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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of February 12, 2015

 

Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba and Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart are working to put together a comprehensive "Land Management Plan" in an attempt to reform the way the DNR handles the use and sale of state owned land.  Casperson and Booher say it is time to hold the DNR more accountable for the land it is purchasing while making it easier for residents to access or potentially purchase land up north for private ownership.

 Initial changes proposed in SB 39 (Casperson) and SB 40 (Booher) include:

  • Stricter land purchasing guidelines for the state in counties or townships where more than 33 percent is owned by the state, federal government or conservation organizations.  Should the DNR wish to purchase land in these areas, the legislation would require the department to get a resolution from both the county and local municipality approving the purchase.

  • A perpetual continuation of the land cap confining the state's land ownership to 4,626,000 acres until the next strategic plan is approved, beginning May 1, 2019 and every five years after.

  • Maximizing access to state land by removing unnecessary barriers, as well as lifting future restrictions of off-road vehicles and other outdoor recreation activities on state trails and designated areas.  SB 39 states that the DNR cannot issue an order limiting use or access to public land unless it is designated a protected area or is in response to an environmental or public health emergency.

  • Amending requirements and priorities for state private owner real estate transactions.  Among other things, the legislation notes that the department should not give preference to conservation organizations over other private entities and should consider selling land not deemed surplus upon request.

  • Placing a higher emphasis on maintenance and management of state owned lands by allowing certain funds to be used for that purpose.

Currently, the DNR owns roughly 12 percent of Michigan's landmass, most of which is concentrated in the UP and northern lower Michigan.  A spokesman for the DNR said the department is still reviewing the bills and has not yet taken a formal position on them.
 
Eventually, Casperson hopes to continue the dialog on biodiversity, a concept he attempted to address with a bill blocking the DNR from closing off forests from timber harvests or development.  That bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder.
 
This week Brenda Owen, MAT and I reviewed details for a sustainable forestry license plate with staff to Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet. Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City continues to research the proper section of law to "tweak" to require law enforcement take serious timber/log theft. 
 
In December, I requested Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township re-introduce legislation to require  religious sects pay workers compensation in an effort to highlight the unfair competition they create for tax paying companies.  The bill should be ready for introduction by the end of this month.  I have been introducing myself and the issue to the many new members of the House Commerce Committee where the bill will most likely be referred.
 
Governor Rick Snyder presented his 2016 budget proposal at the Joint Appropriations Committee meeting this week. In a power point presentation, Snyder highlighted 4 reasons Michigan roads are deteriorating, one being HEAVY INDUSTRIAL TRUCKS. At the last two House Transportation Committee meetings the issue of lowering truck weights to 80,000 lbs was brought up by Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fenton, an outspoken advocate for lowering truck weights---unfortunately, she has support from two GOP committee members.

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