The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 02.25.2015 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT
Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant
February 2015

The next four years will be more about fitting programs to people than is current practice, Governor Rick Snyder said on January 1 after being sworn in for his second term. One priority of Snyder’s is to have Michigan become a leader in encouraging students into career and technical education programs.

The Governor took the oath of office for the final time since term limits prevents him from seeking re-election. Snyder also said anyone thinking he will function like a “lame duck” does not know him. Snyder stated that Michigan needs to urge more students into skilled trades as the state works to improve education and wants Michigan to be the lead in the nation in skilled trades.

When the 148 legislators were sworn into office on Wednesday, January 14, there were 54 newbies. All coming to the Capitol with various levels of experience, hopes and aspirations for the next two years and an unambiguous philosophical bent. Republicans expanded their majorities with a 27-11 advantage in the Senate and a 63-47 advantage in the House.

Of the new members in the House and Senate, 34 are Republicans and 20 are democrats. There are teachers and doctors, truck drivers and deli owners, children or spouses of other elected officials and elected officials in their own communities. They are young and old, white, Asian, Hispanic, black, gay and straight, tea party conservatives and liberal progressives.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) commented that he is looking forward to leading his more conservative caucus. Cotter said “I appreciate debate and I know were are going to have a lot of it and we will be better for it. I am not looking for members who will simply follow me.”

Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) will chair the Senate Transportation Committee and chair the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee. Representative Andrea LaFontaine (R-Columbus Township) will chair the House Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Pete Pettalia (R- Presque Isle) will chair the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

On January 15, Governor Rick Snyder vetoed SB 78, the biodiversity bill sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba). Snyder commented in his veto message that the bill “causes confusion and inconsistencies and could make it more difficult to sustainably manage Michigan’s Public forests and world class natural resources to meet the changing needs of current and future generations.”

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:

Posted on 11.11.2014 Under Uncategorized

Governor Snyder has won a second term. “We’re not going to stop today. We’re going to keep moving forward–we’re going to keep accelerating–tomorrow, and on Thursday, and on Friday, and for the next four years!” said Governor Rick Snyder during his victory speech.

House of Representatives
State House Republicans will hold 63 seats in the next legislative session while Democrats will hold only 47. The Republicans grew their caucus from last session 59 to 63, netting four additional seats.

In the Michigan Senate, Republicans – who already had a super-majority of seats – will gain a seat and have a 27-11 majority in 2015.
Michigan Republican candidates also held on to all of the Congressional seats in play keeping the current delegation split of 9 – 5 the same.

• Representative Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) will be the next Speaker of the House.

• Senator Arlan Meekof (R-West Olive) glided into the Senate Majority Leader spot for next session with no opposition.

• House Minority Leader Tim Griemel (D-Auburn Hills) will serve another term as the leader of the Democratic caucus.

• But the caucus will have a new Floor Leader with Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) chosen to fill that position.

• Senator Jim Anianch (D-Flint) was named Senate Minority Leader for the 98th legislative session today; putting him at the helm of the smallest minority the party has had in the Senate since 1954.


In one of the nation’s most competitive races U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek held on 52% to 45% over his Democrat rival in a district that includes all of the Upper Peninsula and part of northern Michigan.

Washington will see some new faces from Michigan as two of the Republican seats were open contests due to retirements (Mike Rogers in the 8th and Dave Camp in the 9th).
Former State Senators Mike Bishop and John Molenaar won both races respectively.

In the 11th U.S. House District, Dave Trott, who defeated U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio in the primary also defeated his Democrat opponent in the general election and will be a freshman lawmaker in the next Congress.

Posted on 09.23.2014 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT – Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant – September 2014

The cast of characters for the general election is set now that the primary election is over. Michigan will know which party will control the Michigan House during the 2015-16 legislative session in November. Democrats hope to somehow turn their 51 seats into at least a 56 seat majority. At the same time, Republicans hope to grow their 59 seat caucus into something even bigger. The primary brought positives for both efforts.

For the House Republicans the Democrats lost their preferred candidates in two key districts. Meanwhile, the Republicans were able to get their preferred candidates through in two swing districts. For the Democrats, however, some key GOP candidates had to spend big to get through messy primary elections, which could take a toll on them in the general election.

Also, a trio of outspoken Tea Party conservatives won their Republican primaries putting seats on the Democrat’s radar that normally would never cross their minds to be competitive. If elected the Tea Party GOP candidates who won primaries against establishment backed opponents vow they will shake up the Republican caucus, one candidate even plans to run for Speaker of the House.

