Bill offering better rural health care headed to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to legislation to define the scope of practice for specially trained nurses.

Under House Bill 5400, due to increased freedom and independence for health care providers, people in rural areas such as Branch and Hillsdale counties and parts of Jackson County would have better access to health care at a lower cost.

The bill 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.

APRNs may be nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists.

The measure is similar to Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey.

“We would prefer to see a bill recognizing more freedom and independence for APRNs, but this is a good start,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This bill will increase access to medical care, decrease cost of primary care, and will do both in especially beneficial ways for rural areas.”

HB 5400 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 Professional Fund. The fund would be tasked with encouraging nurses to work in Health Resource Shortage Areas when needed.

“This legislation is a step in the right direction for APRNs in Michigan,” said Certified Nurse Midwife Katie Lavery, MS, of Everyday Blessings Midwifery. “Nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists are essential in the process of decreasing health care costs, in increasing access and in the delivery of quality health care. These policies are consistent with a movement towards common standards of practice for APRNs nationwide.”

Under the legislation, an APRN would be able to make calls or go on rounds in private homes, public institutions, emergency vehicles, ambulatory care clinics, hospitals, intermediate or extended care facilities, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes, or other health care facilities. All of these changes could positively impact rural areas like the 16th Senate District.

The measure was crafted with input and suggestions from nurses, physicians, and other interested stakeholders.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have approved HB 5400. It now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

Shirkey announces good result for all taxpayers on energy plan

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, offered the following statement Thursday after the Michigan Legislature gave final approval to Senate Bills 437 and 438, the Michigan Comprehensive Energy Plan:

“Many people have worked hard on this legislation for more than two years, and we can now confidently say it contains several improvements that are good for ALL of Michigan’s energy customers.

“The package updates key provisions of the state’s current energy laws. During the legislative process, I have spoken in defense of electric choice and lower electric rates for ALL taxpayers. I am happy that this final version removes the ‘poison pills’ that could have killed choice. The final result is a plan that prioritizes citizens, as it should.

“The bills establish protections for ratepayers, reduce the chances of excess charges being established, and help encourage competition. Energy companies will have a good opportunity to compete, which encourages innovation and customer-oriented service. It is to all citizens’ benefit that our critically important incumbent utilities have a well-established foundation for their continued success.”

Shirkey bill saving taxpayer dollars and enabling better road designs headed to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill sponsored by state Sen. Mike Shirkey that will authorize the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to consider new pavement designs and technologies for better future road projects.

Senate Bill 879 is the culmination of collaborative efforts between Shirkey and the department, with input from the department’s Roads Innovation Task Force Report, published in June.

“Everyone agrees that Michigan’s roads can be better,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who is an engineer. “We should leverage the incredible technological advancements we are seeing in the transportation industry to build better, safer and longer-lasting roads. Not only will they lead to improved driving experiences, they will also help save taxpayer dollars.”

The bill will make it possible for MDOT to give more thoughtful consideration of new pavement designs through a number of common-sense reforms.

Currently, new road projects are subject to a Life-Cycle Cost Analysis, which requires historical data specific to Michigan — in addition to construction and maintenance costs and service life — to be a factor when selecting a pavement design for a project.

The historical data aspect is seen as a limitation to innovation, as new designs are less likely to have historical data. Shirkey’s legislation will allow MDOT to substitute historical data during this process from a geographic location outside Michigan that has similar climates, soil structures or vehicle traffic.

The bill ensures that the lack of actual historic project maintenance and repair data do not prevent MDOT from conducting a pavement demonstration project. This removes limitations on building better roads.

Finally, SB 879 allows the department to conduct an unlimited number of demonstration projects each year (the current limit of such projects is four) to test improved ideas and designs, and it will increase the permissible deviation in annual cost differences from 20 to 25 percent between the respective paving materials in any consecutive three-year period.

“With revised cost and historical data analysis, and with the advantage of having a larger pool of demonstration projects, we are creating the opportunity for increased road service life, lower maintenance costs, and better, safer driving experiences,” Shirkey said. “This is a win-win for Michigan drivers and for MDOT.”

