MacGregor comments on budget passage

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, issued the following statement after the Michigan Senate finalized a Fiscal Year 2017 budget plan on Wednesday that increases support for education and public safety and strengthens the state’s finances:

“I was happy to support this budget, which we have once again approved ahead of schedule. It is a responsible, balanced spending plan for our state that makes good investments in key areas, like education, public health and safety, and economic development. The budget also keeps government spending in line, and does not burden hardworking families with any new taxes.

“I am particularly pleased that we were able to invest an additional $60 to $120 in per pupil foundation allowance funding for our K-12 schools, and an additional $39 million for our state universities. We have also expanded the successful Healthy Kids Dental program to now cover all Michiganders under the age of 21, and increased funding to further support private foster care agencies. The budget also provides funding to hire 65 new state police troopers and expanded the Secure Cities program to cover six more communities. More and better jobs are always a goal, and the budget adds more than $5 million to the Skilled Trades Training Fund to help job providers train workers for in-demand opportunities.

“This is a good budget that builds upon the financial foundation we have worked to establish over the past five years to help make Michigan the best place to live and work.”

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MacGregor’s Veterans Ombudsman bill headed to governor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

LANSING, Mich. — A bill that would establish the Office of the Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for signing.

“An independent Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman will be able to identify, investigate and recommend fixes for problems at the state’s veterans homes, so our veterans can receive the quality care that they have earned and deserve,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored the bill.

Senate Bill 809 would authorize the ombudsman to investigate Michigan veterans’ facilities — the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans — for acts or conditions that allegedly violate law or policy, or that pose significant health or safety issues. The office would be able to inspect a facility at any time, on its own accord or by request, and conduct investigational hearings and subpoena individuals and documents.

The ombudsman would report to the Legislative Council. Following investigations, the ombudsman would be required to produce reports, with recommendations, to the council. Additionally, the ombudsman would be required to submit a semiannual report to the council and the Legislature.

The bill was MacGregor’s third attempt at establishing the ombudsman, and stemmed from audits conducted by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General that revealed problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“I am overjoyed that after years of trying, we were finally able to come together to create the Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman Office,” MacGregor said. “Michigan’s military veterans have given so much in the service of our country, and this legislation will ensure our veterans’ homes are safe and secure places to enjoy their retirement.”

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MacGregor’s Veterans Ombudsman bill approved by committee

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

LANSING, Mich. — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Peter MacGregor that would establish the Office of the Michigan Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman was approved by the Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee on Thursday.

The legislation stems from recent audits conducted by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General that revealed a pattern of mismanagement at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

“After years of troubling reports and apparent inaction to correct the problems at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, it is clear something more must be done,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “Since the latest audit, leadership changes have been made within the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and at the home, which is a good step. However, an independent Veterans’ Facility Ombudsman would be better able to identify, investigate and recommend fixes for problems so our veterans can receive the quality care that they have earned and deserve.”

Senate Bill 809 would authorize the ombudsman to investigate Michigan veterans’ facilities — the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans and D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans — for acts or conditions that allegedly violate law or policy, or that pose significant health or safety issues. The office would be able to inspect a facility at any time, on its own accord or by request, and conduct investigational hearings and subpoena individuals and documents.

The ombudsman would report to the Legislative Council. Following investigations, the ombudsman would be required to produce reports, with recommendations, to the council. Additionally, the ombudsman would be required to submit a biannual report to the council and the Legislature.

“Michigan’s military veterans devoted their lives in service of our country,” MacGregor said. “We must ensure that they receive the best possible care, and a veterans’ ombudsman will help accomplish that.”

SB 809 now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

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MacGregor: Senate approves plan to cut schools’ ‘red tape’

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Thursday acted to reduce bureaucratic “red tape” by voting to end burdensome reporting requirements schools currently must complete.

Each year, Michigan school districts are mandated to prepare and submit hundreds of reports to state and federal entities. These reports can be time-consuming and tedious to produce and are often redundant or even obsolete by the submission date.

If signed, Senate Bills 754-767 would eliminate unnecessary and redundant reports and streamline the overall reporting requirements.

“We have been working to ensure more resources make it to our state’s classrooms so educators can more effectively do their jobs,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored SB 762. “Unfortunately, these reporting requirements often stand in the way of that. By reforming the reporting process, we can reduce the burden on our schools and teachers so they can focus on instructing our students.”

Education reporting requirements are sprinkled throughout Michigan law — not just in the state’s education code. Unfortunately, there is no published comprehensive index to easily locate all mandated reports. These reports are costly, often taking a great deal of staff time and resources.

The plan has received widespread support, especially from local district leaders.

“There is an extensive amount of paperwork involved with completing these reporting requirements, and that takes an extensive amount of human resources,” said Wyoming Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Reeder. “Even with the help of technology, over the years more and more has been added to the requirements, which has made the process unnecessarily redundant and caused even more work. Those redundancies should be repealed. What we need is a reporting system that efficiently accomplishes these tasks while providing effective data to guide smart decisions.”