Supporters of a sales tax increase for road and infrastructure funding plan to push for a vote during the “lame duck” session. Some groups have backed an increase in the state’s sales tax by 1 percentage point to 7 percent per dollar. Lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on road and infrastructure funding before leaving for the primary election campaign. The House passed a proposal that would allocate more than $400 million to roads and infrastructure, but the Senate did not act on it. Some contend that a sales tax increase would also affect individuals that do not drive or use public transportation because their goods are delivered to their shopping centers and residences.

An increase in the sales tax requires approval by a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Legislature and an affirmative vote of the public. Seeing such a proposed increase put on the November ballot would be a stretch because the Legislature would have to act within days to make the deadline to do so. If a proposal is moved the earliest it would likely come would be in March, which would mean some legislative action on the issue during the lame-duck session. We know that anything and everything goes during lame duck. Issues on the back burner for two years immediately become active while issues moving smoothly along become stalled. It can be the “most wonderful” time of the year or the most depressing, depending on what side of the issue you are pushing or working to stall.

Posted on 08.20.2014 Under Uncategorized

Legislative Report for MAT – Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant – August 2014

According to a recent Lansing survey fixing the state’s roads and bridges is now the problem voters are most concerned about, more than education funding and the state’s economy which are included on the priority list. The statewide survey of registered voters found that out of nine issues, improving the quality of education and increasing funding was third at 16%.

The other responses included: Controlling government spending, providing affordable health care for everyone, controlling crime and drugs, keeping state and local taxes low, protecting our air and water and addressing the Detroit bankruptcy. The poll show Republicans, Democrats and Independents all have roads at the top one or two of their concerns.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law legislation that would pay benefits to hundreds of injured former Delphi workers owed more than four years of worker’s compensation benefits. In concert with the bills, the Legislature appropriated the necessary $15 million of additional funding. The issue stems from an error by the state when it failed to file a claim against Delphi when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2005. When it was released from bankruptcy in 2009, the company stopped paying worker’s compensation claims. The total cost to meet the claims is now at about $42.5 million. The bills allow part of the costs be paid by increasing the assessment companies that self-insure/group insure for worker’s compensation coverage pay to the self-insurance fund from 3 percent of their obligations to 4 percent for 2015-2018.

Earlier this year Governor Rick Snyder signed into law HB 4242, sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike (R-Ray Township). The bill was requested by GLTPA and was in response to a 2012 Supreme Court decision where an Idaho couple won their case and will be allowed to challenge the EPA over a wetland issue. The purpose of the law is to require all administrative rules be necessary and not be overly burdensome to an individual.

Governor Snyder vetoed legislation to eliminate the licensed forester statute. At the beginning of Snyder’s term he requested the Office of Regulatory Reinvention to review all licensing boards and to consider the necessity and function of those boards. ORR submitted a report to the governor recommending the deregulation of certain occupations which included deregulation of foresters. Snyder has concluded that the licensed forester statute is necessary, but needs to be updated and improved. Governor Snyder has directed the DNR to work with the legislature in crafting an oversight role that modernizes and elevates Michigan’s regulatory system for professional foresters.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) has appointed a six person work group to develop a plan for transportation funding. The work group will hold its first meeting following the August primary election. Members of the group include:

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) – term limited

Senate Floor Leader Arland Meekhof (R-West Olive) – leading contender for senate majority leader next year

Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake Township) – member Senate Transportation Committee

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) – term limited

Senator Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) – Senate Transportation Committee and leading contender for Dem leader

Senator Burt Johnson (D-Highland Park)

Most of the House road budget proposal did not pass the Senate during the last week of the spring session which is the reason Richardville set a work group. Of particular interest to our members, bills to increase overweight truck fees to $500 and the bill to double the fines on over weight and over sized vehicles did not pass. The log plate and farm plates did remain intact.

The road budget proposal will be the priority issue to be considered during the lame duck session. Democrats will be even more difficult to bring on board with any plan since they feel they had a deal with Republicans to link their votes on a gas tax hike to a partial restoration of the homestead exemption which did not happen so their votes went south the last week of the spring session. House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn) vows that “heavy trucks” must pay their fair share” and he cannot support any gas tax increase unless it is linked to legislation that increases overweight truck fees. As I stated, a House bill to increase overweight truck fees passed the House, but got stalled in the Senate.

The reciprocity agreement between Michigan/Wisconsin appears to be resolved administratively similar to the former agreement which had to be updated because Wisconsin’s truck weight limit was increased to 98,000 pounds.

