Sen. O’Brien introduces bills to crack down on animal fighting

LANSING, Mich. — Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, on Tuesday announced the introduction of legislation that would crack down on animal fighters and organizers.

“People who engage in this brutal degradation of animals after already being caught must be shown that there is no place for such cruel acts anywhere in Michigan,” said Sen. O’Brien, sponsor of Senate Bills 413 and 414. “The punishment for animal fighting must fit the crime, and we must ensure our laws properly sentence and deter people from engaging in such a barbaric activity.”

SBs 413 and 414 would establish that animal fighters and organizers convicted of their second offense would be guilty of a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of no less than 18 months and no more than four years. They also would be fined $5,000 to $50,000 and/or receive 500 to 1,000 hours of community service.

Those who attend fights, breed animals, or who fight or sell equipment for such fights would, on their second offense, be charged with a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of no less than nine months and no more than four years. They also would be fined $1,000 to $5,000 and/or receive 250 to 500 hours of community service.

A person with any conviction for animal fighting or organizing would receive a five-year ban on owning the same type of animal species involved. Any person in violation of this ban would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be punished by up to one year or fined $1,000 to $2,500. Each animal that a person owns or possesses in violation of the ban would constitute a separate offense.

“Even though Michigan has one of the strongest animal fighting laws in the nation, repeat offenders are often given probation or meager sentences,” said Lydia Sattler, Michigan state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The punishment should fit the crime, and animal fighting is a violent crime that brutalizes animals, degrades entire communities, and involves other illegal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking. We applaud Senator Margaret O’Brien for sponsoring legislation to ensure that repeat offenders receive meaningful punishment.”

The bills have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration.

Rep. Brandt Iden has introduced companion legislation, House Bill 4669, in the House of Representatives.

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Senate holds 23rd Annual Memorial Day Service

LANSING, Mich. —The Michigan Senate held its 23rd Annual Memorial Day Service in the Senate chamber on Thursday, said Senator Margaret O’Brien.

The service honors Michigan soldiers who died within the past year.

Senator O’Brien welcomed State Representative David Maturen as her guest to the ceremony. Representative Maturen is a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served from 1971 until 1973.

“This annual service is an important time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice that was made by many to defend our nation and protect our freedom,” said Sen. O’Brien, chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. “I was honored to have been joined by Representative Maturen today as we honored those who paid the highest price for our country.”

The Kalamazoo Pipe Band also participated in the ceremony.

The Michigan Senate held its first Memorial Day Service at the initiative of former U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, who was then a state senator.

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Editor’s note: Click the image for a print-quality version. This photo and others are also available by visiting https://www.senatormargaretobrien.com/photowire/.

Photo caption (left): Sen. Margaret O’Brien (center-right), R-Portage, is joined by Rep. Maturen (right) and the Kalamazoo Pipe Band at the 23rd Annual Senate Memorial Day Service on May 25.

Photo caption (right):  Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, leads the Michigan Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance during the 23rd Annual Senate Memorial Day Service on May 25.

Senate panel approves bill to waive personal identification card fee for veterans

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Homeland Security Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would waive fees for veterans who want a state identification card.

Senate Bill 404 would direct the secretary of state to waive the $10 fee for veterans who need a state issued personal identification card.

“By eliminating this fee for veterans, they will be able to apply for an ID card that will help grant them access to many valuable programs they’ve earned through their service,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of SB 404. “Many veterans don’t utilize the various programs that exist for their benefit because they do not have the proper identification. We should do what we can to ensure that those who have defended our country have access to the services and programs they have earned.”

The legislation would add veterans to the list of individuals who currently receive a waived fee for a state personal identification card as long as they can provide proof that they are a veteran to the secretary of state.

The bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

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Sens. O’Brien and Jones introduce ‘safe care’ plan bills

LANSING, Mich. — Senator Margaret O’Brien and Sen. Rick Jones have introduced legislation to require a “Plan of Safe Care” for babies born with substance abuse.

“I was upset when I learned of the correlation found connecting babies born with illegal drugs in their system and infant mortality,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We must make sure that babies and their mothers with substance abuse disorders get the help they need, which would include evidence-based home visiting program and be tailored to each baby’s needs.”

Jones’ bill, Senate Bill 397, would define a “Plan of Safe Care” as a plan developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), a medical professional or another provider that addresses the health and safety needs of the newborn infant affected by substance abuse.

The plan would also address the substance use disorder treatment needs of the mother and the service needs of another caregiver or family members.

“Sadly, far too many Michigan babies are born addicted to illegal drugs,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “This is about protecting all Michigan newborns and ensuring that every infant affected by drug or alcohol disorders receives effective treatment. Home visits under a safe care plan would not be invasive and can be used as a tool to help teach new mothers to address their needs and provide a safe place for their new babies to live and thrive.”

Sen. O’Brien’s bill, SB 398, would require that a newborn infant identified as being affected by substance use disorder, withdrawal symptoms or fetal alcohol disorder will have a Plan of Safe Care developed for them.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee for consideration.

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Sens. O’Brien and Jones introduce ‘safe care’ plan bills

LANSING, Mich. — Senator Margaret O’Brien and Sen. Rick Jones have introduced legislation to require a “Plan of Safe Care” for babies born with substance abuse.

