Welcome to my latest e-newsletter! In addition to the usual information on state news, things to do and other community information, I talk about Michigan’s amazing agricultural industry.
I recently co-sponsored House Bill 5736, a bill to create a 90-day grace period with no penalty for individuals who wish to purchase auto-insurance but have had their insurance lapse for more than six months. Normally, not having insurance for the prior six months would put someone into what is known as the high-risk pool. The aim of this bill is to create opportunities for people to access affordable insurance.
I have also co-sponsored HB 5737, a bill to prohibit a health insurance provider from denying a 90-day prescription refill claim because there are not 90 days left in the calendar year. All prior authorization requirements must also be met at the time of the refill request. The idea for this bill came from a woman who was denied a refill of her regular prescription simply because the year was almost over.
MDOT 2018 Construction Map Now Available for Download
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has posted the 2018 Paving the Way state construction map online for motorists to download. The public is encouraged to download the map and print it at home or at their nearest library. The map is available at www.michigan.gov/mdotmaps, and will also be on display in all rest areas and Welcome Centers across the state in the coming weeks.
The most up-to-date construction information for state roads is always available on the MI Drive traffic website at www.michigan.gov/drive.
Don't forget! Michigan's 2018 Fishing License Season Kicks Off April 1
For those interested in going fishing in Michigan, a new license is required starting Sunday, April 1 for people who are 17 years of age or older. That day is the kickoff to the state’s 2018 fishing license season, as well as the new fishing regulation cycle. All 2018 fishing licenses are good through March 31, 2019. Anglers have eight options to choose from when making their purchase. All fishing licenses are good for all species.
There are several regulation changes this year, creating many new fishing opportunities for anglers. The new regulations go into effect on April 1, 2018. For more information on Michigan fishing licenses and regulation changes, check out the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide – available at license retailers or online at www.michigan.gov/dnrdigests. The online version is always up to date and available to download.
For your convenience, there are two simple ways to buy a fishing license in Michigan:
- Visit a local license retailer or DNR Customer Service Center and make a purchase in person.
- Use the E-License system to buy a license online 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just visit mdnr-elicense.com on your computer, smartphone or tablet to get started.
Dry Grass Poses Wildfire Risk for Outdoor Burning
Home and property owners in much of the Lower Peninsula should avoid outdoor burning for the next few days because dry conditions could cause fire to spread. Dead vegetation such as grasses, leaves and residual crops are dry and ignite easily. The advisory applies to much of the state south of U.S. 10 to the state line. Those who plan to burn yard debris or other materials at any time should contact the DNR for a burn permit at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit or contact their city, village or township for local burning rules. State law allows for the burning of leaves, grass, limbs, brush, stumps and evergreen needles. It also allows for burning some types of household paper materials that do not contain plastic, foam, chemically treated wood, textiles, electronics, chemicals or hazardous materials. Those must be contained in a covered metal or masonry burning vessel with an opening no larger than ¾ of an inch. For more information, please visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.
DNR Reminds New Hunters to Sign Up for Safety Classes
Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers remind new hunters that it’s not too early to sign up for safety classes. All first-time hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, must successfully complete a hunter safety course.
Even new hunters who are outside of the age requirement should consider taking a class. Hunter education courses teach responsibility, ethics, firearm safety, wildlife conservation and identification, game care, survival and first aid. Courses are offered across the state throughout the year, though most are conducted from August through October.
A course typically is comprised of two to five sessions with a total class time of 10 to 12 hours. Classes usually are conducted at outdoor clubs, schools, police stations and camps. In addition to traditional classroom courses, home-study and online courses – which use a self-paced method followed by a field day of material review and testing – are available. Students who elect to take an online or home-study course should contact an instructor prior to the course to ensure availability of the required field day. Students must successfully complete both the online or home-study course and the field day to earn their hunter education safety certificate. Hunter education is a partnership between the DNR Law Enforcement Division and more than 2,500 volunteer instructors. The program is funded through federal Pittman-Robertson Act taxes on sporting firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. Visit www.michigan.gov/huntereducation for more information on hunter education and to find a class near you.
Working Families Eligible for Homestead Property Tax Credit
Working families and individuals with a household income of $50,000 or less a year may be eligible for a Homestead Property Tax Credit, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. Michigan’s Homestead Property Tax Credit can help taxpayers if they are a qualified homeowner or renter and meet certain requirements. For most people, the tax credit is based on a comparison between property taxes and total household income, with homeowners paying property taxes directly and renters paying them indirectly with their rent.
During the 2016 tax year, more than 1 million taxpayers claimed the Homestead Property Tax credit, worth more than $532 million; an average credit at $521.
Taxpayers may claim a Homestead Property Tax Credit if ALL the following apply:
- Your homestead is in Michigan
- You were a resident of Michigan for at least six months during the year
- You own or are contracted to pay rent and occupy a Michigan homestead on which property taxes were levied
- If you own your home, your taxable value is $135,000 or less (unless unoccupied farmland)
- Your total household resources are $50,000 or less
Qualified taxpayers who are required to file a state income tax return should claim the Homestead Property Tax Credit with their return. Taxpayers also may file a Homestead Property Tax Credit claim by itself.
To learn more about the Homestead Property Tax Credit or to access the forms required to obtain the credit or state income taxes, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax and click on “Credits and Exemptions” at the bottom of the page.
