Senate panel approves Schmidt bill to provide health coverage to families of fallen safety officers

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to guarantee health care benefits for the surviving spouse and dependents of officers who die in the line of duty, said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, the bill sponsor.

“Public safety officers volunteer to put their lives on the line in service of others, and part of that risk is knowing they may one day not come home,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “The debt we owe to those fallen officers cannot be fully repaid, but we can do something to support their families. Providing health care coverage to the spouses and children of officers who die in the line of duty is a small token of our appreciation that will hopefully go a long way in helping them deal with a terrible situation.”

Under Senate Bill 218, the spouses and dependents of law enforcement officers, firefighters, rescue squad members, or ambulance crew members who lose their lives as a result of their duties on the job would be provided health care coverage comparable to those of retired state police officers.

“It’s a very small cost to the state to help families who have paid so dearly,” said Terry Jungel, Executive Director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. “I am pleased to see Senate Bill 218 progress and I appreciate the committee’s unanimous support.”

The state Department of Technology, Management, and Budget’s Office of Retirement Services would be responsible for determining and administering the health plans.

SB 218 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

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Sen. Wayne Schmidt applauds Charlevoix company on receiving development grant

LANSING, Mich. – State Sen. Wayne Schmidt congratulated the Charlevoix County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority for recently being awarded more than $4 million from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) for a project at St. Marys Cement, Inc.

The project will clear away old and unused structures and equipment on property owned by the company, as St. Marys Cement makes preparations to either modernize and expand its business or relocate to Illinois.

“With this grant, St. Marys Cement will be able to expand and grow here, in Michigan, rather than relocate elsewhere,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “This is great news for the company’s employees, the Charlevoix community and the economy.”

According to the company, which was founded in 1912 in St. Marys, Ontario, St. Marys Cement is a major producer of cement materials in the Great Lakes Region. Its six plants have a production capacity of more than five million metric tons and are strategically located to serve its U.S. and Canadian customers.

For more information on the MSF, visit michiganbusiness.org.

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Sen. Schmidt, Shannon Kochis, Mary Jo Pomeroy testify in support of Billy’s Law

LANSING, Mich. – State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, Shannon Kochis, and Mary Jo Pomeroy testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday in support of Senate Bill 153, also known as Billy’s Law.

The bill, sponsored by Schmidt, would help close a legal loophole that prevents law enforcement from administering drug tests or from obtaining drug test results conducted on at-fault motorists in traffic accidents that lead to serious injury or death. It would change existing law to imply consent for at-fault drivers to allow a blood or urine test be given, and it would also make urine test results subject to a search warrant in addition to blood tests.

“We’re just trying to honor John and Billy and make something good come out of our grief and frustration,” said Shannon Kochis. “Because of this loophole in the system, justice was not served. This is about ensuring that other families don’t experience the same injustice that we have.”

The women, both of Traverse City, are widows of Billy Kochis and John Pomeroy, who lost their lives in a 2013 traffic accident on U.S. 131 near Grand Rapids. The driver of the vehicle that struck the vehicle of Kochis and Pomeroy was suspected of driving under the influence, but because police officers were unable to perform a blood test without the driver’s consent and because a county magistrate failed to issue a search warrant, no blood test was conducted. However, a urinalysis performed later at a hospital indicated cocaine and opiates were in the driver’s system, but that information was impermissible in legal proceedings.

Absent that crucial information, prosecutors were unable to tie the drugs to the deadly accident. The accused was later sentenced after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges, and is scheduled to be released from jail after serving only nine months.

“This is a tragic case where the system failed and law enforcement were unable to fully do their jobs because of a legal loophole,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Not only did the family not get the justice they deserved, but a probable drug abuser will be allowed back on the streets with little more than a slap on the wrist, potentially putting more people at risk. Billy’s Law exists to help families get closure, in as much as that is possible, while getting drug abusers who are guilty of badly injuring or killing others out from behind the wheel and behind bars.”

Schmidt said he is hopeful SB 153 will be approved by the Judiciary Committee soon.

For more information on Billy’s Law, visit facebook.com/billykochislaw.

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Photo Advisory: Sen. Schmidt welcomes Bonnie Alfonso to Capitol


LANSING, Mich. – Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, welcomed Bonnie Alfonso, president and CEO of Alfie Logo Gear and chairwoman of the board of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), to Wednesday’s committee hearing. Alfonso, who is from Traverse City, was on hand as SBAM staff testified before the committee on Michigan’s economic climate, entrepreneurialism and workforce development.

