Casperson to MHSAA: Waive age requirement for students with disabilities

LANSING, Mich.—State Sen. Tom Casperson has sent a letter to the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) urging the organization to waive its age-eligibility requirement for students with disabilities.

The lawmaker also introduced a resolution in the Senate this week proposing that the association adopt a specific and limited exception to its antiquated rule.

Michigan students currently cannot compete in high school sports if they are older than 19 before September 1. This is the only rule that is not subject to a waiver.

“The current age policy is well intentioned, but it is an outdated rule that unnecessarily punishes students with disabilities who sometimes reach high school at an older age through no fault of their own,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Waiving the age requirement for these students will contribute to their growth and confidence while ensuring the integrity of high school sports.”

Casperson introduced Senate Resolution 145 on Wednesday, calling on the MHSAA to adopt a policy that allows an age-eligibility waiver in certain cases.

The need for the rule change is highlighted by the situation of Eric Dompierre, a junior at Ishpeming High School who has Down Syndrome, which led to his being held back in junior kindergarten and first grade.

“Eric loves basketball and football, and that has been a catalyst for his success in school,” Casperson said. “Playing these sports has provided Eric with the camaraderie of his teammates and helped build his self-esteem, self-confidence and identity—lessons that often cannot be learned elsewhere. We should not deny Eric or any other student these opportunities.”

Eight states, including Ohio, specifically provide for an age-eligibility waiver for students with disabilities, while fifteen other states allow for waivers from any policy if undue hardship to the student would occur.

Casperson said if these states can find a way to balance the integrity of high school sports with the needs of students with special needs, so can Michigan.

“More than 80,000 people have signed an online petition urging the association to waive the age-eligibility requirement,” Casperson said. “It is time for the MHSAA to take action.”  

Senate Resolution 145 has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for consideration.

State Senate to hear committee testimony via videoconference for first time

LANSING, Mich.—For the first time ever, people will have the opportunity to testify before a state Senate panel without being in the same room—or even in the same city.

This Thursday, the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee will hold a meeting in Lansing and will broadcast the meeting and take testimony live via videoconference in Escanaba.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Casperson said the panel affords an opportunity to use technology to make sure peoples’ voices are heard in Lansing.

“It’s a long way from the Upper Peninsula to Lansing, and for most folks in my district, it is simply not feasible or affordable to make that trip to testify before committee,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The Legislature is overdue in utilizing today’s technology to bridge the distance between the U.P. and Lansing. The technology is already in place to do just that in many communities throughout the U.P. So rather than drive all the way to the capital, people will essentially just have to drive around the corner to testify before the Legislature.

“I am excited to chair the first-ever Senate committee videoconference. Videoconferencing is a great way to empower residents and keep them informed. If this works as I expect, it is my intent to use virtual testimony regularly to ensure that citizens of the U.P. and other remote communities throughout the state have an opportunity to have their voices heard on the many critical issues we are facing.”

Thursday’s committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 1052, sponsored by Casperson. Under the measure, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for most beach grooming activities.

The bill proposes to get rid of restrictions on how beach maintenance can be done. For example, under the proposal, beach owners would be able to maintain their beaches manually or with equipment, remove vegetation without limitations, level sand, and mow. Certain non-beach grooming activities like construction projects, digging of channels, or dredging below what is called the regulatory watermark in the legislation will still be subject to a permit from the DEQ.

The Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 26, at 8:30 a.m. in room 210 of the Farnum Building in Lansing, with simultaneous videoconferencing in the Michigan Works Conference Room, 2950 College Ave., in Escanaba.

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Beach grooming law gets a grooming of its own under Casperson bill

LANSING, Mich.—Confusing and restrictive state regulations that limit shoreline owners’ ability to groom their beaches would be clarified or removed entirely under a bill introduced last week by state Sen. Tom Casperson.

“This proposal interjects some common sense into the regulatory process and protects the rights of property owners to clean up beachfronts on their property,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Property owners often share common frustrations with not being able to groom their beaches or the challenges they experience in figuring out unreasonable and incomprehensible regulations administered by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Army Corps of Engineers.”  

Under the legislation, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for most beach grooming activities. Senate Bill 1052 proposes to get rid of restrictions on how beach maintenance can be done. For example, under the proposal, beach owners would be able to maintain their beaches manually or with equipment, remove vegetation without limitations, level sand, and mow. However, certain non-beach grooming activities like construction projects, digging of channels, or dredging below what is called the regulatory watermark in the legislation will still be subject to a permit from the DEQ.

“This bill gives shoreline owners more permanent protection against MDEQ overreaching,” said Ernie Krygier, Save Our Shoreline president. “In 1999, as water levels fell, that agency asserted the authority to bar all forms of mechanized beach grooming. The result was the unchecked proliferation of phragmites, a nonnative invasive plant which threatens fish and wildlife and diminishes the beauty and value of Michigan’s beautiful coastlines.”

Casperson agrees.

“The regulations contained in current law for beach grooming activities inhibit the property owner’s ability to enjoy and use their beaches,” said Casperson. “This legislation would seek a sensible balance between preservation of some coastal wetland areas and private property owners’ right to groom their beaches and help to control the spread of invasive species, including phragmites.”

Senate Bill 1052 has been referred to the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee for consideration.

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