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Industry News, Meetings & Events

Michigan Legislative Update

Week of March 20, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

New legislation:

SB 217-  Sponsor Darwin Booher, R-Evart.  Amends reference to qualified forest in qualified agriculture definition.  Referred to Senate Com. on Natural Resources.

HB 4359 - Sponsor Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township.  Clarifies guidelines for Administrative Rules procedures. Referred to House Com. on Oversight & Ethics.

View bills at legislature.mi.gov

Every day dozens of bills are introduced in Lansing by legislators hoping to leave their mark on the state.  Many are controversial, ranging from severe restrictions on abortion to significant changes in the way we are taxed.  Others are seemingly mundane changes to existing laws.  Some will get hearings and be enacted into law and others will never see the light of day after introduction.  About 40% of the more than 1,300 bills introduced last year became law. 

So far in March, some particularly controversial bills have been introduced, including a bill that could ban and criminalize abortion, allow medical personnel and facilities to refuse service based on religious objections, implementing a graduated income tax and offering up an alternative plan to fix Michigan roads.

The 10% cap on choice in the energy market would remain under Governor Rick Snyder's recently announced energy plan.  The plan would be reformed so electric providers in the choice market have to provide five year plans showing they have enough capacity for consumers.  Snyder is not calling for a mandate on renewable energy sources, but says renewables make economic sense for utilities and do not need to be mandated by the state. 

Governor Snyder has signed an executive order creating the "Michigan Agency for Energy", a state agency focused on meeting energy needs now and in the future.  The agency will not replace the PSC or the DEQ, but will be a single agency dedicated to getting all the departments and commissions the information and context they need to support energy priorities.  Snyder expects the state to be getting anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources and energy efficiencies by 2025.  Governor Snyder recommends the energy optimization fees be eliminated.

This week Governor Snyder signed legislation authorizing $24.7 million in Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants.  The measure approves funds for 69 recreation projects and land purchases recommended by the Trust Fund board last December. 

The MNRTF is a restricted fund, established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects.  It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly-owned minerals.  Over the past 38 years, the Trust Fund has granted more than $1 billion to state and local government organizations to develop and improve recreation opportunities in Michigan.

A bill designed to amend the MNRTF process within constitutional limits received negative testimony at the Senate Natural Resources Committee from agencies and environmental groups this week. 

SB 206 sponsored by Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart overhauls the rules surrounding use of funds in the MNRTF.  Among the many changes in the bill is that it would prohibit the DNR from acquiring land with funding from any source unless the department was first denied funding from the MNRTF.  It would also prohibit the DNR from transferring land acquired with trust fund money to a local unit of government for less than fair market value under certain conditions and prohibit the DNR from including a so-called "reverter" clause or right of reentry in the transfer of property acquired with trust fund money.

I met with staff of Senator Booher today to determine if the bill will be scheduled for debate next week, it will not be scheduled.  Booher plans to meet with the various opposition groups in an effort to eliminate some of their concerns.

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