Sen. Hansen and guest honor Michigan’s fallen soldiers

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, (left) and Jim Carlson paid tribute in the Senate Thursday to those who gave their lives defending our country.

Jim Carlson was a gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps from 1967 – 1973, and he was in the Marine Reserves from 1977 – 1994. He was Hansen’s guest for the Michigan Senate’s 24th Annual Memorial Day Service.

Each year, the ceremony honors the service members who fought with bravery to defend our nation’s freedom.

Those interested in watching the Senate Memorial Day Service may do so at MISenate.viebit.com, where a full archive is available to stream or download.

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Hansen hosts asparagus queen

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, (right) welcomed 2017 Asparagus Queen Vicki Platt to the Capitol on Wednesday.

Platt promoted the asparagus industry of Oceana County and provided each senator with a gift of locally grown asparagus. Rockwell Farms of Hart donated the 50 pounds of asparagus for the occasion.

The National Asparagus Festival hosts an annual pageant in Hart, where the only asparagus queen in the nation is crowned. The visit was one of Platt’s final appearances of her reign as queen.

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Michigan Senate passes bills to improve outdoor recreational funding

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate Wednesday passed a series of bills to support state and local parks, fund recreational projects and needs throughout the state, and create more flexibility in the use of both the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) and the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund (MSPEF).

Senate Joint Resolution O, and Senate Bills 763, 931, and 932 would alter the way that revenues to the MNRFT and the MSPEF may be used – increasing the ability to address the demands and opportunities for Michigan’s recreational areas.

“The proposed changes will allow for greater flexibility to focus grant funding on natural resources needs relating to recreation development, redevelopment and renovation at the state and local levels,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The NRTF has been very successful overall since it’s since its beginning 41 years ago. Now it would be helpful to have some added flexibility so the trust fund board can build on the wise use of the MNRTF and MSPEF funds. These changes will help meet the natural resource needs of our local communities and the state, things like trails and park infrastructure, for many more years to come.”

The bills include reforms agreed upon by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), conservation and recreation groups, local units of government, and recreation area users.

“We applaud Senate passage of Joint Resolution O, which after significant stakeholder engagement, increases funding for state parks while addressing a critical outdoor recreation need at the local level,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Senate action today is an important step in assuring funding derived from oil, gas and mineral royalties from state land supports natural resources and outdoor recreation in Michigan for current and future generations.”

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provides a source of funding for public outdoor recreation and the public acquisition of lands for resource protection. The trust fund was established in 1976 and is constitutionally protected.

The Michigan State Park Endowment Fund was established in 1994 for the operation, maintenance and capital improvements of the Michigan state parks. When the trust fund reached its funding cap in 2011, the annual revenue from mineral royalties began to be deposited in the MSPEF.

Previously, these funds were strictly allocated toward acquiring new land for public use and conservation, and for minor updates to park infrastructures.

While many of the restrictions remain in place, the new funding allocations included in the legislation would allow for more money to be spent on parks and recreational resources. Municipalities and other government bodies would be able to apply for this funding through competitive grants similar to the system already in place for the MNRTF.

“I’m very excited to be able to open this funding up for more local investment,” said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart. “Michigan is a regional destination for outdoor tourism and this is one more way that we can provide communities with the resources necessary to improve or create more recreational opportunities.”

As the law stands now, until the MSPEF reaches $800 million half of the annual revenue is credited back into the principal of the MSPEF. The remaining funds may be spent on operations, maintenance, and capital improvements at state parks and for the acquisition of land or rights in land for state parks.

This new package of bills would change that distribution to the following:

  • 30 percent directed to the principal of the MSPEF
  • 55 percent towards state park operation and infrastructure
  • 15 percent to a new local development projects grant program

“This legislation hasn’t been updated in sixteen years,” said Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart. “It’s long overdue that we begin to free up these funds for improvement to our communities and natural resources. I hope the voters see the value of what we’re trying to do here, and that they’ll come out to support these improvements.”

Changes to the funding structure would apply beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and would be further increased as the funds continue to mature. Once the MSPEF reaches $800 million, oil and gas royalties would return to the MNRTF and up to 50 percent plus interest and earnings could be spent each year.

The bills will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. If they pass the House, Michigan residents will have a chance to vote on the changes via ballot initiative.