The bills, which were introduced in February and previously approved by the Senate Education Committee, now go to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senators to hold hearings on Grand Rapids Home for Veterans after latest audit

LANSING, Mich. – The Senate Oversight and Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security committees will hold hearings on the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans after a new audit conducted by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General revealed a troubling pattern of mismanagement and neglect at the home.

Senators Peter MacGregor and Margaret O’Brien, who chair the respective committees, said legislators will look into the home’s operations to determine what more can be done within the state Legislature to bring accountability and transparency to the home and ensure the best possible care and treatment of the state’s veterans.

“Michigan’s brave military veterans dedicated their lives to serving us, sacrificing time away from their families to defend our freedom and way of life,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “We owe them so much, not the least of which is taking care of our veterans when they return home. What is happening at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans is unacceptable and a disservice to those who served our country. Serious changes must be made.”

The performance audit of the home outlines in detail nine findings where staff –both privately-contracted employees and union and non-union employees that work directly for the state of Michigan – failed to adequately meet obligations to provide care to the home’s members. Many of the problems identified in the latest audit have carried over from a 2013 audit.

The new audit assessed four main objectives: the sufficiency of the home’s provision of member care services; the effectiveness of the home’s administration of pharmaceuticals; the effectiveness of the home’s management of complaints and incidents regarding member care; and the sufficiency of the home’s controls over collection of assessments, donations and member funds.

The auditor’s nine findings indicated:

  1. Staff at the home did not perform regular member location checks 43 percent of the time despite reporting that they had occurred 100 percent. Supervisors approved 17 out of 25 of those false location check sheets. Similarly, fall checks did not happen 33 percent of the time but were reported to have happened 96 percent of the time.
  2. The contractor did not meet staffing requirements 81 percent of the time, and on any given day was short by as many as 22 people.
  3. Staff improperly administered prescribed pharmaceuticals, causing insurance reimbursement inefficiencies and possible quality of care issues. Thirty-nine percent of all nonnarcotic prescriptions were either refilled too late or too early.
  4. Staff did not effectively develop, execute and monitor all veteran comprehensive care plans.
  5. The home did not establish adequate controls over nonnarcotic pharmaceuticals to ensure they were accounted for and protected against loss and misuse.
  6. The home did not bill members’ insurance companies for all eligible prescriptions dispensed and did not follow up on prescriptions that were billed but rejected by insurance companies.
  7. The home did not track or properly investigate or respond to member complaints, including allegations of abuse and neglect.
  8. The home did not implement sufficient controls over the disbursement of funds belonging to veterans who were discharged or passed away, and may not have disbursed funds in a timely manner.
  9. The home did not effectively document and resolve past-due member assessments.

“The latest findings from the state auditor general add to a growing list of issues that have plagued the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans for more than a decade,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “It is clear that supposed internal actions taken by the home to fix these problems haven’t worked. Michiganders and our veterans demand that action be taken to right this wrong as soon as possible.”

The senators noted that recent moves to hire new leadership staff by the Michigan Veteran Health System, which operates within the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and oversees the home, is a positive step but the home’s systemic failures require more action.

“I am very angry and disappointed by the findings of the audit,” O’Brien said. “Our veterans deserve better. Now that the auditor general has identified the causes of the problems at the home we won’t be satisfied until our veterans receive the proper care and treatment they deserve.”

The committees will announce hearings in the coming weeks.

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Bills introduced to cut red tape at Michigan schools

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation introduced at a press conference on Tuesday would help Michigan schools by eliminating unnecessary and redundant reporting requirements and by streamlining the reporting process.

“We focus a lot of attention and effort toward improving Michigan’s education system,” said Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, who sponsored Senate Bill 762 in the 14-bill package. “A key part of those efforts has been to make sure more resources reach the classroom for student instruction. Unfortunately, outdated and burdensome reporting requirements are holding our schools back by distracting school officials from their primary duties of educating our children. These common sense bills will help update the reporting process to make it more efficient and less time consuming so educators can focus more on student achievement.”

Michigan school districts are mandated to prepare and submit hundreds of reports to state and federal entities. These reports can be time-consuming and tedious to produce and are often redundant or even obsolete by the submission date.

Education reporting requirements are not limited to the state’s education code — they litter Michigan law. Unfortunately, there is no published comprehensive index to easily locate all mandated reports. These reports are costly, often taking a great deal of staff time and resources.

In addition to MacGregor, the following senators are sponsors of the bills in the legislative package:

  • Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township (SB 754)
  • Darwin Booher, R-Evart (SBs 756-757)
  • Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton (SB 758)
  • Goeff Hansen, R-Hart (SB 766)
  • Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth (SB 761)
  • Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy (SB 755)
  • Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage (SB 767)
  • Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City (SB 763)
  • Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake (SB 764)
  • Jim Stamas, R-Midland (SBs 759-760)
  • Dale Zorn, R-Ida (SB 765)

SBs 754-767 are expected to be referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

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Legislation introduced to reform Historic Districts Act; supports property rights, local control

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan property owners would have more influence in the formation and administration of the state’s historic districts under legislation introduced in the Legislature on Tuesday to modernize Michigan’s Historic Districts Act. Currently, new historic districts are determined by commissions at the state level with little input from communities, which may negatively impact property owners.

