Michigan Legislative Update
Week of February 26, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
This week the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the House Oversight & Ethics Committee and the House Appropriations Transportation sub-committee met jointly to discuss MDOT audits surrounding unused rail cars and road/bridge warranty issues. These audits have caused heated discussions by legislators especially since a ballot issue scheduled for May will be requesting new dollars for road funding at a time these audits indicate possible mis-management by MDOT. Over 37 questions were launched by legislators to MDOT officials about the audits. Legislators requested another meeting be scheduled to continue the
One audit found MDOT did not effectively monitor warranties on road and bridge construction projects. The other audit found that MDOT had spent $9.5 million to lease and refurbish rail cars that have sat unused for years.
This week HB 4122, legislation to end state financial incentives meant to lure film and TV production companies to Michigan was debated by a House committee. Although at least five bills have been filed since 2009 to end the film-incentive program, which could hand out up to $50 million this year, none of those five have ever made it out of committee. That could change next week as House Tax Policy Committee chair Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica plans to hold a committee vote on the bill which would sunset the incentive program.
This week Henry Schienebeck and I met with legislative allies and "newbie" legislators in an effort to outline our legislative goals for this session. We also met with staff to Rep. Marilyn Lane to discuss her bill to reduce truck weights. She remains passionate about the issue and "would consider" outlining specific routes to haul forestry products---do not know how that would actually work. Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, Chair House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Chair Senate Transportation Committee remain opposed to the issue. However, it is important to closely monitor SB 168 & HB 4257, legislation to reduce truck weights, because some Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors to the Democratic sponsored bills.