The Michigan Association of Timbermen
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Posted on 12.02.2016 Under Legislative

Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, medications Legislative Consultant

December 2016

The “Lame Duck” session is in full swing as close to 60 – 100 bills are set daily for debate on the House calendar as the 43 lame duck legislators wind down their six years in Lansing and take the final votes for their House legislative career—a sad, capsule sad time as many have become friends to our industry and to me personally.

Republicans will control state government for two more years, pills enabling Governor Rick Snyder and the Legislature to continue enacting their agenda and leaving Democrats to regroup after another election setback.  At the top of the GOP’s priority list includes for the “Lame Duck” legislative session is public employees’ retirement benefits.
Republican legislators want to switch newly hired teachers into 401 (k) accounts, despite Governor Snyder’s past resistance due to the large upfront costs of closing the pension system to new hires.  New school employees now are provided a combination of a traditional pension and a 401 (k) plan.  Governor Snyder in turn wants to target unfunded liabilities in municipalities that provide health care to their retired workers.  The retirees could instead be given stipends to buy their own insurance, similarly to what happened with Detroit retirees when the city filed for bankruptcy protection, thorough the fate of exchanges established under President Obama’s health care law is uncertain.  Speaker-elect Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt said one of his three top priorities is reforming the “broken” Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. Very lofty issues for the “Lame Duck” session.
Legislation that could be finalized in December includes a long debated update to energy laws, regulations on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and their drivers, possibly the allowance of a 75 mph speed limit on some freeways where it now is 70 and a 60 mph limit on some highways with a 55 limit today.  Major policy reforms recommended in the wake of the Flint water crisis are unlikely to be considered until next year.
Bills sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, dubbed the “driveway bills” are in the process of completing legislative action.  SB 706, 707 & 708, prohibit a local government from requiring a special permit for transporting forest products in and out of a state or federal forest.  These bills are at the top of our priority list of issues to complete legislative action during the “Lame Duck” session.
Legislation to cap the fine for overweight vehicles is also among our priority bills to  complete action during the “Lame Duck”.  HB 4142 was sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township.  Our plan is to “slam” the bills through the Senate by the end of the calendar year.
We will be meeting in Gaylord with the MSP, the Mackinac Bridge Authority,
Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City and Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland to come up with a solution to the problem some of our log haulers are having at the Mackinac Bridge with a certain motor carrier relative to overweight stops and fines.
A “meet and greet” reception and dinner is planned in Gaylord with term limited northern Michigan legislators and “newbie” incoming legislators facilitated by Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, a former truck driver.  Rep. Cole is rumored to be the chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for the 2017-18 session.  I welcomed the invitation by Rep. Cole to participate in the event and look forward to meeting the new legislators and introducing them to our forestry issues.
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The Michigan Association 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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