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 $424 million to a record of $15.3 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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.


Zorn applauds grant for Adrian-Tecumseh SmartZone

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Tuesday that the Adrian-Tecumseh SmartZone is one of 45 sites to be awarded a grant through the new competitive Michigan Build Ready Sites Program.

Grants from the targeted program are aimed at increasing the number of business-ready properties in the state.

“This program is designed to help local communities in our state compete for new business investment and jobs,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “I applaud the Adrian-Tecumseh SmartZone board and all its community partners for working together to earn this grant to help boost the area’s efforts to bring more entrepreneurship and opportunities to Lenawee County.”

The Adrian-Tecumseh SmartZone will receive an $80,000 grant for a site feasibility study, talent profile, marketing materials and a website.

A key component of the Michigan Build Ready Sites Program is the establishment of vetted site standards, a voluntary resource that provides a critical roadmap to helping Michigan sites achieve “shovel ready” status. These standards include appropriate planning and zoning, boundary survey, and proper soil and environmental conditions.

Local and regional economic development or community partners had until June 1 to submit applications that demonstrated a plan and pathway to a vetted site.

Grant funds under the program could be used for activities including site development studies or site material development, site implementation or land assembly activities, and more.


Zorn names new chief of staff

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn announced on Thursday the appointment of Joe Martin to serve as his new chief of staff.

“I am delighted to announce Joe Martin as my new chief of staff,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As a native of our district, he has a connection to and genuine understanding of our communities, and his prior legislative experience will serve us well as we tackle the challenging issues affecting our region and state.”

Martin, of Holt, is a native of Bedford Township and graduated from Temperance Bedford High School in 2009. He has worked in numerous legislative roles including previously serving as chief of staff to Sen. Jim Runestad; chief of staff to former Sen. Jack Brandenburg; legislative director to then-Rep. Runestad; and constituent relations aide to former House Speaker Jase Bolger.

“I am excited to get started. I am even more excited to get to work making a difference for the people of my hometown and all of Monroe and Lenawee counties,” Martin said. “Being able to work for someone like Senator Zorn is truly an honor.”

Martin holds a juris doctor degree from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School and a bachelor’s degree in political science and business administration from Alma College.

“I’ve known Joe and his family for quite some time now,” Zorn said. “Having him in my office with his knowledge of the district and the legislative process will be a real benefit to the residents of the 17th Senate District.”


Sen. Zorn to honor Vietnam era veterans at Monroe County Fair on Friday

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Dale Zorn has announced that he will be presenting Vietnam War era veterans with a commemorative lapel pin at the Monroe County Fair on Friday, Aug. 2.

“I am grateful to our Vietnam veterans for their service to our nation, and I wish all veterans that served during that turbulent time in history can receive the pin in recognition of their service and sacrifice,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “In commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the Vietnam War, I have hosted several moving events to give long-overdue recognition to Vietnam veterans and their families. This week’s presentation is in response to the numerous requests for the commemorative pin we have received during the fair.”

The tribute will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Monroe County Republican tent at the fair on Milan Avenue.

Vietnam War Commemorative Lapel Pins will be provided to any U.S. veteran who served on active duty at any time from Nov. 1, 1955 – May 15, 1975, regardless of whether they served in-country, in-theater or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period.

The ceremony is made possible by the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration.

“Across the nation, Americans continue uniting to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice,” Zorn said. “Through the end of last year, over 6.4 million Vietnam veterans and nine million families have been recognized during more than 15,000 ceremonies.”


Zorn announces July coffee hours in Monroe and Adrian

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Dale Zorn has announced that he will conduct district coffee hours this month in Monroe on July 26 and in Adrian on July 29.

Coffee hours are open to residents to express their opinions or concerns about state government or to request assistance with a state issue. No appointment is necessary.

“I am holding these local coffee hours in order to help provide residents a convenient opportunity to meet with me in person,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “My aim is to provide the best service possible for the hardworking people of the 17th District, and I will continue holding meetings throughout the district and hearing directly from constituents in one-on-one discussions.”

The Monroe coffee hour will be held on Friday, July 26 from 9 to 10 a.m. at Agua Dulce Coffee & Tea, 114 W. Front St., in Monroe.

The Adrian coffee hour will be held on Monday, July 29 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Adrian District Library, near the cafe, 143 E. Maumee St., in Adrian.

Residents who are unable to attend the coffee hours may contact Zorn’s office at (517) 373-3543 or via e-mail at SenDZorn@senate.michigan.gov.