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E-M:/ MEC Capitol Update - 5/22/03



Senate

HB 4257 (S-4)- Bill to regulate Coastal Wetlands - The Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee reported HB 4257 on Thursday (5/22).  The reported bill includes the following changes from the House passed bill:

  • The bill allows the leveling of sand, limited mowing of vegetation (100 feet, or width of property whichever is less), the removal of vegetation on a six foot access path, and the grooming of soil (raking and removal of debris).
  • A process by which general permit could be issued covering either individual parcels or regions of the state (5 year limit on general permit would apply).
  • A three-year pilot program under which a landowner could request a special letter from the director that would allow the removal of vegetation on up to 50% of a property or 100 feet whichever was greater.  The director would have 10 days to approve or disapprove the request.  [A MAJOR POINT OF DIFFERENCE THAT IS UNDER DISCUSSION IS WHETHER THIS PROVISION SHOULD APPLY TO "AREA THAT HAS BEEN HISTORICALLY USED AS A BEACH", OR WHETHER THAT LANGUAGE SHOULD BE CHANGED TO READ "AN AREA THAT IS UNCONSOLIDATED MATERIALS PREDOMINANTLY COMPOSED OF SAND, ROCK OR PEBBLES, OR PREDOMINANTLY VEGETATED BY NON-NATIVE OR INVASIVE SPECIES"]. We have argues that the first standard is too subjective.
Action is expected on the floor next week.

HB 4087 - The Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee reported this bill to regulate disputes where conflicts occur between groundwater users.  Although many groups, including MEC support the concept, the legislation does not include any funding for the MDEQ to take on this substantial new commitment.  No action on this bill this week.

Committee Action:

Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee
and House Land Use & Environment Committee

Held their first hearing on out-of-state waste Wednesday in Rochester.  The following hearings are scheduled:

Wednesday, May 28st at 6:30 pm at Meads Mill Middle School, Rondel Media Center, 16700 Franklin Rd., Northville

Tuesday, June 3, at 8:00 am  in the Senate Hearing Room, Ground Floor, Boji Tower (formerly Michigan National Tower), Lansing

Rep. Johnson introduced HBs 4686 - HB 4692 on this issue.  They are available at: www.michiganlegislature.org

Senators introduced SB 489, 497-500, 502.

Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs and Appropriations Subcommittee -

HB 4393  - Michigan Department of Environmental Quality budget - FY 03-04 - Next hearing is May 28th at 3:00 pm.

The House passed HB 4393 on Wednesday. As announced, Rep. John Pastor, chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee proceeded with removing all proposed fees and cut general fund support for the departmentís environmental protection programs by 15 percent and its administration by 30 percent.

If upheld by the Senate, the cuts will result in the layoff of as many 120 employees at the Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the loss of over $15 million in federal matching funds.  Rep. Pastor is trying to minimize the impacts, but given the inadequate nature of current program, these cuts will result in serious threats to public health in Michigan.   General Fund support for the department has dropped from $101 million in 2001 to $51 million under the budget passed by the House.

HB 4400 - Michigan Department of Natural Resources budget FY 03-04
Next hearing is May 27th at noon.

The House passed HB 4400  reducing administrative general fund support by 40%.  Provisions recommended by the Governor to increase Motor Vehicle permits into State Parks were removed.   The state is also exploring reducing the amount of taxes paid on state-owner land.

Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism

The finished a series of three hearings at which farmers, drain
commissioners, environmentalists and citizen activists recapped policy
histories and positions.  MEC advocated for an entirely new water management
law:
*       One that acknowledges the essential nature of public involvement in
water decision-making.
*       One that encourages regional approaches to water management.
*       One that protects the environment.
*       One that integrates water management and growth management.
*       One that prioritizes Smart Investments that balance economic and
environmental sustainability.

You can read MEC's testimony at www.mecprotects.org/draincode.pdf

Task Force hearings:

Senate Republican Task Force on Expansion of the Bottle Bill and Recycling

June 2nd - Sault Ste. Marie - June 2nd -  7-9 pm

House of Representatives

Conservation and Outdoor Recreation

HB 4492 - The committee took testimony on this bill but is trying to limit the scope of travel that would occur in nondesignated areas. The bill is designed to allow disabled people over 60 years of age greater ability to use nondesignated areas for the purpose of accessing designated trails.

House Agriculture Committee -HB 4610 / SB 217

Efforts by Rural Michigan and American Farmland Trust to dedicate a portion
of revenue from expanded video gambling to the state's land preservation
fund were defeated in the House Agriculture Committee on a party line vote (Democrats in support).  The proposal would have dedicated 5 percent of the income to land protection, raising $30 million for the fund.  The Michigan Farm Bureau opposed the amendment, ostensibly because it would reduce the amount of
funding dedicated to the Department of Agriculture's enhancement program.
The language in the amendment does not bear this out.  For the Farm Bureau's
position: www.michiganfarmbureau.com/specials/funding.php
 

House Appropriation Subcommittee - Agriculture - SB 288 - Thursday, May 29th at 8:00 am .  The budget includes cuts that would eliminate funding for programs designed to oversee new regulations on organic foods.

House Appropriation Subcommittee - Transportation - SB 265 - Tuesday, May 27th at 8:00 pm - The bill includes substantial cuts to public transportation.

Submitted by:

James Clift
Conan Smith
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Ste 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9539