these athletes have just witnessed how to never give up and settle and fight for what you believe in. A very, very important life lesson.”

Jayme Ansel McElvany, founder of the Let Michigan high school football play Facebook group and whose son plays for Milan High School, said, “My son is ecstatic! He never truly believed that this could happen. Even more than him getting his football back, I am thankful that he got to see how people stood up for their rights, fought for what they believed in, and trusted God through it all. I am even more happy for the other kids and families in this state than I am for my own! I can only imagine the smiles, tears and screams across the state right now, and it makes all of this so worth it.”

“I am so thankful for all of the parents who came together for the kids! It’s great to know we still live in a society where ‘We the People’ still have a voice,” said Stacy Johnson, superintendent of Britton Deerfield Schools. “Senator Zorn was with us in this fight from the beginning, and I am very grateful for the support and help for our children. This is the time of their lives!”

As a result of Thursday’s actions, high school football teams can start practicing next week and play games starting Sept. 18. Volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming and diving can begin Wednesday, Sept. 9 when gyms and pools are allowed to reopen statewide.

###

Flags to be lowered in honor of Captain Liedel

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has granted Sen. Dale Zorn’s request to lower the U.S. flags in Michigan to half-staff on Monday, Aug. 31 in honor of Monroe Township firefighter Joseph Liedel.

Liedel died Aug. 23 at age 48 from injuries from a brain bleed suffered in the line of duty while responding to an emergency on July 31.

“Capt. Liedel’s true passion in life was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a firefighter — joining the Monroe Charter Township Fire Department as a young man,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Over the course of his 28-year career, Joe earned the trust and respect of his fellow colleagues and became a captain. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he traveled to New York City with fellow Monroe Township firefighters to help at ground zero.

“Joe was well-liked and a true gentleman with a great sense of humor. He will be greatly missed by his friends, family, a brotherhood of firefighters and the entire community.”

Zorn sent the governor a letter on Thursday requesting the half-staff flag tribute on Aug. 31 to coincide with Liedel’s funeral. On Sunday, Whitmer approved the request.

“I thank the governor for helping recognize the years of service by this brave and honorable man as the people who loved him and served with him celebrate his life and say goodbye,” Zorn said.

Liedel was born in Monroe in 1972 and graduated from Monroe High School in 1990. The Joseph M. Liedel Memorial Fund has been established through the Monroe Charter Township Firefighters Association to assist other firefighters in need.

###

 

Sen. Zorn speaks at ‘Let Them Play’ rally at Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Friday talked about the importance of athletics during a rally of coaches, parents, student athletes and supporters to urge the governor and the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) to allow high school sports to be played this fall.

“We support our high school student athletes who want to compete and be the very best they can be both on and off the field,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “In football and other team sports, while athletes learn the game, they also learn how to win and lose with dignity. They also learn leadership and how to contribute and succeed as a team.

“The grand value of high school sports comes in later years when our sons and daughters enter the game of life, where sports have given them courage, ability and the drive to play to the last tick of the clock in a tough, tough world.”

The Let Them Play rally on the Capitol steps urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the MHSAA and MSHAA Executive Director Mark Uyl to allow state high schools to play sports this fall, including football.

“Being here today is all about giving our kids opportunities in high school and throughout their lives,” Zorn said. “Students who participate in sports have lower health risks and higher self-esteem. Sports also give our children the tools necessary to succeed in academics and develop important skills to advance their future achievements and happiness.”

###

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

Sen. Zorn votes to override governor’s whistleblower protection veto

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted to override Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto of legislation to ensure whistleblower protections for state employees.

“When trying to ensure we have efficient and effective government, it is vital to have access to reliable information,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Key to getting that reliable information about state government is the ability of any state employee to tell their elected representatives about problems or wasteful spending they see firsthand. Without these protections, state employees risk being fired simply for trying to improve their state. It’s wrong.

“It was disappointing that the governor chose to veto a bill allowing state employees to talk to their legislators and blow the whistle. Just as disappointing is that Senate Democrats voted against overriding the governor’s veto after all of them earlier voted for the bill.”

The Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act was created 40 years ago to protect employees from retribution if they report their employer to a public body for violation of a law, rule or regulation. It applies to all public and private employees except state classified civil service employees.

Senate Bill 686 would have amended the act to protect state employees who communicate with members of the Legislature.

The veto override failed because the Senate vote did not meet the two-thirds requirement.

###

Zorn bill would protect employers following COVID-19 safety guidelines

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to protect employers from liability as long as they are in compliance with a COVID-19 public health guideline or regulation regarding worker safety.

“As Michigan businesses continue to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should do all we can to incentivize employers to protect their workers and customers and also protect them from unreasonable and costly lawsuits,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This is a simple solution that encourages job providers to take the responsible steps to provide a safe workplace and still holds them accountable if they fail to do so.”

