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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 1, 2017

By Judy Augenstein

A brief history lesson on how the Category "E" Economic Development Funds originated which are used to assist county road agencies in constructing and maintaining county roads by using forestry as a funding stream tool.   

In 1986 we approached Senator Connie Binsfeld, R-Traverse City relative to a plan we devised to create a "Critical Roads Fund".  The effort was to be pro-active in the construction and maintenance of county road systems by inventing a funding stream for county road commissions to upgrade the county road system.  The original criteria set was a county would have to have 34% of its total area in CFA lands.  The Critical Roads Fund (Category E monies) would be distributed to each individual county based upon their proportion of commercial forest lands and national shorelines when compared with the total commercial forest lands of all eligible counties.  In a separate bill, three percent of the collections of the general sales tax imposed on the sale of motor vehicles and on the sale of parts and accessories of motor vehicles by new and used car businesses, used car businesses, accessory dealer businesses and gasoline station businesses as classified by the Dept. of Treasury was deposited in the "Critical Roads Fund created in the Critical Roads for Economic Development Act to fund the CRF.

The Michigan Farm Bureau and the County Association of Michigan supported the legislation which was passed into law in 1987.  This was a positive, professional, pro-active approach to work on the county roads funding issue by using forestry as a tool to identify and secure a funding stream for county road agencies.

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona is crafting a multiple use permit tailored after Wisconsin law.  The bill drafter is working on developing a revenue neutral fee component to the bill. The plan will create efficiencies for both road agencies and log haulers---another proactive approach being put forth by log haulers. 

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, Chair, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and House Transportation Budget Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Shane Hernandez, R Port Huron are planning to take a hard look at the MDOT budget to make sure that resources are put into asphalt and concrete.  Both believe that the first way to find more money to deal with improving the crumbling infrastructure is to review spending at the Department of Transportation and local road agencies.

MDOT and Governor Rick Snyder would like to open P.A. 51 in an effort to restructure the funding formula for roads.  MDOT and Governor Snyder contend the formula should be redistributed to more populated areas.  House Transportation & Infrastructure Chair, Triston Cole and Senate Transportation Committee Chair Senator Tom Casperson, R-Eacanaba prefer to leave P.A. 51 "alone".

Legislation to require registration of foresters is being re-introduced by Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City.  Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill to create a licensed forester statue in 2014, but after careful consideration charged the DNR to create a work group to write a new bill.  At the end of last session, the draft was handed off to former Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City, but the legislative clock ran out before the bill could be addressed.

Legislation to create Public Private Partnerships (PPP's) has been sponsored by Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake.  SB 97 allows companies to put money up to get projects moving ahead without state dollars and is being heavily lobbied by the Office of Governor Rick Snyder.  The bill creates a framework for toll booths on roads sold by private companies.  We lobbied against the effort last session and continue to lobby against it now.  The bill was referred to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chaired by Rep. Triston Cole.  Rep. Cole has strong reservations about the bill and will not bring it up for a hearing until it is "certain" that toll booths will NOT be included in the bill.

The Legislative session is in full swing with committee meetings to attend, fundraisers to attend and many office meetings and lunch/dinner meetings in an effort to continue to meet and greet the 43 new House members. 

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