Sen. Casperson and Rep. Cambensy testify in support of U.P. mining industry

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, testified before the Senate Natural Resources Committee Wednesday in support of a resolution to encourage Cleveland Cliffs Inc. to resume active mining operations at their Empire Mine in Marquette County.

Cleveland Cliffs idled the Empire Mine indefinitely in 2016, laying off hundreds of workers. Now the company is not only looking to reopen the mine, but to greatly expand its operations as well.

“Cleveland Cliffs has been a critical component of the Upper Peninsula way of life for generations,” Casperson said. “Iron ore mining has shaped our culture and has been an iconic industry for Yoopers for over 170 years. I am proud to stand with Representative Cambensy and other local leaders to urge Cleveland Cliffs to re-open and expand the Empire Mine.”

Cambensy agreed.

“The time to invest in the next generation of iron ore mining is now. We have a short window of opportunity to recapture the more than 300 high-paying mining jobs in Marquette County that we lost in 2016,” Cambensy said. “These are family-sustaining jobs with benefits that keep kids in our schools and support many other industries and the regional economy.”


Top photo: Rep. Cambensy and Sen. Casperson give testimony to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Bottom photo: U.P. leaders meet after the hearing. From left to right: Casperson; Mark Slown, city manager, Ishpeming; Cambensy; Amy Clickner, director, Lake Superior Partnership; Brett French, vice president business development UPPCO (Upper Peninsula Power Company); Bryan DeAugustine, superintendent, NICE (National Mine, Ishpeming Township, Champion – Humbolt – Spurr Townships, Ely Township) schools.

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Casperson seeks to promote economic opportunity while retaining stringent mining standards

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — To further the state’s reputation as a national leader in mining law reform, the Senate Natural Resources Committee recently approved Sen. Tom Casperson’s legislation to stimulate economic development in the Upper Peninsula, provide regulatory and operational flexibility, clarify existing environmental laws and continue to protect Michigan’s natural resources through the rigors of mining laws that are widely regarded as among the most stringent in the world.

“The native copper found in the Upper Peninsula is the largest deposit in the world, and mining it has been a critical part of our economy for generations,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “New techniques and technologies offer a chance for mining to create hundreds of high-wage jobs and support our communities for years to come.

“Minor changes to existing mining permits should not automatically restart the entire permitting process, resulting in costly and unnecessary delays. This reform is a commonsense balance between supporting our economy and the incredible natural resources that we are blessed with in the U.P.”

Senate Bill 839 would require the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to consider if the environmental impact of a proposed mining permit amendment is materially increased or substantially different from the previously approved permit and therefore needs a full review. If the DEQ determines that the amendment is not a substantive change, they could approve the change without undergoing the full permit process.

Copperwood Resources, a subsidiary of Highland Copper, is considering an investment to create about 350 jobs during construction and another 350 full-time jobs during the mine operation.

“These additional bills will provide further clarity and bring additional investment into Michigan and its natural resource development,” said Highland Copper CEO Denis Miville-Deschênes. “As a result, by utilizing modern techniques, technology and environmental best-practices, copper and other mineral mining in Michigan can be revitalized.”

Matt Johnson, external affairs manager at Eagle Mine said, “At Eagle Mine, we continually look for opportunities to improve our operations when it comes to safety, water protection and efficiency. The mining bills introduced by Senator Casperson will clarify existing regulations and offer flexibility for mining regulators that will support continued investment and local jobs in Michigan.”

Since Eagle Mine started operations, the company has spent $161 million in purchasing goods and supplies in Michigan, paid $20 million in state royalty payments to fund state parks and conservation program grants and paid $27 million in taxes — including being responsible for 25 percent of the local school district’s annual budget.

“Michigan continues to be a national leader supporting mining development and protecting our natural resources,” Casperson said. “This is about providing the state with reasonable latitude for allowing an operator to amend a permit without having to redo the long permit process. This reform does that without adversely limiting the DEQ’s permitting power under Part 632 as the department will retain the ability to require the full process if it determines the change warrants it.”

SBs 839, 840, 881 and 891 would make further clarifications regarding permit requirements. All four bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.


