Green Colleges and Universities bill introduced to recognize sustainability efforts

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan colleges and universities would be recognized for setting and achieving environmental sustainability goals under legislation recently introduced by state Senator Margaret O’Brien.

“Michigan is defined by its natural resources and we should be doing what we can to protect them,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “By recognizing our institutions of higher learning for their environmental sustainability work, we can help achieve our shared goals of protecting and preserving our state’s natural beauty and model best practices to help promote these important efforts.”

Senate Bill 916 would establish the Green College and University Advisory Council within the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The council would annually recognize higher education institutions for their sustainability efforts. The program would rank schools into Gold, Silver and Bronze categories based on a point system that scores specific action areas, including air; energy; transportation; buildings; food; water; waste; sustainability outreach, studies and personnel; research; and fieldwork.

The bill is modeled after an existing green schools program that encourages K-12 schools to adopt certain environmental programs. O’Brien worked closely with students in Western Michigan University’s environmental policy course to draft the bill. The course explores why environmental policy is necessary and how it is made. O’Brien previously spoke to the class, which inspired her to work with the students on the bill.

“It has been enlightening to learn about environmental policy and invigorating to help craft a bill to help guide Michigan into a sustainable future,” said Stephen Nehring, a senior at WMU majoring in geography with a minor in environmental and sustainability studies. “I hope that this bill will show everyone in Michigan that we all have a part to play in the management and protection of our natural resources.”

Through the program, the DEQ would recognize schools based on ranking and on the schools’ size and type. To participate, schools would need to submit an application to the department.

The advisory council would consist of a faculty member and a student representative from each participating school. Council members would be appointed by the department director, chosen from a list of nominees submitted by the participating schools.

SB 916 was referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources for consideration.


Senator O’Brien’s anti-meth legislation headed to governor

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by state Senator Margaret O’Brien that would make it a crime to solicit others to purchase pseudoephedrine for the purposes of manufacturing methamphetamine is on its way to the governor for signing, the senator announced.

“Meth is destroying our communities,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Enacting this legislation will make it harder to cook meth, which will hopefully lead to lower meth use. Fighting meth is a bipartisan issue, and I thank my colleagues from both sides of the aisle for their support.”

O’Brien’s bill would enhance existing law that made it a felony for the organized group purchasing of products containing pseudoephedrine to cook meth — a practice also known as smurfing.

Senate Bill 409 would establish a new misdemeanor charge for anyone who attempts to solicit another’s help in acquiring pseudoephedrine products. SB 410, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, which is also on its way to the governor, is a companion measure that would revise the sentencing guidelines.

Companion measures, House Bill 4769, sponsored by Representative Ed McBroom, which would strengthen criminal charges for individuals convicted of manufacturing meth near a school or library; and HB 4864, sponsored by  Representative John Kivela, to impose a five-year “stop sale alert” on a person convicted of smurfing to prevent the individual from buying meth ingredients, also await the governor’s signature.

“I want to thank Senator O’Brien for her leadership on this important legislative package and for her continued commitment to battling illegal methamphetamine production in Michigan,” said Kivela, D-Marquette. “It was an honor to work with Senator O’Brien as meth is a plague in communities across both peninsulas of Michigan. These bills are another very important step in protecting our constituents from this devastating drug.”


O’Brien wins amendment to state budget for ‘Smart911’

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien said Wednesday that her amendment to the general government budget securing funding for a Smart911 system in Michigan was approved by the Senate.

“Smart911 ensures first responders are able to better protect our communities,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “The resources Smart911 offers allow Michigan residents to share information about their home and loved ones that they believe first responders need to know.”

According to the service, Smart911 allows residents to provide additional information that 9-1-1 operators may need in order to assist during an emergency. When an emergency call is made from a phone registered with a Smart911 Safety Profile, the 9-1-1 system recognizes the phone number and automatically displays the supplied profile for the operator.

Profile information is provided by the registered user and can include information about family members, pets and vulnerable household members. Businesses also can provide information including building floor plans and access codes. The emergency operator shares this information with the appropriate first responders.

O’Brien said in the aftermath of the recent shooting spree in Kalamazoo County, she met with a number of area residents who had concerns with safety. The appropriation in O’Brien’s amendment complements an emergency alert bill currently in the House of Representatives.

“I will keep working on this issue as the budget goes through the entire process,” O’Brien said. “Safety is a top priority.”