The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 10.08.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
October 2015

House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant says he believes legislative leaders are on a path to get a road funding plan to the House floor sometime this month.  Governor Rick Snyder and quadrant leaders have been meeting on and off for weeks to try to develop a $1.2 billion road funding deal.  Leaders are currently working on a plan that would feature about $800 million in new revenue and $400 million in existing state dollars shifted to roads.

MDOT will be spending more time being quizzed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as legislators look for an additional $1.2 billion in road funding.  The Committee will hold a series of hearings this fall to grill MDOT over issues previously examined.  Such as issues brought up in a state audit on the department’s warranty program and a set of unused rail cars the department has maintained.  Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, committee chair, wants to hear about projects the department has completed and projects planned for the future.  Pettalia wants a “year end report” from MDOT.

Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, minority chair of the committee also wants MDOT back before the committee.  Rep. Lane is looking for budget efficiencies across state government as part of the push for a $1.2 billion road funding plan.  Both Rep. Lane and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet have been critical of MDOT and an explanation from MDOT on issues such as spending spend $2.3 million to place new mulch along I-696.  Rep. Dianda says that achieving transportation reforms is key to getting his support for any upcoming road funding plan as does Rep. Lane.

Last week a five bill package that includes a proposal to hike the state’s current maximum speed limit to 80 mph was debated by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.  This week the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association both testified in opposition to the bills.  These bills are not going to “speed” out of committee.

A controversial issue in the House this week was the medical marijuana debate. Medical marijuana patients would pay a 9 percent tax on the drug, but would be allowed to purchase it from a licensed dispensary and be permitted to use topical or edible forms of the drug legally under the bills approved by the House on Wednesday.  The bills now move to the Senate for further debate.

This week Jim Maeder, John Fowler and myself attended the Octoberfest House Republican Caucus event hosted by Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.  The Speaker will be touring Maeder Brothers, INc., Weidman in early November.  We met up later with Rep. Scott Dianda,D-Calumet, Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township and Senator Rebekak Warren, D-Ann Arbor at a local restaurant where Denny and Carmel  OLson and others were dining.  Denny and others are in town today for the special Vietnam Veterans ceremony at the Capitol today.

Posted on 10.01.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
September 2015

Governor Rick Snyder has revealed his administration is “exploring” the idea of bringing an unknown number of refugees from the Middle East to Michigan.  One of the state’s largest refugee organizations is pushing Michigan to accept more of the refugees that have been streaming over the borders of Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Snyder would not reveal what countries he is referring to or how many refugees Michigan would take.  Snyder wants to make sure if there is an opportunity to help that Michigan be proactive.

A five bill package that includes a proposal to hike the state’s current maximum speed limit to 80 mph is not going to speed out of committee.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee began taking testimony on the package this week.  The bills are spear headed by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford.  Committee chair, Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque, said the panel is a long way from voting the bills out of committee.  The proposal includes how speed limits should be set, defines how school zones should be handled and how some low level speeding tickets would be handled.  Chair Pettalia commented, “There are just so many aspects of this that have to be brought out”.

The Quadrant (the four leaders) and Governor Rick Snyder continue to discuss a mutual road funding package—but no solution was found again this week.  Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba shared with me this week that a resolution to the road funding dilemma is “expected” by the end of October.

Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge has introduced SB 534 which would end benefit opportunities for unmarried partners of state employees and their dependents.  The current system, which extends many state employees’ health benefits to other eligible adult individuals they live with, was approved by the Civil Service Commission in 2011.  The agreement to include unmarried live-in partners in health benefits was seen at the time as a means to legally incorporate same sex couples.  Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled same sex marriage is legal throughout the country.  Senator Jones hopes to end that program with SB 534.  Jones said if barriers to same sex marriage were the reason the system was changed in the first place, those issues are now resolved and taxpayers should not have to be on the hook for the benefits of unmarried couples.

This week, I met with staff to Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville and his staff to discuss the ongoing unfair competition the Amish create for tax paying wood products businesses.  Rep. Barrett has received a commitment from Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden, Chair, House Commerce Committee to have the committee tour Johnson Lumber in Charlotte.  We are in the process of finding a day to do the tour.  This tour will NOT replace the tour of Maeder Brothers located in the district of the Speaker of the House, Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.  John Fowler, Jim Maeder and I will be attending a fundraiser for the Speaker next Wednesday, October 7.  We are attempting to cover all bases in our effort to be successful with the effort to level the business playing field for our members.