Under Senate Bill 1019, an employee would not be eligible for paid compensation if their injury was the result of their exposure to COVID-19 during the state of emergency as long as the employer was in compliance with a federal or state law, regulation, executive order, or public health guidance regarding exposure to COVID-19.

The legislation would cover the time from the onset of the declared state of emergency, March 11, until there is no longer a state of emergency.

“To be clear, this is not blanket immunity to all businesses during the COVID-19 health crisis,” Zorn said. “The protections in my bill would only cover businesses that follow official guidance to protect workers and customers. Those who fail to take the applicable steps would not be protected.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Economic and Small Business Development.

###

Zorn supports measures to resolve FY 2020 budget deficit

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday supported measures to resolve a $2.2 billion deficit in fiscal year 2020 and directing federal COVID-19 relief funds to education and vital services that were hit hardest by the virus.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious impact on family incomes, small businesses’ bottom lines, and our state budget,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I am proud to support this bipartisan solution to balance a historic deficit in the current budget year while also protecting critical support for local governments and schools.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved an executive order from the governor to reduce current-year spending. As part of a bipartisan agreement, most state agencies will see reductions, including the executive and legislative budgets.

Under the agreement, the state will save $936 million in fiscal year 2020 by reducing spending and other cost-saving measures. The budget plan also uses $350 million from the state’s rainy day fund to support funding for critical programs.

With passage of two supplemental budget bills, the state will have directed over $3 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to schools, communities, job creators, workers and families for costs resulting from the pandemic, including:
• $555 million for schools;
• $200 million for universities and community colleges; and
• $350 million for local governments.

“Education continues to be a top priority, and this plan will provide schools a $175 per student increase to ensure Michigan children can safely return to learn this fall,” Zorn said. “It also will give our teachers $500 in one-time hazard pay in recognition of their commitment to finding innovative ways to educate our kids during this global pandemic.

“Although the current-year deficit is resolved, we face a huge challenge with the 2021 budget. I am committed to working together to meet that challenge and protect vital funding for our schools, families and communities.”

Senate Bill 373 and House Bill 5265 will be sent to the governor to be signed after being finalized by the House.

###

Zorn’s electronic prescription bill becomes law

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Dale Zorn to require prescriptions for opioids to be transmitted from the doctor to the pharmacy electronically was signed into law by the governor on Wednesday.

Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, is the use of a technological system by prescribers to write and transmit a patient’s prescription to a participating pharmacy.

“This is a good law that will leverage e-prescribing to improve patient safety and efficient access to necessary medications,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Importantly, it will also help combat the opioid abuse epidemic that still plagues Monroe County by essentially eliminating so-called ‘doctor shopping.’”

Senate Bill 248, sponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly, which was also signed, requires the electronic prescribing of prescription drugs in Michigan by Oct. 1, 2021. If a prescriber cannot meet the electronic transmission requirements due to a technological limitation that is not reasonably within their control, they can apply for a waiver from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

Zorn’s bill, SB 254, applies to prescriptions for controlled substances containing opioids or benzodiazepines.

According to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the bills, at least 23 states require e-prescribing with certain exemptions.

###

Zorn mourns loss of Toledo officer, a former Monroe County resident

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Dale Zorn on Monday expressed sorrow and offered condolences to the family of Toledo Police Officer Anthony Dia, originally from Monroe County and a Bedford High School graduate, who died in the line of duty on Saturday.

“The senseless killing of Officer Dia is another sobering reminder of the great risk our law enforcement officers take each day to protect and serve our communities,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Cindy and I mourn the loss of this fine young man and are praying for God’s comfort and healing for his wife and children in their grief as they are left to move on without a husband and father.”

According to the Toledo Blade, Dia, who was 26, responded to a call concerning a drunken man at a Home Depot parking lot whereupon he was shot and killed. He leaves behind a wife of eight years and two sons who are eight and six.

Police said the suspect, a 57-year-old man, was later found dead by suicide.

###

Zorn applauds grant for downtown Adrian rental rehabilitation project

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Wednesday that the city of Adrian will be able to help transform two vacant historic buildings downtown into residential units thanks to a recently approved state grant.

“These funds will help Adrian continue its downtown revitalization efforts, which is great news for local families and the entire area,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Our downtown areas are the heartbeat of our communities, and I applaud the local leaders for working together with state officials and private developers to make this project a reality. By rehabilitating these historic buildings, we can help attract more economic activity and people to downtown Adrian.”

The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded Adrian $242,790 in Community Development Block Grant funds for a downtown rental rehabilitation project that includes renovating two vacant historic buildings into four new residential apartments, three of which will be reserved for low- to moderate-income households.

The project is expected to generate private investment of $219,053.

###