Trifecta! 3 Zorn bills taken up in three House committees

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn this week had three bills on three different topics taken up by three separate House committees.

The House Tax Policy Committee on Wednesday heard testimony on Senate Bill 727, which 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.

“As Michigan families continue to face sky-high inflation, we need to do what we can to help them reduce their energy costs by improving their homes’ heating efficiency,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “By continuing this effective program to improve home heating efficiency, 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.”

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.

The House Military, Veterans and Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday took up SB 530 to have Michigan join several other states, including Ohio, in creating a Purple Star program to support students of military families when they move to a new school. The bill would require the Michigan Department of Education to establish the Purple Star program in the state by 2023.

“Children in military families can often face huge learning challenges as they relocate to new schools and communities when their service mom or dad are assigned a new duty station,” Zorn said. “These challenges can range from graduation requirement differences to trouble connecting socially or emotionally at their new school. Creating a Purple Star program in Michigan would help meet these challenges and keep military children on track with their education.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, the House Transportation Committee approved Zorn’s legislation to exempt tow trucks and wreckers from seasonal road weight restrictions while servicing a disabled vehicle.

“Michigan is one of many states that have spring weight restrictions to help protect roadways during the annual thaw, but these restrictions should not come at the expense of driver safety,” Zorn said. “Disabled vehicles on the side of the highway present a danger to passing traffic and to the people in the vehicle. This bill will allow Michigan tow trucks and wreckers to safely and efficiently service disabled vehicles and help their passengers at all times.”

The Michigan Vehicle Code currently has seasonal road weight restrictions during the months of March, April and May. The restrictions include reduced maximum axle load, reduced wheel load and reduced speed limits. There are several vehicles exempt from the seasonal weight restrictions, including vehicles transporting agricultural goods, public utility vehicles, school buses, residential propane delivery vehicles, and milk trucks.

SB 640 would add tow trucks and wreckers to the existing list of vehicles exempted from the seasonal road weight restrictions. The exemption would only apply when the truck or wrecker is towing a disabled vehicle or traveling to or from servicing a disabled vehicle.

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Sen. Zorn, Rep. Bellino secure significant funding for Monroe

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn and Rep. Joe Bellino announced the Port of Monroe and the Arthur Lesow Community Center (ALCC) in Monroe will receive nearly $13 million in funding as part of the final state budget approved Friday by the Legislature.

“This funding will help support long-term economic growth and provide high-wage jobs for area workers — with the benefit of helping reduce costs for Michigan businesses and consumers with a more efficient port,” said Zorn. R-Onsted. “I was happy to work with Rep. Bellino and Port Director Paul LaMarre to lead the discussion in Lansing to secure this key funding to support critical improvements at the Port of Monroe and help them better compete with ports in other Great Lakes states.”

“The Port of Monroe is slated to receive $5 million for fiscal year 2023,” said Bellino, R-Monroe. “This funding is crucial to an area very significant to Michigan’s economy that is in great need of workers, improvements and enhancements.”

The Port of Monroe, Michigan’s only port on Lake Erie, serves as a major catalyst for Michigan’s multimodal trading industry. A 2017 report found that 59.2 million tons of goods were transported through Michigan’s waterways, valued at $3.23 billion. The economic activity produced by commercial ports amounted to just over $4 million, backing nearly 26,000 jobs and raising $763 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

“The state of Michigan’s investment of $5 million will pay dividends and allow the port to leverage significant federal investment while ensuring that our community is at the epicenter of Michigan’s intermodal transportation network,” said Paul C. LaMarre III, director of the Port of Monroe. “Rep. Bellino and Sen. Zorn have been unrelenting in their commitment to the port, from the dock to the deck plates. They have been our champions in the state Legislature for which we are eternally grateful.”

“It’s extraordinary for me to witness such significant enhancements to an area that my family has lived in since coming to America in 1895,” Bellino said. “The Port of Monroe plays a significant role in Michigan’s economy. This much-needed funding will help Monroe continue to hire skilled employees, while improving and enhancing the port for years to come.”

The Arthur Lesow Community Center is slated to receive $7.8 million in funding.

“The ALCC is a great place for our community to gather as one,” Bellino said. “It serves as a prime communal gathering spot that also provides many experiences and services. The improvements made here will greatly benefit families and future generations.”

“This enhancement of the Arthur Lesow Community Center is exactly the type of positive, long-term investment that we should be making to benefit Michigan families for years to come, instead of just increasing the size of government,” Zorn said.

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Zorn supports ‘historic’ FY23 state budget

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Friday voted to finalize a fiscal year 2023 state budget that increases record K-12 school funding and reserves resources to provide tax relief to Michigan families.

“We have finalized a responsible state budget that focuses on educating our children, supporting our economy, keeping our communities safe, and investing in our future — while paying down debt and saving money for much-needed tax relief for hardworking Michigan families,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “This budget will dramatically improve our roads and infrastructure and build on our historic commitment to K-12 education — increasing K-12 school funding by almost $2.6 billion and directing millions of dollars to student mental health and school safety.

