Kinross incident highlights need for corrections reforms

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Last month, inmates at the Kinross Correctional Facility formed a protest that led to the destruction of property and a heightened level of security at the prison. What has been portrayed as a peaceful event to memorialize another prison riot that occurred at the Attica State Prison in New York in 1971, was anything but that.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Kinross and tour the facility with the warden and members of the corrections officers union. From small fires that were started, to broken sinks and windows, to destroyed housing units, what happened at Kinross was significant, and enough for officers to go on heightened alert. A level one and two facility, Kinross does not have a traditional prison cell structure that the general public may associate with, and thus there was not a way to go on “lockdown.” To secure the site, corrections officers formed a perimeter around the facility. The chaos that ensued led to more than a dozen officers inside the prison being cut off from their colleagues on the outside. Emergency response teams were brought on site to help restore order.

Make no mistake — we are lucky that there were no injuries or worse. Thanks to a highly trained and well prepared team of corrections officers and staff, the incident was relatively contained and the main perpetrators removed.

Some of the conditions that are said to have led to the disturbance add to the call for reforming our criminal justice system. I think it would be wise, when considering reforms, to revisit the food service situation in our state prisons. I am led to believe this was a major instigating factor in the Kinross event. Not only should inmates be provided a decent meal, the workers preparing and serving food should be properly trained for such an environment.

This is a reform that should be considered to improve Michigan’s criminal justice system in addition to bipartisan bills already passed by the Senate in June. Reforms included in the approved package are ways to better track and evaluate recidivism data, expedite medical commutation hearings, encourage partnerships with outside volunteers beneficial to prisoners, expand the use of a consent calendar for juveniles, and provide a tax credit for employing a probationer or parolee.

Criminal justice reforms should center on the principles of efficiency, effectiveness, and rehabilitation in order to break the cycle of crime that pervades society and to better support our corrections professionals on the inside.

What happened at Kinross was unfortunate, and thanks to the dedicated, well-trained corrections officers, Warden Duncan MacLaren and the entire staff, it was contained. With smart reforms, we can help mitigate future incidences.

 Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.

More than 2,000 participate in Schmidt tele-townhall

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — Nearly 2,500 eastern Upper Peninsula residents participated in a tele-townhall with Sen. Wayne Schmidt last week to discuss energy issues affecting the region.

A tele-townhall meeting is a telephone conference call in which residents can speak to and ask questions. Schmidt was joined by Valerie Brader, the executive director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, to discuss long-term, reliable, clean and affordable energy solutions for 37th Senate District residents.

“The tele-townhall was another success,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “These conversations are a great way for me to connect with residents and discuss important issues. I am grateful that we were able to be joined this time by Michigan Agency for Energy Executive Director Valerie Brader to talk about U.P. energy issues. I enjoyed receiving questions and feedback from participants about this ongoing issue, which will prove valuable as we continue debating this important topic.”

Schmidt and Brader fielded numerous questions on energy, covering topics from alternative sources of energy, billing issues, and the relationship between state and federal government on energy policy.

“I am a strong believer that listening to the hardworking people that I represent is essential to being an effective legislator,” said Schmidt. “I sincerely thank all who were able to participate in my latest tele-townhall and I welcome those who were not to contact my office with their questions or ideas.”

The senator said he plans to hold additional tele-townhalls in the future, and encouraged residents to contact his office in the meantime with any questions or concerns related to state government. His office can be reached via phone toll free at 855-347-8037, or email SenWSchmidt@senate.michigan.gov.

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Sen. Schmidt announces updated Newberry coffee hour

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Wayne Schmidt announced on Wednesday that a coffee hour scheduled to be held in Newberry on Thursday, October 27 will be held an hour later than previously announced. All other dates, times and locations for his October coffee hours remain unchanged.

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 revised Newberry coffee hour is as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 27
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Timber Charlie’s
110 Newberry Ave.
Newberry

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Sen. Schmidt announces October coffee hours

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Wayne Schmidt will hold coffee hours with constituents throughout the 37th Senate District this month.

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 October coffee hours are as follows:

Tuesday, Oct. 25

9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

Shirley’s Café

528 S. Williams St.

Mancelona

1 – 2 p.m.

Grand Traverse Pie Co.

525 W. Front St.

Traverse City

Wednesday, Oct. 26

2 – 3 p.m.

Dancing Crane Coffee House

12072 W. Lakeshore Drive

Brimley

4:30 – 5:30 p.m.

Bentley’s B-N-L Café

62 N. State St.

St. Ignace

Thursday, Oct. 27

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Timber Charlie’s

110 Newberry Ave.

Newberry

Friday, Oct. 28

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

State Street Coffee

211 W. State St.

Cheboygan

1 – 2 p.m.

North Perk Coffee

410 E. Lake St.

Petoskey

3 – 4 p.m.

Johan’s Café & Bakery

327 Bridge St.

Charlevoix

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Schmidt: Senate approves brownfield redevelopment reforms

Senator Wayne Schmidt

Senator Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — Bipartisan legislation that would streamline existing laws governing the state’s brownfield redevelopment program was approved unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bills 908-913 are the result of a nine-month-long workgroup in which lawmakers, officials from state government and members of the business community met to formulate ways to bring consistency and efficiency to the program while ensuring environmental protection and encouraging economic growth.

