The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 05.19.2017 Under Legislative

Who has the authority to name the recreational projects and land acquisitions that are funded out, the Michigan Natural Resources Fund trust board or the state legislature?  Should the trust fund spend all the money it has available for projects or set some aside  for a rainy day?

Those are questions senators are trying to answer with SB 280, sponsored by Senator Darwin Booher, R-Evart which was the subject of a hearing this week before the Senate Appropriations Committee. When the trust fund board submitted its current recommendation to the legislature for approval, it included 27 acquisitions worth $27.7 million and 87 development projects worth $19.9 million.  When Senator Booher submitted his bill he added back into those recommendations 43 projects worth $7.7 million, that the trust fund board had ruled out.  Booher contends that the trust fund board and DNR are setting money aside as savings for the future, including $8 million this year and he contends that if the board ended that practice it could fund a lot more recreational projects.

Committee Chair, Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell contends that if the trust fund board quit setting aside those dollars, it could fund all projects that had been submitted for grant money this year, which includes those 43 projects added back.  Among those 43 projects are boat launches, pavilion renovations, path expansions, park development and other projects.

Senator Hildenbrand said Senate staff will meet with the DNR to see if some areas of disagreement can be resolved before he calls for a vote.   Booher said this is not a new concern for him.  He said he has told the trust fund board in years past that he would make an issue of it “if they kept doing this.”  When he saw that they set aside $8 million this year rather than fund some projects with the money, he decided to introduce the bill.

The NRTF was put in the state constitution when voters adopted Proposal B in 1984.  The amendment requires that oil, gas and other mineral leases and royalty money be placed in the trust fund and be used to acquire and develop public recreation land.  The amendment created a $500 million fund from which interest could require and develop park land.

Legislation to allow all commodity haulers to use a multiple use permit tailored after Wisconsin law will be introduced by Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona by the time of our May 24 legislative reception.  All concerned interests finally signed off on the language this week.  Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba has committed to introduce legislation to address continuing issues loggers have with local units of government by next Wednesday as this bill and the multiple use permit bill are two of our priority issues for MAT/GLTPA to discuss with legislators.  Legislation to be sponsored by Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, to require employers to maintain worker’s compensation insurance coverage has finally been agreed to by the major business groups and LARA.  Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet and I feel we finally found a “hook” to address safety standards by certain employers. The Legislative Service Bureau is crafting a bill to require all employers to not only post MIOSHA requirements, but to also post their worker’s compensation insurance certificate, similar to a liquor license.  Increased fines and penalties will be included in the bill.

This week John Fowler and I met with his legislator Rep. Gary Howell, R-Lapeer, Chair, House Natural Resources Committee to discuss the committee vacancy created by the passing of Rep. John Kivela and to discuss the unfair playing field the Amish create for other businesses by not paying business taxes.  Rep. Howell stands ready to assist us with the Amish issue and will co-sponsor or sponsor legislation on our behalf.

On Tuesday, John Fowler, Jim Maeder and I attended the NFIB legislative day where the new UI Director addressed the group.  A perfect opportunity for us to bring up unfair practices Amish businesses create for our industry.  Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt outlined his legislative plans for the session, Rep. Jim Tedder, R-Clarkston, Chair, House Tax Policy outlined his plans for the Tax Policy Committee, Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland, outlined his legislative goals.  Senator Stamas has been actively assisting us with issues loggers are having with local governments and the motor carrier.  He was pleased to see us at the NFIB Day event and spent a fair amount of time discussing our issues following his comments to the group. Senator Stamas is a leading contender for the position of Senate Majority Leader next session.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Olive was the last to speak and outlined his caucus goals for the final session of his career, as he is term limited.  Out of 38 senators, 27 will be termed out in 18 months, 48 House members will be termed out at the same time.  At the end of the NFIB Day a round table discussion was held relative to business issues, concerns and possible solutions.  Small to medium size businesses appear to have many similar issues as business owners. All and all it was a productive day of networking with legislative leaders and NFIB.

