The Michigan Legislature has adjourned for the year, and several issues of interest to the agriculture industry and Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) policy were considered during the two-week lame duck session.
The following bills were approved by the House and Senate and await the Governor’s signature:
House Bill 4677, introduced by Rep. David Maturen (R-Vicksburg) and supported by MFB, amends state tax law to increase flexibility for landowners utilizing a portion of their qualified agricultural property for non-agricultural purposes.
“This change allows farmers to use a portion of their land for non-agricultural purposes without disrupting the qualified agricultural property tax credit on the remaining land,” said MFB Legislative Counsel Rebecca Park. “A common example is parceling land to build a home. The land being used for non-agricultural purposes, such as building a home, would be taxed like any other property.”
Sponsored by Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) and supported by MFB, House Bills 5889 and 5890 clarify agriculture’s sales and use tax exemptions. The bills, in part, clarify the exemptions to tangible personal property sold to a person in the business of, “constructing, altering, repairing, or improving real estate for others to the extent that it is affixed to or made a structural part of real estate and is used for an exempt [agricultural] purpose.” The exemptions were also extended to include machinery used to install land tile or irrigation pipe for the production of agricultural products.
Senate Bill 1187, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson, reenacts the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act originally created in 2014. The Court of Appeals found the initial law unconstitutional because it determined provisions allowing free hunting and fishing licenses to active military members wasn’t closely related to the other provisions in the bill. Those references were removed and the following provisions remain:
“We supported the legislation in accordance with our member-developed policy that endorses the use of sound biological science to manage wildlife populations to maintain proper balance in numbers, reduce property damage, and control disease transmission,” said MFB Associate Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch. “Our members also believe hunting and trapping should be protected as the primary tools for wildlife management.”
Senate Bill 1093, introduced by Senator Mike Kowall, would give the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development two additional years to develop an approved species list for aquatic plants and animals. The bill moves the deadline from April 15, 2017 to April 15, 2019. The agencies indicated they have a list of more than 20,000 species in the work they completed to date, but cannot complete the required risk assessments by the original deadline. MFB supported the legislation.
The list names species that are acceptable to be grown within the state as environmentally benign or are not a threat to the state’s aquatic environment.
Introduced by Sen. Peter McGregor, Senate Bill 992 creates the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Task Force which would be responsible for developing policy recommendations on the operation, use, and regulation of unmanned aircraft systems in Michigan. While the organization has policy on the topic of drones, MFB had no position on this bill.
The Legislature finalized the long-debated energy policy reform package to update Michigan’s energy portfolio in anticipation of power plant closures and additional federal regulations. MFB was neutral on Senate Bills 437 and 438, sponsored by Sens. Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek) and John Proos (R-St. Joseph).
Senate Bill 962, supported by MFB and sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), would allow the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to offer proposed rule changes within 15 days after receiving the rule, in addition to its current authority to object to the rule. JCAR is a bipartisan legislative committee responsible for legislative oversight of administrative rules proposed by state agencies.
The Office of Performance and Transformation would retain the authority to reject JCAR’s recommended changes. If the Office did propose a rule change based on JCAR’s recommendations, it would have 30 days to do so. Similar to current law, if JCAR objected to a rule, the Office could still decide to implement it once 15 legislative session days had passed.
House Bill 4142, introduced by Rep. Ken Goike (R-Ray Twp), would amend the Michigan Vehicle Code to change provisions related to civil fines associated with vehicles operating in excess of normal or permitted weight limits due to "misloads." The bill would limit the amount of misload fines. MFB did not have a position on the bill.
Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford) was lead sponsor on a five-bill package directing Michigan Department of Transportation officials and Michigan State Police to increase 70 mph speed limits to 75 mph on at least 600 miles of limited access freeway if safety and engineering studies warrant the change. The legislation would also raise speed limits to 65 mph on at least 900 miles of state trunk line highway in the next year. MFB did not have a position on the legislation.
The following legislation was not approved and would need to be introduced as new bills in 2017 for the issues to be reconsidered:
Introduced by Rep. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), House Bill 5987 would have amended the Animal Industry Act to delay the implementation of new poultry animal care standards from March 31, 2020 to October 12, 2025. Farm Bureau supported the bill that was intended to coincide the state-level animal care standard changes with national animal care agreements.
House Bill 5463, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto), would have—among other things—amended the state school code to remove the sunset dates for the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC) changes supported by Farm Bureau in 2014. The 2014 legislation increased flexibility for career and technical education programs within the MMC (related story).