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E-M:/ Reply to Bob Duda

Enviro-Mich message from benj@tir.com

An Open Letter to Bob Duda:

Dear Mr. Duda,  Thank you for continuing to keep an eye on drain code
revisions, and thanks for your concern about the environmental degredation
that can accompany drain projects.  I belong to a handful of diehards that
are watching the legislature every day, especially now that we are in lame
duck season.  The Wetters Bill HB4337 (H-6) is on the floor of the House in
second reading, (ie. available for amendments if it is brought up and able
to be passed on to the Senate on third reading.)   It's "brother"--Senate
bill SB 122 is in the Senate Agribusiness committee and is in an S-1
version. (What happened was that the H-3 version of Wetters's bill was
passed over to the Senate committee and became their S-1.)  Meanwhile, in
the House Ag committee (over which Wetters presides), H-4, 5 and 6 versions
were produced by amendments within committee.  So, S-1 represents the drain
code revision agreed upon only by the drain commissioners and the
Department of Ag. It does not contain any amendments that House Republican
or Democratic ag committee members spent months working on.

When it looked like many issues would remain untouched in House
deliberations, Rep. Karen Willard introduced a substantially different
bill, HB 6095, emphasizing citizens rights, cost control, property rights
and environmentally conscious actions. HB 6095 revised whole sections that
were never discussed in committee. However, in true "inside politics," it
was promptly referred to the Ag Committee chaired by Rep. Wetters
where--surprise of surprises!--it died, ie., was not voted back out to the
House floor--all in less than 5 minutes of discussion. (There had been
support for the bill in the Conservation Committee, but it never made it

To confuse things further, last year Rep. Mike Green introduced his drain
code reform bill (the same as the first version of 4337) and no action has
been taken on that bill for more than a year.  Rep. Green is due to take
the gavel of the Ag Committee in the new 1999 session and, reportedly,
isn't thrilled with the prospect of going through the whole process again.

So what could happen in lame duck?  Plenty. 

A.  The Wetters bill could be brought to a vote--with or without amendments.
B.  The quiescent Green bill could be brought to a vote.
C.  The Senate could act on SB 122 S-1.
D.  Rep. Willard could resurrect HB 6095.
E.  Any number of permutations on the above could happen in the volatile
environment of the lame duck session, a time notorious for "trading" and
"deals" and the influence of special interest groups.
F.  Nothing could happen and the issue could move forward to next year.

I personally prefer the last option--and very strongly.  I wrote a 24 page
side by side comparison of the bills, pointing out (some) of the unsolved
problems for those concerned about citizen rights and environmental
degredation.  (I could send it to you if you are ready to do that much
reading.)  Those in the legislature who have read the document agree that a
HUGE amount of work still needs to be done before Michigan can claim to
have "reformed" its drainage legislation, as other Midwest states already
did over the last ten years.  A "new" bill that perpetuates the abuses of
the present system isn't reform at all.

The message from Rep. Willard's office is "kill the Wetters bill."  She has
initiated another round of discussions with key stakeholders and
substantive compromises, that could be finalized next year, have emerged
from those talks.  There is also bi-partisan support for a better bill next
year.  We hope to get to next year, and encourage you to join in the effort
to stop something being rushed through in lame duck.

So, to you and other Enviromich readers, keep the letters and phone calls
flowing to your current representatives and to the newly elected
legislators who are becoming aware of the statewide implications of good
drainage policy:  saving our last natural streams, keeping our wetlands,
promoting good agricultural stewardship, curbing sprawl, putting some teeth
into pollution prevention, guarding our water quality and doing it all in a
spirit of open democracy and the open discussion of which government
alternatives serve the interests of all our citizens.

Who said legislative policy discussions were dull?  They shape our future.

Thank you for staying with the issue. -- Yours, Sue Julian

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