“I was upset when I learned of the correlation found connecting babies born with illegal drugs in their system and infant mortality,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “We must make sure that babies and their mothers with substance abuse disorders get the help they need, which would include evidence-based home visiting program and be tailored to each baby’s needs.”

Jones’ bill, Senate Bill 397, would define a “Plan of Safe Care” as a plan developed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), a medical professional or another provider that addresses the health and safety needs of the newborn infant affected by substance abuse.

The plan would also address the substance use disorder treatment needs of the mother and the service needs of another caregiver or family members.

“Sadly, far too many Michigan babies are born addicted to illegal drugs,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “This is about protecting all Michigan newborns and ensuring that every infant affected by drug or alcohol disorders receives effective treatment. Home visits under a safe care plan would not be invasive and can be used as a tool to help teach new mothers to address their needs and provide a safe place for their new babies to live and thrive.”

Sen. O’Brien’s bill, SB 398, would require that a newborn infant identified as being affected by substance use disorder, withdrawal symptoms or fetal alcohol disorder will have a Plan of Safe Care developed for them.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee for consideration.

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Senate proclaims May as Foster Care Awareness Month in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved Senate Resolution 63, which proclaims May as Foster Care Awareness Month in Michigan.

Senator Margaret O’Brien welcomed several constituents from the Seita Scholars Program at Western Michigan University for a formal presentation of the resolution on the Senate floor.

“We have an obligation to help improve the lives of the nearly 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan,” said Senator O’Brien, R-Portage. “All children deserve a home where they are loved and respected. During the month of May, we thank the foster parents, volunteers and others who help children in foster care find permanent homes and assist them in developing the skills and knowledge to become successful adults.”

The Seita Scholars Program is part of a larger initiative to improve the educational success of youth in the foster care system by providing full-ride tuition scholarships and additional supports such as First-Year Seminar instructors and student leaders, peer leaders, other volunteers and career mentors to assist these students in completing their education.

Currently, only 2 percent to 4 percent of youth from the foster care system will earn a college degree. The Seita Scholars Program has over 100 graduates with graduation rates far above the national average.

In Michigan, there are nearly 13,000 children in foster care and 300 children who still need an adoptive family. For more information on becoming a foster parent, or to help a foster child in need, visit www.michigan.gov/hopeforahome.

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Editor’s note: For a print-quality version of this and other Sen. O’Brien photos, click the image or visit www.SenatorMargaretObrien.com and click Photowire under the Media Center tab.

Photo Caption: During Senate session on May 17, Sen. Margaret O’Brien (center right), R-Portage, and Sen. Judy Emmons (center left), R-Sheridan, presented a resolution recognizing May as Foster Care Awareness Month to (from left to right) Ronicka Hamilton, director, Seita Scholars Program, Center for Fostering Success, Western Michigan University; Geovany Ulario, WMU, Seita Scholars Program; Bri Simmons, WMU, Seita Scholars Program; Maggie Grimm, WMU, Seita Scholars Program; Karie Ward, sustainability coordinator, Fostering Success Michigan, Center for Fostering Success, WMU; Maddy Day, director of outreach and training, Center for Fostering Success, WMU.

Senate approves legislation to ban female genital mutilation in Michigan

Senator Margaret O'Brien

Senator Margaret O’Brien

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) in Michigan.

Senate Bill 337, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, would establish a felony crime punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment for the act. A companion bill, SB 338 sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines.

“We have taken swift action to end this oppressive procedure that permanently deforms girls,” Sen. O’Brien said. “Michigan must ensure that the rights of girls and women are protected against such heinous acts. This horrific abuse has no place in Michigan.”

SBs 368 and 369, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, would ban the transportation of girls for an FGM procedure. Under the bills, the crime would be a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that mutilate the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The department states federal law prohibits anyone in the country from knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age.

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform FGM on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

SBs 337-338 and 368-369 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Senator O’Brien reacts to announced closure of State Farm Insurance Kalamazoo branch

LANSING, Mich. — State Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, issued the following statement on Thursday in reaction to an announcement by State Farm Insurance that it will close its Kalamazoo branch location:

“Today, over 600 employees learned that they will no longer be employed in Kalamazoo County. Their lives and their families’ lives are changing, and my heart goes out to them. The people at the Kalamazoo office of State Farm have done an amazing job serving our community. State Farm has been a great community employer, and I continue to urge them to keep our Kalamazoo office open.”

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Senate panel approves bills to ban female genital mutilation in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved bills that would criminalize female genital mutilation in Michigan.

Senate Bill 337 would establish a felony crime punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment for the act, while SB 338 would provide the necessary sentencing guidelines.

“We have to end the barbaric attacks on our girls,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of SB 337. “Female genital mutilation is not a medical procedure — it is solely designed to oppress girls and women. Let’s stand up and protect those who have been defenseless.”

The legislation was introduced in response to the alleged actions of two Michigan-based doctors that were indicted in federal court for conspiring to perform female genital mutilation on minors in the state. The act is already a federal crime with a sentence of up to five years in prison.

“We are making history today,” said Dr. Lori Post, associate professor at Yale University School of Medicine and incoming director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University. “These bills are much larger than just Michigan. The globe has its eyes on these bills and what we are talking about today.”

If enacted, Michigan would join 24 other states with specific laws against female genital mutilation.

The bills now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

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