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E-M:/ Michigan Environmental Council Capitol Update - 3/19/04



Department of Environmental Quality budget voted out of subcommittee - Committee chair either violates Open Meetings Act or ignores Senate colleagues in preparing Senate version.

SB 1066 --Department of Environmental Quality Budget -- The subcommittee voted out the Senate substitute he FY 2004-05 Budget for the Department of Environmental Quality.  General fund is reduced to $38 million next year, down from $53 million last year, and $101 million in 2001.

Sen. McManus, the committee chair came to the committee with a prepared Senate version of the bill, which was adopted by the committee after 5-10 minutes of discussion.  The Open Meetings Act requires that any "meeting" at which a quorum is present (in this case any two committee members), "for the purpose of deliberating toward a decision" be noticed and the public be welcome to attend.  Therefore, Sen. McManus either prepared a decision document with no input from her fellow committee members or violated the Open Meetings Act.

Major changes proposed by Governor Granholm included:

  • Eliminate $16 million general fund for matching federal state revolving fund dollars (used for sewer infrastructure).  This action may not have immediate impact due to reduced demand for loans, but will have a continued impact through less money available in the future.
  • Proposes no new cleanup projects due to dwindling funding available from state and federal sources for these efforts ($21,715,000 reduction).
  • Major changes proposed in the Senate version include:
    • The Senate version cut all travel for employees by 50% and banned out-of-state travel.  This action hurts enforcement and compliance efforts by limiting the ability of staff to do inspections of regulated facilities.
    • Cut general fund support for Air Division by $1.2 million.
    • New fees were added for inspecting water facilities at public swimming pools and campgrounds, water and sewer facilities at manufactured housing communities, and to assist local health departments with inspection of septage waste facilities.
    Groundwater Program declared defunct -- will cease operations in April if fee bills is not enacted

    Director Steve Chester this week notified permit holders that they will discontinue the groundwater discharge permitting program on April 23, 2004 if fees are not passed by April 1. No new permits, or modification of current permits would be processed and no enforcement efforts will be conducted.  The bill to authorize new fees (SB 560) remain in conference committee, which Sen. Michele McManus chairs.

    SB 560 - Groundwater Discharge Fees - The Governor had proposed $3.58 million in fees.  The Senate bill included $1.38 million in new groundwater discharge fees.   The House amended the bill to provide exemptions to small businesses, non profits, agricultural facilities resulting in the bill only raising $330,000 (an insufficient amount to run the program).

    Permits to pollute -- five and a half months and still waiting

    SB 252 -- Water Discharge Permit Fees -- Nearly a month after passing the conference committee report, the Senate retains possession of the enacted bill, not sending on to the Governor (which she has stated she will veto).  It is unclear how the issue of administrative rule authority may be resolved.

    The bill, working off the House version, transferred about $75,000 (out of a total of $3 million) in the proposed fees onto municipal sources (a $40,000 increase to the Detroit Water Utility).   The provision which makes the bill unacceptable to the department (and have resulted in Governor Granholm saying she will veto the bill),  requires that the MDEQ receive prior legislative authority before writing any new administrative rules.

    The Democrats on the committee did not sign the conference report (Brater and Tobocman).  The Senate passed it 21-17 (along party lines except that Sen. Sanborn voted against the conference report), that House approved it 55-46 (with five Republicans voting against it -- Brandenburg, Gaffney, LaSata, Hune and Stewart).

    Senate

    On the calendar:

    SB 977 -- A bill to establish pollution; water pollution reporting protocol under part 31.

    SR 214 -- A resolution to urge the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Office of the Great Lakes to work with the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office to develop a pilot project to provide real-time monitoring of water quality for Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River.

    SB 217 - The bill to amend the drain code was reported from the Agriculture Committee.

    Recycling bills:

    SB 532 and SB 533-- anti-littering legislation

    SB 853  -- Reporting on the nature and the amount of litter collected under the adopt-a-river program

    SB 854 - creates statewide recycling coordinator position

    SB 855 - Reporting on the nature and the amount of litter collected under the adopt-a-shoreline program

    SB 856 - Requires the state to conduct a comprehensive study on littering and create a marketing program to reduce litter

    SB 857 - Reporting on the nature and the amount of litter collected under the adopt-a-trail program

    SB 858 - Reporting on the nature and the amount of litter collected under the adopt-a-park program

    SB 860 - Establishes a 1-800 number for reporting littering violations

    SB 861 - Sets statewide goals for recycling rates (30% by 2009, 50% by 2014)

    In committee:

    Senate Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs is scheduled to meet on Tuesday (3/23) at 3:00 PM to take up the following bills:

    HB 4729 -- Provide sanctions for violations of water pollution laws regarding controlling the application of aquatic pesticides.

    HB 4729 -- Amends the statute controlling aquatic nuisances to enhance sanctions for violations.

    HB 4730  -- Amends the statute controlling aquatic nuisances to deregulate the application of aquatic pesticides and extremely limited the reasons that the department could deny a permit.  Any permit not acted on within 15 days is granted.  The Michigan Environmental Council strongly opposes this bill.

    Senate Appropriations:

    The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet on Tuesday (2/23) at 2:00 pm to take up:

    SB 1068 -- Natural Resources will meet on Tuesday (3/16) at 12:00 Noon
    to take action on the FY 2004-05 Budget for the Department of Natural Resources.  The subcommittee is expected to make its recommendation to the full committee.

    The Senate Appropriations Committee will meet on Wednesday (2/24) at 2:00 pm to take up:

    SB 1066 --Department of Environmental Quality Budget -- The subcommittee voted out the Senate substitute he FY 2004-05 Budget for the Department of Environmental Quality.  The subcommittee is expected to make its recommendations to the full committee.

    House

    Passed:

    HB 5206 -- a bill to allow a city to be eligible to create a brownfield redevelopment authority if it has an abandoned landfills larger than 140 acres within its boundaries.

    HR 198 --  A resolution to memorialize the Congress of the United States to establish a minimum rate of return of 95 percent of Michiganís federal transportation funding for highway and transit programs.

    On the calendar:

    SB 510 -- a bill to establish stormwater fees (could be used to amend the same sections as SB 252 that may be vetoed by the Governor).

    HB 4688 - Deletes a provision in law that prohibits the disposal of out-of-county solid waste unless provided for in county solid waste management plan. The U.S. Supreme Court nullified provision as it applies to out-of-state waste.  This bill eliminates the requirement to have out-of-county waste in the solid waste management plan.  This was the closest vote, coming out 6-4.  The Michigan Environmental Council opposes the legislation.

    HB 5236 -  Requires voter approval for a local unit of government to impose a waste reduction fee or recycling surcharge on its residents.  The fee is actually voluntary unless approved by the voters (due to a Michigan Supreme Court decision).  The Michigan Environmental Council opposes this legislation.

    HB 5237 - Limits the imposition of any recycling or waste reduction fee to actual households and not vacant property.  Amended in committee to include commercial facilities in payment of the fee.

    HB 5312 -- allows hunters to donate an additional $1.00 when purchasing hunting or fishing licensing to support the sportsmen against hunger program

    SB 193 -- Provides for a  specialty license plates for ducks unlimited

    In committee:

    Judiciary will meet Tuesday (3/23) at 9:00 AM to take up SB 757, that provides for  penalties for landlords who repeatedly rent housing units without abating known lead hazards.

    Appropriation Subcommittee Meetings:

    Agriculture will meet on Tuesday and Thursday (3/23) at 9:00 am to review the  FY 2004-05 Agriculture Budget - and to make recommendations.
     

    Submitted by:

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