Treasury: Taxpayers Can Check State Refund Status Online
The Michigan Department of Treasury reminds taxpayers they may check the status of their refund online by going to www.michigan.gov/wheresmyrefund.
Individuals who e-filed can check their refund status two weeks from the date confirmation was received that the state return was accepted. The status of paper-filed tax returns can be viewed from six to eight weeks after postmarking. The most up-to-date information about a taxpayer’s refund is on the “Where’s My Refund?” website. Taxpayers interested in learning the status of their refund are encouraged to use the website.
To ensure taxpayer privacy and security, the following information is required when checking the status of a refund at www.michigan.gov/wheresmyrefund:
- Social Security Number
- Tax Year
- Filing Status
- Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or Total Household Resources (THR)
Individuals can find their AGI on line 10 of the MI-1040. Total Household Resources are found on line 33 on the MI-1040CR or line 34 on the MI-1040CR-7. For more information, please visit: www.michigan.gov/taxes.
Treasury: Resolve to Be Ready for Tax Scams in 2018
The Michigan Department of Treasury is asking taxpayers to resolve to be ready for tax scams in 2018. Cybercriminals and scammers try to get information through phone scams and email phishing schemes. These scammers try to obtain personal information using different tricks and tactics so they can file income tax returns and claim refunds on behalf of unsuspecting taxpayers. Some scammers may also allege a taxpayer owes taxes and aggressively demand payment for a quick payout.
Treasury will never:
- Initiate a phone call or email to ask for personal information.
- Call or email to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, Treasury will first send a bill through the U.S. mail to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
- Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Cybercriminals often alter caller ID numbers and emails to make it look like the state Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service or another official agency is contacting a taxpayer. Scammers may use employee titles, a person’s name, address and other personal information to sound official.
Taxpayers who have received a call or email from a scammer should report the case to the IRS through the web or by calling (800) 366-4484. To learn more about tax-related identity theft, go to www.michigan.gov/identitytheft
Free Tax Help
Seniors and individuals with special needs may qualify for free tax preparation help from IRS-trained volunteers or Tax Counseling for the qualified preparers. For information about free tax help, go to www.michiganfreetaxhelp.org or dial 2-1-1.
To learn more about Michigan’s individual income tax or to download forms, go to www.michigan.gov/taxes. For more information about e-filing, go to www.mifastfile.org.
The Forest Township Senior Center is offering an exercise class from 12:15-1 p.m. every Wednesday. The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program is a low-impact physical activity program proven to reduce pain and decrease stiffness. The routines include gentle range-of-motion exercises that are suitable for every fitness level. This program is being paid for by Valley Area Agency on Aging and SilverSneakers Flex Programs. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact Abbie Mars at Valley Area Agency on Aging at (810) 239-7671.
Be sure to check the hours of local businesses and government agencies, as spring break is upon us. My office will be closed on Friday, March 30. The Genesee District Library will be closed for spring break Friday, March 30-Sunday, April 1.
Michigan’s Remarkable Agricultural Sector
Although the weather isn’t cooperating, spring is upon us. Many of us are ready to get out into our gardens and get our hands dirty planting, tilling, weeding and picking fresh fruits and vegetables, but we have a little time until we are able to do that. While thinking about my own garden, I’ve been thinking about all that we produce in Michigan and how important agriculture is to our state. Did you know that agriculture is one of Michigan’s most important industries? The agricultural sector contributes $101.2 billion annually to the state’s economy and representing roughly 22 percent of the state’s employment. Michigan boasts 52,194 total farms, growing and raising a wide range of commodities. In fact, the state is second in the nation in terms of agricultural diversity. Michigan leads the nation in the production of asparagus, black, cranberry and small red dried beans, cucumbers, tart cherries, Niagara grapes, potatoes and squash. Michigan also produces an impressive amount of apples, blueberries, chestnuts, beef, Christmas trees and many types of flowers.
Michigan’s agricultural products benefit people all over the world. In 2015, Michigan exported $2.8 billion in food and agricultural products to countries including Canada, Japan, China, Thailand and Mexico. Exporting food helps Michigan’s economy, as every dollar that comes from export activity generates another $2.93 in economic activity. This results in an additional impact of about $8.2 billion. For every $1 billion in agricultural exports, 8,000 jobs are created in the state. Michigan’s top agricultural exports are soybeans and soybean meal, dairy products, feed and feed grains, and fresh and processed vegetables. There is also a benefit locally. Michiganders proudly make a big impact through the variety of small businesses. More than 856,000 small businesses employing nearly 1.8 million workers call Michigan home.
Michigan women also play a large role in the agricultural sector. More than 24,000 female farmers operate nearly 3 million acres of farmland and create $232.2 million in total economic impact. This makes up 7,406 farms that have female operators. Michigan women are helping to change the landscape and are finding success as leaders in the agricultural industry. The United States Department of Agriculture launched the Women in Agriculture Initiative designed to support women as they take leadership roles both on and off the farm. I applaud the support that is being given; it is evident in Michigan as many women are taking the lead on family farms.
The hard work of Michigan’s farmers and small businesses benefit Michiganders, as well as people all over the world. While we wait for our own time to plant, we can take time to reflect on how truly amazing Michigan’s agricultural industry is.
To learn more about Michigan products, please click here
State Representative Pam Faris
48th House District
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