Shirkey reads to Reading students for March is Reading Month

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey recently visited students at Reynolds Elementary School in Reading as part of March is Reading Month.

Shirkey emphasized the importance of reading and read aloud to the students from “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss.

“Reading is the key to learning, and it is great fun,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “If you can read … you can do just about anything!”

Notes: For a print-quality version of this or other Shirkey photos, click the image or select Photowire, at right. A video of Shirkey reading to Reynolds Elementary School students is available by clicking the Video link at right.

Shirkey bill would allow schools to retain Labor Day waiver

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey introduced a bill on Thursday that would ensure that schools granted waivers to be in session before Labor Day would not be required to reapply for the waiver every year.

Current law bans schools from starting before Labor Day, but the Department of Education grants waivers in some cases, allowing an early start to the school year.

The waivers must be renewed every year, but under Senate Bill 885, the waivers would carry over from year to year until a school notifies the department that the waiver is no longer needed.

“Most schools retain the same or similar calendars every year, so it makes sense to enable them to retain these waivers every year,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “My measure would take this decision out of the hands of the department and give it back to the schools, where it belongs.”

SB 885 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education for consideration.

Senate OKs Safe Families legislation

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate passed a package of bills on Thursday that would allow parents to place children with a safe family for a short period of time while the parents are away, said Sen. Mike Shirkey, co-sponsor of two of the bills.

The Safe Families legislation — Senate Bills 489, 490, 797 and 798 — would provide an alternative to the foster care system and save the state money.

“Safe Families is a proven, effective program in which families provide free help to parents who are in severe need of someone to care for their children,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “These bills will help ensure these arrangements can continue.”

The legislation would enable parents to work with a nonprofit family service agency to find a host family that they could leave their children with, for free, for up to 180 days.

Safe Families is a nationwide, nonprofit program begun in 2002 that uses a volunteer network of host families to connect parents in crisis with families willing to open their homes to help children and families in need.

Unlike the national child welfare system, which is designed to get involved only after something has already happened to a family, the Safe Families program allows a parent who knows in advance that they will be away from home for a period of time to place their child in the home of someone they can trust.

The program started operating in west Michigan in 2011. It has since spread throughout the state, including Allegan, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Kalamazoo, Kent, Leelanau, Ottawa, and Wayne counties. Safe Families has several hundred volunteers throughout Michigan that come from many different faith communities.

Under the legislation, a family interested in hosting for the Safe Families program must undergo training provided by the family service agency involved in the placement. The legislation requires the training to be based on a national model for preparing, developing, training, and supporting resource families for the temporary care of minor children.

In addition, the training must include identifying child maltreatment, understanding grief and loss, behavior management strategies, environmental safety, universal precautions and unique, child-specific, needs-based training.

Shirkey said the bills would put a number of checks in place to ensure safety.

“Before becoming a host family, the family service agency must ensure that the Michigan State Police have performed a criminal history check and criminal records check through the FBI on every person living in the potential host home aged 18 or older,” Shirkey said. “The family service agency also must check the state of Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool for each of the individuals over 18 living in a potential host home.

“On top of that, there are home inspections, reference requirements, financial and safety assessments, periodic inspections and other safeguards in place. Safety is a top priority.”

Shirkey said the bills were introduced in response to concerns over undue government interference in the program.

“As is the case with so many successful private enterprises, some bureaucrats in Lansing seem bent on trying to license these types of arrangements,” Shirkey said. “That would be a mistake that could have a disastrous effect on the program.”

SBs 489, 490, 797 and 798 now head to the state House for further consideration.

Shirkey offering useful guide for tax season

LANSING, Mich. — Residents of Branch, Hillsdale and Jackson counties who are getting ready to file their taxes and want current information can contact Sen. Mike Shirkey’s office for a free taxpayer’s guide or can download the booklet from the senator’s website.

The Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide 2018 is a reference for the 2017 tax year and is designed to help residents prepare their state tax returns. The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018 and does not affect individual income taxes for 2017.

“Tax law can be complex and can change from year to year, so it is important to stay up to date,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This free guide will be useful to residents when completing their taxes.”

The booklet contains information on Michigan’s income tax, property taxes and tax credits. Included is a year-long listing of important property tax dates and deadlines as well as copies of the most commonly used tax forms. It also features addresses, phone numbers and email information for obtaining state agency tax assistance.

Shirkey said the guide is meant as a helpful resource and not as a substitute for Michigan Department of Treasury tax instruction booklets.

Free copies of the Michigan Taxpayer’s Guide 2018 may be downloaded by clicking the Publications link at right.

Residents can also reserve a free copy by contacting Shirkey’s office at 517-373-5932.

Shirkey supports tax relief bills, elimination of driver responsibility fees

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey on Wednesday voted for legislation to preserve the personal exemption on the state income tax, provide additional relief for Michigan taxpayers and eliminate the state’s driver responsibility fees (DRFs).

“Our economy is strong, and the residents of Branch, Hillsdale and Jackson counties deserve a break,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “These reforms enable residents to continue claiming the personal exemption on their state and local income taxes while also keeping more of their own money.”

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act simplified the tax code, lowered tax rates, doubled the standard deduction and increased family tax credits. However, in streamlining the exemption process, it effectively ended the federal personal exemption. Since the state personal exemption is based on the federal return, a revision to state law is required.

Senate Bill 748 makes necessary changes to maintain the state personal exemption and also boost the exemption by an additional $600 to $4,900 by 2021. SB 750 would ensure that Michigan residents can continue claiming the personal exemption on their city income taxes.