Representative Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) is working with Congressman Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) to amend the federal highway transportation funding bill to provide for an exemption from the braking requirements under the FMCSA for slasher saws and portable conveyors. As long as legislative/congressional work continues on the issue MDOT has promised to not site truckers for hauling a slasher down the road. I have named this issue “the gift that just keeps on giving.”

A bill has been drafted by Rep. Ken Goike (R-Ray Township) to require the Amish to pay workers compensation tailored after a Montana law which mandates religious groups as employers and those who work for them are employees. Goike plans to introduce the bill when the legislature returns following the August primary.

The fall/winter “lame duck” session will be very interesting and busy!


Posted on 08.15.2014 Under Uncategorized

Provided by:  Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant for MAT

The Legislature was in session today, the House did not take roll call or hold votes so there was no legislative business while the Senate held a full day of tension held debate. It is clear the gubernatorial contest between Democratic Mark Schauer and Governor Rick Snyder has begun.

About 36 hours after the heaviest one day rainfall to hit Detroit in almost 90 years, Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of disaster today for the state’s three largest counties. Macomb, Oakland and Wayne and said he would ask for federal assistance to aid those areas. Yet even as the state coped with one of the most significant flooding events ever to hit its most populous region, the 2014 election lurked in the background. A few hours before Snyder’s announcement, his Democratic opponent, Mark Schauer, urged Snyder declare a state of emergency and then once Governor Snyder did so, Schauer announced that Governor Snyder had acted only after Schauer weighed in. Although Governor Snyder interrupted his trip through the U.P. on Tuesday to visit the Detroit area via helicopter, and returned to the U.P., some Democrats stepped up their needling on how Mr. Snyder handled the flooding disaster.

Meanwhile in the Senate today, Republicans gave the green light to a citizen’s initiative that would permit a wolf hunt to take place in Michigan by continuing to let the Natural Resources Commission designate such animals as game, though opponents of the measure charged Republicans were making a habit of circumventing voters’ rights to decide on such issues. If passed, the initiative establishes the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which in addition to allowing the game designation by the NRC would also appropriate $1 million to Asian carp prevention and allow for free hunting and fishing licenses to military veterans. The appropriation makes the initiative void from being challenged in another referendum and the final passage would render moot two other referendums on the November ballot that oppose wolf hunting.

An advocate for “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” commented that politicians are exaggerating and fabricating stories about wolf incidents and that two-thirds of all wolf incidents in the U.P. occurred on a single farm where the farmer baited wolves with cattle and deer carcasses. He further commented that voters should be allowed to hear arguments from both sides and make an informed judgment in November. The issue is now in the hands of the House and today the Speaker of the House commented that no date has been set to debate the issue. If the House takes no action by September 2, then the proposal will go on the November ballot. The House plans to meet on August 27 for a full day of legislative activity.

Term limited Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe today expressed optimism about a group of six senators slated to meet again on Thursday to discuss possible resolutions to funding the state’s infrastructure as he dodged criticism from the other side of the aisle about addressing flooding in metro Detroit. Richardville is hoping the members of the work group will bring some new ideas to the table, as he has also developed some of his own that involve a combination of different things.. Richardville commented that “Originally we were going to try to do just a gas tax increase but, there probably is a better solution than just that, I certainly hope so, but there are other issues regarding transportation that we were not going to consider then, before the primary, that we are now going to consider such as truck weights, load limits, fines, fees and other things that were not on the table before, but we are going to start talking about them now in a comprehensive way.”

Richardville also commented that “The problem is that it gets so politically complicated because this geographic area versus this population base versus where people travel the most. Nobody’s been able to fix it in over 50 years.” Richardville hopes to have some kind of a road consensus sometime in the fall—most likely after the November election.

Posted on 08.15.2014 Under Uncategorized

We have 4 member companies looking for employees.   Please see the “Classified” tab on the upper right and visit that page for more information!

Posted on 06.16.2014 Under Uncategorized

You can always access our newsletter here online by going to the tabs along the top.  It’s under “Advertising”.  But here it is for you on the front page news feed.  We are having some quality issues with our pictures and ads and we’re working on it.  Hang with us as we figure out how to produce this document with limited inexpensive software.

Timber Talk Summer 2014

Please note we failed to update an advertisement as requested by GreenStone Farm Credit Services so here is a link to a much better looking ad for GreenStone Farm Credit and our apologies for dropping the ball on this one.

Greenstone Advertisement 2014

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