Nofs: Low-income families will stay warm this winter as governor signs Senate bills into law

LANSING, Mich.—Low-income residents who may have faced heating utility shut-offs this winter will be able to keep their homes and families warm after Senate legislation was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder today.

“I am glad that the Legislature was able to come together to find a solution so low-income Michigan residents could continue to receive heating assistance this winter,” said Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who chairs the Energy and Technology Committee and helped usher the measures through the Senate. 

A state Court of Appeals decision ruled the Michigan Public Service Commission could not operate the Low Income Energy Efficiency Funding (LIEEF) as a supplemental to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIEFF was a long-standing program created by a surcharge on utility bills that was struck down by the courts due to language inadvertently deleted during a 2008 update of the law.

Senate Bill 864 (Public Act 274 of 2011) and SB 364 (PA 275) together, temporarily, continue an existing charge to customers on their electric and natural gas bills to help the estimated 130,000 Michiganders who qualify for assistance on their home heating costs. The charge is approximately a 50 percent reduction in the cost currently borne by rate payers. This is expected to raise $48 million to be deposited in a new Vulnerable Household Warmth Fund created by the legislation.

The plan helps Michigan deal with the immediate problem of low-income heating during the winter while giving the Legislature ample time to create a comprehensive, fair and long-term replacement.

‘Driver Responsibility’ fees to be eliminated

LANSING, Mich.—Some of Michigan’s burdensome ‘Driver Responsibility’ fees will be phased out if legislation supported by Sen. Mike Nofs is signed into law.

“These onerous and excessive fees for minor traffic violations are crippling, especially with so many struggling to keep up with the basic necessities of life,” said Nofs, R-Battle Creek. “These fees weigh heavily on Michigan families, particularly those of low income, and I was glad to vote for this bill to begin the process of eliminating them altogether.”

Fees for operators who have accumulated seven or more points and do not have vehicle insurance, fail to produce proof of insurance, or drive with an expired driver license will be eliminated.

Fees for more serious infractions, such as operating while intoxicated, hit and run, and fleeing police, shall remain.

Senate Bill 166 was sent to the governor for his consideration.

Nofs: Senate approves unemployment insurance reforms

LANSING, Mich.—Legislation that reduces fraud, restores the long-term solvency of the state’s unemployment trust fund, and prevents punitive federal interest and penalties from being imposed on Michigan employers passed the state Senate Thursday.

“By closing loopholes and eliminating fraud and abuse with these reforms we are working to make sure limited unemployment resources go to those who are truly in need,” said Sen. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek. “Paying down the UI debt the state owes frees employers of that unnecessary burden, giving them better opportunities to grow in the future. And restoring the state UI fund means eliminating our indebtedness to the federal government, which prevents further penalties and interest from being assessed.”

Senate Bill 806 includes reforms that will deter fraud, prevent overpayments, and encourage workers to seek employment before exhausting benefits. The bill also limits the ability of a person who was fired for cause or who left a job voluntarily from collecting unemployment benefits.

Senate Bills 483 and 484 would pay back the $3.2 billion that Michigan’s unemployment fund owes the Federal Unemployment Insurance system through a ten-year, tax-exempt bond. Without action, Michigan’s trust fund will be indebted to the federal government until 2018 and will not have a sufficient standalone balance until 2022.

SBs 483, 484 and 806 now head to the state House for consideration.