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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of December 30, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

The resignation of Dan Wyant, MDEQ Director this week came the same day a special task force primarily blamed the department for the contamination of Flint's water supply.  Governor Snyder's administration continues to face criticism over its handling of increased lead levels in Flint's drinking water.  Snyder accepted the resignation of Dan Wyant on Tuesday of this week.

The special task force set to study the Flint water issue told the Governor the MDEQ helped lead to water contamination in Flint.  The task force wrote, the department's Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance needs a "culture change".  The letter also flagged the tone of the DEQ's initial response to concerns about Flint's water as one of "aggressive dismissal, belittlement and attempts to discredit" those voicing the concerns.  "What is disturbing about MDEQ's responses, however, is their persistent tone of scorn and derision," the task force wrote.  In fact, the MDEQ seems to have been more determined to discredit the work of others, who ultimately proved to be right, than to pursue its own oversight responsibility."

The House Committee on Energy Policy approved an energy plan in December aimed at providing reliable affordable energy for Michigan families.  The legislation was proposed in part to give Michigan more control of its energy policy as the federal government places more mandates on states, and ensure a reliable energy infrastructure between the states two peninsulas.  With several coal burning power plants to be shuttered in the near future, the plan focuses on energy reliability.  Many House members did not support the bills as reported from committee because elements of the legislation jeopardize energy choice so many legislators opposed them as written.  Many House legislators are waiting on floor amendments which would retain energy choice for schools, local government offices and hospitals at a minimum.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law a bill creating a Good Samaritan exemption in Michigan law for minors who seek medical attention for themselves or others believed to have overdosed.  This effort to encourage minors to seek medical attention narrowly shields minors from criminal possession of small amounts, but not other related charges.

In January, the House will be reviewing legislation that would allow prisoners considered to be medically frail a chance to be paroled, a move that could save the state money.  The bills allow the parole board to grant parole to disabled prisoners who agree to be placed in secured medical care facilities, saving the state up to $12 million a year and providing proper care without eroding public safety.

When the Legislature returns to Lansing on January 13 there will be plenty for them to do over the final months of the 2015-2016 session.  At the top of the list will be resolving the Detroit Public School financial crisis, finishing up work on the energy bills, auto insurance reform and yes---more on road funding!

Specific to forestry will be legislation to allow a multiple trip permit for large trucks to be sponsored by Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, HB 4142 sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township which modifies fees for over sized /weight trucks, legislation to require religious sects to adhere to Michigan laws and any other legislation that "sneaks up" which could impact forestry.

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