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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 21, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

The Legislature returned to the Capitol this week to resume their spring agenda of work.  The Flint water crisis continues to dominate attention by the Governor and the Legislature.

"Two Michigan DEQ employees and one Flint official face a combined 13 felony and five misdemeanor charges from actions they allegedly took that led to or contributed to the Flint water crisis." said Attorney General Bill Schuette this week.  The charging of the two DEQ employees most closely linked to the decisions that led to the Flint water crisis, as well as a top city of Flint water department employee, are the first of many charges to come state AG Schuette.

Ever since Schuette named attorney Todd Flood the special prosecutor to handle the investigation into any criminal and civil wrongdoing in the events that led to Flint's water becoming contaminated with lead and possibly conducive to a deadly Legionnaire's disease outbreak, one of the dominant questions throughout state government has been would Schutte actually bring charges which he did this week.

This week the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously moved to the Senate floor a roughly $148 million supplemental spending bill for Flint above and beyond the millions that were appropriated before the legislative spring recess.

Governor Rick Snyder will consume filtered Flint water every day for at least the next 30 days in a move to convince the city's residents that the water is safe to drink through a filter.  The major impediment to reducing lead levels in Flint's water now is insufficient use of the system.  That prevented corrosion control treatment from re-coating the interior of the water lines.

In a recent MSU State of the State survey, Governor Rick Snyder's approval ratings have plummeted to the lowest since he was elected.  Some political pundits predict the Republicans may lose their majority in the House of Representatives in November due to the Flint water crisis.

This week I met with Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama to further discuss the possibility of developing a multiple use permit/plate, but crafting it in such a way it could be referred to the House Regulatory Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Franz.  This way we will have two bills in the legislative hopper with twice the opportunity to get one through the legislative process during the "Lame Duck" session.  I will re-group with Jennifer Smeltzer, chief of staff to Franz next week to review where we are in the process of crafting a bill.  Jennifer and I will most likely require a conference call with Henry Schienebeck next week.

Work continues on the Amish issue.  Staff to Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township will request another meeting with the WC Agency to discuss the reasons they oppose HB 5506, legislation to require WC in certain cases when an employer has three or more employees. I suggest that we request the department give us  "specific" acceptable language for the next re-draft bill.

This week I met with two forestry friendly legislators who are willing to approach the safety aspect of the issue and investigate why MIOSHA requirements are not met.   I collected Amish work place accident articles and met with the legislators to present my collection primarily involving children.  One of the legislators contacted LARA every day this week with no response.  While I met with him today he called the department and told staff that he and other legislators are tired of the run around and were in the process of preparing a news conference to announce the problem and ask why the State does not follow through with inspecting these accidents.  Within one hour---he received a call back from the office of the director. we expect to meet with him or his surrogate as soon as next week. Jim Maeder has agreed to attend the meeting. 

I plan to set a meeting with the Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant to discuss HB 5506 and the multiple permit/plate issue.  Jim is a constituent and attends district campaign events for the Speaker of the House.  Maeder recently provided a sawmill tour for the Speaker who supports our efforts to secure a level playing field for tax paying businesses. I assume we will be involved in a very active "Lame Duck" session especially since we will be losing at least 40 legislators to term limits---.

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