Land Cap Bill Moves to House Floor
The Land Cap bill (SB 248) passed the House Natural Resources Committee with amendment on Tuesday along a party-line vote, with one member passing. With the changes, MUCC went neutral on the bill.
The changes would put a cap on the entire state until May 1, 2015, during which time the Michigan DNR would be directed to develop a plan for state land purchases and disposition. Once the plan is complete, it will go to the House and Senate Natural Resources committees for review. The legislature will be required pass and sign a bill in order for the plan to go into effect. In the meantime, after May 1, 2015, if a bill has not been passed to put the plan into effect, the cap will lift from southern Michigan only. Northern lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula would still be subject to the cap until the legislature passes a bill approving the plan. An amendment that was introduced and passed by Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), would require the cap to lift from all of lower Michigan should the plan not be adopted by the legislature.
MUCC was supportive of the Schmidt amendment, as it would remove more of the state from the politics that are sure to follow once it comes time for the legislature to act on the plan. While MUCC would prefer that the Upper Peninsula was left out as well, MUCC heeded repeated calls from U.P. legislators that they had too much public land and that it was a problem for them.
To jog your memories, the creation of a plan was something pushed by MUCC to get at the heart of the issue: that the DNR does not have a concrete, public plan that it follows for determining what land to buy, and what land to sell, and that this gave the impression that the department was buying land at random and in many places where public land was already in abundance. The creation of a plan would allow the public to participate in and see the department’s strategy and priorities for buying and selling land.
MUCC opposed the idea of going back to the legislature to pass another bill to put the plan into effect due to the uncertainty that comes with politics, especially after such a great deal of time and effort will be spent putting the plan together. It would be a shame for all of that work to go to waste because of the gridlock and partisan bickering that is a part of politics today. It should also be noted that the legislature is always free to amend laws that it feels need changing.
The Schmidt amendment passed unanimously. A breakdown of the vote on the bill as a whole is as follows:
Foster (R-Pellston): Yes
Huuki (R-Atlantic Mine): Yes
Schmidt (R-Traverse City): Yes
Damerow (R-Port Austin): Yes
Hughes (R-Montague): Yes
Johnson (R-Clare): Yes
Pettalia (R-Presque Isle): Pass
Haugh (D-Roseville): No
Bledsoe (D-Grosse Pointe): No
Stapleton (D-Detroit): Absent
Slavens (D-Canton Twp): Absent
The bill now moves on to the House floor, and then back to the Senate for concurrence with the House amendments. The bill can still be changed at any time it is on the floor, meaning there is still a chance that the amendment could be pulled and voted on without amendment.