Shirkey also supported legislation to eliminate assessment of new DRFs as of Oct. 1, 2018 and forgive any outstanding DRFs.

“Drivers shouldn’t be penalized twice for the same violation, but that is what driver responsibility fees do,” Shirkey said. “It was important to end this practice.”

House Bills 5040, 5041, 5043, 5044, 5046 and 5079 and SBs 613 and 625 also include a reform to enable drivers who cannot pay their fees to get their license back immediately by paying off the DRFs through a workforce training program.

Shirkey issues statement on civil rights appointment

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on Tuesday issued the following statement on Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment last week of Bishop Ira Combs, Jr. of Jackson to a seat on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission:

“Bishop Combs is a very thoughtful and appropriate choice for the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. His well-rounded background and experience suit him well for this position.

“He has consistently and personally fought discrimination on many fronts, while pastoring thousands of congregants of diverse backgrounds. He has been a community activist and has openly opposed discrimination in multiple areas, including bank lending and mental health services and housing access for the disabled and mentally ill.

“In addition, he founded a nonprofit organization that provides community staffing and housing for the less fortunate; he is chairman of Michigan’s Adult Foster Care Licensing Advisory Council; and he has served on numerous boards and committees, including the State Child Abuse and Prevention Board.

“Bishop Combs will be a trusted advocate for civil rights for all. He brings broad and much-needed experience and diversity to a commission where diversity is a critical element. I am grateful for his current and past service and appreciate his willingness to serve in such an important role.”

Shirkey announces funding to improve road safety in Jackson County

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey announced on Friday that funding has been approved for a construction project next year to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians on a section of Wamplers Lake Road (M-124) in Jackson County.

The $1.3 million Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) project will widen the paved shoulders on the road from four feet to eight feet from U.S. 12 to M-50, a 7.4-mile stretch.

“The Irish Hills, numerous lakes, Hayes State Park and Watkins Lake State Park — these are all along this route, which means it is popular with locals and tourists alike and it is very busy,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Expanding the paved bike and pedestrian lanes will increase safety for everyone on these shoulders.”

A 2017 Road Safety Audit recommended widening the shoulders by up to four feet to provide an additional buffer between vehicular traffic and bicyclists. Other improvements in the project include upgraded street signing, pavement markings and rumble strips to increase safety for all modes of transportation.

The project is a shared investment of $1,137,822 from three sources: $659,368 in federal Transportation Alternative Program funds, $455,129 from the Michigan Department of Transportation, and $23,325 from Norvell Township.

“The Michigan Department of Transportation is excited to partner with Norvell Township to improve safety and expand nonmotorized access along M-124,” said Kelby Wallace, manager of MDOT’s Jackson Transportation Service Center. “This project is a result of a strong partnership dedicated to the safety of all modes of transportation.”

Shirkey commended Norvell Township.

“Norvell Township stepped up to the plate and provided significant local matching funds for this important project,” Shirkey said. “The township’s contribution helped secure the Transportation Alternative Program funds, and we are grateful for it.”

The TAP is a competitive grant program that uses federal transportation funds designated by Congress for specific activities that enhance the intermodal transportation system and provide safe alternative transportation options.

Construction on the project is set to begin in the spring or summer of 2019.

Shirkey: A remarkable turnaround, but we still face challenges

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey on Tuesday attended Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2018 State of the State address, which laid out the governor’s plan for continuing Michigan’s economic recovery.

Shirkey, R-Clarklake, offered the following statement after the address:

“Tonight’s speech by the governor reminded us all of how far we have come as a state since he took office in 2011. The governor highlighted many of the accomplishments that Senate Republicans helped achieve to energize our economy and improve our state.

“We have made tremendous strides in creating a positive business environment that has resulted in the creation of 540,000 private-sector jobs and the nation’s sixth-highest income growth rate.

“It’s a remarkable turnaround, but we still face challenges. Senate Republicans are committed to building on Michigan’s successes, maintaining our state’s positive momentum and meeting the needs of our communities.

“I am eager to continue working with the governor to make Michigan a better place for our children and more attractive to job creators and talent to invest, work and raise a family.”

Note: Audio remarks from Shirkey will be available for broadcast from this website. Select Audio under the Media Center tab, above.

Shirkey to host seniors town hall in Jackson

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey is encouraging residents of Jackson County to attend a public town hall on Monday, Feb. 12 in Jackson for a discussion of issues affecting seniors.

Elder Law of Michigan (ELM) will lead the discussion with members of the community and answer questions residents may have. ELM is a nonprofit organization that advocates for, educates and assists older adults and persons with disabilities throughout Michigan.

State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake;
Elder Law of Michigan Vice President Ron Tatro; and
Interested residents.

A public town hall meeting to discuss issues facing seniors.

Monday, Feb. 12
3:30 – 4:30 p.m.

Jackson County Department on Aging
1715 Lansing Ave.
Jackson, MI 49202

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

Shirkey supports bills to help Michigan consumers and local auto dealers

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bills 94 and 95 to speed up “sales tax on the difference” reform.

Under the reform, Michigan sales and use taxes would only be applied to the difference between the price of a new car and the value of a trade-in.

After supporting the veto override, Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, issued the following statement:

“Michigan is one of only six states — and the only Great Lakes state — to still tax the value of trade-ins. This is an unfair tax policy that penalizes Michigan families and puts businesses in the state at a competitive disadvantage.

“To override the governor’s veto is serious, and my colleagues and I don’t take this action lightly. But even more concerning is this current tax policy, and we needed to act decisively to eliminate it.

“This initiative, which had bipartisan support, will be a financial boost both to Michigan consumers and to businesses.”