Casperson introduces resolution to recognize ORV riders

Sen. Tom Casperson

Sen. Tom Casperson

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, has introduced Senate Resolution 172 recognizing June 9, 2018 as ORV Rider Recognition Day.

The resolution recognizes the many off-road vehicle (ORV) riders who explore Michigan’s 4,000 miles of designated trails each year. Over 230,000 riders are licensed to use these trails and many come from out of state to enjoy Michigan’s ORV riding opportunities.

ORV Rider Recognition Day will call attention to safe riding practices and encourage riders to adopt a “Tread Lightly!” attitude toward the trails and environment. The day will also celebrate the economic benefits of this activity and honor the many hours of volunteer work that go into maintaining our trail systems.

“Trail riding with an ORV is a cherished pastime for the folks in Northern Michigan,” Casperson said. “It’s a great way to tour the backwoods or just to take in the sights. If you’ve never tried it, there’s no better time to get out on the trails.”

The resolution will coincide with Michigan’s ORV Free Riding Weekend, June 9-10, when ORV motorists can use designated trails statewide for free.

“Stay safe and enjoy the Free Riding Weekend,” Casperson said.


Sen. Casperson welcomes Escanaba veteran to the Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, (right) welcomed World War II veteran John D’Antonio, sergeant first class, to the Michigan Capitol Thursday.

D’Antonio and other veterans from around the state were invited to the Senate floor as part of the Annual Senate Memorial Day Service, where colors are presented and lawmakers recognize the men and women who have lost their lives in the service of our country.

D’Antonio, a resident of Escanaba, belongs to numerous military and civic organizations, including the American Legion Post #0082 in Escanaba, Disabled American Veterans Chapter #24 and the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight.


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Michigan Senate passes bills to improve outdoor recreational funding

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate Wednesday passed a series of bills to support state and local parks, fund recreational projects and needs throughout the state, and create more flexibility in the use of both the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) and the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund (MSPEF).

Senate Joint Resolution O, and Senate Bills 763, 931, and 932 would alter the way that revenues to the MNRFT and the MSPEF may be used – increasing the ability to address the demands and opportunities for Michigan’s recreational areas.

“The proposed changes will allow for greater flexibility to focus grant funding on natural resources needs relating to recreation development, redevelopment and renovation at the state and local levels,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The NRTF has been very successful overall since it’s since its beginning 41 years ago. Now it would be helpful to have some added flexibility so the trust fund board can build on the wise use of the MNRTF and MSPEF funds. These changes will help meet the natural resource needs of our local communities and the state, things like trails and park infrastructure, for many more years to come.”

The bills include reforms agreed upon by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), conservation and recreation groups, local units of government, and recreation area users.

“We applaud Senate passage of Joint Resolution O, which after significant stakeholder engagement, increases funding for state parks while addressing a critical outdoor recreation need at the local level,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Senate action today is an important step in assuring funding derived from oil, gas and mineral royalties from state land supports natural resources and outdoor recreation in Michigan for current and future generations.”

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund provides a source of funding for public outdoor recreation and the public acquisition of lands for resource protection. The trust fund was established in 1976 and is constitutionally protected.

The Michigan State Park Endowment Fund was established in 1994 for the operation, maintenance and capital improvements of the Michigan state parks. When the trust fund reached its funding cap in 2011, the annual revenue from mineral royalties began to be deposited in the MSPEF.

Previously, these funds were strictly allocated toward acquiring new land for public use and conservation, and for minor updates to park infrastructures.

While many of the restrictions remain in place, the new funding allocations included in the legislation would allow for more money to be spent on parks and recreational resources. Municipalities and other government bodies would be able to apply for this funding through competitive grants similar to the system already in place for the MNRTF.

“I’m very excited to be able to open this funding up for more local investment,” said Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart. “Michigan is a regional destination for outdoor tourism and this is one more way that we can provide communities with the resources necessary to improve or create more recreational opportunities.”

As the law stands now, until the MSPEF reaches $800 million half of the annual revenue is credited back into the principal of the MSPEF. The remaining funds may be spent on operations, maintenance, and capital improvements at state parks and for the acquisition of land or rights in land for state parks.

This new package of bills would change that distribution to the following:

  • 30 percent directed to the principal of the MSPEF
  • 55 percent towards state park operation and infrastructure
  • 15 percent to a new local development projects grant program

“This legislation hasn’t been updated in sixteen years,” said Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart. “It’s long overdue that we begin to free up these funds for improvement to our communities and natural resources. I hope the voters see the value of what we’re trying to do here, and that they’ll come out to support these improvements.”

Changes to the funding structure would apply beginning Jan. 1, 2020, and would be further increased as the funds continue to mature. Once the MSPEF reaches $800 million, oil and gas royalties would return to the MNRTF and up to 50 percent plus interest and earnings could be spent each year.

The bills will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. If they pass the House, Michigan residents will have a chance to vote on the changes via ballot initiative.


Sen. Casperson welcomes Pastor Bob Derheim to the Capitol

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, welcomed Pastor Bob Derheim to the Capitol Wednesday to give the invocation at the opening of the Senate session. Derheim serves at the New Life Assembly of God in Escanaba.




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Upper Michigan legislators support President Trump’s call to rebuild Soo Locks

LANSING, Mich. — President Trump mentioned the Soo Locks in his address to supporters at a rally in Washington, Michigan Saturday, saying he would help get the locks fixed with support from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Thousands of Michiganders packed the warehouse building where the event was held, and thousands more stood outside in chilly weather to watch the address on an impromptu big-screen. Cheers erupted when the president mentioned he would help fix the locks.

“For decades, the federal government has acknowledged the need for restorations, and I am pleased that President Trump understands the urgency of fixing our aging infrastructure at the Soo Locks,” said Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering. “Not only are the locks an extremely important economic asset to Sault Ste. Marie and the Upper Peninsula, they are also vital to our state and national economies and significant to national security.”

The Soo locks, which connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron, have been a critical shipping connection between these bodies of water for over 160 years. The modern locks still in use, named the Poe lock and MacArthur lock, transport nearly 7,000 vessels per year carrying 75.5 million tons of cargo.

“About half of the cargo that travels through the locks is iron ore from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” said Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. “This material is necessary for the manufacturing of cars, tools and all manner of iron and steel products that are used throughout the country. The giant ships that transport this material rely on the locks to get to the refineries. Any downtime at the locks due to maintenance can be very costly for the entire iron industry.”

Despite their economic importance to the region, major renovations to the locks have not been performed in 50 years. Longstanding plans for upgrades have been delayed because of cost and construction planning difficulties.

“For years there have been discussions about replacing the current Davis and Sabin locks with a new lock that can accommodate larger ships,” said Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City. “Of the four locks, only one is large enough for today’s massive freighters to navigate. I’m happy to hear the president address the need for an upgrade, and I hope we can finally start acting on these drawn-out discussions.”

Trump lightheartedly stated that he would call the Army Corps of Engineers immediately after the rally ended, or at the latest, the day after. Infrastructure upgrades have been a consistent theme in Trump’s addresses, with roads, bridges and airports often getting mentioned as examples. However, this is the first time the president has mentioned the Soo Locks.

“I want to thank the Michigan representatives at the federal level who brought this to President Trump’s attention during his visit,” said Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain. “We’re going to continue working with stakeholders from industry and at all levels of government to see this project through to fruition. Hopefully now we’ll see a greater cooperation to finally fix up the Soo Locks.”



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.