Pastor David Grant delivers invocation at state Capitol

LANSING, Mich.—Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, welcomed pastor David Grant (right) and his wife Bonnie Grant (center) from Escanaba Church of Christ in Escanaba to the Michigan Senate Wednesday. Grant delivered the invocation before Senate session.


A print-quality photograph of Casperson welcoming pastor Grant and his wife is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s website at: http://www.senatortomcasperson.com/. Click on “Photowire.”

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Senate adopts Casperson’s resolution supporting hunting camp owners

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

Urges U.S. Forest Service to issue special use authorization

LANSING, Mich. — A resolution encouraging the United States Forest Service (USFS) to work with owners of privately held hunting camps on leased acreage within the Ottawa National Forest was adopted by the state Senate last Thursday.

Senate Resolution 79 highlights the concerns of approximately 100 property owners who could lose their camps to the federal government if special use authorization or some alternative allowance is not granted. It also highlights the possible negative impacts to the local community if the USFS follows through and removes the camps.

“This is another all-too-common example of government bureaucrats deciding they know what is best rather than working with locals and understanding that the arrangement with property owners that has been in place for years works well and causes no harm to the federal forest land,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Instead, many benefits are enjoyed by all as people enjoy the outdoors and local economies in areas that badly need the activity are bolstered and supported.

“I strongly encourage the United States Forest Service to issue camp owners special use authorization or some similar allowance so they can continue decades-long traditions of hunting, fishing and other recreational activities in the national forest and continue supporting local economies.”

The USFS informed leaseholders that leases will not be renewed at the end of 2016 due to an agency policy not to lease national forest land to individuals. The holders of the active leases will have 90 days after the leases expire to remove the hunting cabins and return the land to its natural state.

Casperson’s resolution argues, however, that the USFS Recreation Residence Program provides a solution to the situation if the agency would just lift its moratorium on such arrangements and actually work with folks instead of just saying no for what appears no reason except that they are pursuing their internal agenda to close access and limit use on the publicly owned land as they are routinely doing across the country. The Recreation Residence program provides private citizens an opportunity to own single-family cabins in designated areas of national forests, and 15,570 recreation residences currently occupy national forest system lands throughout the country.

Michigan residents were offered an opportunity to lease privately owned land from the Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) in the 1950s to build recreational hunting camps. In 1991, the UPPCO announced intentions to sell the land currently under lease to an intermediary who would simultaneously sell the land to the USFS. Existing leaseholders were offered an option to sign a 25-year, nonrenewable lease on the land that was to be sold or to immediately vacate the property.

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Casperson, Kivela bills help locals dealing with ‘dark stores’

Big box stores use argument to force locals to drastically reduce taxes

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tom Casperson and Rep. John Kivela introduced legislation on Thursday to help local governments that are losing money when big box stores successfully argue to the Michigan Tax Tribunal that their taxes should be drastically reduced.

“Creative lawyers working for big corporations should not be the force behind the state’s tax policy — a policy that is devastating local units of government and is unfair to local retailers and residents,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “Unfortunately, the tax tribunal is letting it happen with its embrace of this ‘dark stores’ theory, which permits national retailers to receive unfair and unfounded tax reductions at the expense of our schools, libraries, seniors, public safety departments, public transit agencies and residents.

“These national and regional corporations argue that newly built stores are almost entirely worthless as soon as construction is complete and that their stores are different from every other store. That is nonsense. Fortunately, we have crafted a solution that finally closes this loophole.

“It has been a challenge, but after much research and with the help of many people — especially those from Marquette County, which retained one of the foremost tax experts in the state to assist us in crafting this solution — I am confident this solution will ensure that all retailers are treated equally and that the big corporations are no longer able to perpetrate this crippling, anti-competitive business practice and tax-avoidance scheme.”

Senate Bill 524 and House Bill 4909 will bring clarity and fairness to the assessment process regarding large commercial and warehouse stores, also known as big box stores.