Posted on 09.24.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
September 2015

Discussions continue on how to fund the state’s ailing roads. The one thing that seems to be gaining footing is that the final solution will be solely focused on roads and transportation issues.  Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof commented that the plan has to be a “clean” plan by not loading it up like the plan that “sunk” Proposal 1.  Meekhof stated that voters indicated that they accept the idea of paying more for roads but only if paying more is just for roads.

Senate Meekhof denied that the major hang up in discussions among the Legislative Quadrant was at what rate to cut current spending.  The Senate had proposed $750 million and the House countered with $600 million, but Governor Rick Snyder does not like either of those figures because he thinks it would put too much pressure on the General Fund.  Meekhof commented that “There’s other things to talk about, how much do overweight trucks pay?  How much do electric and hybrid vehicles pay if they’re not paying for fuel?”  Senator Meekhof said those issues are related and have to be addressed in transportation funding.

Michigan would join a compact to develop and adopt a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution under SB 306, sponsored by Senator Mike Green, R-Bay City.  The bill passed the Senate 26-11 along party lines.  A total of 38 states are required for the compact to take effect. It is estimated that the amount of debt at the end of the Obama term will be close to $20 trillion.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive told reporters that “It is wrong to pile debt upon our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and we need to find a way to balance the budget, grow the economy and pay down those debts.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network stated this week that in the first seven months of the year, lobbying firms spent $21 million on efforts to lobby legislators.  Leading the way on spending was Government Consultants Services, at $947,832, followed by Karoub Associates, Kelly Cawthorne, RWC Advocacy, the Michigan Health Hospital Association, Public Affairs Associates and Muchmore Harrington Smalley Associates.

In a meeting with Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township this week I obtained a copy of a letter to Rep. Joe Graves, Chair, House Commerce Committee, where HB 4579, legislation to require religious sects pay workers compensation, is awaiting debate.  Mark Long, Director WCA, outlines their concerns with the bill and contends the Amish are working within the law as written.  Staff to Rep. Graves has requested I provide him a list of Michigan sawmills in order to determine what percentage are Amish.  I have requested sponsor Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet to research the question.

Rep. Ken Goike has also prepared a bill to require employers verify work comp insurance if they are on site for an investigation or inspection.  I added to the request that the employer also have MIOSHA requirements posted as other employers are required.  Sometime ago, I was told by a senator that the Amish told him to get a message to me that they will NOT publish the MIOSHA safety poster.  We continue to make the departments and the Amish “nervous” about our lobby efforts regarding the Amish.

The Legislature is not in session today because of “Yom Kippur.  The Legislature will return to Lansing on Tuesday, September 28.

Posted on 09.17.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
September 2015

Legislative leaders from both parties say they are hopeful that talks have been progressing toward a possible agreement on how to dedicate at least another $1.2 billion a year toward roads.  They also commented that the changed mathematics in the House where both Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were emphatic “no” votes about raising new revenues to spend on roads cannot hurt.  Counting the earlier resignation of Rep. Brandon Dillion, D-Grand Rapids, the House now has 107 members with a 61 to 46 Republican majority and 54 votes are needed to pass a road deal.

This week U. S. Senator Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls announced he will not seek a fourth term in office, opting to retire instead to spend more time with family.  The decision is a sudden reversal from last March, when he announced he would be breaking his self-imposed term limit pledge of six years to run for a fourth two year term.  Benishek commented he wants to focus his time and attention on helping our veterans and working to make things better for the families and workers through Northern Michigan and to devote more time to his family.

Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle, former Rep. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering and former Senator Jason Allen, R-Traverse City are the most likely “suspects” to file as Republican candidates for the lst Congressional District race.  Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson is running on the democratic side for the 1st Congressional seat, others may jump into the race, it is early, but the race is on!

New Legislation:

SB 439 -. Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. sponsor. Air pollution—a state greenhouse gas plan would be required to be submitted to the legislature for review before submission to the federal government,  The bill is referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

SB 464 – Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, sponsor, requires any greenhouse gas plan be submitted to the legislature for their review before it is forwarded to the federal government.  The bill was referred to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Posted on 08.25.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
August 2015

The House has sent three road funding bills to a House/Senate conference committee where a final deal could eventually be hashed out.  After many closed door meetings, the House did not concur in Senate changes made to HB 4612, dealing with registration fees, HB 4613, which concerns warranties and HB 4615, which could raise the diesel tax to put it on par with the gasoline tax.  A final deal has not been been formed, but a rough outline of a plan including $600 million in new revenue has been floated by Speaker Cotter.

