The Michigan Association of Timbermen
Posted on 04.08.2016 Under Legislative

Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, more about Legislative Consultant

April 2016

Governor Rick Snyder, already dealt several major blows as a result of the state’s mishandling of the Flint water crisis, suffered more damage when it was revealed that his entire top staff knew of the severity of the city’s water crisis for at least a year, yet nothing was done to address the problem.  The release of 5,533 pages of emails exchanged among the Executive Office staff and documents attached to those emails was that virtually every staffer in Governor Snyder’s inner circle had the information necessary to galvanize a response to Flint’s water problems long ago and that did not happen.  Between the Flint water crisis, the Detroit Public Schools issue and the Grand Rapids Veteran’s Hospital mess, the Governor’s rating is at an all time low.

It is important to develop good relationships with “newbie” legislators and candidates who will be replacing the over 40 term limited legislators we lose at the end of this year.  I am working to develop a closer working relationship with Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona who is close to Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle and will most likely Chair the House Transportation Committee next session. I recently attended a campaign event for Rep. Cole.
I continue to work with Rep. Tom Barrett who is in line for a leadership position. I joint ventured a fundraiser for him in December and will be holding a campaign event at my house in June.  We have four more years with Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet and Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette.
Rep. Rendon’s (R-Lake City) wife is running for his seat.  I will continue to develop a closer working relationship with her.  Rep. Tom Leonard, R-Lansing is the Speaker Pro Tempore. I occasionally work with him now and plan to step up working with him.
All the Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are term limited. If Senator Casperson, R-Escanaba is elected to Congress, there will be a new chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee which I believe will be Senator Mike Green, R-Mayville who we already work with.  I plan to also step up working with Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland.  I work with Senator Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City and expect to work more with him especially if Casperson moves on to Washington.  I hate term limits; we will lose over 40 legislators, many friends to forestry.
As we get closer to the election, I will learn more about possible winning candidates. I suggest we get to know them and attend their campaign events.  The problem with primaries since term limits is that we end up with 6-8 candidates in the primary.  That being said, leadership typically will have a good sense of who the likely winners will be as we get closer to the election.  Have I mentioned I hate term limits!
Three new representative’s were officially sworn into office in March.  Rep. Mary Whiteford, R-Casco Township, Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch and Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids are now officially legislators.  LaGrand replaces now Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon, Howell replaces former Rep. Todd Courser and Whiteford replaces former Rep. Cindy Gamrat.  Courser and Gamrat coincidentally were in court the same day as the swearing in of the new members for actions that led to her expulsion and his resignation.
HB 5506, sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township, referred to the House Commerce Committee, is legislation to replace 4579, legislation to require religious sects to pay workers compensation.  To address concerns of the Commerce Committee chair a new bill was required.  The new bill (HB 5506) requires workers at a company that processes wood products in a sawmill or pallet making shop with 3 or more workers are employees or principals and are required to be covered for worker’s compensation.  The same day the bill was introduced, I met with Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden to request a hearing following the legislative spring recess and also requested Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, key committee member, to make the “ask” to Graves for a hearing.  The bill will most likely receive changes as it travels through the legislative process.
Governor Snyder’s DNR budget bill (HB 5269) was presented and explained to the budget committee by the DNR.  As presented, the bill would provide $396.9 million gross for the department, a l.8 percent cut from current funding. Among the highlights of the bill is $4 million ($3.9 million restricted and $100,000 federal) for a new land ownership tracking system to make that information Internet accessible, $1 million GF for Asian carp prevention programs, $1.15 million additional restricted funds (for $1.58 million total) for firefighting equipment replacement, and $2.1 million additional Forest Development Fund (for $31.2 million total) to add 7 positions and increase timber supply.
Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba held one hearing on SB 706, 707 & 708.  Legislation to amend a county road law, to provide that a county road commission would not be authorized to require a permit for a logger to haul their product down the road because certain road commissions prohibit them from doing so, prohibiting loggers from getting their product to market.  The County Road Association opposed the bill.  LSLA, MFPC and MAT supported the legislation.  Three loggers testified in support of the bill including MAT President Lonnie Lutke.
I am concerned that with close to half of the House being termed out and scrambling to find new jobs in Lansing either in lobbying or government that the completion of most of our work and the work of other interests will be accomplished during the “lame duck” session.
Again, I hate term limits!
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