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Posted on 03.03.2016 Under Legislative

Monthly Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, medical Legislative Consultant

March 2016

The top new laws of 2015 included a law to abolish gun boards, mind civil asset forfeiture reform, adoption bills, early warning system for school finances, a tax exemption for a particular data center to woo it to settle in Grand Rapids, changes to the campaign finance laws, legislation to overhaul how teachers are evaluated, a bill to allow straight ticket voting only, road funding, three resolutions passed to support Marquette against EPA actions and a plan to outline how to spend monies by the MNRTF.  Most forestry legislation awaits final legislative action before the end of the 2015-16 session.

Snyder’s budget proposal for the 2016-17 year includes $195 million to deal with the Flint water crisis and funding increases for education.  Snyder proposed a funding increase to K-12 education using the 2x formula where the lowest funded districts will receive $120 more per pupil and the highest funded districts $60 more per pupil.  Universities will receive $61 million bringing them back to the funding level they had prior to the 2010-11 fiscal year when they suffered a 15 percent cut.  The Governor recommended $165 million for infrastructure and millions for the Detroit Public School debacle.
The Board of State Canvassers has approved one of the 10 petitions to recall Governor Snyder over the Flint water crisis.  The board voted along party lines to approve the one, tied on a second, but unanimously disapproved eight as not factual.  More petitions to recall Snyder are in the works.
The U.S. Supreme Court put on hold new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules that require coal fired power plants put in place new pollution controls until the courts rule whether the federal guidelines step on the states’ rights to oversee the industry within its border.  President Obama’s administration had pushed the Clean Power Plan, which is expected to close as many as 50 coal fired plants across the country, as a way to cut down on the air pollution that arguably contributes to global warming. The Supreme Court order, issued on a 5-4 vote, means the case is now under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, with a hearing set for June 2.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, one of the parties who had challenged the Clean Power Plan, said the Obama run EPA “has once again been stopped from an attempt to push beyond its constitutional powers”.  Schuette further commented that “The EPA continues to show that they don’t take the real world into account when they make sweeping rules that change daily life for average Americans.  If allowed to move forward, the Clean Power Plan will cause the price of electricity to increase, placing jobs and paychecks at risk and costing Michigan families more.”
We have approval from the Legislative Service Bureau relative to the legality of wording to add to HB 4579, legislation sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township to require religious sects to pay workers compensation. The language/section is as follows:
(G) Workers at a company that processes wood products in a saw-milling or pallet-making facility if 3 or more of the workers are employees or principals.  lf those workers are considered to be employees subject to this act’s requirements for worker’s compensation coverage. We are now working to get other interest groups on board to support the bill.
SB 651, 652 & 653, legislation to tweak the Qualified Forest Act completed Senate action and now awaits debate by the House Tax Policy Committee, Chaired by, Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica.  The bills are referred to as the “Commercial Forest/Qualified Forest Transition Bill package”.
Small landowners would like to transfer from the CF to the QF without facing the current penalty.  The allowance to transfer without penalty ended in September 2015.  Some are reluctant to make the transfer until something is done to address the increase to present day taxable values.  The bills allow for a transition to present day taxable values when CF land goes to QF and removes the sunset for allowing a CF landowner to transfer to the QF program with no penalty.
HB 4423, 4424, 4425, 4426 and 4427, primary sponsor Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford have been passed by the House Transportation Committee, but are “stalled” on the House floor.  The bills increase the speed limit on certain highways to 80 mph, increase a truck with a gross weight of 10,000 or more, a truck tractor, or a truck tractor with a semi trailer or trailer or a combination of these vehicles to 70 mph in certain areas.
HB 5275, sponsored by Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona was passed by the House Tourism and Recreation Committee, Chaired by Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City. The bill allows ORV’s and horses the use of forest roads in the lower peninsula as allowed on U.P. forest roads, unless the road is marked closed by the NR.  The bill also requires a forest road inventory.  The bill awaits action by the full House.
HB 4142, sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township modifies fees for over sized/weight trucks and awaits action by the House Transportation Committee.  We are awaiting approval from MDOT of language we requested for a multiple use permit bill mirrored after Wisconsin to be sponsored by House Transportation Committee Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle.
On February 22 the DNR released its 2015 Forest Health Highlights report showing what the state is doing about the insects and diseases threatening both urban and rural forests.  The report breaks down the health of the state’s approximately 20 million acres of forest land and its health risks by examining diseases and insects and forest decline.
Highlights include the DNR’s efforts to control oak wilt, which threatens the state’s red oak resource; and Hemlock woolly adelgid, an exotic invasive insect that kills hemlock trees which was found in the west central lower peninsula in 2015.  “The key to preventing and slowing the spread of exotic invasive organisms in Michigan’s forests is public awareness”, said Bob Heyd, DNR, forest health specialist.  “The Forest Health Highlights report provides timely information about the condition of our forests and what is being done to protect them”, contends Heyd.
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