“This is a historic budget that will make long-term investments that will benefit our families for generations and make our state an even better place to live, work and achieve the American dream.”

Senate Bill 845 is an education omnibus budget that features a nearly $2.6 billion increase in K-12 school funding and boosts the minimum foundation allowance to $9,150 per student. It also provides $295 million to address student mental health, $305 million in scholarship funding to help address teacher shortages, and $168 million in school safety grants.

SB 845 includes a 5% increase for university and community college operations, $300 million to pay down debt in the higher education retirement system, and $250 million in a fund for a new student scholarship program, details for which will be negotiated this summer.

House Bill 5783 is the general omnibus budget and includes:

  • $2.3 billion to help fix local roads and bridges.
  • $1.7 billion to fix state highway roadways and bridges.
  • $750 million to help local governments meet their pension obligations and free up more funds for critical local services.
  • $325 million for a new state psychiatric hospital complex.
  • $414.5 million to maintain wage increases for direct care workers.
  • $110 million for the Going Pro and Michigan Reconnect training programs.
  • $40 million for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.
  • $15 million for secondary road patrols.
  • Funding to train and hire 170 state police troopers and train 800 corrections officers.

“Locally, the budget includes $3 million for riverfront property development in Adrian that will benefit the community and attract more talent and opportunities,” Zorn said.

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Zorn applauds Sterling State Park improvement project

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday applauded the inclusion of a project at Sterling State Park in Monroe County in the first round of funding from a state infrastructure funding bill signed into law in March.

“Our state parks are valuable assets to Michigan — attracting tourists and providing families with outstanding opportunities to have fun outdoors,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “I was happy to have been involved in local discussions to secure the funding for Sterling State Park, which will be one of the first parks to receive support from the historic state park infrastructure funding we approved earlier this year to help make long-term improvements that will benefit Michigan families for generations.”

Senate Bill 565, now Public 53 of 2022, invests $4.7 billion in making critical improvements to the state’s infrastructure. The act includes over $1.7 billion to help communities improve their drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, nearly $317 million to fix aging roads and bridges, $200 million for local park improvements and $250 million to make infrastructure upgrades at state parks.

The Department of Natural Resources has announced that Sterling State Park’s Heritage Trail will get $425,000 to stabilize the riverbank in preparation for resurfacing the trail. This is the first phase of an improvement project that will leverage federal funding to improve the slowly eroding embankment between the river and marsh lagoon. An additional $3.57 million is proposed in later phases for further investments in erosion control.

The improvement was one of 11 “shovel-ready” state park projects identified by the DNR for the first round of funding. The other state park projects in the first phase are in Bay, Cheboygan, Delta, Iosco, Mackinac, Ontonagon, Saginaw, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.

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Sen. Zorn comments on U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Onsted, on Friday issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling regarding abortion:

“I strongly believe in protecting life, and I applaud this long-overdue decision. This is a great day for millions of Americans like me, who cherish all human life, including the unborn, and who value limited federal power over the states.

“The issue of abortion will now return to the states, and I am ready and willing to work with the governor and my legislative colleagues to find agreement on a moral, safe and responsible policy on this very personal issue — so that we celebrate all human life and support all Michigan families.”

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Sen. Zorn: Gov. Whitmer ‘failed miserably’ to reduce gas prices

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Onsted, on Wednesday issued the following statement after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to President Biden urging him to work with Congress to temporarily pause the federal gas tax more than two months after she vetoed House Bill 5570 that would have suspended Michigan’s 27.2 cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel from April 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2022:

“Gov. Whitmer failed miserably when she had a chance to reduce sky-high gas prices in Michigan. The Legislature passed a gas tax suspension bill back in March, and instead of helping provide important relief to Michigan drivers, the governor and Senate Democrats killed it.

“When it comes to providing tax relief, the governor says one thing and does another. She said she supports tax relief for families and seniors, but she has now twice vetoed efforts to cut income taxes for everyone in Michigan. Now, once again, she is asking Congress to suspend the federal gas tax despite having vetoed a bill to pause our state gas tax.

“All of this is happening while Michigan families are facing high inflation and gas prices, and the state is seeing a historic surplus estimated to be $5 billion more than projected in January.”

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Senate approves bills to support Michigan port infrastructure improvements

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday finalized a bipartisan legislative package designed to support improvements of Michigan’s ports and help them compete with ports in other Great Lakes states.

Two of the plan’s three bills — Sen. Dale Zorn’s bill and a House bill — were approved by the Senate at the end of May.

