Balanced 2013 state budget signed

LANSING—A Fiscal Year 2013 budget that increases support for education and public safety and strengthens the state’s finances by reducing long-term debts was signed by the governor on Tuesday, said Sen. Darwin Booher, who attended the bill signing.

“Once again the state has a structurally balanced budget in place before July that supports key priorities and ensures our government lives within its means,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Most importantly, this budget continues our efforts to create a positive climate for creating jobs. We are already seeing the results in lower unemployment and an improving economy, which is the best solution to meeting our long-term challenges and enhancing support for vital services.”

Public Act 200 of 2012 contains 13 budgets for 15 principle state departments and the Judiciary and Legislative branches. It includes an additional $44 million for the Michigan State Police; $140 million to bring the state’s rainy day fund balance to $500 million; and additional dollars for revenue sharing, transportation infrastructure and reducing debts.

PA 201 of 2012 is an education omnibus budget for K-12 education, state universities and community colleges that includes 3-percent increases for universities and community colleges and an additional $200 million for schools.

“With this budget, we strengthen Michigan’s finances, save taxpayers billions of dollars by paying down our long-term debts, and increase our support of all levels of education,” Booher said. “This responsible budget plan holds spending under inflation and enhances state government accountability while providing critical services and educating our children. Equally important, it will help prepare our kids for successful careers and continue to improve our economy and create jobs so they can stay here in Michigan to live and raise a family.”

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Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph of Booher at the governor’s bill signing is available by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on the Photowire tab.

Kindergarten age bills signed

LANSING— Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher and Rep. Ray Franz to ensure children are ready for school before they start kindergarten was signed by the governor on Tuesday.

“With this action we are giving every Michigan student the best chance for academic success by helping ensure that all incoming students are prepared to learn,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This reform puts the best interests of our students first. Michigan now joins the vast majority of states that are already seeing the benefits of starting children at an older age: better academic performance, less repetition of early grades and real savings for schools.”

Public Acts 198 and 199 of 2012 will move up the date by which a child needs to be age five in order to enter kindergarten. That date will move from Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 for the 2013-14 school year, and will move up one month each year until reaching Sept. 1 for the 2015-16 school year.

“Our primary goal with this reform is to help provide Michigan students the best opportunity for achieving success in school and later in life,” said Franz, R-Onekama. “Studies have shown that school preparedness and maturity levels make a difference, and a survey of kindergarten teachers in Michigan indicated that only 65 percent of our children were ready to learn a kindergarten curriculum. This change will help improve academic outcomes by putting Michigan in line with most states that already have September 1 kindergarten age start dates.”

Former kindergarten teacher Joan Antle of Leelanau County also attended the bill signing. Antle has 30 years of teaching experience and told lawmakers during the approval process about the need to ensure children are ready for school given today’s demanding curriculum.

Under the reforms, parents of a child who would be five by Dec. 1 could request that the school district enroll their child even though he or she would not meet the new deadline. The final decision about enrolling the child in these cases would be made by the parent.

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Editor’s Note: A print-quality photograph of the governor’s bill signing is available by visiting the Sen. Booher’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on the Photowire tab.

 

 

Election, campaign finance reforms sent to governor

LANSING – Reforms to strengthen campaign finance laws, improve election efficiency and ensure fairness and accountability in elections are on their way to the governor to be signed, said sponsor Sen. Darwin Booher.

“Free, open and fair elections are the cornerstone of our American system of government, making it crucial that we ensure Michigan’s elections are not open to fraud and abuse,” said Booher, R-Evart. “These reforms will uphold and enhance the integrity of the entire democratic process in Michigan by protecting voter rights, putting an end to cheating and severely punishing anyone who is caught violating our election and campaign finance laws.”

Senate Bills 751-754 and 803 and House Bills 5058-5062 focus on increasing penalties for campaign finance violations and reducing voter fraud. SBs 823-825 reform the state’s campaign finance law as well as increase the protections of voter rights, provide additional transparency and streamline the election process.

