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Posted on 01.02.2018 Under Legislative, Recent Post

Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant

The Legislature completed the 2017 legislative year on December 28.  Because we are in the middle of a two-year session, all legislation that did not complete legislative action rolls over to the 2018 session.

Legislation speeding up the repeal of all driver responsibility fees and providing some level of forgiveness for outstanding fees was rolled over to the 2018 session.  The House and Senate introduced identical bills with the backing of top Democrats and Republicans that would forgive all of the $637.1 million in outstanding fees for more than 300,000 drivers in the state.  Governor Rick Snyder opposes the concept citing budget issues.  The fees were implemented during the Governor Jennifer Granholm administration as one of many ways to fill a hole in the budget.

A revised set of municipal retirement system bills are on the desk of Governor Snyder awaiting his signature. The goal of the legislation is to move toward eliminating unfunded liabilities, which total about $7.46 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $10.13 billion in retiree health care liabilities.

Legislation (HB 4406 & 4407) that would require educational instruction for students on the dangers of prescription Opioid drugs and a bill to make school districts and public school academies a model program of instruction on prescription Opioid abuse are on the desk of Governor Snyder awaiting his signature.

Legislation designed to provide students with more skilled trades education opportunities in an effort to close the skills gap was passed by the House and has moved to the Senate for further consideration.  HB 4141 allows certain experts in their field to teach a skilled trade without a teaching certificate and requires some training in classroom management for those teachers.  School groups oppose the bill.  It is a priority of House and Senate Republicans to enact legislation to provide skill trades education before the end of the 2018 session.

HB 4644, sponsored by Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, the multiple use permit, remains on the General Orders of the Senate and should finish legislative action in January.  The bill creates a multiple use permit tailored after Wisconsin law to allow MDOT the authority to issue one permit to one power unit and allowing it to haul any trailer and equipment as long as they are within the dimensions and weight stated on the permit.  Truckers will be able to show proof of permit electronically on devices such as cell phones or other appropriate electronic devices.  The bill will save money, paperwork and time for companies owning multiple power units and smaller haulers will enjoy less paperwork and time efficiencies.

Legislation to allow voluntary forester registration, HB’s 5001 & 5002, were reported out of the House Natural Resources Committee and placed on the Second Reading calendar of the House and await further action by the full House. The bills create a Registered Foresters Program, a voluntary registration of professional foresters and establish the Board of Foresters within the DNR funded with user fees.  The bills were sponsored by Rep. Daire Rendon R-Lake City.

SB 97, remains on the House calendar for further action.  The bill allows public-private partnerships and is a key priority of Governor Rick Snyder.  The bill would allow a public authority to issue bonds, notes or other obligations for the purposes of funding an eligible project and authorizes user fees for repayments of those obligations.  The bill does NOT authorize a public authority to charge or collect tolls on a transportation project.  Toll roads are a key point that kept the bills bottled up in committee by committee chair Rep. Triston Cole until specific language was added to specifically prohibit toll roads.

SB’s 652, 653 & 654, legislation primarily sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, has completed committee action and await action by the full Senate.  The bills create the Environmental Rules Review Committee to oversee DEQ rulemaking, creates a Permit Appeal Panel and creates an Environmental Science Advisory board to advise the Governor on environmental policy.

SB 396, legislation designed to facilitate a better working relationship between county road agencies and loggers remains on the back burner as negotiations continue with CRAM, loggers and the DNR. SB 396, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba could be a vehicle bill for a template designed to reward county road agencies with monetary incentives that work well with loggers on timber sales, driveway issues, etc.

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The Michigan Association of Timbermen are looking forward to another eventful and educational Annual Meeting. Please join us at Boyne Mountain Lodge on April 26th and 27th, 2018!

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