“Our ports are critical to our state’s economy and allowing them to service more ships would help reduce costs for Michigan businesses and consumers and provide more high-wage jobs for Michigan workers,” said Zorn. R-Onsted. “My bill allows our ports to use revenue bonds for projects that would enable them to handle more cargo, such as shipping containers. It is about standing up for Michigan jobs and making sure our ports, like the port of Monroe, have the ability to compete with other U.S. ports for cargo.”

In 2017, a report from Martin Associates in Pennsylvania found that 59.2 million tons of goods were moved through Michigan’s waterways, valued at $3.23 billion. The economic activity generated by commercial ports was $4.16 million, supporting 25,910 jobs and raising $763 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

Senate Bill 744, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, and approved by the Senate Wednesday, would create the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance grant program for port infrastructure projects. A grant awarded under the program may be used for public purposes, including direct port facility activity; overall maritime-related economic development or transportation opportunities in the port facility’s region; achieving or improving green marine certification; matching federal funding options; dredging waterways and harbors; repairing seawalls; transitioning to cleaner technology; or other projects related to port facilities as determined by the program office.

Zorn’s bill, SB 745, would allow port authorities to use revenue bonds for transportation-related improvements and further harness the efficiency of vessels on our Great Lakes.

House Bill 5291, sponsored by Rep. Jack O’Malley, R-Lake Ann, would create the Maritime and Port Facility Assistance Office to provide technical assistance, develop a statewide strategic maritime plan and administer the state-level port grant assistance program created in SB 744.

SB 744 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration with the other two bills.

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Sen. Zorn honored by Michigan optometrists

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn was recently honored with the 2021 Friend of Optometry Award by the Michigan Optometric Association during the organization’s annual Great Lakes Eyecare Conference in Detroit.

“It was an honor to be recognized for helping ensure Michigan families continue to receive the eye care they need and have access to affordable glasses and contacts,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “I look forward to continuing to work with our optometrists to help them provide their patients with excellent eye care for years to come.”

Michigan Optometric Association President James Hardie, OD bestowed the award to Zorn in tribute to his support of eye care professionals and patients during his tenure in the Legislature.

Zorn has sponsored legislation to exempt the sale or purchase of contact lenses from the sales and use taxes and supported the creation of the Eye Care Consumer Protection Law that defined what constitutes a prescription for glasses or contacts.

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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-Onsted, is presented the 2021 Friend of Optometry Award by Michigan Optometric Association President James Hardie, OD on the Detroit Princess riverboat during the organization’s annual Great Lakes Eyecare Conference in May. Zorn was recognized for his support of eye care professionals and patients during his tenure in the Legislature.

Sen. Zorn supports gas tax suspension package

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday voted to suspend the state’s excise, sales and use taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels for three months to provide relief to Michigan drivers.

“This plan would give important relief to Michigan families who are dealing with high inflation and gas prices that have skyrocketed to record levels — making it harder for many of them to make ends meet,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “While many Michigan residents are struggling with everyday costs, our state is seeing a historic surplus — that was recently estimated to be $5 billion more than projected four months ago. This is affordable, responsible and the right thing to do.”

The state of Michigan currently imposes a 27.2 cents per gallon excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, and the price of both fuels are subject to Michigan’s 6% sales and use taxes.

Senate Bill 1029 would suspend the state’s excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel from June 15 to Sept. 15. It would also provide $300 million for local governments to cover revenue lost during the gas tax pause.

SBs 972-974 would suspend the state’s 6% sales and use taxes on motor fuel for the same time period.

According to AAA, on May 19, the average price per gallon for regular gasoline in Michigan was $4.58 and the average diesel price was $5.27.

Both prices are the highest recorded average prices in state history.

Officials at the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference on May 20 revised state revenue projections up nearly $3 billion for the current fiscal year and up over $2 billion for next year. That is $5 billion more than the previous surplus estimate.

The bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration

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Senate passes Zorn bill to exempt tow trucks helping drivers from spring weight restrictions

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to exempt tow trucks and wreckers from seasonal road weight restrictions while servicing a disabled vehicle.

“Michigan is one of many states that have spring weight restrictions to help protect roadways during the annual thaw, but these restrictions should not come at the expense of driver safety,” said Zorn, R-Onsted. “Disabled vehicles on the side of the highway present a danger to passing traffic and to the people in the vehicle. This bill will allow Michigan tow trucks and wreckers to safely and efficiently service disabled vehicles and help their passengers at all times.”

The Michigan Vehicle Code currently has seasonal road weight restrictions during the months of March, April and May. The restrictions include reduced maximum axle load, reduced wheel load and reduced speed limits.

There are several vehicles exempt from the seasonal weight restrictions, including vehicles transporting agricultural goods, public utility vehicles, school buses, residential propane delivery vehicles, and milk trucks.

Senate Bill 640 would add tow trucks and wreckers to the existing list of vehicles exempted from the seasonal road weight restrictions. The exemption would only apply when the truck or wrecker is towing a disabled vehicle or traveling to or from servicing a disabled vehicle.

The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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