Lawmakers meet with area residents

IRON MOUNTAIN – The wolf hunt, the upcoming vote on Proposal 1, and an affordable, reliable source of energy within the Upper Peninsula were among the topics discussed by four Michigan legislators and area residents at a town hall meeting Wednesday evening.

Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, hosted the meeting at Bay College West in Iron Mountain.

The visit was part of a tour that has stopped in Calumet, Newberry, Marquette, and Ironwood, and will conclude today in Escanaba.

“We feel like we have a good team working in the best interest of Upper Peninsula residents,” McBroom said in his opening remarks. “We don’t agree on everything, but we like working together.”

The wolf hunt was brought up in connection to the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, citizen-initiated legislation that would affirm the Michigan Natural Resource Commission’s (NRC) ability to manage game species and fisheries.

“They are the experts we should rely on,” Casperson said, speaking of the NRC.

The legislation arose after two referendums on whether to repeal wolf-hunting laws were placed on the Nov. 4 ballot, supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other organizations.

It is expected that the state Senate will vote on the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act on Aug. 13, and the House on Aug. 27. The legislation would pass with a simple majority and would not require Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.

McBroom said the issue is bigger than the wolf hunt, calling the anti-wolf hunt referendums an abuse of the democratic system.

“This is about using ballots and referendums to go after Michigan residents,” he said.

The HSUS and other groups used money and mass-marketing to obtain “paid-for signatures,” McBroom added.

Dickinson County Commissioner Barbara Kramer asked the legislators to explain the ballot language of Michigan Use Tax and Community Stabilization Share, Proposal 1, which is on the Aug. 5 ballot.

If approved, the measure would phase out the Personal Property Tax (PPT) on industrial and commercial personal property and levy an Essential Services Assessment (ESA) millage tax on property that is exempted from the PPT.

Businesses with total personal property valued at or below $80,000 would be able to file for exemption from the PPT and opt for the ESA.

The measure would affect only manufacturers at this point, but Casperson said he was hopeful that small businesses would eventually be included if the measure is successful.

The measure would also split the State Use Tax into two taxes, a State Share Tax and a Local Community Stabilization Share Tax, and create an authority to administer this second tax.

According to McBroom, the “authority” created by the measure would not consist of a group of people and is essentially a fund set aside in the treasury.

Some municipalities rely heavily on revenue from the PPT for school districts, police, firefighters, public libraries, and other needs. Proposal 1 seeks to replace revenue local government would lose without the PPT with revenue from the ESA and the Local Community Stabilization Share tax.

When asked whether the Presque Isle Power Plant will be able to remain open, Kivela replied that it would not.

“The plant will close, it’s just a matter of how long,” he said.

Kivela discussed the need for energy generation in the Upper Peninsula, arguing that transmission of energy could raise energy rates as much as 70 percent and does not “build for the future.”

According to Kivela, the four legislators have considered two possible natural gas facilities as a source of energy within the Upper Peninsula, which would require upgrading a natural gas line that is already planned.

Other topics discussed at the town hall included the ethicality of public schools pressuring students to purchase their own supplies and Michigan no-fault insurance reform.

Kivela said that Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA), which is operated by insurance companies, has not been transparent and has repeatedly refused to open their documents to aid in reform.

The team of legislators also took time to hear from an area resident advocating for change regarding long-term Lyme disease treatment options.

She said it was difficult to obtain long-term care for her afflicted daughters because insurance companies pressure doctors not to offer long-term antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, as chronic Lyme disease is not recognized by most medical authorities.

Kivela also explained the reasoning behind the recent “Grand Bargain” in Detroit. He emphasized the need to protect residents from losing their pensions, as well as Michigan’s economy as a whole and the image of the state.

“As Detroit goes, Michigan goes,” he said.

Evan Reid’s e-mail address is