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Whitmer signs more than a dozen bills, including child dental assessment program


Jon King, Michigan Advance

December 14, 2023

Legislation to establish a dental oral assessment program, protect seniors from financial abuse, and safeguard dogs and cats used in testing facilities, were among a flurry of bills signed Wednesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Senate Bill 280, sponsored by state Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), requires dental oral assessments for children who are registering for the first time in kindergarten or the first grade in a Michigan school. The program will serve 112,000 kindergarteners through the work of the state of Michigan and Delta Dental.  

 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Nov. 20, 2023. (Photo: Anna Liz Nichols)

“These bills will prioritize the health and safety of our children by testing dental health at a young age,” said Whitmer. “Since I took office, we have expanded access and lowered the cost of health care. Let’s keep working together to make sure every child is safe, healthy and can build a bright future in Michigan.”  

Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health Executive Director Amy Zaagman also celebrated the bill signing.

“Along with all the members of the Michigan Oral Health Coalition, we are excited that our local public health departments will continue to provide this valuable screening to our incoming kindergarteners across Michigan,” she said. “Oral health is critically important to overall wellbeing and the ability to learn, grow and thrive. Screening is the first step towards connecting families to oral health care providers in their area anxious to help meet the needs of children.”

Whitmer also signed House Bill 4197, sponsored by Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Twp.), which aims to help protect vulnerable adults and seniors from financial abuse. 

 “Older Michiganders dedicated their lives to hard work and community contributions,” said Witwer. “As they age, it becomes our responsibility to safeguard them from scams and abuse. With this bill signed into law, we can help stop financial exploitation at the source and make sure the elderly keep the money they earned and deserve.” 

AARP Michigan State Director Paula Cunningham noted that financial exploitation is the most common form of elder abuse in the U.S. with the average victim losing $120,000. 

Two of the bills signed by Whitmer dealt with animals at research facilities.

Senate Bill 149, sponsored by state Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), requires certain research facilities to offer certain laboratory animals for adoption before they’re euthanized. 

“Our animal friends provide so much love and comfort to us in our daily lives that they deserve to have a long, happy life full of treats, green grass to run on and toys to catch,” said Hertel“After I met Teddy — a beagle who was rescued from euthanasia at a Michigan laboratory in 2018 — I introduced a bill known as Teddy’s Law. This compassionate and bipartisan legislation will create a pathway for countless dogs and cats in Michigan to find loving forever homes.” 

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 148, sponsored by state Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), provides reporting requirements and penalties for noncompliance at research facilities. 

“Teddy’s Law” is the most significant animal welfare law the Michigan legislature has passed in decades — and it’s long overdue,” said Polehanki“Now, instead of dogs and cats being automatically euthanized after their time in a lab, those that are adoptable will go to loving homes via humane societies. I am absolutely thrilled that Governor Whitmer is signing this bill into law. Hundreds of dogs’ and cats’ lives will be saved each year because of it.”   

Blake Goodman, Michigan state director for Humane Society of the United Statessaid Teddy’s Law would save hundreds of dogs and cats every year by making laboratories “do the right thing and allow these loving animals to be adopted.”

 St. Clair Shores Councilmember David Rubello (L), Teddy and Sen. Kevin Hertel (R) | Courtesy photo

Two other bills were based on the Judicial Resources Recommendation report, which ensures judicial resources are effectively distributed. 

House Bill 4823, sponsored by Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Twp.) increases the number of judges in the Macomb County Probate Court. 

“The Probate Court looks out for people in crisis situations, where time is of the essence,” said Wozniak. “These cases don’t usually involve people who can wait weeks or sometimes even days for a hearing. We’re talking about orphaned children with nowhere to go, mentally ill and developmentally disabled loved ones, and folks looking for the authority to make medical decisions for incapacitated family members, and myriad other circumstances where timely, thoughtful decisions need to be made. Macomb County needs this additional judicial position to ensure our vulnerable family, friends and neighbors are properly served.” 

House Bill 4920, sponsored by Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming) increases the number of judges in the 63rd District Court. 

“Michiganders deserve prompt judicial proceedings, and we’ve helped ensure that today,” said Fitzgerald. “This bill specifically, allowing for an additional judge in the 63rd District Court, will help Kent County residents receive the justice they deserve in a timely manner.” 

Senate Bill 133, sponsored by state Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), creates the overdose fatality review act, which would allow a county or counties to establish an overdose fatality review team. These teams would examine the causes of drug overdoses in the area and recommend policies to prevent overdoses.  

“This law will permit a county or group of counties to coordinate community experts — such as first responders, medical professionals, members of law enforcement, substance use disorder professionals and others — who will look at trends and local risk factors involving opioid fatalities, and then make recommendations to better curb overdose fatalities in the future,” said McCann. “The law also provides necessary confidentiality protections similar to elder and child fatality review teams.”   

House Bill 4850, sponsored by Rep. Carol Glanville (D-Walker), exempts active duty service members and their spouses from jury service. 

“HB 4850 recognizes and honors the sacrifice and service of our armed forces members and their families by granting them an automatic exemption from jury duty during active-duty times, if they so choose,” said Glanville. “This bill not only respects our commitment to our veterans but also acknowledges the unique challenges and responsibilities they face, ensuring they can fulfill their duties to our country without additional burdens.” 

Also signed on Wednesday

Senate Bill 464, sponsored by state Sen. Mallory McMorrow,(D-Royal Oak), requires the Secretary of State (SOS) to develop and issue three legacy registration plates.

Senate Bill 513, sponsored by state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), allows the ability of a hospital to convert from a county hospital to a nonprofit hospital. 

Senate Bill 466, sponsored by state Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City), modifies the cigar bar exemption. 

House Bill 5074, sponsored by state Rep. Will Snyder (D-Muskegon), aims to ensure that the Muskegon SmartZone continues to operate. 

House Bill 4861, also sponsored by Snyder, provides transfer of certain state-owned property in Muskegon County. 

House Bill 4337, sponsored by Witwer, designates a portion of M-50 in Eaton County as the “Ensign Francis Flaherty Medal of Honor Recipient Memorial Highway.” Flaherty was a Charlotte native who was killed in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor while he helped guide his shipmates to safety.

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This article is republished from Michigan Advance under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.