Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! Read on for things to do this month, along with other community information.
I have recently co-sponsored House Bill 5336, which would amend the Revised School Code to include instruction regarding sexual harassment and sexual violence within sexual education in public schools. The goal is of this legislation is to reduce rates of sexual assault within communities. This specific curriculum includes:
- Instruction concerning sexual harassment and sexual violence among peers and in dating relationships.
- Strategies for the prevention of sexual harassment and violence.
- Reporting of sexual harassment or sexual violence.
- Resources for victims of sexual harassment or sexual violence.
- Affirmative consent standards.
- Establishing boundaries among peers and in dating relationships.
- Instruction concerning state and federal law on sexual harassment and sexual violence.
We must hold ourselves to a higher standard in working to eradicate sexual misconduct and sexual violence. This bill intends to do so by providing students with a comprehensive education that would include preventative strategies and helpful resources. Implementing this preventative education early on is essential in building a safer, healthier, and more prosperous community.
Help Available for Those in Need during Michigan Winter
As freezing temperatures start to settle in across Michigan, Consumers Energy is reminding Michigan families, seniors and those in need that now is the time to reach out for help with winter heating costs. Consumers Energy is working to connect eligible customers with nonprofit organizations in communities across Michigan that will provide more than $45 million in state funds to help with heating costs. Consumers Energy encourages anyone who is looking for available assistance in their community to start by calling 2-1-1, a free service that can refer people to local assistance programs, or by visiting www.ConsumersEnergy.com/assistance. In November, Consumers Energy customers are also receiving information regarding assistance programs along with their bills. The information describes company payment plan options, as well as outside help such as the nonprofit agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services State Emergency Relief program, the Michigan Home Heating Credit and more.
Treasury: Update Addresses before 2018 Filing Season
Gathering Documents, Updating Addresses Today Makes Filing Returns Easier
With the state of Michigan’s individual income tax season beginning in late January 2018, the Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers to take a couple of actions today to ensure returns are processed promptly.
Taxpayers are encouraged to begin gathering tax-related documents and updating their home addresses with current and previous employers so W-2s and other financial documents can be mailed to the correct address. Incorrect addresses typically lead to information being mailed to the wrong location and could cause delays when filing tax returns.
“State income tax filing season seems like a long time away, but it will be here before you know it,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “Taxpayers who prepare today are less likely to face processing delays.”
Other notable items for Michigan’s 2018 filing season (2017 tax year):
- Beginning in January 2018, forms and instructions may be viewed and downloaded from www.michigan.gov/taxes. In addition, commonly used forms will continue to be available at Treasury offices, most public libraries, northern Michigan post offices and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services county offices.
- When tax season begins in late January, taxpayers can e-file their state tax returns instead of mailing a paper return. To learn more, go to www.mifastfile.org.
- Taxpayers may elect to use direct debit when e-filing their 2016 or 2017 tax returns. A direct debit is a tax payment the state Treasury Department electronically withdraws from the taxpayer’s bank account using the bank information provided on the electronically filed return.
- State income tax filers have the option of making payments electronically using the Michigan Department of Treasury’s e-Payments system. Payments can be made by using, electronic payment (eCheck), credit card or debit card.
- A taxpayer must file to claim a refund with the state Treasury Department within four years from the date set for filing of the original return. Individuals must file a 2013 Michigan Individual Income Tax Return to receive their refund for that tax year.
- Taxpayers who have been recent victims of identity theft are asked to report their circumstances to the state Treasury Department. Reporting identity theft helps thwart cybercriminals who attempt to file and steal a state tax refunds. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft.
Add adventure to your New Year’s resolutions with Shoe Year’s hikes and other outdoor fun
Reinvigorate yourself in 2018! Make an “adventure resolution” and commit to exploring Michigan’s great outdoors this year with a “Shoe Year’s” hike, cross-country skiing, fat-tire biking or the many other ways to relish winter. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources encourages residents to shift their plans for the coming year into high gear with a few ideas for inspired outdoor fun.
“For many, winter in Michigan is an undiscovered gem,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “State parks and trails offer visitors a completely different experience in the winter, everything from peaceful hikes through snow-dusted campgrounds and candlelight cross-country skiing to black diamond downhill skiing with views of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. A Michigan winter adventure should be on everyone’s list this season.”
The following Shoe Year's guided hikes take place through the first week of January:
- Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Ontonagon County) – Friday, Dec. 29 from 6 to 9 p.m.
- Bay City Recreation Area (Bay County) – Sunday, Dec. 31 from 1 to 5 p.m.
- Maybury State Park (Wayne County) – Sunday, Dec. 31 from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
- Island Lake Recreation Area (Livingston County) – Monday, Jan. 1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (First Day Hike)
- Yankee Springs Recreation Area (Barry County) – Monday, Jan. 1 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (First Day Hike)
- Straits State Park (Cheboygan County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from 2 to 7 p.m.
- Besser Natural Area (Alpena County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from noon to 3 p.m.
- Ludington State Park (Mason County) – Saturday, Jan. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Michigan is part of the nationwide First Day Hikes program, coordinated by the National Association of State Park Directors and inspired by the First Day Hikes that originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Mass. Last year, more than 62,000 people participated on guided hikes that covered more than 114,000 miles on 1,300 hikes across the country.
If guided hikes don't work into your schedule, but you are looking for an adventure checklist, here are a few winter adventures suggested by Maia Turek, resource development specialist for the DNR:
- Muskegon Winter Sports Complex — Even a novice adventurer will love the variety of adventure options at this state park destination. A luge, ice skating through the woods, sledding, skiing and even yurt yoga classes are all part of the experience. Visit msports.org.
