Senator O’Brien speaks at MSHDA Summit on Ending Homelessness

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, addressed attendees of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) 2016 Summit on Ending Homelessness on Thursday in Kalamazoo.

According to MSHDA, the annual event provides a forum to share best practices for ending homelessness. It provides networking and collaboration opportunities for professionals working to improve the welfare of people in Michigan who are living in poverty and homelessness.

For more information, visit thecampaigntoendhomelessness.org.

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Senate panel approves O’Brien legislation penalizing motorists who injure, kill bicyclists

LANSING, Mich. — Motorists who injure or kill a pedestrian, wheel chair user, or person operating a transportation device, such as a bicycle, would face stiffer penalties under legislation approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“More and more, it seems, going for a bike ride is turning into senseless tragedies,” said bill sponsor Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage. “We need to share the roads, and we are working to do more to protect bicyclists and other vulnerable users sharing the roadways.”

O’Brien was joined in testimony at the committee hearing by Jennifer Johnson, of Kalamazoo, who was one of the bicyclists injured by a motorist that struck and killed five and injured four bicyclists near Kalamazoo last June.

Senate Bill 1029 would make it a felony with up to 15 years of imprisonment for motorists who kill bicyclists and other vulnerable roadway users. The bill would also establish a misdemeanor charge for motorists who injure them, punishable by up to a year in prison. A companion measure, SB 1030, sponsored by Senator David Knezek, which would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines, was also approved.

Additional bills on the topic received approval as well. SB 1076 and 1077, sponsored by O’Brien and Knezek, respectively, would require drivers to maintain a minimum 5-foot distance when passing bicyclists. SB 1078, also sponsored by O’Brien, would require drivers to receive at least three hours of instruction regarding safety for bicyclists and motorcyclists on the road.

The bills now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

Photo caption: Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on legislation that strengthens penalties on motorists who injure or kill bicyclists.

Note: Click the image for a print quality version.

Senate approves O’Brien’s bill to allow dogs on restaurant patios

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — Restaurant patrons would be allowed to bring their dogs with them while dining outdoors at Michigan restaurants under a bill approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 727, sponsored by Senator Margaret O’Brien, would expand an existing law allowing service dogs in restaurants to allow dogs to accompany pet owners at participating restaurants’ outdoor dining areas.

“Michiganders love their pets,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Dogs have become important members of the family. With so many pet-friendly amenities like dog parks and hotels that accept dogs, it is reasonable to allow restaurants to decide if dogs are allowed on their outdoor patios.”

The bill requires restaurants wishing to participate to notify the local health department prior to serving customers with dogs. Establishments would need to provide specific outdoor dining areas for patrons bringing their dogs. Restaurants would also be able to limit the size and type of dogs allowed, and they would be able to deny or eject a customer and dog at its discretion.

Dogs would not be allowed to pass through an establishment’s interior to get to the dog-dining area, and dogs would not be permitted on an owner’s lap or on seating and dining surfaces.

Restaurants would also be required to keep the dog-dining area clean of dog waste and properly and routinely disinfect the area as needed. Any dog waste would need to be disposed of daily in a covered waste receptacle located outside of the establishment, and employees who come into contact with a dog or dog would need to wash themselves before returning to work.

This bill does not change the rights or laws of people with service dogs. Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder signed legislation sponsored by O’Brien ensuring service dogs can accompany their owners.

“Having the ability to bring our dogs when going out to eat would make a Pure Michigan day out with family or friends that much more enjoyable,” O’Brien said.

SB 727 now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.

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