Making connections and moving forward at MEC's legislative breakfast
Good food, good conversation and a good turnout -- despite an overnight snowstorm -- made the Michigan Environmental Council's legislative breakfast on Tuesday perhaps our best yet.
We host this gathering at the House Office Building in Lansing at the beginning of each legislative session to welcome new and returning lawmakers and their staff, and provide an opportunity for them and other state officials to meet with staff from MEC and our member groups across the state.
The legislative breakfast also gives MEC an opportunity to introduce our updated policy agenda. Our latest policy priorities include testing all children for lead exposure, passing a statewide code for septic systems and becoming the first state east of the Mississippi River to open an Office of Outdoor Recreation. You can learn more about our policy agenda in our press release, or dive right into our priorities here.
Based on remarks from four speakers at the breakfast, we can look forward to continuing our solid working relationships with legislative leaders and administration officials who share many of our priorities.
- Mike Zimmer, cabinet director for Gov. Rick Snyder, said his focus is on breaking down barriers between state agencies, and noted that the governor will soon announce the details of a new workgroup dedicated to promoting environmental justice.
- Department of Environmental Quality Director Heidi Grether said several of her priorities align with those put forth by MEC, including making Michigan's Lead and Copper Rule the toughest in the country and overhauling the state's approach to solid waste management. MEC President Chris Kolb noted two important recent decisions Grether has made as director: scratching a plan to deregulate smokestack emissions of hundreds of chemicals, and declaring western Lake Erie an "impaired" waterway under the Clean Water Act, a decision with potential to dramatically reduce nutrient pollution and improve water quality.
- Senator Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City urged new lawmakers to look to MEC as an honest broker and pragmatic partner in achieving legislative solutions for environmental protection. Kolb said Schmidt has been a strong partner in promoting public transportation, and noted that the senator's request that Attorney General Bill Schuette weigh in on the issue of net-pen aquaculture brought about a formal opinion from Schuette that it's illegal to put fish farms in Michigan's Great Lakes waters.
- Kolb also noted the instrumental role House Democratic Leader Sam Singh of East Lansing played in achieving Michigan's new energy laws, which ramp up the state's energy efficiency and renewable power standards. Singh praised MEC for helping reach an agreement on the new laws, and said he thinks the collaborative effort that yielded that agreement will continue in this legislative session and make possible new water protections and needed investments in infrastructure.
Immediately following the breakfast, MEC hosted member group representatives at our offices for a strategy session to agree on priority campaigns for the next two years. It was a good reminder that some of MEC's greatest strengths are the insights, expertise and on-the-ground knowledge our member groups bring to the table.
So, we know what we want to achieve, we're making plans to get it done and we've shared our priorities with policymakers so we can work together toward solutions. All told, it was an encouraging and energizing day at MEC.
Given the deluge of discouraging news these days, we could all use more of those.