Reform Signed to Fix Michigan Roads Without Raising Taxes

Michigan has struggled every year to identify enough dollars to qualify for federal matching transportation funds, but not anymore. The governor recently signed my reform to fix this problem by dedicating $100 million already paid by consumers at the pump and investing it in the maintenance and improvement of our roads and bridges.

I believe Southwest Michigan families and job providers are already paying enough at the gas pump.

With a federal matching rate of roughly 4 to 1, I am proud to say that this new law will mean about $400 million in funding to ensure our roads are safe and protect drivers from costly repairs – without needing to raise gas taxes.

To further help drivers save money, I encourage residents to follow fuel saving tips, use tools to find the lowest gas prices and report price gouging to the Michigan attorney general. For up-to-the-minute listings of the lowest gas prices in Michigan, visit www.michigangasprices.com.

Residents may report price-fixing or gas-gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-765-8388 or by visiting their website at www.michigan.gov/ag. Under the “Consumer Protection” tab is a link to “Gas Prices,” which offers valuable information on prices, fuel saving tips, travel tools and more.

As families head out on the road for that Pure Michigan summer trip, the cost of gas is a huge issue.

Thankfully there are great tools online to find the best price. It is also important to keep the price low by using fuel-saving tips and reporting gas price gouging. Taking advantage of consumers is never acceptable. If you see gouging, please report it.

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Sexual Assault Survivor Behind “Erin’s Law” Back Bipartisan Legislation

River Country Journal

Author Erin Merryn meets with Senator John Proos and Governor Rick Snyder regarding Proos’ legislation, which would make Michigan the 5th state to enact Erin’s Law. The bill was unanimously approved by the Michigan Senate.

Erin Merryn, a sexual abuse survivor from Illinois, told Michigan lawmakers on Wednesday (July 18) about her experience and the need for bipartisan legislation to increase education and training in an effort to help prevent the sexual abuse of children.

“As a child I was educated in school on tornado drills, bus drills, fire drills, stranger danger and drugs, but when I was sexually abused, I listened to the only message I was being given – and that came from my abusers to stay silent,” said Merryn, whose mother grew up in Paw Paw. “Educating kids on sexual abuse prevention in schools is the best way to empower kids to tell so abuse won’t go on for years the way it did for me. My voice was silenced. I am on a mission to make sure no other child has their voice silenced and innocence stolen the way mine was.”

Sens. John Proos, Judy Emmons and Rebekah Warren sponsored Senate Bills 1112-1114 to require school boards to adopt and implement policies addressing child sexual abuse and create a one-time Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children to make recommendations on how to best prevent child sexual abuse in Michigan.

“We must do everything we can to protect the innocence of childhood, where a child can learn, play and enjoy life – free of the cruelest realities of adulthood,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “It is estimated that one of every four girls and one of seven boys are sexually abused by age 18, and the child knows their abuser in more than 90 percent of these cases. This initiative is about helping to end that cycle through education and empowerment.”  (Senator John Proos audio clip – 1:02)

The measures are named “Erin’s Law” after Merryn, whose advocacy in her home state led to the passage of a similar law there in 2011. After going public about abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to try to ensure that children have the age-appropriate education to recognize and talk about sexual abuse.

“As a mother and grandmother, I applaud Erin for her courage and dedication in working to help parents and children get the tools and support they need to identify abuse and get help,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “Many child sexual abuse cases go unreported because the survivors are afraid to come forward. Erin’s Law is about eliminating that fear and ending the abuse.”

Similar laws have been enacted in Maine, Indiana and Missouri, and legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.

After hearing from Merryn, the Michigan Senate approved the bills.

“Recent events around the country have highlighted the importance of increased awareness of child sexual abuse,” said Warren, D-Ann Arbor. “This legislation will not only educate and encourage our children to speak up, but it also ensures that parents and school personnel have the training they need to spot warning signs and report incidents.”

Under SBs 1112-1114, schools could adopt age-appropriate curriculum, train school personnel on child sexual abuse, and adopt policies concerning informing parents on the warning signs of abuse. Parents would be made aware of the curriculum and be able to “opt out” if they did not want their child involved.

For more about Erin’s story, visit her website at www.erinmerryn.net.

Sexual Abuse Survivor Testifies in Support of “Erin’s Law” to Protect Michigan Children from Abuse

Childhood is supposed to be a time of innocence, where a child can learn, play and enjoy life.