**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Casperson welcomes the Rev. Fred Driscoll to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley proudly welcomed the Rev. Fred Driscoll to the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. Driscoll serves as associate pastor at the New Life Assembly of God Church in Escanaba and delivered the invocation before the start of Senate session.


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**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Casperson welcomes Bob Jacquart to Michigan Capitol for State of the State address

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, proudly welcomed Bob Jacquart to the Michigan Capitol Tuesday night as his guest for Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2018 State of the State address. Jacquart is the proprietor of Jacquart Fabric Products in Ironwood, which is the parent company of Stormy Kromer.


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**Media Advisory** Sen. Casperson available for comments following 2018 State of the State address

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson will be available for comments following the governor’s 2018 State of the State address on Tuesday.

Sen. Tom Casperson, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.

Reaction and comments following the governor’s State of the State address.

Immediately following the address, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

By phone or in:
House Appropriations Room
Third floor
State Capitol

Casperson, R-Escanaba, will be available following the State of the State address for comments on state issues mentioned by the governor in the address.

Please call Casperson’s office at (517) 373-7840 or toll-free at 1-866-305-2038 prior to 5 p.m. on Jan. 23 to schedule an interview time with the senator.


**PHOTO ADVISORY** Sen. Casperson welcomes Pastor Scott Breault to Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, proudly welcomed Pastor Scott Breault (right) and his wife Angie to the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. Breault serves as worship, creative and media pastor at the New Life Assembly of God Church in Escanaba and delivered the invocation before the start of Senate session.


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Casperson bill would designate part of US-8 as the ‘Medio J. Bacco Memorial Highway’

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday heard testimony on Sen. Tom Casperson’s legislation to honor the life of an influential and innovative member of Michigan’s road-building industry.

“Medio Bacco was a pioneer in concrete highway paving and road building in Michigan who literally helped build our state and improve his community,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “This is about honoring a man who lived the American dream and exemplified the hardworking spirit of the U.P. and our entire state. He immigrated to this country as s child, started from nothing, and became a successful citizen and entrepreneur. It’s a record to be proud of and celebrate.”

Former Rep. Ed McBroom testified in support of the bill and highlighted Bacco’s leadership in the road-building industry and his commitment to his community.

“This memorial not only serves to honor a major contributor to the UP but by choosing this stretch of road, US-8, we help keep alive interesting and important history. This was not only Medio’s first paving project at just 21 years of age, it was the first section of paved highway in the UP,” McBroom said.

Bacco went on to follow his successful project on US-8 to found the Bacco Inc., still operating in Iron Mountain, and doing construction projects across Michigan and the Midwest. Bacco was a leader who gave back to his community, helped to finance the construction of the St. Mary and St. Joseph Church in Iron Mountain, served on the Iron Mountain School Board for eight years and donated $90,000 to the Iron Mountain School District, establishing a scholarship for Michigan Technological University.

Senate Bill 577 would designate a portion of US-8 from the Michigan-Wisconsin border to the intersection with US-2 in the city of Norway as the “Medio J. Bacco Memorial Highway.”

The bill would have no fiscal impact on the state or local government. Under state law, the Michigan Department of Transportation can place markers indicating the name of a memorial highway only “when sufficient private contributions are received to completely cover the cost of erecting and maintaining those markers.”


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Casperson welcomes Escanaba officials to Capitol for ‘dark store’ case in Michigan Supreme Court

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson welcomed officials from the city of Escanaba to the Michigan Capitol on Thursday as the city makes its case in the Michigan Supreme Court against the so-called “dark store” loophole.

“It is a matter of fundamental fairness that big box stores are treated the same as small, locally owned stores,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “It was an honor to welcome Mayor Tall and all the officials from Escanaba to the Capitol and recognize them during Senate session. I applaud them for their efforts in prosecuting this case to end the dark store loophole and ensure fairness for all local property owners, and I am hopeful the Supreme Court will affirm the Michigan Court of Appeals decision that saw the inequity of this practice.”

