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Posted on 11.11.2014 Under Uncategorized

2014 MICHIGAN ELECTION RESULTS
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.

Senate
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.

NATIONAL ELECTION RESULTS IMPACTING MICHIGAN

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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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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Posted on 06.06.2014 Under Uncategorized

Youth Careers In Logging

Are you concerned about the future of the timber industry? If not, you are most likely in the minority. Mill closures, mergers, high cost of raw materials, shortage of qualified operators, the constant barrage of government regulations, and the overall high cost of running a business today are just a few of the many hurdles that we all must navigate in order to stay afloat. While the American Loggers Council (ALC) can’t solve all these issues, they are currently working on many of them and will continue to do so into the future.
When my term as ALC President started last fall, I listed a set of goals that I wanted to accomplish. The issue at the top of that list was to address the entrance of the next generation of timber harvesters into our industry. In order for this industry to survive, we must have a qualified and competent work force to not only operate equipment but to also take over the reins of running the business when the current owner decides to step away. This issue is one that the ALC has been working on for a number of years now and just started to gain some momentum with the introduction of H.R.4590 and S.2335.

The Future Logging Careers Act – H.R.4590 was introduced by Rep. Labrador (R-ID ) while the Youth Careers In Logging Act -S.2335 was introduced by Sen. Risch (R-ID) and Sen.Crapo (R-ID ). Both of these bills would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 so that 16 and 17 year olds would be allowed to work in mechanized logging operations under parental supervision.
Timber harvesting operations are similar to family farms – but with sophisticated and expensive harvesting equipment that requires young men and women to learn how to run the business, including equipment operation, maintenance and safety prior to the age of 18. However, young men and women in families who own and operate timber harvesting companies are denied the opportunity to work and learn the family trade until they reach adulthood. The potential next generation of professional timber harvesters are being denied the opportunity to make logging their career of choice until after they turn 18 because of outdated Child Labor Law Regulations while the agriculture industry is exempt from said regulations.

While much progress has been made in just the last couple of months, there is still a lot of work to be done if we want to see these bills passed into law. A vast majority of bills introduced in Congress end up dying in committee, so it is critical that we all do our part to ensure that these bills are passed out of committee and eventually signed into law.
Regardless of whether you work as a logger, work in a mill, or work for a timber company this issue has the potential to affect the entire wood supply chain because as current loggers leave the business there needs to be a new generation coming in or eventually our industry will cease to exist.

H.R.4590 has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce while S.2335 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
It is imperative that we contact directly as many House and Senate offices as possible and ask them to support the bill, so please pass this alert along to anyone who you feel is willing to respond, including other organizations and vendors who you do business with. We will need a majority in both the House and Senate to pass the bill once it comes to the floor for a vote!
If you are unsure of who your congressional delegates are then please contact the ALC office or go to the ALC website to find their contact information. I urge everyone in the timber industry to either make a call or send an email to their respective Senate and House members to get them to support this very important issue to our industry. The more Senate and House members hear from us the more likely they will be to support this and the more of them that support this the better chance we have of moving it forward.

Until next time
Log Safe

Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson is the current President of the American Loggers Council and he and his brother David and father Marvin own and operate Marvin Nelson Forest Products, Inc. based out of Cornell, Michigan. Brian is also the Immediate Past President of the Michigan Association of Timbermen.

The American Loggers Council is a non-profit 501(c) (6) corporation representing professional timber harvesters in 30 states across the US. For more information, visit their web site at www.americanloggers.org or contact their office at 409-625-0206.

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Posted on 06.02.2014 Under Uncategorized

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

The Senate has addressed and substituted part of the House road proposal and added a few new bills to the mix. The Senate amended HB 4630, the registration bill by adding the farm/log plate back into the bill for vehicles under 8,000 pounds, but requires vehicles to have signage displaying name of business operating the vehicle. House Bill 5477 which repeals the current fuel taxes (19 cents a gallon on gas and 15 cents a gallon on diesel) was changed to a 6 percent tax by the House, but the Senate added a gradual increase on 9.5 percent beginning January 1, 2015 to 13.5 percent beginning January 1, 2017, and beginning January 1, 2018, the rate would increase to 15.5 percent.

Senate Bill 6 was added and designates 18% of the 4% tax collected on motor fuel to be earmarked for transportation funding. Senate Bill 149 allows monies collected from the sales tax to be credited to the Michigan Transportation fund. The bills to increase permit fees for overweight trucks to $500, HB 5452, and legislation to double fines for overweight and over-sized vehicles, HB 5453 remain in the Senate Infrastructure and Modernization Committee for further debate.