“This is common sense legislation that would help property owners and developers more quickly complete brownfield redevelopment sites,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, sponsor of SB 908. “It would also help attract more and better jobs to Michigan communities.”

The bills would aid redevelopment projects by more clearly identifying exactly what activities are eligible in what situation. Certain activities are considered eligible depending on where a property is located or based on who owns the property. For example, cleaning up an underground storage tank is considered an environmental activity but not currently eligible for approval by the Department of Environmental Quality. These inconsistencies are confusing and delay projects, Schmidt said.

Importantly, the bills would not result in increased taxation, a decrease in government funding to our schools, or increased local government expenditures.

“These are good reforms that will make a successful program even better,” Schmidt said.

SBs 908-13 advance to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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Schmidt receives Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Legislator of the Year Award

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Wayne Schmidt was honored as Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association on Sunday during its Fall Professional Development Conference.

Schmidt was recognized in part for his leadership on legislation recently signed into law that guarantees health care benefits for the surviving spouses and children of law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty.

“I have a great deal of respect and admiration for our law enforcement professionals, and to receive this award from the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association is an incredible honor,” said Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Officers are out on the front lines to serve and protect our communities every day and I am committed to working in my capacity as state senator to do what I can to support their mission to keep us all safe.”

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Photo caption: State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, (left) is presented the 2016 Michigan Sheriffs’ Association Legislator of the Year Award by association CEO and Executive Director Terrence Jungel on Sunday, Oct. 16.

A legislative update from Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

New fiscal year begins

Michigan’s new fiscal year began at the beginning of the month. Once again approved ahead of schedule, it reflects our continued pursuit of approving a balanced budget that keeps state spending in line while paying down our outstanding debts. It was not long ago when this process dragged on for months and months — even causing the state to shut down a couple of times because the spending plan was not completed in time. Thankfully those days are over. Today, we have good long-term planning that, in addition to cutting down on debt, also makes strategic investments in education, infrastructure, and public safety, among other priorities, which contribute to our state’s growth.

Providing health care benefits to families of fallen officers

Public safety officials put their lives on the line for us each day. Every time they punch the clock on a new shift, they knowingly risk all they love and have, willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for us and their families. Until recently, if tragedy struck and one of our public safety officials died in the line of duty, their spouses and children were left without health care coverage. This was a true injustice. If a public safety official dies while in service to the people of our state, we owe it to them to take care of their families. That is why I introduced Senate Bill 618 last year — to make sure those families have health care.

Now Public Act 284 of 2016, the new law provides medical benefits to surviving family members of law enforcement officers, corrections officers, firefighters, rescue squad members, or ambulance crew members who die in the line of duty. The law expands existing benefits to include 60 months of health care in addition to an existing one-time payment of $25,000. The law is retroactive to Oct. 1, 2015.

It is important that we give back to those families for their sacrifices, and providing health care coverage to the spouses and children of officers who die in the line of duty is one way we can.

Brownfield Redevelopment reforms

I’m happy to be a sponsor of a bipartisan package of bills that seek to streamline existing laws that govern the state’s Brownfield Redevelopment program. The bills are the result of a nine-month long workgroup in which lawmakers, officials from state government and members of the business community met to formulate ways to bring consistency and efficiency to the program while ensuring environmental protection and encouraging economic growth.

My bill would help property owners and developers more quickly complete brownfield redevelopment sites and bring more and better jobs to Michigan communities. It would aid redevelopment by more clearly identifying exactly what activities are eligible in what situation. Certain activities are considered eligible depending on where the property is located or based on who owns it. For example, cleaning up an underground storage tank is considered an environmental activity but not currently eligible for approval by the Department of Environmental Quality. These inconsistencies are confusing and delay projects.

Importantly, the bills will not result in increased taxation, a decrease in government funding to our schools, or increased local government expenditures.

These are good reforms that will make a successful program even better, and I look forward to their approval.

Improving absentee voting in Michigan

It’s election season, and voting is one of our most important civic responsibilities. It determines legislative positions, judgeships, county and local commissioner and trustee positions, school board representation, local millages, ballot initiatives and more.

Given the importance of voting and the impact the results have in our daily lives, voter turnout remains very low. I believe that Michigan should update its voting laws to allow any registered voter to cast an absentee ballot. Absentee voting should simply be another option provided to voters in addition to the traditional way of travelling to a precinct to vote in person.

Doing so will enable voters to get their ballots well in advance, affording them time to familiarize themselves with the ballot and educate themselves on candidates and important issues. That is why I have introduced Senate Bill 1114 to allow no-reason absentee voting. Michigan has already done a lot of work to improve the elections process in the state, and expanded opportunities for secure absentee voting is a logical next step.

Here to serve you

My staff and I are here to serve you, and we are happy to assist your needs. If you need to contact me, please call 855-347-7536 or send an email to SenWSchmidt@senate.michigan.gov. My website, www.SenatorWayneSchmidt.com, is also a good resource for information.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.