Escanaba is challenging the ability of a home improvement chain store to use a “dark store” loophole to reduce its property taxes. The loophole enables big box stores to appeal their property tax assessment to the Michigan Tax Tribunal that can then use the value of nearby vacant stores to determine the assessment, which adversely and unfairly impacts revenues to fund schools, libraries, programs for seniors, public safety departments and public transit agencies.

Casperson has introduced legislation to address the loophole issue.

Senate Bill 578 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.


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Casperson, Schuitmaker introduce legislation supporting Second Amendment, foster parent rights

LANSING, Mich. — State Sens. Tom Casperson and Tonya Schuitmaker on Wednesday introduced legislation that would preserve the Second Amendment rights of foster parents.

A policy change by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) that took effect in 2015 requires all firearms legally possessed in foster homes be locked in a gun case or stored with a trigger-lock separate from ammunition.

Under this policy, firearms cannot be carried in a holster, even by someone who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, or stored in any other safe manner.

“Adopting a child does not require you to give up your constitutionally guaranteed rights,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Thousands of families across Michigan have figured out how to safely possess firearms in the privacy of their own homes without the government telling them how to do it.”

Senate Bill 527 stemmed from a situation in Casperson’s district in which a grandfather from Ontonagon was told he would have to forego his Second Amendment rights to foster his grandchild.

“This man is a veteran of the U.S. Marines and legally holds a concealed pistol license in the state of Michigan,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The department has no authority to force someone to give up their constitutional rights.”

Both legislators pointed out that a very large percentage of Michigan’s law-abiding citizens carry or otherwise safely store firearms within their homes for self-defense.

“A gun that is locked up without ammunition does no good if someone breaks into the home,” Schuitmaker said. “The department is essentially telling residents that they can’t be trusted and they need the government to watch over them.”

Casperson added that Michigan should be doing more to assist parents looking to adopt, not asking them to forego their rights as Americans.

“Government officials are telling a law-abiding citizen that he needs to forego some of his constitutional rights in order to care for a family member, and if he doesn’t, the child will be removed from his custody. This is absolutely insane,” Casperson said.

“We should be encouraging people to adopt and give children a stable home. Telling them they have to give up rights in order to do so puts one more unnecessary roadblock in the way, hurts families and is blatantly unconstitutional.”

SB 527 would codify in state statute the rights of lawful gun owners to possess their firearms in a foster home. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Families, Seniors and Human Services.


Casperson welcomes Vietnam veteran to Senate’s Memorial Day service

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson welcomed Roy and Julie Hinkson of Manistique to the state Capitol on Thursday for the Michigan Senate’s 23rd Annual Memorial Day Service, which honored Michigan’s fallen soldiers.

Roy Hinkson served in the U.S. Army. While serving in Vietnam, Roy was shot 13 times and was awarded a Purple Heart.

“I was proud have Roy and Julie Hinkson as my guests for the Senate’s solemn tribute to our fallen heroes,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “We must never forget those who gave their lives defending liberty, and we owe it to them to celebrate everything they fought and died to protect. That is why having the Hinksons with me for the ceremony was so poignant. Roy served our nation and was wounded in the Vietnam War and he is still fighting for personal liberty today.”

Earlier this year, Roy and Julie Hinkson told the Senate Natural Resources Committee about an issue related to their private property surrounded by the Hiawatha National Forest. The land has been home to his family’s deer camp for more than 60 years.

In 1976, the original cabin was destroyed by fire. At that time, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) suggested that the new cabin be built 25 feet east of the original cabin to avoid any boundary encroachment concerns. Despite taking the USFS up on that suggestion, Hickson recently learned that the cabin is situated on federal forestland.

“However, Roy didn’t learn about the encroachment by way of a phone call, letter or the like, but rather when the forest service, with assistance from other government agencies, stormed the camp with guns drawn,” Casperson said. “If that was not troubling enough, rather than simply asking him to work with the very agency that originally suggested where the cabin should be located, the forest service issued him two criminal citations for the claimed encroachment, which he has spent significant time and money fighting.

“The unwarranted treatment of an honorable veteran and private property owner is extremely troubling. Roy Hinkson’s situation has adversely impacted him, his family and a community that cares about him. Their battle is about our rights and freedom from an overzealous government.”


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