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E-M:/ Capitol Update - May 25, 2001



Budgets

As a general rule, because of budget shortfalls we expect all budgets to be put in conference committee (of House and Senate members).  Hard decisions about cuts in programs will be made at that time.  Any boilerplate language (language included in the budget to put conditions on the spending of money) can be changed if the Senate and House version is not the same.  Votes on conference committee reports are up or down without amendment. Therefore, we will monitor and report what last minute changes are made in the bills at this stage.

Department of Environmental Quality – HB 4257 – Voted out of the Senate Appropriation with the following changes from the House version:

Environmental Enforcement - Voted to gut language that would require a report on the number of inspection being required and whether permit holders are complying with environmental protection laws or not.

Oil and Gas Drilling Under the Great Lakes – Language was added placing a moratorium on issuing permits to drill below the Great Lakes.  As mentioned above, the important part will be insuring that language stays in the final version of the bill.

Volunteer River and Lake Cleanup – The House added $50,000 for this purpose for a total of $100,000.  The Senate removed the extra $50,000.

Department of Natural Resources – HB 4259  - Voted out of the Senate Appropriation
with the following changes from the House version:

Timber Mandate – The Senate Subcommittee reverted to language similar to the Governor’s on timber cutting mandates.  They discarded compromise language worked out in the House that lowered the mandated cutting and included language regarding protection wildlife and old growth forests.

An attempt to place a moratorium on the leasing of Great Lakes bottomlands was defeated in committee.

Transportation Budget

The supplemental transportation bill (for our current fiscal year) has passed the House and is scheduled for conference committee next week. Approximately,  $23 million was redistributed to various Comprehensive transportation projects, including a 3 % increase for local bus operating.

Transportation budget for FY 2001-02 (SB 239) was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday and is scheduled for the floor next week. The increase for public transit, rubberized asphalt study (using scrap tires) and dial-a-ride services remained intact. This gives local bus operating a $7.5 million increase over last years' appropriation (a $3.8 million increase over the Governor's recommendation).  Also, high-speed rail received a $1 million increase, putting funding for rail passenger services at $10 million. MEC is still working to get language included on the floor to complete the Lansing to Detroit commuter rail project.

Other legislation:

Clean Air Act fees – HB 4792 – House Commerce Committee

On Thursday (5/24), the House Commerce Committee took testimony on the bill to reauthorize Clean Air Act fees in Michigan.  The bill would authorize $11.5 million in fees for four years.  The department characterizes this as “bare-bones”.  MEC testified in opposition to the bill as failing to provide funding for a program that can assure polluters are complying with their air permits.

A work group of government, industry and environmental groups in October of 2000 agreed that $12.8 million was necessary to run the program.  The inadequacy of the current fee is demonstrated by the fact that the MDEQ admits that it does not even visit every “major” air pollution source once each year and rarely conducts an inspection that can determine whether a facility is in compliance.

The next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 9:00 a.m.

Hazardous Waste Fees – HB 4626 – House Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Committee

The Thursday hearing on this bill was canceled.  It will likely be scheduled for a hearing this week.  MEC has two major concerns with the bill.

First, it raids pollution prevention funds to pay for functions of the Waste Management Division not related to pollution prevention activities (permits and data processing).

Second, it may not provide adequate funding for cleanups of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. According to the MDEQ’s Environmental Quality Report 2000, Michigan has 236 hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities that are subject to corrective action (cleanup) requirements.   Of those 236, 71 have been rated as high priority sites.  Of those high priority sites, only 36 have been subject to significant corrective action to minimize the risk to the public, and at only two sites have cleanup activities been completed.  These numbers demonstrate the need for greater attention from the department.

Scrap Tires Fund  - SB 27

A bill to increase revenue for the scrap tire fund passed successfully out of the Senate committee on Transportation and Tourism. It would raise the fee attached to titles from 50 cents to $1.50 (an 150% increase).  This fund is used to remedy historic sites of accumulated tires.

Land Use - Annexation Procedures

The House Local Government and Urban Affairs committee is considering a package of bills (HB 4720 - 4725) to standardize the procedure for voting to approve or reject local government annexation proposals. In some instances, the bills would amend current law to grant the right to vote on a proposed annexation where no right currently exists.  The committee continues to take testimony on the package next week.

Prepared by:

James Clift, Policy Director
Conan Smith, Land Programs Director
Dusty Fancher, Policy Specialist
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Drive Suite 2A
Lansing MI 48912
517-487-9539 ph
517-487-9541 fax
dustymec@voyager.net
www.mecprotects.org