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E-M:/ MEC Capitol Update - 7/18/03



The legislature wrapped up business for the summer.  It will return for one day on August 13th, after that the Senate will then return on September 16th, and the House on September 23rd.

Budget bills:

HB 4393 - MDEQ - The legislature adopted a version of the budget bill that included $56 million in general fund support (same as Senate passed version), but includes only $3.0 million water discharge fees (NPDES).  The authorized fees is down from the $3.5 million adopted earlier by the Senate.  Specially removed was $425,000 earmarked for enforcement activities. The budget does include $1.7 million for local water monitoring (targeting Lake St. Clair related cleanups).

HB 4400 - MDNR Budget - The most controversial item included in this budget is the use of restricted funds (Game and Fish funds) to make up in a shortfall in payments in lieu of taxes payments (PILT) to local units of government.   Senator McManus has introduced SB 521 to change how these payments are handled in the future.

Fees

The House defeated attempts to discharge all the fee bills required to implement the MDEQ budget.  In the end some of the fees were passed and others remain in the House Government Operations Committee.

The following bills were not passed:

Water Pollution Discharge Fees - SB 252  -  This bill remains in committee. As stated above, the budget bills authorizes $3.0 million in fees. Business groups remain in opposition to the bill as passed by the Senate with $3.4 million, ($400,000 dedicated toward enforcement).  Illinois has recently passed water discharge fee legislation authorizing approximately $20 million in water discharge fees.  Michigan is now the only Great Lakes state that does not charge for water pollution discharge permits.

The bill used the formula designed by the regulated industry (that generally has small dischargers subsidizing large ones).  The MDEQ budget adds $1.9 million in general fund -- leaving the state $2.3 million below that identified as necessary to run an adequate water protection program.

SB 560 - Groundwater Discharge Fees - The Senate bill included $1.38 million in new groundwater discharge fees.  The Governor had proposed $3.58 million in fees.  These new fees will keep this program under funded with chronic non-compliance remaining a problem.

SB 510 - Stormwater Discharge Fees - The Senate bill concurs with the Governor's recommendation for $1.16 million in new stormwater discharge fees.

The following bills were passed:

SB 561 - Landfill Inspection Fees - Increased the fees for landfill operators from $1.3 million to $3.7 million (slightly lower than the Governor's recommendation of $2.6 million in additional fees to fund solid waste management activities).  The committee amended the bill to extend operating licenses from 2 years to 3 years.  This will reduce the funding that comes to the state to cleanup leaking landfills after their closure.

SB 567 - Extend the authorization to collect fees under the land and water management program from 2003 to 2008.

SB 569 -Increase fees for the application of herbicides to aquatic nuisance species.

Other legislation:

HB 4284 - This bill passed the House and would enable multiple units of government to create joint planning commissions.  This enabling legislation provides an important tool for local governments trying to develop cooperative solutions to regional land use issues.

SB 289 - The House completed work on the legislation which will be a modest improvement to our water reporting law.  Attempts by the House to have farms comply with the same requirements and pay the same fees of other users was unsuccessful.

HB 4087 - The legislation is designed to establish a dispute resolution system for groundwater disputes. Major questions still exist regarding the funding necessary to run the program. The bill remains on the Senate calendar.

Submitted by:

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