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Sen. Hansen welcomes Hart and Shelby pastor to Senate session

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, (left) welcomed to the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday the Rev. Dan Barnum-Steggerda, pastor of the Congregational United Church of Christ churches in Hart and Shelby. Barnum-Steggerda gave the invocation before the start of Senate session.

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Hansen, Iden bills support greater promotion and marketing opportunities for growing agricultural businesses

Sen. Goeff Hansen

Sen. Goeff Hansen

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature has approved bills sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen and Rep. Brandt Iden that would update and enhance various functions of the current Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

The council is currently responsible for promoting and providing assistance to Michigan’s wine and wine grape-growing industries.

Senate Bill 440 and House Bill 4667 would rename the council the “Michigan Craft Beverage Council”; expand council membership to include brewers, distillers and cider makers; and increase access to industry-related grants.

“The council has done an adequate job representing Michigan’s wineries since its inception, but it receives some of its funding from license fees paid by brewers, small distillers and brewpubs, which currently do not benefit from the council’s support — so these bills give those businesses a seat at the table” said Hansen, R-Hart. “By expanding the council’s membership and increasing funding opportunities, it is better equipped to help support these promising sectors going forward.”

Iden also spoke about the importance of improving representation on the council.

“The craft beverage industry is a pivotal part of Michigan’s economy,” said Iden, R-Oshtemo. “We need to ensure that the council has the ability to help lead industry growth.”

Among other responsibilities, the new council would administer grants to promote craft-beverage-related crop research; offer financial assistance programs to grow varieties of fruit, barley, or hops; and establish educational partnerships to benefit the beer, wine and spirits industries.

“Michigan is experiencing an expansion of new wineries, breweries, brew pubs and distilleries,” Hansen said. “These entrepreneurs are having a unique impact on communities across the state. I am confident this legislation will help further support and grow these businesses.”

Hansen has previously served as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. He has been a strong proponent of agri-business and Michigan’s wine industry, having led the way for small winemakers to sell their wines and provide tastings at farmers markets.

SB 440 and HB 4667 have been sent to Gov. Rick Snyder to be signed into law.

Hansen attends governor’s signing of his bill deterring crime

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen on Tuesday attended the bill signing of Senate Bill 44 (Public Act 241 of 2017), Hansen’s measure expanding the number of crimes for which a person may be required to reimburse the state or local units of government.

Also in attendance for the signing was Detective Bruce Morningstar of the Norton Shores Police Department. Morningstar brought to Hansen’s attention the issue of rising incidences of retail fraud at The Lakes Mall in Muskegon County and the strain on local law enforcement to serve the area.

“Detective Morningstar was instrumental in the creation of this law,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “We now have on the books a further deterrent to crime that will save money by reducing costs to the state and to local units of government.”

Under PA 241, the crimes added to the list of those for which reimbursement of expenses may be ordered include retail fraud, dealing in stolen goods, and failure to make a court-ordered court appearance.

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Hansen: Senate’s 2019 budget continues focus on improving Michigan

Sen. Goeff Hansen

Sen. Goeff Hansen

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Goeff Hansen on Thursday supported a Senate budget plan for fiscal year 2019 that increases support for key priorities, including educating Michigan students, protecting families and continuing the state’s economic recovery.

Hansen, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12, School Aid, and Education, sponsored Senate Bill 853, the budget for the Michigan Department of Education. The Senate approved a Hansen amendment to that measure that would increase the number of children of working families who are eligible to receive child care assistance.

“Increasing access to affordable child care helps parents work or participate in job training, and it helps employers by guaranteeing a greater pool of candidates for open positions and reducing turnover,” said Hansen, R-Hart. “With this amendment, an additional 6,000 kids will be helped.”

Congress recently authorized $63.1 million in funding for increasing child care provider rates. Hansen’s amendment allocates $62.3 million of that money for increased assistance.

The entire state budget plan features $7 million to support rural hospitals, a $10 million boost for local public health departments, $40.9 million for Going Pro skilled trades training to prepare workers for in-demand jobs, and an additional $3.6 million to combat various wildlife diseases like bovine TB and chronic wasting disease.

“Enacting a budget is all about making sound financial decisions, and that is what we have done with this budget,” Hansen said.

SBs 850-865 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.