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Industry News, Meetings & Events

Michigan Legislative Update

Week of December 8, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

On Monday, Mike Sturgill, Mike Elenz, Lonnie Lutke , (Bill Brand had to cancel) Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland, Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse city, Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona and I met with high level motor carrier officers in Gaylord to discuss issues our log haulers are having with a certain motor carrier at the Mackinac Bridge.   Our legislative friends were not very happy with how arrogant the motor carrier's were towards our members.  Among their rationale for not allowing a trucker exit his cab to adjust his load of logs was the environment for law enforcement is so negative today officers have to be extra valiant about protecting their lives from possible shootings.  New officers are taught differently than those who have or will soon retire, the laws have changed over time and it is not their problem that trucks do so much damage to the roads, they still have to enforce the laws. One recommended lower truck weights.  I commented then there would be twice the trucks on the road so what do you gain? No answer.

Following the meeting, Mike, Mike, Lonnie and I attended the Rep. Triston Cole reception and dinner event at the Ostego Club where our loggers had the opportunity to network and dine with the lower northern legislators and the new House leadership team.  I feel the loggers enjoyed the event and luckily they did not expect much from the meeting with the motor carriers, but there was value in having the legislators join the meeting.  It is my opinion that our loggers viewed the time they spent away from their businesses as useful. At the evening event we briefly discussed ways to address the problem and picked up the support of "Central Transport", lobbyist Paul Opsommer, former term limited House Transportation Committee Chair.  Paul shared that his members are having the same problem at state borders and we plan to team up on the issue and will be following up with our legislative friends to identify a "fix", but first we needed to address HB 4142.  Today, at the Senate Transportation Committee meeting, Chair, Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba commented on the Monday meeting and issue with the motor carriers.  Senator Schmidt and Stamas shared with him their disdain for the over policing of our loggers.

Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba put HB 4142 on committee fast track and voted the bill out with one hearing.  Denny Olson, GLTPA, testified on behalf of forestry along side of sponsor Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township.  GLTPA and MAT were the only forestry groups submitting support for the bill. The bill does the following.  If a trucker of any commodity is under the allowable GVW but over on the axle weight the following will happen, from 1,000-4,000 pounds overweight per axle the fine would be $200.00 per axle up to 3 axles or a maximum fine of $600.00.  If the vehicle is 4001-8000 pounds per axle overweight the fine would be $400.00 per axle up to 3 axles or maximum fine of $1,200.00.  For all other overweight standard statutory fines apply. 

Between Rep. Goike and myself we have gotten support to put the bill on a "fast track" by the full Senate with gaining support of the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Floor Leader, the Senate Transportation Chair, Senator Stamas and Senator Schmidt---key legislators. I will "chase" this bill next week until it completes legislative action as it is a very important bill to our members.

I have been chasing SB 39 & 40 all week as meetings have been set, canceled and re-set.  The bills adjust the land cap law sponsored by Senator Casperson last session.  Senator Casperson, sponsor and Chair, Senate Natural Resources Committee and House Natural Resources Committee Rep. Andrea LaFontaine, R-Columbus Township disagree on the PILT requirement in the bill and new language to allow local units of government to have input when the DNR plans to purchase a parcel of land---therefore, the bills are dead for the year.  Senator Casperson plans to re-introduce the bills next session when he is confident there will be a friendlier House committee chair person.

SB 627, sponsor Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake was NOT reported by the committee for lack of support today.  The bill creates public/private partnerships and includes a section to allow a mechanism to allow for toll roads.  We were made aware of the bill yesterday so quick action was required to lobby committee members to oppose the bill.  Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, committee member, was very vocal against the bill in his comments to the committee on our behalf and on the behalf of other constituents.  The bill was suppose to be DOA in the House, but this is Lame Duck and anything and everything happens.  Inactive bills can instantly gain "legs" and become active, as evidenced by SB 627.

Last, but not least---SB's 706, 707 & 708 remain on Second Reading on the House calendar.  The bills prohibit a local government from requiring a special driveway permit for log haulers to enter/exit a state or federal forest which has proven to be very expensive for log haulers. The bills have remained on this reading since last Wednesday--we only have 3 session days left and it is imperative these bills complete House action next week.  I am on it!!

Welcome to another active Lame Duck session!  We have 43 new legislators to meet and greet next session as 43 will exit on December 31.

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