The conference committee includes Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevenville, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, House Transportation Democratic chair.  Senate conference committee members are Senator Geoff Hansen, R-Hart, Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, member Appropriations Committee and Senator Morris Hood, III, D-Detroit, member Government Operations Committee.  Speaker Cotter contends Democrats are more serious about negotiations and sees the formation of the conference committee as progress.

The plan previously passed by the Senate would have shifted $700 million from the General Fund to roads and increased the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon. the original House transportation plan would have increased only the diesel tax by 4 cents.  The diesel parity combined with registration fee increases would have generated $45 million in new revenue.

The legislature recessed today until September 9 without a road budget deal.  Governor Rick Snyder wanted the House to include additional millions for the Health Insurance Claims Assessment because of a shortfall.  Democrats wanted more road dollars dedicated to Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties and a guarantee to safeguard the state’s prevailing wage.  Speaker Cotter was short GOP votes to increases road taxes to include these demands in the mix.  Speaker Cotter is still confident he will garner votes for a “clean” road funding agreement in September.

This week Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet set a meeting with Martha Yoder, Director, MIOSHA, Mark Long, Director, Workers Compensation Agency, Marnee Wills, LARA lobbyist, John Fowler, Jim Maeder and myself to discuss the competition the Amish create for wood products businesses.  Martha Yoder commented that unless the department receives a complaint about a child being harmed, MIOSHA does not have authority to get involved.  It was suggested we discuss the issue with the Department of Education, Ben Williams who enforces youth employment.  Rep.Dianda is especially interested in finding out how many MIOSHA inspections have occurred in the Mt. Pleasant area since over 40 new “families” have settled there this year and has directed staff to identify how many inspections have been held in that area.

We also discussed the issue of tax dollars lost by the state by ignoring the fact that religious sects are unwilling to pay workers compensation and unemployment compensation.    Rep. Dianda was shocked to learn that over 50% of sawmills are now owned by the Amish. Rep. Dianda plans to set a meeting with Ben Williams, Dept. Education,  Director Youth Services, Sally Durkee, new Deputy Director Treasury.  Sally recently left Governor Snyder’s office as his chief lobbyist to take the Deputy Director job at Treasury.   Once the necessary research is completed, Rep. Dianda will facilitate the meeting with the Dept. of Ed, Treasury, Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township, HB 4579 bill sponsor, legislation to require religious sects to pay workers compensation, Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden, Chair, House Commerce Committee and MAT/GLTPA to discuss the unfair competition religious sects create for our industry.

Posted on 08.13.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
August 2015

Ballot language asking to hike the state’s corporate income tax (CIT) was given the thumbs up by the Board of State Canvassers. The approval clears the way for union backed groups “Citizens for Fair Taxes” to begin circulating petitions for their legislative initiative, which would hike the CIT rate from 6 to 11 percent. If the group garners enough signatures before the deadline next June and gets another sign off from the BSC, the proposal would first go to the Legislature. If it is not approved, the proposal would find its way to the November 2016 ballot. The group contends the proposal would raise $900 million to be put toward roads. the business lobby is heavily opposed to the measure as is Governor Rick Snyder.

The Board of State Canvassers also approved language for a group pushing a proposal that would require companies to provide paid sick leave, as well as language for a group hoping to have voting by mail added to the state constitution.

A scandal involving two House Republicans may have stolen the spotlight from the push to improve Michigan’s roads this week, but the work on the issue from some lawmakers, including the House Transportation Chair, Pete Pettalia, R-Presque rolls on. Pettalia spent the last two weeks traveling the Upper Peninsula, meeting with every road commission along the way. Pettalia is confident that legislators will ultimately find a solution.

According to many estimates, the state needs to invest an additional $1.2 billion in its transportation infrastructure each year. Brock Swartzle, new Chief of Staff to Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant listed roads as the top thing he wants to get done in his new role as chief of staff to Speaker Cotter.

