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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of September 22, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

This week the House voted to expand and mirror FOIA to include legislative and gubernatorial documents.  The 10 bills mostly end the exemption the Governor has always had from the Freedom of Information Act, with some exemptions, and create the Legislative Open Records Act that declares what records of the Legislature would become newly public and what would remain exempt, similar to FOIA.  The bills are a bi-partisan product of Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan and Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield who have championed the package for much of the legislative term.  Rep. Moss commented "It is time to apply transparency to how we do business in the Legislature".  The bills now move to the Senate where Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive does not support the bills.

An updated state energy plan remains bottled up in the Senate.  Republican supporters of the plan could pick up Democrat votes if they are willing to require utilities to move to 15 % renewable power.  Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint prefers to see 25% renewables, but would be willing to consider a plan that required 15%.  Senate Minority Leader Ananich will be introducing legislation that would eventually reduce the lead allowed in drinking water in the state to 5 parts per billion.  Current standards, based on federal action levels are 15 ppb.  He said the goal would be a standard of no lead.  Senator Ananich also commented that Democratic votes for the pending state energy plan could be tied to his drinking water proposal.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met Tuesday where Rep. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso formally took the "gavel" as chair.  It was a sad meeting as a bill Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle had been working all session was debated and voted out of committee.  The bill was vetoed last session by Governor Rick Snyder, but Rep. Pettalia made the necessary changes to the measure to satisfy the Governor this time around.  The bill determines which kinds of auto parts vehicle repair facilities can use on vehicles.  The bill will be debated by the full House and if adopted be sent to the Senate and most likely referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. 

This week the Senate Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba took testimony and reported out of committee SB 39 & 40 with GLTPA and MAT support.  We had gone on record at the previous meeting, but there is so much opposition to the bills, I felt it important to support Tom and the bills one more time.  The bills tweak the Land Cap Act and are highly opposed by the DNR and environmental community.  Casperson promised to continue to work with the environmental groups as the bills are debated by the full Senate. 

I also met with Senator Casperson about SB 706, 707 & 708, his bills to prohibit local government from requiring a special permit for a logger to haul wood out of a state/federal forest.  The bills completed Senate action in June and now await action by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chaired by Rep. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso.  I shared with Casperson that this issue is one of our top priorities for the session which he agreed. I suggested he speak directly to Rep. Glardon about the bills because Chair Glardon has been approached by many lobbyists reciting their "promise" by deceased committee chair Rep.Pete Pettalia to take up "their" bill.  Myself included in that list.

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