Michigan Legislative Update
Week of March 23, 2017
By Judy Augenstein
Opponents of a bill requiring state agencies to prove there is a "clear and convincing need" for a rule to be more stringent than the federal government's point to the environment and public health as reasons for concern, while supporters feel less regulation is a good thing, and if it's good enough for the feds, it should be good enough for the state. Legislation limiting state rules from being stricter than federal ones has a rocky history. A similar bill was vetoed in 2011, but Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, who reintroduced the bill last term and again this term, HB 4205, has said the bill now requires the agency to provide a reason for the stricter regulation instead of barring it outright.
This week the House Oversight Committee reported HB 4205 out of committee to the full House for further consideration. Those opposed to the bill were; Michigan Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, the UAW 6000 & Michigan League of Conservative Voters. Testifying in support was NFIB and the Office of Regulatory Reinvention was neutral on the bill.
The House has collected 1,080 signatures in support of legislation expanding the Freedom of Information Act to the governor's office and creating a similar act to expose many legislative records, but the Senate majority leader appears unwilling to take up those bills any time soon. The 10 bill package creating the Legislative Open Records Act and expanding FIOA passed unanimously in the House. Proponents of the bill are hoping the fact there were no opposition votes for the whole package will put more pressure on their Senate colleagues to action.
Amid House Republican leaders signaling they would not be tied to passing the 2017-18 fiscal year budget by early June, the usual time it has done so the last six years, Governor Rick Snyder said the state should continue its pattern of completing the budget then. Governor Snyder also warned against trying to weave together a tax cut and the budget. "I don't view as we should be negotiating one issue like that versus getting a good budget done," he said. Getting the budget done is fundamental to being financially strong in this state and also helping our citizens. Everything from our schools to our municipalities to our citizens benefit from us getting the budget done in June. We have been a great role model for the rest of the country.
The House Natural Resources Committee met this week to discuss legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, to ease requirements on small native copper mines. The native copper deposits in Michigan are found only in a section of the Keweenaw Peninsula and supporters said the mines would be around 10 acres, compared to the 140 acre footprint of the Eagle Mine discussed in a separate presentation. Casperson commented that native copper mines are substantially smaller than the mines envisioned in current law and so should not have to meet those requirements. The committee also approved HB 4082, a bill that would require the DNR to notify local officials before conducting a prescribed burn. The department balked at the 24 hour notice in the original bill, but language was changed to require them to maintain records of the officials it tried to contact and when instead.
The Michigan Forest Products Council gave a presentation to the committee which included forestry facts such as the 90,000 direct jobs forestry and the 20 billion dollars the industry provides to the economy; Michigan is growing three times the timber than what is harvested and how the industry is growing. They touched on the new 400 million investment in the Grayling area coming soon. The MFPC outlined their mission to project, promote and sustain the industry for future generations. The Senate Natural Resources Committee did not meet this week.
The House Transportation Committee heard a presentation from the County Road Association of Michigan and County Road Commissions. The Senate Transportation Committee took testimony on legislation involving fund-raising license plates for the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers and the Michigan International Speedway, legislation relative to transfer of abandoned highways and a bill to modify definition of autocycle and motorcycle.
I attended fundraisers for "newbie" legislators this week. I attended an event for Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake, Chair House Local Government Committee and Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, VC House Natural Resources Committee.
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