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Industry News, Meetings & Events

Michigan Legislative Update

Week of May 13, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

This week a Senate committee approved the sale of beer and wine for gas stations.  Gas stations around the state would be able to sell beer and wine under legislation reported Wednesday from the Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee.

A lawsuit seeking damages for unemployed workers who say the state improperly determined they fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits can continue to trial and the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case said upcoming discovery should produce long sought answers. A spokesman for the UIA, when asked if the agency would appeal, said the state is reviewing the decision and will consider its options.

Senate Energy and Technology Committee Chair Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek said he believes he has the votes to move his two bill energy reform package out of committee and to the floor, where he puts its odds of passage before the summer recess at 70 percent.

This week the House Regulatory Reform Committee discussed legislation requiring registration and licensing of athlete agents.  The sponsors testified that Michigan has fallen behind in the practice.  According to the Uniform Law Commission, 40 states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia have already enacted some form of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act.

Legislation to limit the amount of land the DNR could own and require certain conditions on its payments in lieu of taxes to local governments on such land saw heated testimony Wednesday in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.  Neither SB 39 (Casperson)or SB 40 (Booher) were reported from the committee, but the committee did adopt S-1 substitutes to both bills.  Many of those came to testify on the bills were opposed to them, including the MUCC and the DNR.  Some residents and local governments most directly affected by payments in lieu of taxes especially were supportive of the measures.

A visibly angry Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba blasted the MUCC executive director during his committee testimony, having felt the group misrepresented in a membership flier his bills to tighten the ability of the DNR to buy Northern Michigan land.  After the meeting, Casperson said the MUCC's "Action Alert" misleads its members into thinking the bill forces large scale public land sales, among other distortions of the bills.  Casperson stated " I would have voted against my own bill if it did what they clam".

Other groups opposing the bills include the Back Country Hunters and Anglers of Michigan, Heart of the Lakes, Ruffed Grouse Society, U.P. Whitetails of Marquette County, Straits Area Sports-men's Club, Trout Unlimited, Cedar Rod and Gun Club, Michigan Sierra Club, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan Environmental Council and more.

Groups supporting the bills include the Upper Peninsula Sports-men's Association, Oswald's Bear Ranch, Hudson Township Supervisor, Lakes States Lumber Association, Michigan Association of Timbermen, the Great Lakes Timber Producers Association, the Michigan Forest Products Council and the Michigan Townships Association. Casperson plans to schedule the bills for more debate next week.

SB 651, 652 and 653, legislation to "tweak" QFA and CFA were before the House Tax Policy this week for debate.  Sponsors Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba and Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart explained the bills which appear to have an uphill battle in this committee.  Chairman Jeff Farrington, R-Utica clearly does not understand QFA and/or CFA or the economics of managing timber. The chair and other committee members wonder a tax incentive would be allowed for a QF landowner since they do not have to give public access to their land. 

MUCC supported the bills, the Michigan Department of Ag and Rural Development (MDARD) supported, MAT, GLTPA, MFPC, Weyerhaeuser, the UP Bear Hunters Association, the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation supported the bills.  The bills will be scheduled for further debate sometime soon.

SB 706, 707 & 708, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson remain on the Senate calendar for further debate.  The bills are crafted to solve a problem loggers are having with getting access to timber.  The goal is to prohibit county road commissions from requiring special drive way permits for loggers.  Staff to Casperson told me today that they expect the bills will receive Senate action next week. We are working with Casperson and key House members to develop a plan to get the bills referred to a friendly committee for consideration and passage

Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township has requested a "new" final draft of legislation to deal with the Amish WC issue.  The plan is to amend a different section of law which deals with the exclusions from WC instead of the definition of an "employer" which has been an issue with LARA.  It would "simply" require that the wood products industry would not be eligible for exclusions from the act.  We have to give Goike credit for continuing to jump through the hoops presented by LARA and to continue to work towards a resolution to our WC issue with the Amish.

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