The House passed a $1 billion plan that relies heavily on shifting current state revenues to roads and included about $117 million in revenue from tax increases. However, the Senate has passed a $1.4 billion plan that shifted current revenues to roads, but also included $700 million included in tax increases. including a phase-in 15 cent per gallon gas tax increase.

The Legislature plans to resume normal session days next Tuesday, August 18.

Posted on 02.25.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
August 2015

This week Moody’s Investor Services announced Michigan’s credit rating for 2015. for the first time since 2004, Michigan’s credit rating has improved to the level of Aa1. States that receive an Aa rating typically are high quality and subject to low levels of risk. Aa3 ratings have higher risk levels than states with Aa1 ratings. Republicans credit the rating change due to the economic growth, sound budget practices and the reduction of overall state debt. Republicans also contend that as Michigan continues its comeback path, factor such as an improved credit rating will help play a large role in determining the future of the state.

Both the House and the Senate have introduced individual plans to regulate energy in Michigan. Both plans will affect citizens differently and are expected to be voted on during the fall session.

HB’s 4298 through 4302 are sponsored by Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, Chair, House Energy Police Committee. This bill package would restore Michigan to a fully regulated electric market by eliminating customer choice provisions and prohibiting alternative electric suppliers from entering into new contracts with retail customers. Other changes in this package would include revising the way that refunds are given to customers that overpay for their utilities, reducing the time period that the Public Service Commission can reach a final decision on a rate change; and requiring electric utilities to provide an integrated resource plan to be approved every five years by the PSC.

SB’s 437 and 438 are sponsored by Senator Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, Chair, Senate Energy & Technology Committee and Senator John Pros, R-St. Joseph. The two bills would keep the choice that 10% of energy to be available to consumers from sources other than Consumers or DTE. This bill would require that providers must prove they have enough supply to meet demand, as well as show they have room to grow. These bills also include the phase-out of energy reduction waste credits by January 1, 2019, as well as reducing the decision time for the PSC and requiring an integrated resource plan to be approved by the PSC every five years.

House Bills 4298 through 4302 were introduced in March and are currently in the House Committee on Energy Policy. Senate Bills 437 and 438 were introduced in July and are in the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology. Both of these packages are expected to be voted on during the fall session.

Michigan’s roads and infrastructure are in desperate need of repair and a long term funding solution is still being discussed by the House, Senate and the Executive Office. Both the House and the Senate have passed separate versions of road repair and maintenance funding. The Senate’s plan relies heavily on using increased gas taxes and General Fund dollars to fund road repair, while lowering the Michigan income tax rate to help offset the burden on tax payers. The House plan takes a different route and redistributes existing tax dollars to fund roads instead of increasing taxes.

In July, the House convened to analyze the Senate road package and to determine the best course of action going forward. While some progress was made in these meetings, there is still work that needs to be done to finalize a solution for fixing the roads in the state. Coming up with a road funding solution that takes the best of the House and Senate plans is a top priority of the Legislature.

This week I attended a fundraiser event for Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Grand Ledge, member House Commerce Committee. Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant was the special guest and I had the opportunity to “break bread” with him and discuss the competition the Amish create for wood products companies, such as Maeder Brothers in his district. I shared that Rep. Barrett is working on our behalf to get the Commerce Committee to tour Johnson Lumber in Charlotte. The Speaker agreed to join the committee tour if time permits.

Both the House and Senate will be back in session on August 18.

Posted on 02.25.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
January 2015

The 2013-14 Lame duck session is over and I am thrilled! The Senate adjourned at 6:19 AM Friday, December 19 and the House adjourned at 6:48 AM. All bills not related to the road budget proposal finished action by mid night Thursday and it took 6 hours to muster votes to support the road budget package. The formal end of session referred to as “Sine Die” took place on December 30 at 11:30 AM. Only a few legislators attended the formal end of the year session. Typically, the area legislators attend the 30 minute sign off.

