Senate bill would offer better rural health care

LANSING, Mich. — New legislation to define the scope of practice for specially trained nurses has moved forward after careful consideration was given to the experience and input of both nurses and physicians. The bill recently passed out of the Senate Health Policy Committee.

Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey, would allow “advanced practice registered nurses” (APRNs) to continue to play an important role in the state’s health care system by giving them greater ability to provide the best type of patient care, particularly in rural areas where patients often have limited options when choosing providers.

“We are pleased the bill has moved forward out of committee and anticipate enthusiastic support as it comes to the floor, knowing this piece of legislation was crafted with both patient safety and optimum access to care in mind,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Allowing qualified APRNs to practice to the full extent of their training will increase the level of care that patients receive.”

SB 68 would ensure patient safety by requiring APRNs to participate collaboratively with health care professionals in a Patient Care Team. The Patient Care Team would provide the structure for an APRN to engage in meaningful consultation with other health care providers.

The bill is also intended to improve access to care, especially for people in rural areas. Current language in the bill would let APRNs continue to provide lawful access to care in coordination with the Patient Care Team.

The legislation would create a way of incentivizing APRNs to serve in regions with unusually low access to health care, typically rural areas, by allocating part of the APRN licensing fee to the Nurse Fund. The Nurse Fund would be tasked with encouraging nurses to work in Health Resource Shortage Areas when needed.

The changes were established with input and suggestions from nurses, physicians, and other interested stakeholders.

SB 68 has been sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

Detroit News op-ed column: RFRA provides no license to discriminate

The following guest column was printed by the Detroit News on April 7, 2015. The piece can also be read online at detroitnews.com/story/opinion/2015/04/07/shirkey-rfra-needed-michigan/25372243.

                                                                                                                                        Shirkey: RFRA provides no license to discriminate

There has been much debate recently over Senate Bill 4, also known as the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Rarely have so many misconceptions been spread across television and radio so fast in respect to Michigan’s proposed version of this historically proven law.

Michigan’s SB 4 is similar to the already existing federal RFRA, as well as RFRAs in other states, including in Illinois where President Barack Obama voted in favor of it when he was in the state legislature.

It is a “restoration” act because its passage on the federal level over 20 years ago was necessitated by a court case that removed essential First Amendment rights. RFRA was written to restore those constitutional rights, enjoyed the support of U.S. Senators such as the late Ted Kennedy, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The law simply says that if government passes a law that tramples a person’s religious beliefs, it gives the person an avenue to sue the government. It does not guarantee that they will be successful, only that they will have an opportunity to push back against government. This a fundamental right that goes back to the founding of our country.

Why is Michigan looking to pass its own RFRA, and why have so many other states done so? A Supreme Court ruling said that states would need to pass their own state version of RFRA if it wanted its citizens to be protected by overzealous governmental laws or actions. Indeed, only those in prison were recognized as having full RFRA rights. Many states, including our neighbors such as Illinois, started passing state level RFRAs to fully restore the First Amendment rights of their citizens.

Because the federal RFRA and the RFRAs of other states have already been passed, experience has shown that some of the outrageous claims being made against RFRA are flat out untrue. History has proven that the law has benefited members of both majority and minority religions, and that when people have tried to use RFRA for inappropriate purposes that the courts have denied their claims.

RFRA only applies to governmental laws or actions, and the policies of private companies are not somehow overridden by RFRA. Far from being a “license to discriminate,” both the federal RFRA and proposed Michigan RFRA are a shield to make sure people retain their full First Amendment rights and have an opportunity to defend themselves if governmental laws or actions unfairly impinge upon their sincerely held religious beliefs. The opposite would mean a country where government could freely trample on any religion.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, represents the 16th District.

Area legislators to host additional town hall in Coldwater on road funding proposal

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey and Rep. Eric Leutheuser are hosting another free, public town hall on the May statewide road funding ballot proposal on Monday, April 27 in Coldwater. The event will feature Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle.

Shirkey and Leutheuser are encouraging residents of Branch County interested in the road funding issue to attend the meeting and hear Steudle discuss the ballot initiative coming before voters in May. Shirkey said that even if they attended the previous town hall in the county, this event and the speaker promise to deliver plenty of good additional information.

“Our goal is to give voters every opportunity to learn about the content of this proposal,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This additional event in Branch County, with Director of MDOT Kirk Steudle speaking, will allow people to hear even more about the ins and outs of this important issue.

“Your vote this May will determine the outcome of road funding in Michigan.”

The town hall will be held on Monday, April 27 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Community Room, Suite 500 of Community Health Center of Branch County, 370 E. Chicago St., Coldwater.

“This is obviously not a simple issue, and there is a lot of information out there,” said Leutheuser, R-Hillsdale. “But it is an important issue that affects everyone. We hope folks will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more.”

The event is free to attend, providing voters with the information they need to cast their vote this May.

For more information, contact Shirkey’s office at 1-517-373-5932.