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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 14, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

Governor Rick Snyder's decision to make Mike Zimmer, the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, his first full time Cabinet director comes in part to address concerns arising from the Flint water crisis about an inadequate flow of critical information between departments, the Executive Office and the Governor himself.  Last year, when Snyder reshuffled his staff as then Chief Dennis Muchmore prepared to depart, he made then deputy legal counsel Elizabeth Clement both deputy chief of staff and Cabinet secretary, but it quickly became apparent the two positions were full time jobs and thus Tuesday's widespread staff changes split them into two positions.

Michigan is under-investing in its drinking water infrastructure anywhere between $284 million and $563 million a year while also spending an insufficient amount on its waste water infrastructure, according to a Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association paid report by Public Sector Consultants.  The 17 page report says Michigan should be spending between $731 and $1.01 billion a year on its drinking water pipes and infrastructure, but is only spending an average on $447 million a year.

The storm water and waste water numbers are "much murkier," but PSC used census data to show that between 2004 and 2013, Michigan communities spent an average of $691 million on waste water and storm water pipes.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested Michigan's investment should be around $2.14 billion.  The report comes as the Legislature and Governor are considering how and if to replace piping in the city of Flint, after poorly treated water flaked away led from old piping into the municipal water supply.  It also comes after flooding in 2014 forced shutdowns of five freeways and roads throughout southeast Michigan.

Most drinking water and waste water systems were built between 50 and 100 years ago, with some dating back to the 1800's.

I enjoyed attending the GLTPA Spring meeting and especially co-presenting the legislator of the year award with Denny Olson, to one of my favorite legislators, Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.  As I said, Rep. Dianda is a delight to work with as he has a lot of enthusiasm for the forestry industry and he is meticulous about following through with his commitments.

The Legislature returned to Lansing this week from their spring recess.  No forestry related issues were scheduled for debate.

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