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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of October 6, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

The race for House control is headed into the frantic, final stretch of October and the campaigns now have a clear sense of which candidates have a chance and who has failed to gain traction.  With five weeks to go until Election Day, the overall dynamic remains the same as it has for much of the year as far as the current 62-46 Republican majority.  Originally, the House consisted of a GOP majority, 63-47 before two legislators passed away.  With 40 term limited House members vacating office, we will have at least 40 new House members.  Political pundits predict Democrats will mostly likely gain seats, but Republicans will most likely retain the majority.

The big surprise going into the final weeks is a sense from sources on both sides of the aisle, is that for the first time in many presidential cycles, the presidential race is not having as much down-ballot effect as it traditionally would because of Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. 

Before the Legislature recessed last week, the Senate Natural Resources Committee reported out of committee SB 39 and SB 40, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Ecanaba.  The bills limit the amount of land the DNR can purchase and requires them to make payments in lieu of taxes to local governments.  Senator Casperson commented that more work will be done on the controversial bills as they are debated by the full Senate.  If the bills complete Senate action, they will move to the House, be referred to committee and then referred back to the House for final consideration during the Lame Duck session.

Last week, the Legislature gave final consideration to medical marijuana legislation.  which Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law.  The bills enable local governments to regulate marijuana "provisioning centers", which would be legalized and create a seed to sale tracking system.  Snyder commented,  "This new law will help Michiganders of all ages and with varying medical conditions access safe products to relieve their suffering".  "We can finally implement a solid framework that gives patients a safe source from which to purchase and utilize medical marijuana.

In 2008, a voter initiated act won approval from voters legalizing medical marijuana, but it limited patients to growing their own or having someone grow it for them and provide it.  Dispensaries, now renamed "provisioning centers", popped up but were ruled illegal in the courts.  They closed, but returned in large numbers in the past year or two in those communities that decided not to shut them down.

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