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Posted on 05.11.2017 Under Legislative

Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant

A very sad week in Lansing indeed……………..

Several friends and colleagues reached out or spoke to Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette on Tuesday before he died of an apparent suicide that has broken the hearts of many in the Upper Peninsula and Capitol community. Rep. Kivela was arrested Monday evening under suspicion of drunken driving, his second such arrest since November 2015. Mr. Kivela said in 2015 he had been an alcoholic most of his adult life and went into treatment following his first arrest.

Senator David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights had a conversation with Rep. Kivela Tuesday morning s they were roommates in a home near the Capitol. Senator Knezek wrote on his Facebook page that he was angry that his friend had relapsed and was arrested, but pushed anger aside when Kivela called for him from his bedroom Tuesday morning. Knezek wrote “You told me that you had let down the people who love you. I told you the people who love you are going to love you no matter what and that you need serious help.” Senator Knezek wrote that Rep. Kivela told him he was going to resign and seek inpatient treatment. “I gave him a hug, I said that I love you, you said that you loved me. Those were our last words to each other, Knezek wrote.

Shelby Kivela, daughter of Kivela posted on Facebook that she would not wish the disease of alcoholism on her worst enemy. “I can’t imagine how much pain someone is in with it for them to continue to jeopardize the things they love most because their addiction begs to be fueled. His safe place to drink was unfortunately, his commute to Lansing and home. Alcoholism strained my relationship with my father in the final months of his life and that hurts too.” Many colleagues took to social media to express their sadness and offer tribute to their friend, many noted Rep. Kivela’s smile, kindness and willingness to work with others.

An unabashed proud Yooper and self proclaimed novice from Wayne County stood at a podium together on the Senate floor on Wednesday to pay tribute to Rep. Kivela, but also hoped his death might inspire change in the highly partisan political realm. Senator David Knezek stood side by side with Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba to remember John Kivela. “I just wish John knew how much we all loved him. I wish he knew how many people in Lansing and how many people across Michigan, especially in the Upper Peninsula and Marquette, have carved out a little space in their heart for him. I wish he knew the difference he made.” Knezek said, visibly shaken, in a statement on the Senate floor.

Senator Casperson also had a difficult time getting through his memories of Kivela especially when he talked about how much Kivela put into bringing people together. Casperson stated “I always believe that all things come together for the glory of God and I think in this case, as tragic as it is, and hard to explain, I believe there is good things coming and I believe John’s legacy is going to help us find those good things. “Maybe this is the beginning of something in our world, the political world, of how we interact with each other. There could potentially be a change. It could start right here. He could be the seed that was planted.” Kivela and Casperson had become very good friends during their tenure in the Legislature.

“Some of my favorite memories of John were when he would bring Democrats and Republicans together over to our house, members of the House, members of the Senate. He believed so strongly in being that bridge, that gap between the divide we experience here in Lansing sometimes. ” said Senator Knezek. “He wanted everybody around the table. He wanted everybody on the same team, because he wanted the best for his constituents”. Casperwon commented the he is praying that Kivela’s death encourages other to follow his lead on working together. “He really, really, really was good at it”. Casperson told reporters after the Wednesday session.

House session was canceled in the middle of Tuesday’s House session as leaders got word of the untimely death of Rep. John Kivela. Wednesday and Thursday House sessions, committee meetings, and fundraisers were canceled for the remainder of the week. The Senate held a brief session on Wednesday as Casperson and Knezek paid tribute to their friend Rep. John Kivela.

The visitation and funeral services for Rep. John Kivela will be held Saturday, May 13. The visitation will begin at 10:00 AM with the service to follow at 2:00 PM. both will take place in the Great Lakes Room in the University Center at Northern Michigan University, 1401 Presque Isle, Marquette, MI 49855.

We all continue to grieve for our friend Rep. John Kivela, his family and the UP.

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