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Sen. Schmidt comments on Gov. Snyder’s energy message

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, issued the following statement Friday after Gov. Rick Snyder delivered his special message to the Legislature on energy, which included a new announcement to end costly payments for Upper Peninsula electric customers:

“I appreciate the efforts of Governor Snyder and his administration, and those of WE Energies and Cliffs, to reach a solution that will continue to provide reliable and affordable energy for Upper Peninsula residents. While this is a ‘win’ for ratepayers in the short term, we still need a long-term solution for the U.P. I agree with the governor that Michigan—not Washington, D.C—needs to solve Michigan’s energy problems.

“Improving access to modern, affordable and reliable sources of energy is essential to the Upper Peninsula’s future—for its hardworking families, businesses and anyone who loves this beautiful part of our state. If we want it done right, we need to do it ourselves, and I look forward to working with Senator Tom Casperson and my legislative colleagues on finding a Michigan-based energy solution.”

Schmidt represents the 37th Senate District, which includes the counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac. For more information, visit senatorwayneschmidt.com.

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Schmidt votes for Natural Resources Trust Fund projects in Cheboygan, Chippewa, Grand Traverse counties

LANSING, Mich.―The state Senate on Thursday approved legislation allocating $24.7 million from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (NRTF) to natural resources improvement projects across the state.

“The Natural Resources Trust Fund helps make Pure Michigan an even better place to live, work and play,” said state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “These strategic investments in northern Michigan’s parks and recreational areas will not only help improve these attractions and preserve and protect natural habitats, but also make our part of the state more inviting to job providers, talented workers, and tourists alike.”

Sen. Schmidt said three projects in Cheboygan, Chippewa, and Grand Traverse counties were among those receiving funds. The three projects benefitting from the NRTF grants are:

• $530,000 for 50 acres of land in Chippewa County adjacent to the Lake Superior Dune Swale Complex, including about 1,000 feet of shoreline. The parcel provides habitat for the federally protected Piping Plover, moose, black bear, bobcat, white-tailed deer, furbearing species, and waterfowl, and provides several public outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and snowmobiling.
• $393,700, which includes $104,200 in matching funds, to upgrade and enhance a critical trailhead on the North Central State Trail located at Lumberman Park and Trailhead in the village of Wolverine in Cheboygan County. The long-overdue project includes a modern toilet and shower building, dump station, trail connections and signs, accessible fishing pier, and a looped walking trail with a pedestrian bridge over the Sturgeon River.
• $100,000, which includes $50,000 in matching funds, to improve Grace Macdonald Park in Grand Traverse County’s East Bay Township. The project will provide several accessibility enhancements, including a new accessible restroom facility, accessible parking spaces with storm water runoff improvements added to the existing gravel parking area, and a new six-foot concrete sidewalk to connect the new restroom facility to the parking area.

House Bill 4078 authorizes the trust fund to spend $24.7 million to support 25 acquisition projects and 44 development projects throughout the state. Matching funds of $9.8 million bring the total investment to more than $34.5 million.

The NRTF is supported by interest earned on funds generated from the development of state-owned mineral rights, and uses the constitutionally restricted funds to provide financial assistance to local governments and the state Department of Natural Resources to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation.

HB 4078 now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

For more information on the NRTF, visit michigan.gov/dnr-grants.

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Sen. Schmidt announces March ‘coffee hours’

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. – State Sen. Wayne Schmidt announced he will be holding several “coffee hours” throughout the 37th District this month.

“I look forward to meeting with northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula residents to hear their comments, concerns and ideas about state government,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

The senator will be available to answer questions and provide information and assistance, as well as take suggestions on issues affecting communities and businesses in the district. No appointment is necessary.

For more information or to contact Schmidt, please visit SenatorWayneSchmidt.com or call 517-373-2413.

Sen. Schmidt’s March coffee hours are as follows:

March 9
4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Grand Traverse Pie Co.
316 E. Mitchell St.
Petoskey, MI

March 13
11 a.m. to Noon
Cup of the Day
406 Ashmun St.
Sault Ste. Marie, MI

March 16
5 to 6 p.m.
Grand Traverse Pie Co.
101 N. Park St.
Traverse City, MI

March 27
3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
State Street Coffee
211 W. State St.
Cheboygan, MI

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