Unfortunately, many of our children have this innocence stolen. It is estimated that one in four girls and one of every seven boys are sexually abused by age 18. In more than 90-percent of cases, their abuser is someone they know.

To help prevent sexual abuse of children, I have introduced “Erin’s Law” in Michigan.

The bipartisan legislation is named after Erin Merryn, an abuse survivor from Illinois, whose advocacy led to the passage of a similar law in her home state in 2011 and three other states since.

After going public about her abuse by a family member, Merryn made it her mission to ensure that no other child has to endure what she did.

Merryn shared her experience this week with lawmakers and spoke of the need to help protect children from sexual abuse through education, encouraging them to speak up and ensuring parents and school personnel have the training needed to spot warning signs and report incidents.

The need for education and training became even clearer with last week’s report on the child abuse scandal at Penn State University. One thing to learn from the scathing report is that children, parents and even adults in positions of power often do not know what warning signs to look for or what to do if they are abused or suspect abuse.

As a father, I thank Erin for her bravery and her tireless leadership in support of abuse survivors.

I look forward to continuing to work with her to help Michigan children get the education and support they need to identify abuse and get help.

Erin’s Law to Fight Child Abuse, Passes Through the Michigan Senate

WKZO – Radio

Renowned Author and Sexual Abuse Victim Advocate Erin Merryn sits beside Senator John Proos and shares part of her amazing story while testifying on behalf of Proos’ bill that would create “Erin’s Law” in Michigan.

The Michigan Senate has passed a package of bills that would make it the fifth state in the country to enact “Erin’s Law,” if the House and Governor go along. The laws are designed to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

During a morning hearing, legislators heard from Erin Merryn, the namesake of the law. Merryn, who was abused as a child, talked about she feared she would get into trouble if she reported the abuse.

The law would require school programs that teach children to come forward in such situatins. She says that she is on a mission to make sure no other child has their voice silenced and innocence stolen the way hers was.

Erin’s Law also calls for the creation of a onetime task force on the prevention of sexual abuse of children. Similar laws have been enacted in Maine, Indiana and Missouri, and legislation has been introduced in several other states, including Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania.

The package now heads to the House. With only a few sessions scheduled for this summer, it’s not clear when it would be taken up.

Suffering in Silence No More

By Lou Mumford

South Bend Tribune

A victim of child sexual abuse, Erin Merryn, 27, of Schaumburg, Ill., displays at a news conference Tuesday in St. Joseph the diary she kept detailing the abuse as it unfolded. The diary was turned into a book, ¿Stolen Innocence,¿¿ in 2005 and led to television appearances and legislation she hopes to have passed in all 50 states mandating that public schools provide sex abuse prevention education. (South Bend Tribune/JAMES BROSHER) (July 17, 2012)

Look the other way, the mentality that apparently allowed the Jerry Sandusky tragedy to continue to unfold at Penn State University for more than a decade, won’t find an ally in Erin Merryn.

To the contrary, the 27-year-old Schaumburg, Ill., resident who said, as a child she endured in silence two prolonged periods of sexual abuse, is on a mission to make certain people don’t look the other way. She’s pitching legislation, known as Erin’s Law, to protect children from sexual predators, with a goal of having it enacted in all 50 states.

The voice behind bills already signed into law in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Maine, she’s now making her case before the Michigan Legislature. As a preview to her appearance today before lawmakers in Lansing, she addressed the media on Tuesday at the Berrien County Council on Children facility where state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, the sponsor’s of Erin’s Law legislation, and council Director Jamie Rossow made reference to the alarming scope of child sexual abuse in the United States.

According to Proos and Rossow, one in every four girls and one in seven boys are sexually abused in the U. S. by age 18. As with the Sandusky situation, in the vast majority of cases — more than 90 percent — the victims know their abusers.

Yet as Sandusky’s victims and Merryn did for years, they suffer in silence, largely because of threats by their abusers. As Merryn argued Tuesday, she learned in school as a child about such dangers as drugs, tornadoes and fire but she received no such instruction regarding sexual abuse.

“I knew as a young kid not to talk to strangers but it wasn’t strangers that were hurting me in my life,’’ she said.

“Nobody asked the important question: Has anyone touched you inappropriately?’’

Merryn said she initially was abused for 2 and a half years, beginning at age 6, by a relative of a friend. The incidents included rape and occurred during sleep-overs at the friend’s house, she said.

As a result, she developed behavior problems in school that, not coincidentally, went away when her family moved, she said.