SB 524 amends the General Property Tax Act, stating that the true cash value of a property shall consider the highest and best use of the property, the value of the property as vacant, and the value of the property as improved. For any limited use property, like a big box store, the highest and best use of the property is the continued use of the property as improved.

The bill provides some important direction to ensure that speculative evidence and assumptions are kept out of the assessment process. This means that a corporation couldn’t have their taxes reduced by arguing that their store is less valuable because it couldn’t be used in the future for the same type of store or purpose.

HB 4909 would amend the Zoning Enabling Act by preventing negative use restrictions that prohibit occupancy or use of the property when that restriction goes against the lawful use of the property under a local zoning ordinance.

These negative use restrictions often prevent the reuse of property within commercial districts by a similar store. This causes problems for communities because it can run completely opposite to their master plan and zoning ordinance and hampers efforts to attract and encourage economic development.

“Large national retailers have used what’s known as the ‘dark store’ argument to win huge tax refunds that will permanently decrease the property tax base in Michigan and are devastating to state and local government budgets, as well as local zoning ordinances and master plans they’ve enacted to deal with development,” said Kivela, D-Marquette. “Our bills would ensure that all businesses are assessed equally regardless of who they are, how large their business is, whether they are a successful national business from outside of Michigan or whether they are a local retailer in Michigan.

“National retailers shouldn’t be able to cut their taxes by arguing that their brand-new ‘big box’ store building is worth less than the purchase price of the land. These bills provide for a uniform method for assessing big box stores in the same manner as all other commercial businesses are assessed. This is a problem in many communities in Michigan and other states.

“A nearly identical approach to bring fairness and uniformity to the assessing process was recently approved in the Indiana Legislature, which passed the legislation, 98-0. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass these bills to fix this problem and protect our communities and the services they provide their residents.”

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State Senate passes resolutions opposing EPA power grab

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday passed resolutions sponsored by state Sens. Tom Casperson and Phil Pavlov to oppose a study backed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that could lead to regulations on personal grills and barbecues.

The EPA has funded a University of California-Riverside student project to develop preventive technology to reduce emissions from residential barbecues.

“This effort by the EPA to examine people’s backyard barbecues is just the latest in a long string of ridiculous and overly burdensome regulations driven by and pursued by the EPA,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. “To spend time on issues such as this is a gross waste of taxpayer money and agency time. These resolutions are a signal that we the people are fed up with this sort of nonsense from government agencies, and it needs to change.”

Pavlov agreed.

“It is now football season, and that means tailgating. The EPA appears eager to pour cold water on this great American pastime,” said Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. “By funding this project, the EPA is searching for a solution to a problem that does not exist and demonstrating unnecessary concern over the impact of backyard barbecues on public health.”

Senate Resolution 56 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 state that cooking outdoors on a grill during the summer saves electricity and that funding the UC-Riverside study is a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

“In the face of record national debts, annual budget deficits and other profound problems the country is facing, surely the federal government can better use our resources than on a study of grills and barbecues,” Pavlov said. “This overreach by the EPA is a waste of time and money.”

SR 56 and SCR 14 now head to the Michigan House for consideration.

***Media Advisory*** Casperson invites U.P. residents to participate in Natural Resources Committee hearing via videoconference

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Tom Casperson announced Monday that the Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 16 will include testimony from U.P. residents via remote videoconference.

Members of the committee will hear testimony on Senate Resolution 79, which encourages the United States Forest Service (USFS) to issue special use authorization under the Recreation Residence Program to owners of privately held hunting camps on leased acreage within the Ottawa National Forest.

The resolution highlights the concerns of 104 property owners who could lose their camps to the federal government if special use authorization is not granted and highlights the negative impacts to the local community if the USFS carries out its plan for the camps to be removed.

Who:
State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, and members of the public.

What:
A hearing of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Senate Resolution 79.

When:
Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 12:30 p.m.

Hearing Location:
Room 210
Farnum Building
125 W. Allegan St.
Lansing, MI

U.P. Videoconference Location:
Michigan Works
110 East Quincy St.
Hancock, MI 49930

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