Booher’s bill, SB 803, requires registered voters to sign a form indicating they are U.S. citizens prior to voting in person or by an absentee voter ballot. A person refusing or failing to answer the citizenship question at the polls would be denied a ballot. Absentee voters would be issued ballots, which would not be counted unless the voter answers the question by Election Day.

“State officials have discovered noncitizens inadvertently being registered to vote when they applied for other items, such as a driver’s license,” Booher said. “Asking if someone is a citizen before handing them a ballot will help ensure that only U.S. citizens vote in our election.”

Legislation in the 12-bill package would also:

• Crack down on voter registration fraud by adding identification requirements and training for third-party registration groups;
• Increase filing requirements for new political parties and ballot question committees;
• Require the secretary of state to post the most recent ballot petition language online; and
• Create a misdemeanor if an individual solicits or receives compensation to support or oppose a candidate, political committee or political party.

“Events during the past few years have shown the potential for fraud in elections,” Booher said. “From attempting to create a fake Tea Party in Michigan to turning in voter registrations for Mickey Mouse and the Dallas Cowboy starting lineup in Nevada, political dirty tricks erode the integrity of our democratic system and must be stopped.”

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Booher: State land acquisition cap to be signed

LANSING — A measure to cap the amount of land that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can own is on its way to the governor to be signed, said Sen. Darwin Booher.

“This is about establishing a long-term state land management strategy,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Our state forests and parks offer outstanding outdoor opportunities for Michigan families, but often funds that could help maintain or improve these assets are used to simply buy more land.”

Senate Bill 248 would cap the amount of land that the department can own to what it currently owns and pending purchases, roughly 4.65 million acres or 12 percent of Michigan’s land base. According to the DNR, Michigan owns more land than any state east of the Mississippi. 

The bill requires the DNR to consider the expenses associated with land, such as payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) and the loss in tax revenues to local governments before a purchase is made.

“The state routinely makes PILT payments on its lands to our schools and locals both late and for a fraction of what the land would generate in revenue if it was privately owned,” Booher said. “I believe that the state should not be buying more land when it is not meeting its obligations and cannot afford to properly maintain its current lands.”

Booher noted an intent of the bill is to have the DNR develop a plan for state land ownership that better serves the people. If the Legislature approves the DNR’s plan by passing another bill, the statewide cap would be removed. If a plan is not approved by May 2015, a cap of 3,910,000 acres would remain for Northern Michigan counties above the Mason-Arenac county line.

“When considering how much of our state land the government will own, we must ask ourselves: ‘When is enough, enough?’” Booher said. “A cap will force the state to make an evaluation of all the land it considers purchasing and land it already owns. It will require the DNR to weigh the benefits of buying more property against using our limited resources to enhance our current state lands or even divesting some of our state lands that might be better used by the private sector.”

Under SB 248 the DNR would still be able to acquire land, such as parcels for connecting trails, land gifted to them or small amounts of property needed for accessing other land.

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Beach maintenance bill sent to governor

LANSING?Lakeshore property owners will have more freedom to properly maintain their beaches under legislation sent to the governor by the Michigan Senate on Thursday, said co-sponsor Sen. Darwin Booher.

“Michigan’s miles of sandy beaches play an important role in our outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, the quality of life that attracts so many to our state and an economy that supports millions of families,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This reform will increase outdoor activities and encourage the maintenance of our beachfronts by removing costly government regulations that only inhibit the process. This freedom will mean cleaner, safer beaches for families and tourists to enjoy.”

Low water levels in 1999 exposed beaches across the Great Lakes, which were quickly overrun with invasive plants and other weeds. State policy at the time was to prevent landowners from grooming their beaches to remove plants or prevent them from growing without an individual permit.

Senate Bill 1052 would eliminate certain Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) restrictions about how beach maintenance can be done. Property owners with sandy beaches would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for beach grooming activities, although some activities may still be subject to federal regulation.