It was less than three years later, she said, that a trusted relative in her own family began molesting her. Brain-washed to believe that no one would believe her if she reported the abuse, she wrote about the situation in a childhood diary that in 2005 became the book ”Stolen Innocence.’’

The book paved the way to television appearances with the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Montel Williams, a series of public speaking appearances and legislation that passed initially in her home state of Illinois. It would be particularly satisfying, she said Tuesday, to have Erin’s Law passed in Michigan because her mother grew up in nearby Paw Paw.

“The truth is, this is going on in everybody’s back yard,’’ she said.

Proos’ bill calls for a task force that would gather information and make recommendations on age-appropriate sex abuse prevention instructions that public school districts would select from and provide to pre-kindergarten- through fifth-grade students. Parents who don’t want their children to participate would be able to opt out.

Proos said the Senate will vote on the measure as soon as today and a House vote is expected by the end of September. Quick passage is possible, given the horrors of the Sandusky case and a recent report that placed much of the blame on adults at the university who allegedly were made aware of the situation early on and failed to act.

“That’s why the issue is such an epidemic in our society,’’ Merryn said. “Look at how many more kids were abused.’’

United Way Rescues Ferry Street Center

By John Eby

Niles Daily Star

The Ferry Street Resource Center in Niles receive a $10,500 grant from the United Way. Senator John Proos had connected the two organizations

United Way of Southwest Michigan came to Ferry Street Resource Center’s rescue Friday with a $10,500 grant to carry it through the summer.

A change in the timing of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding would have forced the center to close until funding resumed this fall.

Ferry Street Resource Center, 620 Ferry St., provides summer activities and lunches for children, adult basic education classes, a computer lab and serves as client liaison for Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS).

“We see 300 a month,” Director Lisa Busby said. “We work with Michigan State University Extension for nutrition classes” to take advantage of the community garden across the street. “We serve Niles Charter Township, Buchanan and Galien.”

“Services provided by Ferry Street Resource Center are vital,” said United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy. “Our United Way volunteers were glad to be able to offer this funding to maintain uninterrupted services. It’s times like these when we realize the importance of United Way’s presence in the Niles community. We went to the groundbreaking for Tyler Honda up in Stevensville and ran into (state Sen.) John (Proos). He mentioned he had talked to Diane (Bass, the Resource Center board president, as well as executive assistant to City Administrator Ric Huff). It fits perfectly with what United Way does under the basic needs category and is a good partnership. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I don’t know at what level, but I think it’s an opportunity for a continued partnership. We bring in funding partners every three years,” and that cycle just started.

Murphy added, “It’s an economical investment for us because they do so much with resources they get.”

Ferry Street Resource Center operates primarily through a portion of Niles’ HUD entitlement grant, which for 2012-13 is projected to be $39,000.

Niles asked HUD to align the grant’s fiscal year with the city’s for accounting purposes, Bass said.

The change meant that this year when annual funds ran out at the end of June, the center would lack access to operational money until the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

“We are so grateful United Way was able to bridge this funding gap for us,” Bass said. “Without these funds, we couldn’t operate during the summer months when neighborhood children need us most.”

Senate Approves Bills to Help Boost Michigan Auto and Boat Sales

The Senate has approved legislation to help spur vehicle and boat sales by reducing the cost of purchasing a new or used vehicle or boat in Michigan.

Currently, when someone buys a new or used automobile or watercraft in Michigan, the state’s 6 percent sales tax is applied to the full sales price, even if the sale included a trade-in.

Under Senate Bills 126-127, the state tax would only be applied to the difference between the price of a new car or boat and the value of a trade-in. The relief would phase-in over six years. Once fully implemented, if a used car valued at $5,000 is traded in and the owner applies the trade-in value toward purchasing a $25,000 car, the sales tax only applies to the $20,000 difference.

I strongly supported these reforms because they will help consumers save money and help Southwest Michigan auto and boat dealers compete with out-of-state sellers.

Michigan is one of only six states – and the only Great Lakes state – that taxes the value of a vehicle being traded in during a purchase. This puts Michigan businesses at a competitive disadvantage and costs our consumers more in extra taxes.

“Michigan consumers are essentially being double taxed when theypurchase a new watercraft with a trade-in,” said Bob Myers of Pier 1000 Marina in Benton Harbor. “This legislation would help the Southwest Michigan boating industry compete with retailers from across the border, which is a major concern for a company like ours.”

The current law is a clear illustration of how bad tax policy can negatively impact job providers and consumers.

Making this smart reform could help our local economy while also saving consumers millions of dollars.