Photo Advisory: Shirkey welcomes Grass Lake officials to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, welcomed Grass Lake Village Council President Joe DeBoe (left) and Township Supervisor Jim Stormont to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday. DeBoe and Stormont were representing the Village of Grass Lake and Grass Lake Township, recipients of the 2017 Active Community Award as part of the Governor’s Fitness Awards.

Note: For a print-quality version of this or other Shirkey photos, click the image or select Photowire, below.

Shirkey to host town hall in Coldwater on state budget

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey is hosting a free, public town hall on the state budget next Monday, May 1 in Coldwater.

The event will include a Senate budget analyst to help explain the budget process and answer questions residents may have.

“Our goal is to help explain how the state budget is different from the federal budget, to provide an overview of the different types of funds the state receives and to provide information on various budgets,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “If you’re wondering about things like how school funding is doing, what amount your community is getting from the roads bills, or how our state’s rainy day fund affects us, this is the town hall for you.”

The town hall will be held on Monday, May 1 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Community Center Conference Room of the Community Health Center of Branch County at 274 E. Chicago St. in Coldwater.

Shirkey said that those who attend the town hall will hear about:
•    The difference between the state and federal budgets;
•    Michigan’s overall tax policy;
•    The difference between general, restricted, and federal funds;
•    How much the communities in Branch County will receive as part of the roads package;
•    The increased spending on public schools and how much has been applied to retirement benefits;
•    How the state has reduced long-term unfunded liabilities;
•    Restricted spending, how it has grown, and what it is going toward;
•    How there has not been runaway growth in state spending;
•    Michigan’s rainy day fund, how it can be used, and where it is headed; and
•    Budget issues Michigan will face in the near future, such as Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB).

“All are welcome to come and get answers to these questions as we review the state’s budget together,” Shirkey said.

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

Shirkey: Website provides valuable information for taxpayers

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey on Thursday reminded residents that the Michigan Department of Treasury website includes helpful tools for individuals and businesses.

“The Treasury website provides a link for those who recently filed their taxes and want to know when they will receive their return,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Businesses can also find useful tax information on the site.”

Taxpayers can check on the status of their state income tax refund by going to www.michigan.gov/wheresmyrefund. E-filers can check two weeks from filing while paper-filers can check from four to six weeks after postmarking.

To ensure privacy and security, taxpayers need to provide their social security number, tax year, filing status and Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or Total Household Resources (THR). The AGI is located on line 10 of the MI-1040; THR is found on line 33 of the MI-1040CR.

The Department of Treasury reports that in 2016, 3.7 million individual tax returns provided more than $1.8 billion in refunds.

The department website also provides instructive information for businesses, Shirkey said. Select the Business Taxes link from Treasury’s main website, www.michigan.gov/taxes.

Once there, users can find information on:
•    The latest tax updates affecting businesses;
•    Tax preparation and software development;
•    Business tax types and special tax situations;
•    E-filing; and more.

“Whether you are an individual or run a business, we encourage you to let us know if you find the information on the Department of Treasury website helpful or if you have suggestions to make it better,” Shirkey said.

Sen. Shirkey announces April coffee hours

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, announced that upcoming coffee hours are scheduled for the 16th Senate District in Pittsford and Spring Arbor.

The senator will be available to meet with constituents at the following times:

Monday, April 17

DJ’s Family Restaurant

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

9008 E. Market Road
Pittsford

Monday, April 24

Biggby Coffee

10 – 11 a.m.

7851 Spring Arbor Road
Spring Arbor

All residents are welcome to hear a legislative update and discuss topics of interest. Coffee hours are for one-on-one discussions with the senator. Those unable to attend can contact Sen. Shirkey by calling his office at (517) 373-5932 or by selecting the Contact link on his website, www.SenatorMikeShirkey.com. Make sure to check the website for the most up-to-date information.

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Column: Opioid abuse requires a comprehensive solution

By Sen. Mike Shirkey
16th Senate District

The opioid abuse problems in Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson counties and across the state have reached epidemic proportions. We all have someone in our family or circle of friends who have been impacted by prescription related addictions. There is no silver bullet that will solve this issue.

While legislation itself won’t solve the problem, it can play a significant role.

A concerted effort is now underway in Lansing regarding opioid addiction. Numerous bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate as part of a bipartisan legislative package addressing opioid abuse. Most of the Senate bills are now before the Senate Health Policy Committee, which I am privileged to chair.

To facilitate the processing and evaluation of this growing list of proposed legislation, we have established four distinct categories within the spectrum of the overall opioid problem. They are: supply, education and responsibility, treatment, and law enforcement. These categories closely align with the recommendations of the governor’s task force and help to ensure we are addressing this as comprehensively as possible.

One such bill is Senate Bill 272 requiring physicians to educate patients and have them affirm they understand the dangers of opioids, they have been given proper medication disposal instructions, and they understand it is against Michigan law for their pills to get in the hands of any other individual. This bill attempts to address both the “supply” problem and the “education and responsibility” opportunity.

Another bill, SB 274, would limit the number of opioids a physician could prescribe in the initial prescription. This bill is intended to help restrict the supply of unused opioid prescriptions that get to the street.

Another piece of the puzzle is the modernization of the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS). MAPS is a prescription monitoring program that tracks prescriptions for Schedule 2 through Schedule 5 controlled substances and helps prevent drug diversion and fraud by prescribers, pharmacies, and patients. Our current system has not been properly used by the medical community because it is cumbersome, quirky, and simply difficult to use.

The updated MAPS will be particularly useful for physicians to monitor whether patients with pain symptoms have multiple prescriptions and could be engaging in drug diversion or doctor shopping. It also can identify providers who may be abusing their prescriptive authority.

Our Senate committee on health policy recently heard testimony on the improved version of MAPS. So far there is every indication that the medical community is eager to embrace and use the modernized version, which is one of the lynch pins of our overall plan to drive a stake in the heart of opioid abuse.

Opioid abuse is a complex problem requiring a broad and all-encompassing solution. We must address supply, increase education and responsibility regarding the use of medications, offer and perhaps demand that other options are considered before opioids are prescribed, empower law enforcement, and offer more rehabilitation options.

This affliction affects us all. And in virtually every case, it begins in someone’s home. This is a community problem, in the broadest sense of the word. Government can provide some structure and some much needed tools. But it will require everyone to be on alert and take their responsibilities seriously, whether it is a patient, provider, or parent/caretaker to a make a measurable difference.

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Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is the chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee. He serves the residents of Michigan’s 16th Senate District, which includes Branch, Hillsdale and Jackson counties.