“I supported this initiative because it strikes a smart balance between ensuring private property rights and protecting our state’s natural resources,” Booher said. “By removing unnecessary and confusing government restrictions, we are stopping invasive species from taking hold and enabling lakefront property owners to keep their beaches clean, sandy and open for use.”

Under SB 1052, owners of sandy beaches would not need a DEQ permit to remove vegetation and debris on the section of their beaches between the normal high-water mark and the water’s edge. Construction projects and digging of channels or dredging below the ordinary high-water mark would still be subject to a state permit.

SB 1052 has been sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

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Beach maintenance bill sent to governor

LANSING?Lakeshore property owners will have more freedom to properly maintain their beaches under legislation sent to the governor by the Michigan Senate on Thursday, said co-sponsor Sen. Darwin Booher.

“Michigan’s miles of sandy beaches play an important role in our outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities, the quality of life that attracts so many to our state and an economy that supports millions of families,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This reform will increase outdoor activities and encourage the maintenance of our beachfronts by removing costly government regulations that only inhibit the process. This freedom will mean cleaner, safer beaches for families and tourists to enjoy.”

Low water levels in 1999 exposed beaches across the Great Lakes, which were quickly overrun with invasive plants and other weeds. State policy at the time was to prevent landowners from grooming their beaches to remove plants or prevent them from growing without an individual permit.

Senate Bill 1052 would eliminate certain Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) restrictions about how beach maintenance can be done. Property owners with sandy beaches would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for beach grooming activities, although some activities may still be subject to federal regulation.

“I supported this initiative because it strikes a smart balance between ensuring private property rights and protecting our state’s natural resources,” Booher said. “By removing unnecessary and confusing government restrictions, we are stopping invasive species from taking hold and enabling lakefront property owners to keep their beaches clean, sandy and open for use.”

Under SB 1052, owners of sandy beaches would not need a DEQ permit to remove vegetation and debris on the section of their beaches between the normal high-water mark and the water’s edge. Construction projects and digging of channels or dredging below the ordinary high-water mark would still be subject to a state permit.

SB 1052 has been sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

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Bill to allow fishing with crossbows sent to governor

LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher to allow crossbows to be used for fishing is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

“Hunting and fishing are important to maintaining a healthy environment and supporting the livelihoods of many Northern Michigan families,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Since crossbows can now be used for hunting, expanding their use to fishing makes sense. By adding another opportunity for sportsmen to enjoy our great outdoors, we may also encourage more people to come out and take advantage of some of the world’s best fishing.”

Senate Bill 897 would allow the Department of Natural Resources to issue an order permitting the use of crossbows for fishing.  The department has indicated crossbows, once permitted, could be used during the same seasons and also for the same species allowed for fishing with a bow and arrow.

“I sponsored this bill after a conversation with a constituent in my hometown,” Booher said. “It is an example of an innovative idea that can come about by listening to Northern Michigan residents on ways to change how Michigan does business.”

Hal Hutchinson from Evart testified in support of the legislation before the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee earlier this year. 

The measure was enrolled by the Michigan Senate on Wednesday, and has been sent to the governor to be signed.

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Bill to allow fishing with crossbows sent to governor

LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher to allow crossbows to be used for fishing is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

“Hunting and fishing are important to maintaining a healthy environment and supporting the livelihoods of many Northern Michigan families,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Since crossbows can now be used for hunting, expanding their use to fishing makes sense. By adding another opportunity for sportsmen to enjoy our great outdoors, we may also encourage more people to come out and take advantage of some of the world’s best fishing.”

Senate Bill 897 would allow the Department of Natural Resources to issue an order permitting the use of crossbows for fishing.  The department has indicated crossbows, once permitted, could be used during the same seasons and also for the same species allowed for fishing with a bow and arrow.

“I sponsored this bill after a conversation with a constituent in my hometown,” Booher said. “It is an example of an innovative idea that can come about by listening to Northern Michigan residents on ways to change how Michigan does business.”

Hal Hutchinson from Evart testified in support of the legislation before the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee earlier this year. 

