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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of July 7, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

The two candidates seeking to lead the House Republican caucus next term have mostly voted the same on key issues during their tenure with insurance and energy remaining the key difference between Rep. Robert VerHeulen, R-Walker and Rep. Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt.  Rep. VerHeulen and Rep. Leonard voted the same way on Medicaid expansion, both voted no.  On the Detroit Grand Bargain and the Detroit Public School bailout both voted yes and on roads, both voted yes.  However, VerHeulen voted yes on a state exchange under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act while Rep. Leonard voted no.  Because of term limits, Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant will end his role as Speaker on December 31.  Lansing political pundits contend the race for Speaker of the House is neck and neck.

A commission tasked with examining Michigan's strengths to create a vision for its economic future was created under an executive order signed by Governor Rick Snyder.  The Building the 21st Century Economy Commission, comprised of 23 members, will not only set metrics and benchmarks to measure Michigan's economic success, but it will also identify potential industry growth, create strategies to assist current industries and offer recommendations of ways to make Michigan a center for innovation, a statement by the governor's office indicated. 

"Michigan has made great strides in economic prosperity and job growth, but we can never become complacent," Mr. Snyder said.  "We must focus on the future to set Michigan up for success in the 21st Century economy.  This commission will help us get there as it works to establish a strategy for growth that will help new and existing industries thrive in our state."

The state's disaster and emergency fund will now be able to hold $10 million, rather than $4.5 million as a result of legislation (P.A. 220/2016) signed this week by Governor Rick Snyder. The state has had to go to the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund for the Flint water crisis and severe storm clean-ups, so increasing the limit on the fund will allow the state to be better prepared to respond to emergencies, according to the Governor's office. 

This week, I met with staff to Lt. Governor Brian Calley to present her with information on the unfair competition the Amish create for English sawmills and other forest products industry businesses in preparation for our meeting with the Lt. Governor.  Kristie Sieloff, policy staff to Lt. Governor Calley has been assigned to investigate current law and the facts surrounding the issue.  This week, I provided background information on legislation to create a multiple use permit to staff to Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, member of the House Transportation Committee and leading contender to Chair the House Transportation Committee next session.  I also met with staff to Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville to share background information relative the unfair competition the Amish create for another legislative effort relative the Amish.  Rep. Barrett is a key member of the House Commerce Committee where legislation is sent to review bills impacting religious sects.  I am working to get our legislative issues lined up for the remainder of this session and for the 2017 session. 

I predict that SB 706, 707 & 708 will be the main centerpiece of forestry legislation during the lame duck session.  The bills prohibit local governments from requiring loggers to obtain special driveway permits to access state/federal forests.  Legislation to amend the CF/QF programs (SB 651,652 & 653) may or may not finish lame duck activity along with changes to the land cap bill, SB 39 & 40.

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