Legislation to modernize Michigan veterans homes sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s veterans and their dependents would see improved access to long-term care and new state-of-the-art facilities under reform legislation that received bipartisan support and was finalized by the Senate on Thursday.

“Our veterans have served our nation valiantly and deserve only the best possible care when they are in need of additional long-term care services,” said state Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “This legislation will modernize the way our veterans homes operate. These reforms will help us finally transform our veterans homes into ones that can quickly and easily adapt to the ever-changing nature of the medical and long-term care industries in order to provide our veterans and their spouses with the highest level of care possible.”

The proposal would create the Michigan Veterans Facility Authority to establish new veterans facilities in the state, in partnership with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA). The authority would focus first on construction of two new facilities, one replacing the aging facility in Grand Rapids, and a brand-new facility in Detroit to serve the large veterans population in that region. Last week the Legislature approved Senate Bill 800, a supplemental budget bill that provides the necessary funding to construct these two new facilities. The costs for these two projects will be funded with both state and federal funds.

SB 800 was signed by Gov. Snyder earlier this week.

MVAA would continue in its role of managing the existing facilities in Grand Rapids and Marquette while the new facilities are constructed. The Marquette home would continue to operate in its current building until the authority and MVAA are able to determine when constructing a new facility will be feasible. Investments have been made and continue to be funded at the Marquette home in an effort to improve the facilities for members residing there.

The bills give preference to existing employees when staffing new facilities and require the authority to consider national best practices and civil service commission rules and regulations when making operational and staffing decisions at the new homes.

“Since 2011 I have strived to ensure that our veterans across this state have a place to call home. I am pleased that the Legislature was able to come together to approve a solution to ensure that our cherished veterans will have better access to the long-term health care that they have earned, and provide new state-of-the-art facilities in more locations throughout our state,” said Sen. Pete MacGregor, R-Rockford.

The authority would be run by a board of nine and would be made up of professionals who have knowledge, skills or experience in long-term care and medicine. The board would include the director of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; three members representing veterans service organizations; three members from the general public (one of whom must be from the Upper Peninsula); one member designated by the Senate majority leader; and one member designated by the speaker of the House.

One year after the second new facility opens, the MVAA director’s role as a board member would be replaced by a veteran with professional knowledge, skill or experience in long-term care, health care licensure or finance, or medicine. The board would then elect a new chairperson from the board membership.

The board must produce an annual report of its activities to the governor, Legislature and chairpersons of the respective legislative appropriations committees at the end of each fiscal year.

The four-bill package is the result of workgroup meetings that took place over several months earlier this year that involved members of the Legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, MVAA, and other veterans and health care organizations. The workgroup produced a report that, in addition to recommendations covered by this legislation, includes recommendations for further improvements.

The legislation builds upon improvements that have already been made at the MVAA and MVHS, following a Michigan Office of the Auditor General audit that revealed significant problems at the Grand Rapids home.

SBs 1097-1100 will now go to Gov. Snyder for final approval.

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Legislature approves MacGregor’s drone bill

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation that would authorize the use of unmanned aircraft systems, commonly called drones, has been finalized by the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for signature.

“Drones are becoming increasingly popular with hobbyists, but they also have extensive application amongst professionals,” said Sen. Pete MacGregor, R-Rockford. “As their use becomes more prevalent, it is important that Michigan has a definite, uniform framework to regulate drone operation.”

Senate Bill 992, sponsored by MacGregor, would allow individuals licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate drones for commercial and recreational use. However, the proposed law would prohibit drone operation that could interfere with public safety officers; that would infringe on a person’s right to privacy; and that would violate a court order, such as a personal protection order. A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and/or a $500 fine would be established for violating the restrictions.

The bill would also create the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force to develop a uniform statewide policy recommendation on the operation, use, and regulation of drones in Michigan. The 27-member panel would be composed of individuals from various industries and appointed by the governor. It would be charged with producing an initial report within three months to the governor and the Transportation committees in the Senate and House.

“The goal with the task force is to adopt regulations that are in step with those in development by the FAA to ensure a uniform statewide policy,” MacGregor said. “This is a better approach as opposed to a patchwork system of laws — it’s one that strikes a balance between ensuring public safety and property rights and the public’s right to own and operate drones.”

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MacGregor pays tribute to outgoing intern

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Pete MacGregor presented outgoing intern Meg Vindischman with a special tribute during Tuesday’s Senate session.

“Meg has been an outstanding addition to my staff over the past semester and she will be missed,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “Meg brought a wide array of skills and strengths, is extremely personable and a joy to be around. These skills helped her communicate with constituents while she completed the important tasks of answering constituent phone calls, emails, and letters.

“I wish her nothing but the best in the future and am confident that she will accomplish any career objective she has set for herself.”

Vindischman, of Oxford, is a junior at Michigan State University studying Criminal Justice. She is heading to Washington, D.C. for the winter semester to intern with the U.S. Department of Justice and Kidsave, a non-profit organization focused on family advocacy.

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Editor’s note: Video of the special tribute presentation is available at SenatorPeterMacGregor.com/Video.

MacGregor’s telehealth bill headed to governor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

LANSING, Mich. — A bill that could improve access to health care services in Michigan was finalized by the Michigan Senate on Tuesday and is now headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for signature.

Senate Bill 753 would define telehealth in the state’s health code to encourage medical professionals to utilize modern technologies, like live interactive video, audio and others to connect and communicate with patients remotely, and to also provide patient protections under the law.

“This is a common sense health care reform for a modern age,” said Sen. Pete MacGregor, R-Rockford, the bill sponsor. “Society has never been more connected, yet a patient’s ability to see a medical professional is becoming more and more constrained as hospital wait times grow. This bill would help improve access to care, which could lead to healthier patient outcomes.”

SB 753 defines telehealth in the state health code as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support or promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health, or health administration. Telehealth may include telemedicine, which was established in the state insurance code in 2012.

Under the bill, medical professionals would be permitted to diagnose, prescribe and administer referrals within the existing legal framework when providing telehealth services.

Additionally, like traditional health professional practice, a disciplinary subcommittee may place restrictions or conditions on a health professional’s ability to provide telehealth services.

The bill has received broad support from within the health care community and beyond, including from the U.S. Department of Justice, General Motors, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Michigan Council of Nurse Practitioners, Teledoc, Economic Alliance for Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Spectrum Health, and Ascension Michigan.

“Telehealth could transform health care in Michigan,” MacGregor said. “It allows health care professionals to extend their reach beyond a corner office to meet patients where they are. It enhances access to and use of health care in our state, reduces costs, encourages competition, and, most importantly, could lead to healthier lives.”

SB 753 was unanimously approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives and awaits the governor’s signature.

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