The measure was enrolled by the Michigan Senate on Wednesday, and has been sent to the governor to be signed.

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Crop disaster relief bill sent to governor

LANSING – Legislation to help provide financial relief for Michigan’s fruit farmers, who were devastated by this winter’s early thaw and subsequent frost, was sent to the governor on Thursday to be signed, said Sen. Darwin Booher.

“The unprecedented disaster in the wake of unusual weather this spring has put most Michigan fruit growers in a state of emergency,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Thankfully, help is on the way.”

House Bill 5717, sponsored by Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, creates the Agriculture Loan Origination Program to provide financial relief in the form of low-interest loans of up to $1 million to farmers with significant weather-related crop losses. It is similar to the 2002 Michigan Farm Disaster Relief Program that has since sunsetted.

“An April frost wiped out up to 90 percent of Michigan’s tart cherry crop and 80 percent of the apple crop, and the losses to our farmers statewide could top $200 million,” Booher said. “Our farmers are proud and responsible people. This is not a handout and our farmers have not asked for one. This is a helping hand to help them financially recover from a disaster.”

According to industry analysts, for apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, asparagus and both sweet and tart cherries the estimated loss this year is 58 percent of the 2006-2010 average, or $209.8 million. As a result of the crop loss, the level of output of goods and services in Michigan is expected to decline by about $503 million compared to the 2006-2010 average.

Under the program, growers, processors and agri-businesses with documented losses would be eligible for one percent interest, five-year loans with the first principle payment not required until the end of the loan’s 24th month. The loans would be privately administered with private funds. The state would only provide partial reimbursement of loan origination costs equal to five percent of the loan’s original principal and would make payments over a five-year period.

“The most pressing need is for financial support to growers to help maintain their fruit vines and trees, so that they don’t lose next season’s crop as well,” Booher said. “The Senate and the governor have requested federal disaster assistance, but that aid will not come soon enough to help growers and processors this growing season.

“For a maximum of $15 million during the next five years, the state can help meet the needs of our fruit growers and support more than $500 million in annual economic activity.”

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Crop disaster relief bill sent to governor

LANSING – Legislation to help provide financial relief for Michigan’s fruit farmers, who were devastated by this winter’s early thaw and subsequent frost, was sent to the governor on Thursday to be signed, said Sen. Darwin Booher.

“The unprecedented disaster in the wake of unusual weather this spring has put most Michigan fruit growers in a state of emergency,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Thankfully, help is on the way.”

House Bill 5717, sponsored by Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, creates the Agriculture Loan Origination Program to provide financial relief in the form of low-interest loans of up to $1 million to farmers with significant weather-related crop losses. It is similar to the 2002 Michigan Farm Disaster Relief Program that has since sunsetted.

“An April frost wiped out up to 90 percent of Michigan’s tart cherry crop and 80 percent of the apple crop, and the losses to our farmers statewide could top $200 million,” Booher said. “Our farmers are proud and responsible people. This is not a handout and our farmers have not asked for one. This is a helping hand to help them financially recover from a disaster.”

According to industry analysts, for apples, blueberries, grapes, peaches, asparagus and both sweet and tart cherries the estimated loss this year is 58 percent of the 2006-2010 average, or $209.8 million. As a result of the crop loss, the level of output of goods and services in Michigan is expected to decline by about $503 million compared to the 2006-2010 average.

Under the program, growers, processors and agri-businesses with documented losses would be eligible for one percent interest, five-year loans with the first principle payment not required until the end of the loan’s 24th month. The loans would be privately administered with private funds. The state would only provide partial reimbursement of loan origination costs equal to five percent of the loan’s original principal and would make payments over a five-year period.

“The most pressing need is for financial support to growers to help maintain their fruit vines and trees, so that they don’t lose next season’s crop as well,” Booher said. “The Senate and the governor have requested federal disaster assistance, but that aid will not come soon enough to help growers and processors this growing season.

“For a maximum of $15 million during the next five years, the state can help meet the needs of our fruit growers and support more than $500 million in annual economic activity.”

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