Raffle license bill signed by governor

For Immediate Release
June 26, 2012

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Raffle license bill signed by governor

LANSING, Mich.— A bill to allow nonprofit, charitable organizations to directly obtain raffle licenses as fraternal organizations has been signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, said sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

Organizations across the Upper Peninsula including sportsmens groups asked for the law to be amended because of an unreasonable rule imposed by the state that has limited their ability to get raffle licenses.

“Fraternal organizations with 501(c) status can now get a raffle license directly from the Charitable Gaming Division to raise revenue for their charitable missions. This change will cut out unnecessary costs, headaches and paperwork that have burdened groups that are trying to help with educational and charitable purposes,” Casperson said.

Public Act 189 of 2012 (Senate Bill 1077) supersedes a rule that has prevented many clubs from being able to raise revenue for their charitable missions by needlessly requiring that a parent organization provide oversight over all of their financial matters. This oversight oftentimes came with a price tag that cost more than the groups would raise through their raffle, making it impractical for them to even apply for a license.

For example, under the old rules, it used to cost organizations $50 to get a raffle license directly from the Charitable Gaming Division, but the UP Bear Houndsmen have had to pay $5,000 in fees to a parent organization in order to get a raffle license.  

“We feel this is a much-needed change and will help many organizations like ours around the state,” said Joseph Hudson, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association president and Carney Roundup Rodeo president. “This will allow organizations in Michigan the ability to receive a raffle license that meets the proper 501(c) requirements.”

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Casperson bill to cap the DNR’s land purchases sent to governor

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2012

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Casperson bill to cap the DNR’s land purchases sent to governor

LANSING, Mich.— A measure to cap the amount of land owned by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has passed the Legislature and has been sent to the governor, said sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

“While our state lands are valuable assets for the people of Michigan, the DNR needs to develop a plan for state land ownership that better serves the people,” said Casperson. “We must improve management of what is currently owned rather than spending more money to continually make land purchases when the state is not even meeting its obligations on what is currently owned. The everyday citizen is not able to keep land if they can’t pay their property taxes, so why should the state be any different?”  

Senate Bill 248 would cap the amount of land that the department can own to roughly 4.6 million acres of land, which is what it currently owns or is in the process of purchasing, plus a small cushion to provide time for them to transition to this new policy. According to the DNR, Michigan owns more land than any state east of the Mississippi, roughly 12 percent of Michigan’s land base. The federal government owns another 3.1 million acres, or 8 percent.

Under the bill, the DNR could continue to acquire land for recreation purposes, such as for connecting trails or accessing other land. Property that is gifted to them would be exempt from the cap.

The bill also requires the DNR to develop a plan for acquisition and sale of land with emphasis in the plan to be placed on lands to be available for multi-use recreation, including motorized and non-motorized uses and public access.  If the Legislature approves the DNR plan by passing another bill, the cap would be removed.

“Senate Bill 248 is a responsible step toward ensuring state resources are more effectively used for tourism and recreation purposes,” said Casperson. “It is important for our state to get a handle on the amount of land that should be publicly owned. As more land is removed from private ownership, our schools, local units of government and economy are impacted.”

Jim Moore, Chippewa County commissioner and member of the Michigan Association of Counties board of directors agrees.

“It is a good step for DNR to have to give notice to counties and communities on land that will be purchased and how much payments in lieu of taxes will be,” Moore said. “The strategic plan process, with local government and public input in the planning process, is also an improvement. How the input is gathered and how decisions are made will be the test.”

SB 248 awaits the governor’s signature.

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Casperson beach grooming bill to be signed by governor

For Immediate Release
June 14, 2012

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Casperson beach grooming bill to be signed by governor

LANSING, Mich.— A measure to clear up confusing and restrictive state regulations that limit shoreline owners’ ability to groom their beaches passed the House Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

“This proposal interjects some common sense into the regulatory process by removing duplicative regulation and protects the rights of property owners to clean up beachfronts on their property,” Casperson said.

Senate Bill 1052 proposes to get rid of restrictions implemented by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on how beach maintenance can be done. Under the legislation, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the DEQ for beach grooming activities.

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 and some restrictions will still be imposed by federal regulations.  

“I am pleased to hear that the House of Representatives concurred with this bill,” said Casperson. “Many House members have significant miles of coastline within their district and would be directly affected by this legislation.”

“Michigan shoreline property owners are not interested in stopping the citizens of Michigan or other states from walking our beaches and enjoying this most wonderful asset,” said James Hansen of Escanaba, who testified on the measure last month. “Our major concern has been to have the freedom to groom and maintain these beaches while at the same time eradicate invasive vegetation such as phragmites, thereby allowing property owners and citizens the ability to truly enjoy the shores of the Great Lakes.”

Casperson agreed.