“Our bill to modernize a law written 45 years ago strikes the right balance between protecting private property owners’ rights and historic preservation,” said Rep. Chris Afendoulis, R-Grand Rapids Township. “This will help many communities maintain their historic identity while ensuring private property owners have a greater voice.”

House Bill 5232 and Senate Bill 720, sponsored by Afendoulis and Sen. Peter MacGregor, respectively, would revise the Historic Districts Act to allow more local input by:

  • Requiring new districts to receive the support of at least two-thirds of property owners within a proposed district;
  • Expanding local review of proposed projects; and
  • Allowing property owners to appeal to city councils or township boards about historic districts.

Written in 1970, current law leaves historic district creation in the hands of “Study Commissions” that are composed solely of preservation activists. As a result, private property rights are not considered. Additionally, exact boundaries of a proposed historic district can be changed without notice to or input from affected property owners through decisions made in Lansing, not local communities.

“It is important that historic districts have the support of our communities before they are enacted,” Sen. Peter MacGregor,R-Rockford. “This common sense legislation, therefore, ensures private property owners and construction experts are represented when considering the state’s historic districts.”

The legislators said modernizing the Historic Districts Act will allow local communities to decide whether they want to embrace new high-tech construction materials and new technology like energy-efficient windows.

“Modern construction practices and cutting-edge building materials and windows now allow private property owners to improve and reinvest in ways that are cost effective and environmentally sound while maintaining historical integrity and consistency,” said Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance. “This legislation provides much needed updates allowing for flexibility at the local level and has the potential to incentivize – as opposed to discourage – reinvestment, improvements and upgrades to aging properties.”

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Sen. MacGregor reacts to State of the State address

Sen. Peter MacGregor

Sen. Peter MacGregor

LANSING, Mich. – State Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, issued the following statement Wednesday following Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2016 State of the State address:

“I was honored to attend the governor’s State of the State address and hear about his priorities for the year. A major part of his speech was devoted to the city of Flint’s water crisis, and I agree that we should do what we can to help the city’s residents who have been affected by this horrible situation, as well as address the many infrastructure challenges facing not only that city, but our state.

“Last year I commented after the governor’s State of the State address on the need to be proactive in addressing problems in the effort to make state government more effective and efficient. Last night, in addressing the ongoing water crisis in Flint, the governor spoke of the need to fix problems within state government and to make it more accountable. I could not agree more. By doing so we can help mitigate future bureaucratic breakdowns and improve both the quality and delivery of services.

“The economy remains a top priority as well, and while our state has made great strides over the past five years to improve our economic situation, I believe there is still more work to be done. Part of that is ensuring a quality education that prepares all students for the next level, whether it be higher education, skilled trades or the workforce. I appreciate the governor’s continued efforts to improve educational opportunities for all.

“I look forward to working with my legislative colleagues and the governor over the coming year to keep moving Michigan forward.”

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Governor signs MacGregor data center legislation

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by State Sen. Peter MacGregor to help create jobs and increase business investment in the state by providing sales tax and use tax exemptions for data centers was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday.

“In our increasingly interconnected world, the storage and security of digital data is critically important,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “With these new laws, Michigan will play a vital role in this growing industry, which will help our economy, create jobs and retain and attract talented professionals to our state.”

Senate Bills 616 and 617, now Public Acts 251 and 252 of 2015, were key to finalizing a plan by Switch, a Nevada-based company, to build a two-million-square-foot Kent County data center — called Supernap Michigan. Existing data centers and those looking to locate in Michigan are eligible for the exemptions as well.

The laws go in to effect immediately.

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MacGregor: Passage of legislation key to new Kent County data center, would benefit all of Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Peter MacGregor said legislation approved by the Legislature on Tuesday would help create jobs and increase business investment in the state.

Senate Bills 616 and 617 would establish sales tax and use tax exemptions for the data center industry, which is key to finalizing a plan by Switch, a Nevada-based company, to build a two-million-square-foot data center — called Supernap Michigan — that would become the largest data center in the eastern United States. The legislation would apply to all existing data centers and those looking to locate in Michigan.

“This is great news for our state and for west Michiganders who may soon have new jobs thanks to Switch’s investment,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “With the passage of this important legislation, all data centers, like this one, will be able to operate in Michigan on a level playing field similar to our neighboring Great Lakes states, making our state even more competitive and attractive in a modern 21st century economy.

“By enacting these bills, residents with degrees in computer science, engineering and related areas of study will have more opportunities to stay and work in Michigan and earn highly competitive salaries in a growing industry. Not only would this help Michigan’s economy by retaining the talent it helps produce, but it would also help attract highly educated and talented professionals who might otherwise not consider our state.”

The legislation now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder for consideration.

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