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have approved SB 879. It now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

Shirkey bill improving medical compensation law headed to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey that would help ensure plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases receive proper compensation. The change clarifies this portion of the law for all Michigan residents.

“Insurers and medical providers often reach agreements on payment amounts that differ greatly from expenses that were initially charged. This is a problem that needs to be cleared up in Michigan law,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “This legislation will help ensure accurate compensation. Clearer laws benefit all of us.”

Under current law, medical malpractice plaintiffs can recover amounts charged rather than amounts actually paid for medical expenses — even when the charged amounts are much greater than the paid amounts.

In July, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld this interpretation of current law, but also called for the Legislature to address this issue. Shirkey listened to the suggested improvements and acted.

Senate Bill 1104 was written in response to the court’s request. The bill would ensure that recoverable damages for past medical expenses or rehab service expenses do not exceed actual damages stemming from alleged malpractice, and that only evidence of actual damages shall be admissible at trial for such cases.

The Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s (MHA) Senior Vice President for Advocacy Chris Mitchell said plaintiffs should only be able to recover amounts actually paid.

“The MHA supports Senate Bill 1104 because it eliminates the loophole allowing plaintiffs to recover damages for medical expenses that were never incurred or paid,” Mitchell said. “Passage of this legislation is common sense and helps control the health care costs for all Michigan citizens.”

General Counsel Dyck Van Koevering of the Insurance Institute of Michigan (IIM) agreed.

“This important clarification to statute is supported by IIM to prevent windfall recoveries being paid for damages that were never sustained,” Van Koevering said.

Both the Senate and House of Representatives have approved SB 1104. It now heads to the governor to be signed into law.

Shirkey measure and other bills to cut red tape in schools headed to governor

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday gave final approval to bills authored by Sen. Mike Shirkey and other Senate Republicans that would reduce red tape so schools can spend more time teaching.

Senate Bills 754-757 and 759-767 would eliminate unnecessary and redundant data collection and streamline school reporting requirements to give teachers and administrators more time to work on student-related matters.

“These bills will provide more time for teachers to engage in actual teaching and will reduce the time school administrators spend on red tape and duplicative reporting requirements,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Educators throughout Michigan, including those in Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties, all benefit when more time is available for their important work.”

Michigan school districts must prepare and submit various reports to state and federal entities. Some of these reports can be time-consuming to produce and some are even obsolete by the submission date. These bills reduce the number of those types of reports.

“While school districts understand and appreciate the importance of data collection designed to better inform instruction, we appreciate the efforts of the Legislature through these bills to reduce the current redundant reporting requirements that we currently face,” said Michigan Center Schools Superintendent Scott Koziol. “This reduction of redundancy will help us to operate more efficiently with the resources we are provided.”

Education reporting requirements are spread throughout Michigan law — not just the state’s education code. There is no published comprehensive index to easily locate all mandated reports. Although collected data can assist schools in some instances, it is important to remove outdated ones that no longer serve a useful function.

“For the past several years, school districts have been mandated to submit an increased number of reports to various agencies,” said Hanover-Horton School District Superintendent John Denney. “Many of those reports contained very similar information. I am thankful that some of the redundant reporting has been eliminated. Less time spent filling out and submitting reports is more time spent focusing on teaching and learning.”

Senate Bills 754-757 and 759-767 were approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives and await the governor’s signature.

Photo Advisory: Sen. Shirkey welcomes local students to Capitol for technology showcase

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, on Wednesday welcomed several elementary and middle schools from Jackson County for the 16th Annual Student Technology Showcase at the Capitol.

The event is designed to show legislators and the public how technology is being used in the classroom to enhance learning in Michigan schools.

Students from Bean Elementary in Spring Arbor, Parma Elementary in Parma, Warner Elementary in Spring Arbor, and Western Middle School in Parma presented their robotics and programming projects at the event.

Note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This photo and others are also available by clicking Photowire, below.