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Industry News, Meetings & Events

Michigan Legislative Update

Week of February 15, 2017

By Judy Augenstein

A recent poll shows that 31 percent of voters see fixing the state's infrastructure as the top problem facing Michigan.  In second was improving the quality of education at 19 percent and in third was improving the state economy and creating more jobs at 13 percent.  Infrastructure was defined in the poll as roads, bridges, dams, drinking water sources and waste water treatment systems.  A separate question asked what concerned most about infrastructure and 37 percent said the possibility of local drinking water becoming unsafe to drink, cook with or bath in.

Faced with a $4 billion a year for the next 20 years to fix our infrastructure, Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake has indicated he will re-introduce Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) legislation.  A bill to create PPP's failed during the final days of the 2016 Lame Duck session.  Opponents, including our association, lobbied against the bill over concern the bill would create private run toll booths on roads sold to private companies.

Senator Kowall contends the bill is about companies willing to put up money to get projects moving ahead without the state paying out of pocket expenses.  Companies would get repaid as projects begin to earn money.  Senator Kowall suggests that the Soo Locks and replacing water pumps on the Detroit freeway system are examples of how a PPP could work.  Governor Rick Snyder embraces PPP's because the money in the state budget is non-existent.  Kowall is expected to introduce new legislation to create PPP's within the next two weeks.

This week the Senate Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a resolution to encourage the USFS to work on an agreement with the owners of privately held hunting camps on leased acres within the Ottawa National Forest to allow the hunting camps to remain on federal land.  The House Natural Resources Committee received a presentation by Keith Creagh, Director, DNR.  The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee heard a presentation from Lance Binoniemi, VP, Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA).  The Senate Transportation did not meet.

This week I continue to meet and greet "newbie" legislators, including Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, R-Manton, Rep. Roger Hauck, R-Union Township and Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant.  Wednesday evening I attended a fundraiser for Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland.  I predict we will be working with Senator Stamas more this session as he is concerned about the hurdles our log haulers are having with motor carriers and the future of the wood products industry.

Next week, I will be attending the Small Business Association of Michigan Legislative Reception with special guest Governor Rick Snyder, the House "Mahout" GOP fundraiser, more meet and greets and lunch with Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake and staff.

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