The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 05.24.2016 Under Legislative

Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, mind Legislative Consultant

May 2016

This week Speaker Kevin Cotter, more about R-Mt. Pleasant, patient announced the introduction of a constitutional amendment that would make it easier to fire state government workers.  The resolution, set to be introduced today, would make it easier for department directors to fire employees when their conduct “directly and negatively impacts the department’s ability to accomplish its statutory duties in a fair, timely, equitable and transparent view”.  Governor Rick Snyder was not able to fire certain people at the DEQ following the Flint water crisis because of Civil Service, so Cotter is trying to change the situation from happening again.

If the proposal does not make it through the legislative process by the deadline to make it on the 2016 ballot, Speaker Cotter said it would be on the next general election ballot.  A constitutional amendment needs a vote of two-thirds majority of the House and would need 73 yes votes for approval which means Cotter needs 10 Democrats to support the proposal.
This week, Mitch Bean, the former House Fiscal Agency Director commented that with the various business tax changes, cuts and credits parceled out by legislators new and old has drained the state’s General Fund of more than a $1 billion for this fiscal year.  Bean commented “It makes you wonder how anything gets properly funded moving forward.  Someone will have to clean up the future budget mess that’s been created after the current crop of legislators is term-limited.”  The legislature is looking to scale back the Fiscal Years 2016-17 budgets by $460 million through budget cuts in response to revenue estimates announced this week.
This week, the Senate passed legislation to create a veteran’s ombudsman and
also created the Michigan Infrastructure Fund in the wake of the Flint water crisis.
Legislation to prohibit expelling kids solely for truancy was debated this week.  Schools would no longer be permitted to expel or suspend students solely for being truant or chronically absent under legislation discussed in the House Education Committee.
SB 39 and 40 sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba received more testimony Wednesday.  The bills are attempting to refine the so called “Land Cap” Law.  The primary concern of the bills is that they put more restrictions on state land ownership especially since issues with payments in lieu of taxes have not been resolved.  The bills would reinstate the cap on state land ownership if all PILT are not received in full and on time.  GLTPA and MAT have submitted a position of support on the bills.  More hearings will be schedule to continue debate on the bills.
SB 651, 652 & 653 await further debate by the House Tax Policy Committee.  The bills make amendments to the CFA and QFA.  MAT and GLTPA have entered positions of support.  The bills allow private land owners an easier path to withdraw from CF to QF.  As of today’,we have 6 yes votes out of 13 committee members.  The Tax Policy committee consists mostly of south east legislators and do not understand the need to get private land owners to properly manage their forests.  Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, the only northern Michigan legislator is not engaged in forestry issues, but today finally came on board with the bills and is a “yes” vote.  Next week I plan to contact the remaining 7 committee members to explain the need for QF and to encourage them to support the bills.
Sb 706, 707 & 708, (Casperson) known as the “driveway” bills moved from General Orders of the Senate calendar today to Third Reading.  Next week Senator Casperson will have to convince his Senate colleagues the need to prohibit local governments from prohibiting loggers access to state forest roads–driveways.
 Last, but not least, we have another new Amish bill draft.  Rep. Goike requested a bill draft to address exclusions from workers compensation instead of trying to define employer.  This draft says the wood products industry would not be eligible for exclusions from the act. Stay tuned—Rep. Goike just never gets up, never lets the departments give him the run around and continues to find a way to get things done–just saying.
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