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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 6, 2017

By Judy Augenstein

This week Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet announced his campaign for the 38th Senate District and his colleague, Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette will also be announcing for the senate seat.  Both legislators are term-limited from the House and the 38th Senate district seat will be open in 2018 with Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba term-limited from the Senate.  

On the Republican side, former Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan plans to announce his candidacy for the senate seat soon.  This race will likely be a race to watch with lots of drama.  Senator Casperson won the seat in the tea party wave of 2010 with about 55 percent of the vote and easily won re-election against a largely no-name candidate in 2014.  But, an open seat race in this district with three experienced, known names will be a battle unlike previous years.

Michigan will see more money going to road repairs and construction beginning this year, but a study by a national transportation organization said the funding will not be enough to keep the state's roads and bridges from deteriorating.  In 2015, the Legislature approved a proposal to add $1.2 billion to highway funding, with $600 million of that coming from the General Fund.  But a study by Michigan TRIP, a Washington, D.C. based transportation organization, said that funding will not be enough to meet some $3.3 billion in projects, more than $2 billion worth in the Detroit area alone, that are needed now.

The funding the Legislature authorized increased fuel and registration taxes, as well as earmarked additional money from the General Fund.  The tax increases took effect this year and the first allocations of additional funding have begun to be made to counties and cities.  Through 2023, the increases and the General Fund monies should generate another $4.2 billion in transportation funding, boosting the annual allocation from $2.2 billion to $3.4 billion for fixing roads and bridges.  But the General Fund portion of the increase is not guaranteed and if the state sees another economic recession before 2023, those monies may be needed for other priorities.

State transportation officials have removed the weight limits on most roads in the state.  Weight limits are imposed on roads as warmer weather begins in the state and the freeze-thaw cycle begins.  Because of the warmer winter the state had, weight limits were instituted in February.  Weight limits are lifted from the Indiana-Ohio border to U.S. 2 in the Upper Peninsula.  Weight limits will remain in effect north of U.S. 2.

This week I met with staff to Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona relative to the multiple use permit. We are waiting on MDOT to sign off on the proposed revenue neutral fee structure developed with the very helpful assistance of Jessie Augustyn, GLTPA.  The bill to allow for Public Private Partnerships continues to be bottled up in the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.  More meetings are being planned to work out the points of differences between the county road agencies and the logging community.  Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba is also crafting another set of county road bills to address concerns of some loggers for possible introduction during the spring session.  This week, I held a dinner meeting with staff to Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain to discuss a list of issues including a possible summer forestry tour.

Many offices are closed as the Legislature is on spring recess until April 19 when they will return to work on their spring legislative agenda.  

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