**PHOTO ADVISORY** Zorn welcomes National Guard members to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, on Thursday welcomed members of the Michigan National Guard to the state Capitol. The guests are part of Task Force Spartan to ensure Michigan health care agencies have the personnel to deliver the vaccine in their communities.

Pictured from left are Spc. Peter Churchill, Capt. Geoffery Miller, Zorn, Spc. Dustin Hoekwater, Pfc. Levi Collins, and Spc. Melissa Preston.

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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 supports balanced 2022 state budget plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn this week voted to support a Senate budget plan that provides critical services and increases support for important priorities like K-12 education and public safety.

“As conditions in Michigan slowly improve, this Senate budget plan is focused on doing what we can to support healthy families and communities while also building a stronger and healthier future for everyone in our state,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Along with protecting the health of our people and energizing our economy, supporting our students is one of the most important investments we can make — and in this budget plan we’re continuing to direct record levels of support for our schools to teach our children.

“We are also putting a priority on fixing local roads, getting people back to work, supporting our direct care workers, and keeping our communities safe.”

Senate Bill 83 would invest $15.8 billion in K-12 education, an increase of $249 million. The bill would increase the minimum foundation allowance by $250 to $8,361 per pupil, dedicate an additional $20 million to assist students dealing with mental health challenges and boost preschool funding by $32 million to help reduce class sizes. It also dedicates $1.7 billion to help cover the costs of school employee retirement.

The 17-bill budget plan includes $72 million for competitive and need-based scholarships for higher education students, $40 million in the Going Pro program to provide grants to support employee training, $30 million for the Michigan Reconnect program to provide tuition-free community college and training, $77 million to provide child care for more families, and $161 million for wage increases for direct care workers and front-line workers at child care institutions.

The bills prioritize more revenue sharing funding for local governments, more resources for state road and bridge construction, $2.2 billion for local transportation infrastructure projects, a 50% boost for grants to help struggling veterans with expenses, and a new program to incentivize local governments to reduce their long-term debts.

SBs 77 and 79-94 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration

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Zorn urges public comment on making MIOSHA rules permanent

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday said that Michigan residents can submit comments through a new Senate website on the governor’s plan to make the state’s current COVID-19 emergency workplace rules permanent.

“I was disappointed, but not surprised, that the governor was working to make the COVID-19 workplace restrictions permanent at the same time she was telling the people about her plan to lift the restrictions as vaccination rates improved,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “When she announced her plan, I said that although Michigan families can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is nothing to stop the governor from changing direction on the benchmarks. While the benchmarks remain, the train we didn’t see coming was making the restrictions permanent.

“Thankfully, the Michigan people get a chance to have their say in this process, and we have created a new website to allow them to submit their thoughts.”

After the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in October 2020 that Gov. Whitmer did not have the authority to continue issuing executive orders by declaring a state of emergency, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration used its ability to put in place COVID-19 emergency workplace safety rules.

MIOSHA’s second six-month extension of the rules expires on Oct. 14, so the agency has announced it is taking steps to make them permanent. As part of the rule-making process, any department rule changes are subject to a public comment period and a public hearing. The MIOSHA rules are scheduled for a virtual hearing on May 26 at 9 a.m.

Comments on the proposed rules can be made during the public hearing or can be submitted in advance by mail or email until May 26 at 5 p.m.

A Senate website has been launched where residents can provide input on the proposed rules. The information provided will be sent directly to the department as a public comment. To submit a comment, visit www.MISenateGOP.com/WhitmerEmergency.

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Zorn reintroduces railroad crossing safety reform

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has reintroduced legislation aimed at enhancing safety and traffic flow at rail crossings in Michigan.

“With railroads improving efficiency, more Michigan businesses and manufacturers are using them to transport products and materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Although increased train usage can help reduce the wear and tear on our roads, it also can mean more frequent times of trains crossing roadways and longer periods of trains blocking roads — affecting access to local businesses and increasing both emergency response times and the chances for vehicles colliding with a train.

“The goal of these measures is to help local governments and the railroad industry work together to solve these long-standing safety and economic issues.”

Senate Bill 425 would create a new Local Grade Separation Grant Program to provide state matching funds for local governments and the rail industry interested in taking on 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.

SB 426 would establish a scoring system for determining which rail projects to fund, and SB 427 would create the Local Grade Separation Fund within the Department of Treasury to reserve funds for these projects.

According to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics, Michigan ranked 15th worst in the nation in 2020 for the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“Even before the pandemic, many local agencies could not afford to make these railroad crossing improvements,” Zorn said. “This new program would help them improve driver safety by eliminating the chance of a deadly train-vehicle collision at the new separated crossings.”

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Zorn comments on Whitmer’s long-overdue reopening plan

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, issued the following statement after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined a plan to phase out the state’s COVID-19 restrictions as the state meets certain vaccination rates for people age 16 and older:

“Better late than never. Since mid-April of last year, we have been calling on the governor to give the Michigan people clear guidance about when she would lift her restrictions and allow the state to safely reopen.

“While I am glad the governor has finally come forward with a set of long-overdue benchmarks for fully reopening our state, I am frustrated it took this long and that she continues to act without working with the Legislature on this critical issue.

“Although Michigan families can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is nothing to stop the governor from changing direction on the benchmarks.

“It also leaves open some important questions, like what will happen if Michigan doesn’t meet her vaccination percentage goals, and what was the science used in determining the percentage numbers?”