- Experience the lantern-lit or candlelight ski and snowshoe events — even if just once. They happen throughout the winter and around the state, so finding one that works for your schedule should be easy. Visit michigan.gov/dnrcalendar.
- Fat tire biking on the Cadillac Pathway — This 11.3-mile groomed ski, hike and bike trail with six loops is marked and groomed for novice and intermediate cross-country skiers. Rent a fat-tire bike from area bike shops or use your own. Visit michigan.gov/dnrtrails.
- Grab a fishing rod and take advantage of the first of two Free Fishing Weekends, Feb. 17-18. Twice a year, residents and non-residents can enjoy two back-to-back days of fishing without a license. Visit michigan.gov/freefishing.
- Visit Palms Book State Park in the Upper Peninsula and be amazed by Kitch-iti-kipi’s geothermal energy. Because the water is 45 degrees year-round, this stunning spring is a four-season destination. It’s also a great snowmobile stop. Visit michigan.gov/palmsbook.
- Jump on the Iron Belle Trail, the longest designated state trail in the nation, and hike (or bicycle) your way between Belle Isle Park in Detroit and Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula. Experience exciting cities, explore pristine forests and visit charming towns all across the state. Visit michigan.gov/ironbelle.
- Porcupine Mountains Ski Area — Downhill skiers and snowboarders will enjoy 15 groomed trails, four glade trails, the second-highest vertical drop in Michigan (or Wisconsin) and breathtaking views of Lake Superior. The ski area also offers a launching point for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Visit porkiesfun.com.
“Often, the term resolution for the new year seems daunting, but don’t let it overwhelm you,” said Turek. “From participating in a guided hike along the more than 12,500 miles of state-designated trails, cross-country skiing on groomed trails and snowshoeing along lantern-lit trails to experiencing the ice skating trail at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, these destinations are home to unique and calorie-burning options for experiencing the outdoors in the coming year.”
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.
Starting Jan. 1, save money on Recreation Passport purchase
For just $11 (or $6 for motorcycles) a year, Michigan's Recreation Passport enables Michigan-registered vehicles access to more than 100 state parks, hundreds of miles of trails, historic sites, boat launches and other state-managed destinations. That’s just 3 cents a day for a year’s worth of outdoor exploration.
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will add a $5 convenience fee for resident Recreation Passport purchases made at state parks. This is the same fee Secretary of State charges when a resident adds a Recreation Passport to a vehicle outside the annual registration renewal cycle.
To avoid paying the convenience fee, customers can buy the Recreation Passport online at expressSOS.com, by mail, at a self-service station or in person at a branch office at the time of registration renewal. If a customer wants to add a Recreation Passport to a vehicle after it's registered, they can return to Secretary of State or visit a state park and have it issued for $16 ($11 Recreation Passport plus $5 convenience fee for vehicles) or $11 for motorcycles ($6 Recreation Passport plus $5 processing fee).
An additional benefit for residents who purchase the Recreation Passport during registration renewal is 12 months of access and value, as opposed to buying at the park later in the year and missing out on a full year of outdoor recreation benefits.
“To save time and boost convenience, the DNR has always encouraged residents to purchase their Recreation Passport at the same time they renew their Michigan vehicle registrations through Secretary of State, rather than at state parks,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “Reducing the number of Recreation Passport purchases on-site at state parks will improve visitor traffic flow by reducing waits at park entrances.”
Olson said the $5 convenience fee will be assessed on Recreation Passport purchases at all state parks except Belle Isle, because that park’s entry fee was introduced only recently into the state park management system.
“Belle Isle operating as Michigan’s 102nd state park is a relatively recent change, especially for visitors who for decades were used to entering the park without any entrance fee,” Olson said. “The $5 convenience fee will take effect here Jan. 1, 2019.”
Recreation Passport sales — along with revenue generated from camping fees — are a key source of funding for Michigan’s state park system.
More reminders and additional information regarding the Recreation Passport:
- The Recreation Passport is valid until the user’s next vehicle license plate renewal date, which means it is valid for up to 12 months (depending on purchase date).
- Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the cost for the Recreation Passport for motorcycles is changing from $5 to $6. This change was based on an increase to the Consumer Price Index.
- Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the cost for the Recreation Passport for daily commercial vehicle permits is changing from $16 to $17. This change was based on an increase to the Consumer Price Index. The $5 convenience fee will not be applied.
- Because Recreation Passport purchases for vehicles whose plates are not renewed on an annual basis (e.g., municipal, manufacturer, antique and tribal license plates) are possible only at state parks, the $5 convenience fee will not be applied.
- The $5 convenience fee will not be assessed on Recreation Passport purchases for non-street-legal vehicles at the ORV area at Silver Lake State Park in Oceana County.
To learn more about the Recreation Passport – including a new video and details on the nonresident purchase option – visit the DNR website at michigan.gov/recreationpassport.
Events in the 48th District
Italian Cooking Series: Zucchini Soup
Monday, Jan. 8, from 6-7 p.m.
Clio Area Library, 2080 W. Vienna Road, Clio
Learn the culinary magic of Italian cooking from one of the greats, Ming Louie, in this three-week cooking series. Delizioso! For more information or to pre-register, please call (810) 686-7130 or visit the Genesee District Library website.
Tuesday, Jan. 9 from 6-7 p.m.
Genesee-Johnson Library, 7397 N. Genesee Road, Genesee Township
Make blankets for a local animal shelter with fellow animal lovers. For more information or to pre-register, please call (810) 640-1410 or visit the Genesee District Library website.
My legislative office, along with many other federal, state and local offices, will be closed Friday, Dec. 29, and Monday, Jan. 1. Wishing you a very happy new year filled with love and surrounded by family and friends.
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”
I hope you found this information useful. Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of any assistance.
State Representative Pam Faris
48th House District