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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of January 15, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

When the 148 legislators were sworn into office on Wednesday, there were 54 newbies.  All coming to the Capitol with various levels of experience, hopes and aspirations for the next two years and an unambiguous philosophical bent.  Republicans have expanded their majorities with a 27 - 11 advantage in the Senate and a 63 - 47 advantage in the House.

Of the new members in the House and Senate, 34 are Republicans and 20 are democrats.  There are teachers and doctors, truck drivers and deli owners, children or spouses of other elected officials and elected officials in their own communities.  They are young and old, white, Asian, Hispanic, black, gay and straight, tea party conservatives and liberal progressives.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant commented that he is looking forward to leading his more conservative caucus.  Cotter said "I appreciate debate and I know were are going to have a lot of it and we will be better for it.  I am not looking for members who will simply follow me".

Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba will chair the Senate Transportation Committee and chair the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.  Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township will chair the House Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Pete Petallia, R-Presque Isle will chair the House Transportation.  Our friends Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet will serve on the committee along with other industry supporters. 

Governor Rick Snyder has named John Matonich to chair the Natural Resources Committee rather than J.R. Richardson, who was reappointed by Snyder to the NRC recently and had served as chair up until now.  Richardson, from Ontonagon, was reappointed in November to a third term on the NRC.  Matonich, of Davison, has served as the vice chair of the commission and was re-appointed by Snyder this year to his second term on the NRC. 

The Senate was in session for one day this week, the House was in session for two days.  Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his State of the State speech on January 20.  I plan on attending the many legislative receptions before the State of the State as to introduce myself to the "newbie" legislators.

This morning Governor Rick Snyder vetoed SB 78, the biodiversity bill sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.  In Snyder's veto message he commented  "The proposed legislation, specifically the re-definition of the conservation of biological diversity and the complete elimination of designation options causes confusion and inconsistencies and could make it more difficult to sustainably manage Michigan's Public forests and world class natural resources to meet the changing needs of current and future generations."

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