The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Lame Duck Legislation

Capitol Countdown & actions you can take now

We are into week two of lame duck* with two weeks left to go. As promised, we have an update for you on what is happening at the Capitol. It’s not pretty.

*Lame duck: a period of time when successors have been chosen for elected officials. Politicians who will be leaving their position remain in power until they are officially replaced on inauguration day.

This is the second installment of our Capitol Countdown to the New Year. Through the end of the year, we’ll be keeping track and reporting back to you on lame duck legislation that will either hurt or help the health of Michigan’s people and environment. We have also created forms that make it simple and fast for you to email your state lawmakers (see the links below).

The Good

Despite being one of the busiest and potentially worst lame duck sessions for the environment and public health, there ARE a few bills under consideration that would move us in the right direction on water infrastructure, solar energy, and addressing contaminated, toxic properties and waterways.

SB 943 - Renew Michigan

This bill provides a sustainable funding source for water quality monitoring, recycling and contaminated site cleanup. It will also provide much needed funding for contaminants of concern like PFAS. Current bond funding for these critical programs has run out and a more sustainable source is needed to continue addressing contaminated sites and groundwater across the state. Although this is one of Governor Snyder’s top priorities before he leaves office, the bill has not gotten any legislative action, but negotiations are underway that could change that.

SB 5898 - Rebuild Michigan

Provides over $110 million dollars annually to fix Michigan’s aging water infrastructure. Michigan’s water infrastructure is old and in need of repair. On top of legacy costs for infrastructure maintenance and repair, we have new costs that are critical for protecting public health. This includes removing lead service lines and providing filtered water in schools and daycare centers. While the $110 million generated in this bill won’t be enough to cover all those costs, it would represent a significant increase in funding for infrastructure. This bill has also not gotten any legislative action yet, but it remains one of Governor Snyder’s top priorities.

HB 5143 and HB 5680 - Tax reform for small scale solar

Together, these bills would eliminate uncertainty by ensuring Michigan applies the same system of taxation for small-scale solar across the state and clarifying that existing tax exemptions apply to these installations. In short, they would ensure that residents and businesses that install rooftop or small-scale solar don’t get hit with a big property tax increase. Removing this tax barrier to small-scale solar installations will help more people access clean, renewable, low-cost energy. The bill package passed out of the House before summer and is now awaiting a vote on the senate floor. Click here to sign a petition to support these bills and to tell your Senator to vote yes.

The Bad

This lame duck session has been like no other in terms of the volume of bills coming up for consideration that would undermine protections for our waterways and air. These are the bad bills that we are working around the clock to improve.

HB 5752 and HB 5753 - Inspecting and Identifying Failing Septic Systems

Michigan is the only state in the nation without a statewide septic code and inspection requirements. These bills would establish a process for the state to create a statewide septic code and set minimum standards for the installation and construction of septics. However, the bills would also prohibit county and township point of sale ordinances and regulations, which help ferret out and fix failing septics, without replacing them with an effective statewide inspection program. Identifying failing septics and ensuring they are fixed are critical steps to stemming the tide of human waste flowing into our groundwater and waterways. We need an effective inspection program to start combating E. Coli contamination of water across our state. Use this easy form to email your state representative urging them to either strengthen these bills, or vote no.

SB 1244 - Part 201 Cleanup Standards for Contaminated Sites

The legislation would prevent the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from using the best science to develop cleanup standards for contaminated sites, including for chemicals like PFAS/PFOA. SB 1244 would stand in the way of the DEQ addressing volatile contaminants in groundwater, soil and air. This legislation would be particularly bad for pregnant women, their fetuses and young children. This is because it will not allow the State of Michigan to set standards based on developmental impacts unless the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), acts first. To date, the EPA has taken no action in this area.

The Ugly

Then there are the bills that would so erode protections for our environment and public health that there is simply no way to “fix” them. These are the bills that we are working to ensure stay on the cutting room floor when this lame duck session ends.

SB 1211 - Decimating Protections for Wetlands and Inland Lakes

This bill would remove protections for 600,000 acres of Michigan wetlands and around 4,500 inland lakes. If this bill went into effect, people could fill, pave over, and dredge wetlands and inland lakes and our state decision-makers would not be able to prevent it. The bill passed out of the Michigan Senate and is now awaiting action in the Michigan House. Tell your Representative to oppose this disastrous legislation by clicking here.

SB 1197 - Mackinac Bridge Authority/Line 5

Removes authority from the Governor for overseeing Line 5 in the straits and places it in the hands of the unelected board of a Mackinac Tunnel Authority. That tunnel authority would housed under the Mackinac Bridge Authority.  This is questionably unconstitutional, and at the very least puts our Great Lakes in the hands of unaccountable board members instead of the elected Governor and legislature. Responsibility for oversight of Line 5 should fall clearly with the new Governor-elect. This bill passed out of the Michigan Senate and is now awaiting action in the Michigan House.

HB 4205- No Stricter than Federal

This bill would prevent Michigan state agencies from adopting rules that are more protective than federal standards. Michigan is a unique state with an abundance of freshwater and other natural resources. From PFAS and to lead in our drinking water, to toxic air pollution, to festering contaminated sites, we have an abundance of public health dangers that we need to address and our state has to have the flexibility to do what is necessary. It’s important that Michigan decision makers decide what’s best for our state, and not rely on federal bare minimum standards to dictate how we protect our waterways, drinking water, air, and public health. This bill passed out of the Senate and is awaiting a final House vote. Use this link to find your state representative, and urge him/her to vote no on HB 4205.

These next two weeks are going to be difficult, but with your help, we can end lame duck and 2018 on a positive note. Already, we have gotten over 800 emails sent to the state legislature, but we need to finish strong!

Thank you for your support.  More soon!

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