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COLUMN: Margaret O'Brien's report from Lansing: Medical Marijuana; Events; Homestead Exemption; Education


From Kalamazoo to the Capitol

By Margaret O'Brien

Week of May 3, 2012

Most weeks, we are in session Tuesday through Thursday. Once session is over, I drive back to Portage to attend local events and meetings. I spend the remainder of the days out in our community talking with you.

Classroom Visits

I had the good fortune to take two Moorsbridge classes onto the House floor where we were joined by Senator Schuitmaker. Senator Schuitmaker and I shared information about how bills are debated and how bills become laws. We answered questions from the schoolchildren and then were able to also offer a quick tour on the Senate floor.

Homestead Exemption Deadline Changed

Tuesday, Governor Snyder signed legislation that moved back the deadline to file a Principal Homestead Exemption, or also known as a PRE or Homestead. Previously, a home must have filed a PRE/Homestead affidavit by May 1st. They must have also occupied the home. This policy caused problems as there are many vacant homes that families wish to purchase as their primary residence. If the home did not have a current valid affidavit after May 1st, that family faced the non-homestead tax rate of an additional 18 mils. A few years ago, legislators corrected part of the problem by allowing Dual Homestead Affidavits for families who had purchased a primary residence elsewhere in Michigan and had to vacate their previous homesteaded residence. (Other restrictions also applied.) This Dual Homestead status had a limit of 3 years. This did not assist families who wanted to purchase distressed properties after May 1st.

The new law has a deadline of June 1st to file a PRE affidavit for those who move to townships and cities where they assess non-homestead mils in the July tax bill. For those who move to areas where the non-homestead mils are assessed in December, the deadline to file a PRE affidavit is November 1st. Additionally, if a foreclosure or short sale had previously been homesteaded, there are provisions to allow to maintain the homestead status for future buyers while also still collecting the extra mils from the seller.

I was honored to work with Senator Hildebrand on this legislation. We both introduced similar bills in our respective chambers, and we agreed to support his bill. My bill will be amended to incorporate other items that will benefit hardworking homeowners.

If you have questions about eligibility, please work with your real estate professional or local assessor. As always, you can contact my office with questions as well.

Medical Marijuana

House passed a bi-partisan, bi-cameral package to address growing legal concerns over the regulation of medical marijuana. Peers from both sides of the aisle worked with differing viewpoints to craft a proposal that will fairly protect the rights of medical marijuana users while also ensuring law enforcement can properly enforce the law.

Provisions in the package of bills include requiring photo ID cards for both caregivers and patients, allow for limited access by law enforcement when a question exists if a person in possession of marihuana is an authorized cardholder, amend the penalties for a cardholder who sells to an unauthorized person, and define how medical marijuana can be transported.

Overall, the goal is to ensure the rights of proper cardholders per the passed constitutional amendment while allowing for proper legal oversight.

Weekend District Events

There are a number of activities happening in the community this weekend.

There are two ceremonies honoring the 507th Engineer Battalions who are departing for a 10 month tour in Afghanistan. Please remember to pray for the brave men and women who serve our country and their families.

The 2nd Kalamazoo Marathon and Borgess Running events are Sunday. Come out and support the thousands of running participants. As an avid runner, I applaud the men and women who will be running. Exercise is a great way to stay healthy. As Michigan continues to wage the war on obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions, we need to encourage healthy eating and exercise. There are wonderful organizations in our community who offer varied health programs if you have interest.