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Legislation would tie state rules to federal standards

Triston Cole
Michigan House Republicans

Environmental groups say a new house bill requiring special review for new state rules that would be more stringent than federal standards is the worst environmental bill of the 21st century.

State rules normally require the review of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules before going into effect but under House Bill 4205 they would also require a ‘preponderance of evidence.’

Jennifer McKay is with the Tip of the Mitt Watershed which opposes the measure.

“The legislation is overly broad and would impede the necessary legislative flexibility that is vital for many of our programs in Michigan including protection of the Great Lakes.”

Republican Representative Triston Cole is the primary sponsor. He points to a rule requiring morel mushroom pickers be certified before selling to restaurants as an example of excessive rule making.

“The department just promulgated a rule that has the effect of law that had a negative impact on many of our restaurants and public food establishments in northern Michigan and across the state. There was virtually no justification for that.”

Dave Dempsey is a Senior Advisor with the environmental group For the Love of Water. He said the bill would make rules almost impossible to pass unless they were uncontested.

“This legislation is really a recipe for tying up any efforts by the state to promulgate tougher rules in court because it provides grounds for challenges by private parties in effect by saying you didn’t meet the burden of proof that’s required for new regulations, new protections.”

Representative Cole however said the change would be about putting rulemaking back into the hands of elected officials.

“One of the biggest frustrations is the administrative rules are done by inner bureaucrats that are not accountable back to constituents and are basically in place and it’s very difficult one an administrative rule has been put in place to pull that rule back in.”

Cole said the bill would allow for new rules to be written by the legislature and emergency rules could pass through quickly without the rigorous review.

Dave Dempsey said that’s not enough.

“This is the worst possible time for this bill as the federal government is in a sense disinvesting in environmental protection. Michigan ought to be redoubling it’s efforts to protect the Great Lakes and public health.”

Representative Cole said he is in tune with protecting the environment.

In 2011 a similar bill was vetoed by the Governor, but Cole said he’s optimistic this version, which was written with the 2011 veto in mind, will pass.