State Senate to hear committee testimony via videoconference for first time

LANSING, Mich.—For the first time ever, people will have the opportunity to testify before a state Senate panel without being in the same room—or even in the same city.

This Thursday, the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee will hold a meeting in Lansing and will broadcast the meeting and take testimony live via videoconference in Escanaba.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Casperson said the panel affords an opportunity to use technology to make sure peoples’ voices are heard in Lansing.

“It’s a long way from the Upper Peninsula to Lansing, and for most folks in my district, it is simply not feasible or affordable to make that trip to testify before committee,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba. “The Legislature is overdue in utilizing today’s technology to bridge the distance between the U.P. and Lansing. The technology is already in place to do just that in many communities throughout the U.P. So rather than drive all the way to the capital, people will essentially just have to drive around the corner to testify before the Legislature.

“I am excited to chair the first-ever Senate committee videoconference. Videoconferencing is a great way to empower residents and keep them informed. If this works as I expect, it is my intent to use virtual testimony regularly to ensure that citizens of the U.P. and other remote communities throughout the state have an opportunity to have their voices heard on the many critical issues we are facing.”

Thursday’s committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 1052, sponsored by Casperson. Under the measure, property owners would no longer need to get a permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for most beach grooming activities.

The bill proposes to get rid of restrictions on how beach maintenance can be done. For example, under the proposal, beach owners would be able to maintain their beaches manually or with equipment, remove vegetation without limitations, level sand, and mow. 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.

The Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee is scheduled for Thursday, April 26, at 8:30 a.m. in room 210 of the Farnum Building in Lansing, with simultaneous videoconferencing in the Michigan Works Conference Room, 2950 College Ave., in Escanaba.