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

SB 1052 now awaits the governor’s signature.

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Senate approves Duck Lake fire resolution

For Immediate Release
June 14, 2012

Contact: Marty Fittante
517-373-7840

Senate approves Duck Lake fire resolution

LANSING, Mich.— A resolution to urge the president of the United States to declare a major disaster or emergency for areas in Michigans Upper Peninsula impacted by the Duck Lake wildfire was adopted by the Michigan Senate Thursday, said sponsor Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

“This resolution requests that the federal government do its duty in protecting the people of Michigan by aiding our residents in extinguishing the blazes in the Duck Lake area,” Casperson said.

The Duck Lake fire in Luce County began May 24, following a lightning strike. As of June 6, the wildfire has covered 21,112 acres and destroyed 49 cabins and homes, including a motel and store, 23 garages, 38 sheds and 26 campers. Michigans third largest wildfire has caused extensive damage and irreparably changed peoples lives.

State Rep. Matt Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine, who is the author of the House version of the resolution- House Resolution 294, up for vote in the House today, thanked residents from his area for their testimony.

“Its important for legislators and state officials to have a common understanding of the devastation that has taken place,” Huuki said. “I want to thank Philip Nelson, Newberry fire chief; Mary Archambeau, Newberry Help Center coordinator; and Kevin Vanatta and Cathy Robinson, both local business owners.”

Huuki supports resolutions that draw attention for the people affected by the fire.

“I support and will advocate for measures to gain federal recognition of Duck Lake as a disaster area,” Huuki said. “For the sake of the wildlife and the residents, the president must swiftly respond.”

Gov. Snyder had already declared a state of disaster in Luce and Schoolcraft counties on May 25 to make all state resources available to fight the fire. In addition, the governor activated the National Guard to provide assistance.

Senate Resolution 158 urges the president to use federal resources to supplement the already exhausted state and local resources.

“Many of us in the Duck Lake area have lost all of our possessions and homes for this fire,” said Mary Archambeau, Duck Lake area resident. “My main concern is that we get this fire put out by any means possible.”

Archambeau was later spotted distributing what small amount of equipment and food she had salvaged from her home to the many firefighters working tirelessly with the effort.

“We often get fires here in the Upper Peninsula, but none of this magnitude,” said Jackie Robinson, whose Rainbow Lodge and home was burned in the fire. “I simply hope that the governor, president or whomever else, can get this fire under control so we can start the rebuilding effort.”

SR 158 will be transmitted to the President of the United States, the regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the members of the Michigan congressional delegation and the governor.

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Senate panel approves local reimbursement legislation

LANSING, Mich.—Legislation to increase payments in lieu of taxes (PILT) and swamp taxes to local governments for state-owned land within their boundaries was approved Thursday by the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

Senate Bills 1021 and 1022, sponsored by Sens. Tom Casperson and Darwin Booher, aim to address repetitive problems with PILT payments not being paid on time or in full. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns approximately 4.6 million acres of land, with the vast majority in the Northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula. In addition, the federal government owns around 3.1 million acres, meaning that 20 percent of Michigan’s land base has been taken off the tax rolls, and PILT or swamp taxes are paid instead. Local services are negatively impacted because the payments to locals are significantly less than what would be paid by a private owner. 

“PILT payments are supposed to be made by the state on land it owns, but the state has been late or making reduced payments for several years now,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “With more than two million acres of state-owned land in the Upper Peninsula, this makes the PILT payments extremely important to our communities. This legislation would help get local units of government their fair share of revenue, and also force state officials to understand the true cost of purchasing more and more public land.”

The Senate bills would make the following changes to PILT and swamp taxes:

• Increase swamp tax payments from $2 to $5, with one dollar designated for recreation improvements, and provide for an annual inflationary increase;

• Increase PILT payments for purchased lands by ensuring payments are based on current taxable values and current millage rates; special assessments would also be paid;

• Require the state to make payment by Feb. 14 to locals that have submitted their information as required by law;

• Insert a penalty on the state for not paying payments on time for purchased lands; the penalty would be the same that taxpayers face if they do not pay property taxes; and

• Insert a 5 percent per month penalty for locals that do not submit their statements, beginning Feb. 1. 

“It is time for the state to meet its obligations on the land that it owns,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Michigan residents are not allowed to only pay part of their tax bills and continue to own their land as evidenced by the fact that much of the land DNR currently owns came into state ownership years ago when people could not afford to pay their taxes on it. Most disconcerting to me is that the state has not been living up to its obligations to our communities yet continues to buy more land.”

Casperson said: “While some state land is considered a valuable asset for the people of Michigan when the land is fully open for use and enjoyment, people who live down state must realize that the public land comes with a cost to the communities surrounding that land. The bills will simply provide long overdue and fair compensation from the state on property owned by the state.”

The bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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