Booher and Casperson forestry bills signed into law

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher and Sen. Tom Casperson that makes changes to Michigan’s Commercial Forest (CF) program and the Qualified Forest (QF) program was signed into law by the governor on Tuesday.

“Allowing forestland owners to transfer from the Commercial Forest program to the Qualified Forest program without paying the penalty will help ensure that the private forestland is still actively managed and harvested for timber,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This will be beneficial to local units of government and the state, which will receive more in tax revenue for lands transferred from the Qualified Forest program to the Commercial Forest program.”

In 2013, a legislative package was enacted that made substantial changes to the QF program. It also allowed landowners enrolled in the CF program to transition to the QF program without paying the penalty outlined in statute. The allowance for that penalty-free transition ended a year ago, which resulted in landowners contacting Booher and Casperson asking for the transition period to be extended.

“Since the last legislation was enacted, I have heard from many property owners who are pleased with the Qualified Forest program,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “For the most part, this is a prime example of how state departments can work effectively with the citizens when they choose to. I appreciate the efforts of all involved to better manage private non-industrial forestland.”

Senate Bills 651, 652, and 653 sought to address the issue by:

  • Inserting a deadline of five years (2021) for allowing a CF landowner to transfer to the QF program with no penalty, but stipulating that transfers can only happen without the penalty if the land is enrolled in CF by Sept. 1, 2016 and is owned by the same landowner as of the same date;
  • Developing a Transitional QF program to allow for a transition to present day taxable values over a 5-year window when CF land is transferred to the QF program; and
  • Limiting the number of acres that can be transferred to 160 acres per landowner per township.

For those interested in enrolling in the QF program, the application deadline is Sept. 1 each year. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/qfp, and local conservation districts can also provide information.

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Law inspired by Escanaba couple to allow roadside drug testing signed by governor

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — The Barbara J. and Thomas J. Swift Law was recently signed to create a one-year pilot program that will allow trained law enforcement officers to administer a saliva test to drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs.

“This is common sense legislation that empowers our law enforcement officials to conduct roadside tests for drugs so we can help make Michigan’s roads safer,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, sponsor of Senate Bill 434.

Under Casperson’s bill and SB 207, now Public Acts 243 and 242 of 2016, trained Michigan State Police troopers will be permitted to test suspected drugged drivers with a preliminary oral fluid test.

Troopers who have gone through the training to become certified drug recognition experts could conduct the test by swabbing the saliva of a suspected drugged driver. The test would determine the presence of Schedule 1-5 controlled substances in the driver’s system — like cannabinoids, opiates and amphetamines — on the side of the road just like a breathalyzer determines the presence of alcohol in a driver’s system.

The analysis would only take place during routine traffic encounters where driver impairment is detected. The police would still need a valid reason to make a traffic stop, exactly as they do when someone is suspected of operating under the influence of alcohol. As such, sobriety checkpoints remain illegal in the state of Michigan.

The pilot program will begin in five yet-to-be-selected counties and will be used to help determine the accuracy and reliability of this new drug testing technology. If the pilots prove the testing results to be scientifically reliable, roadside drug testing would then be expanded throughout the state in the same fashion that roadside alcohol testing has come to be reliably used by law enforcement for over two decades.

According to the Michigan State Police, more than 36 percent of all traffic fatalities involve alcohol or drugs. In 2013, the department reported 86 traffic fatalities involving marijuana, two of which were Tom and Barbara Swift, the law’s namesakes, who were residents of Casperson’s hometown. The Swifts were killed in a traffic crash after being hit by a driver who had THC in his system.

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