The DNR budget conference committee has not yet scheduled a meeting to iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills. Representative Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) has informed me that at least a portion of the $4 million for fire protection will be restored. Senator Mike Green (R-Mayville) reported the Senate bill with the $4 million intact, the House deleted the provision at the request of Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).

The reciprocity agreement between Michigan and Wisconsin appears to be resolved administratively similar to the former agreement. Governor Walker (R-Wisconsin) signed legislation to increase the Wisconsin weight limit from 90,000 to 98,000 so we had to revisit the Wisconsin side of the reciprocity agreement with Michigan. Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) will still introduce a bill to keep them “honest.”

Work on the slasher issue continues. If Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) and Rep. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) cannot work out the concerns the MSP have with hauling a slasher down the road without air brakes, another bill may have to be introduced to solve the problem. Slasher “3” will most likely define a “slasher” and state clearly it is NOT a motorized vehicle making it clear that the MSP have no jurisdiction over a slasher. Senator Casperson is so annoyed with the situation he is willing to take the issue directly to Governor Rick Snyder.

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Posted on 05.19.2014 Under Uncategorized

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

The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee heard testimony from the Speaker of the House, Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) regarding his plan to provide $450 million for road repair. The plan includes taking the portion of the sales tax that currently goes to the general fund from fuel sales as well as part of the use tax monies as part of an overall plan to generate road funds.

In order to reach the $1.2 billion projected road repair the plan includes ending the 19 cents per gallon tax on gas and 15 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and replacing them with a 6% tax on the price of fuel at the wholesale level. The plan dedicates one-sixth of the revenue generated by the 6% use tax to roads. Speaker Bolger views this part of the plan as “the parity” piece.

Other provisions of the proposal include:
1) Dedicating late payment fees to road funding

2) Simplifying vehicle registration code “by ending special deals.” Some committee members have referred to the farm plate and log plate as “special deals.” The concern is more over the farm plate for road vehicles not used for farming and log plates for road vehicles rather than for actual logging activities.

3) Applying newly purchased vehicle value immediately upon transferring plate.

4) Increasing overweight and over-sized permit fees.

The House Transportation Committee will consider, debate and “tweak” the road plan over the next few weeks. Speaker Jase Bolger would like to see a package of road repair bills pass the House before the summer recess. It will be interesting to monitor the debate as many interest groups line up to comment and make suggestions for the committee to consider. It is reasonable to assume the plan will see many changes as the primary election grows closer.

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Posted on 03.17.2014 Under Uncategorized

Submitted by MAT Legislative Consultant, Judy Augenstein

A supplemental bill was unanimously adopted by the legislature this week and now is on the desk of Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. The bill includes $125 million for roads. $100 million for special winter road maintenance and $115 million for priority road projects, both general fund monies. Governor Snyder commented ” I appreciate the Legislature’s working together to approve this budget supplemental that provides much needed funding to help fix Michigan’s deteriorating roads. This has been a significantly harsh winter on many fronts and particularly devastating in terms of potholes. While the funding will be of great benefit in the short-term, Michigan still very much needs a comprehensive long-term solution to fix our state’s aging roads and bridges. This remains a priority and I am confident that we can work together on a solution.”

Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, a huge supporter of the forest products industry, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said he is encouraged by the funding provided for roads in the supplemental and that it was a good “first down payment.” Schmidt also commented that “I would like to see more funding for roads and I think by this supplemental and using general fund monies it shows a commitment by the Legislature on where we stand on road and bridge funding. It also sets a good tone to make sure we get our federal match back and sets the table for hopefully some long range funding options”.

In his 2014-15 DNR budget request, Governor Rick Snyder has recommended a $4 million increase in funding to the wildfire protection program to offset $4 million of forest development fund revenue that would be redirected to forestry management increasing funding for that program program by $ 4 million. The use of the new forestry funding would include enhanced technology for programs, increased contracts and agreements with forestry partners, increased timber cutting from state lands and the hiring of 10 additional foresters. I have discussed the increased budget request with House DNR budget committee chair, Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo and Senate DNR budget chair, Senator Mike Green, R-Mayville and Senator Darwin Booher, committee member. All three of the legislators support the recommendation and will include it in their budget recommendations.

Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, chair, Senate Natural Resources, Environment & Great Lakes Committee, has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, March 20, 9:00 AM to hear from forestry relative to the health of the forest products industry. The House Natural Resources Committee will address bills dealing with hazardous industrial waste and a bill on agricultural fertilizer at their meeting next week.

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