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Zorn’s rental property and local government bills soon heading to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s measures to increase flexibility for transferring rental property and serving on local boards.

Senate Bill 16 would allow rental property owners more flexibility when transferring property between entities. It is a reintroduction of a bill passed by the Legislature last year only to be pocket vetoed by the governor.

“I was disappointed the governor didn’t sign this reform last year, but I’m confident that this time she will help us end this form of double dipping,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Michigan rental properties are currently subject to unnecessary and costly reinspections if they are transferred from one type of entity to another — even if the owners of both entities are the same people. This fixes that for these limited types of transfers.”

SB 17 would help more local communities fill first responder and public safety positions. A public servant of a Michigan township, city, village or county with a population of 25,000 or more cannot serve that community as an EMT, firefighter, police officer or public safety officer. SB 17 would expand the population limit to 40,000.

“Even before the pandemic, some of our communities were struggling to find enough first responders and police officers to protect their residents,” Zorn said. “This simple reform would give more communities much-needed flexibility in providing public safety by allowing more local elected officials — who have the necessary training — to also serve in lifesaving roles.”

Both bills have been returned to the Senate, which is expected to send them to the governor on Thursday.

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Zorn calls on Biden to send Michigan more vaccine, glad Whitmer is not imposing new restrictions

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn, R-Ida, issued the following statement after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged a two-week pause for youth sports, in-person learning at schools and indoor dining at restaurants and urged the federal government to send more doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to Michigan and other states where cases are dramatically increasing:

“President Biden needs to step up and send Michigan more doses of the life-saving vaccines. Even with the restrictions and safety mandates still in place, Michigan has been seeing alarming COVID-19 numbers for weeks and is currently leading the nation in new cases per capita. The president should have already recognized Michigan’s COVID-19 needs and stepped up to help remedy the crisis.

“I’m glad to see that the governor is finally agreeing with the Legislature that the Michigan people are the best ones to decide what is best for them — this time encouraging families to choose to pause activities to help fight this virus surge instead of ordering another statewide shutdown or imposing new restrictions.

“I join the governor’s call for everyone to reduce their risk of exposure and to consider if getting one of the vaccines is best for their health.”

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Zorn applauds grant for Uckele $6.7M investment in Adrian

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Thursday applauded the announcement of a state grant for a development project in Adrian that will create 102 jobs and a $6.7 million investment.

“This is great news for the Adrian community and everyone in the area,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This grant will bring much needed jobs and investment to Lenawee County and will be a real shot in the arm for Michigan families and workers. I applaud Uckele for its commitment to our region and everyone who helped make this project a reality.”

Uckele Health & Nutrition was established in 1962 in Blissfield Township and manufactures its own line of human and animal dietary supplements. The company currently has 171 employees in Michigan and a smaller facility in Toledo.

Uckele is planning three large projects in the high-tech pharmaceutical supplement arena and plans to purchase two facilities in Adrian that will allow it to duplicate its current lines of production and invest in new equipment.

As a result of the investment and job creation, the Michigan Strategic Fund awarded Uckele a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen for the expansion over the company’s facility in Toledo.

Uckele supports personal growth of its employees by fostering an environment of continuous learning and improvement and offers external and internal trainings, seminars and courses. The company also promotes from within by providing pathways to higher-paying jobs. Lenawee Now has offered staff time and resources in support of the project.

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Zorn appointed to Midwest passenger rail commission

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has been appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey to serve as the as the Senate’s alternate designee to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC).

“Railroads are becoming increasingly popular as businesses look for more efficient ways to transport products and materials and tourists and commuters look for alternatives to driving or flying,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I am happy to serve on this bipartisan commission to work with our neighboring states and the federal government to improve our passenger rail system. My goal is to work with both the public and private sectors to help provide families with cleaner, safer, more affordable and more efficient rail service.”

The MIPRC brings together state leaders from across the region on a bipartisan basis to advocate for passenger rail improvements. The commission meets at least once a year. Its 2020 meeting was held virtually, but the MIPRC plans to hold its 2021 annual meeting in-person in Detroit in October.

Formed by compact agreement in 2000, MIPRC’s current member states are Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The main purposes of the compact are to promote current improvements and long-range plans for intercity passenger rail service in the Midwest, coordinate interaction among state officials and between the public and private sector at all levels, and support state efforts in developing and implementing a 21st century passenger rail system.

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Zorn sponsors bills in Senate election reform package

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday introduced a pair of election reform measures as part of a comprehensive package to ensure election access and integrity in Michigan.

“Protecting the integrity of our elections is critical to the future of our system of government,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “These reforms are focused on improving our elections so that everyone has the right to have their voice heard and the people have confidence that the election was fair and accurate. I am pleased to be a part of this comprehensive effort to preserving our democracy, and I look forward to working together to enact smart and effective solutions that will make it easier to vote, improve the security of our ballots and restore the public’s trust.”

Senate Bills 273-311 cover a wide variety of issues dealing with processes before, during and after an election, such as restricting the unsolicited mass mailing of absentee ballot applications, requiring signature verification, establishing a chain of custody for absentee ballots, ensuring audits are bipartisan and open to the public, improving the management of the state’s Qualified Voter File, and making it easier for active duty military members to securely vote while overseas.

Zorn sponsored two bills. SB 299 would allow clerks to submit official results by noon the day after the election, and SB 305 would ban the name or likeness of the secretary of state, county clerk or local clerk from appearing on materials promoting election activities.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Elections Committee for consideration.

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