The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 08.20.2014 Under Legislative

Legislative Report for MAT – Judy Augenstein, this site 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, this 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, this 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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