The road plan passed by the Legislature is proposed to ensure that our roads have the $1.2 billion in additional funding needed. The plan does the following:

Repeals the sales tax on gas
Replaces it with a new motor fuels tax that is dedicated to funding transportation
Increases the state sales tax so our schools and local governments have the funding they need
Provides tax relief to lower income citizens

Michigan citizens will be asked to vote on a ballot proposal in May 2015 that will enact changes; including increasing the state sales tax by 1% (from 6% to 7%), raising $1.34 billion in revenue, eliminating the sales tax on motor fuels, saving $752 million. The legislature also passed bills which included a wholesale tax on motor fuels, vehicle registration increases, ($45 million more from vehicle tags and an additional $50 million from heavy trucks) new transportation related reforms which include measures on warranties and competitive bidding, and the restoration of the earned income tax credit which will provide tax relief for low income citizens. The EITC relief was required in order to muster democratic votes. Nothing will take effect if the May 2015 ballot proposal does not pass. The log plate and truck weights were maintained intact.

The plan is outlined to have the following results:

$1.2 billion for roads and bridges
$112 million for transit and rail
$300 million for schools ($200 per pupil)
$94 million for local governments
$260 million in tax relief for lower income citizens

Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) was passed by the Legislature during the last night of the Lame Duck session and awaits signature by Governor Rick Snyder. The bill is known as the “biodiversity bill”. Brenda Owen, MAT, testified in committee that the bill is designed to balance economic values while managing our forests for all aspects”. Henry Schienebeck, GLTPA testified that biodiversity “means measures for maintaining, managing or enhancing biological diversity while ensuring accessibility, productivity and the use of the natural resources for present and future generations.”

Posted on 02.13.2015 Under Uncategorized



If you have not spent the time to comment on the need for the US F&W to use the utmost flexibility in managing the habitat areas of the northern long eared bat, please do so NOW with the link at the bottom of this text block. The future of the forest industry hangs in the balance and we need EVERYONE to participate in this discussion. Please take a moment to use the links below to submit comment urging rule makers to use the utmost flexibility in

“White-nose syndrome is having a devastating effect on the nation’s bat populations, which play a vital role in sustaining a healthy environment and save billions of dollars by controlling forest and agricultural pests,” said Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius. “We need to do what we can to make sure we are putting common sense protections in place that support vulnerable bat species but are targeted to minimize impact on human activities. Through this proposed 4(d) rule, we are seeking public comment on how we can use the flexibilities inherent in the ESA to protect the bat and economic activity.”

Please send comments on the proposed rule on or before March 17, 2015. If you already submitted comments previously, they ask you to not do so again.

Comment here
COMMENT HERE:!documentDetail;D=FWS-R5-ES-2011-0024-3212

Under the ESA, an endangered designation indicates a species is currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range; a threatened designation means a species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. The act and the Service’s implementing regulations prohibit take, including harming, harassing and killing, of endangered and threatened species unless otherwise permitted.

For species listed as threatened, the Service may issue a 4(d) rule to provide protections that are deemed necessary and advisable for conservation of the species. Such a rule ensures private landowners and citizens are not unduly burdened by regulations that do not further the conservation of the species and are exempted from take prohibitions when conducting activities that actively benefit the species.

Posted on 12.03.2014 Under Uncategorized

After a Lame Duck vote on the Senate Floor on Tuesday, December 2nd, Senate Bill 1150 was defeated. Vote count was 15 yes, 22 no. You can go here to see who voted for and against: ROLL CALL

SB1150 would have reduced the hauling weights in Michigan to a straight 80,000 gross vehicle weight, eliminating the per axle weights for hauling up to 164,000lbs.

The vote was nearly straight down party lines with Democrats voting in favor and Republicans against. Three Republicans crossed over with the 12 Democrats in favor of the bill. Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton Township, Senator Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights and Senator Jack Brandenburg, R- Harrison Township voted with the democrats supporting the bill. All those that crossed party lines were all from the districts surrounding Detroit. It seems we have a need for higher level of contact and information about our industry to those districts in particular.

Prior to the 10 am Tuesday session hearing for SB1150, members started calling their Senators urging them to vote no. Timbermen, GLTPA, and many other groups circulated letters of opposition to all Michigan Senators prior to the 10 am session.

In normal session for Michigan Legislature, SB1150 would have spent some time in the Transportation Committee but Senator Steven Bieda, District 9, Warren, MI was able to get it on the session schedule to be voted on right from the Senate Floor. Had it followed normal procedure, this bill would have likely been defeated at the committee level.

We are grateful for the resounding support of the Senators that defeated this bill. If you are not receiving email alerts about Timbermen issues, please call the office to be on the circulation list or email us and tell us to add you. 906-293-3236 or email:

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