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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of February 4, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

The Flint water crisis has become a major national story and it will get a major moment in the spotlight on March 6 with Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agreeing to a debate in the city just two days before the Michigan presidential primary.  Details on time, venue and which television network will air the debate have not yet been determined.

This week legislation was reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to allow 75 - 80 mph zones in certain areas of the state for "cars".  The bill allows trucks with a gross weight of 10,000 or more, a truck tractor, or a truck tractor with a semi trailer or trailer or a combination of these vehicles to 70 mph. 

These bills give MDOT and the MSP the power to set increased speed zones on 600 to 900 miles of rural "M" designed highways.  The bills are now receiving debate by the full House.  If adopted by the House they will move to the full Senate, the Senate Transportation Committee, back to the full Senate and then back to the full House for concurrence.  It is expected many changes will occur to these bills, HB 4323, 4424, 4425, 4426 & 4427, before they complete final legislative action.

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona has introduced HB 5275.  The bill allows ORV's access to "forest roads".  Rep. Cole contends that ORV's are currently allowed on forest roads in the U.P., unless the road is marked closed by the DNR.  Rep. Cole is attempting to allow the same ORV access in the northern lower part of the state.
I have discussed the bills with Bill O'Neill, State Forester, who indicated that ORV's are allowed on certain county roads if the county allows them access.  Bill O'Neill will study the bill and get back to me next week with his assessment.

SB 651, 652 & 653, legislation to tweak the QF program have been adopted by the Senate Natural Resources Committee and are being debating by the full Senate.

This week I discussed the inequities the Amish create for legitimate businesses with a legislator, specifically about a recent accident in an Amish pallet factory where a 14 year old boy lost his hand operating a machine illegally under OSHA regulations.  The legislator indicated interest in introducing a bill to amend MIOSHA law to prohibit an employee under 18 years old from operating power driven woodworking machinery in Michigan.  John Fowler and I are providing him with as many stories of children being injured in similar Amish mills.  Please forward to me any stories you might have to assist us with this effort.

I expect a draft of HB 4579 with new language incorporated to make the bill more binding to be available soon.  I have been working with bill sponsor Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and other legislators to move this legislation forward.  The bill requires religious sects to have workers' compensation insurance as other legitimate wood products industry businesses are required.

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