ESCANABA — It’s not every day that Upper Peninsula citizens get to speak in Lansing without taking a nearly eight hundred mile road trip, but a group of concerned citizens got to do just that today to voice their support for some incoming legislation.
“What’s happening right now, especially over the last fifteen years, I’ve seen state agencies and employees come and threaten landowners with lawsuits [or] criminal charges if they don’t do this [or] they don’t do that,” said Rory Mattson, Natural Resource Professional for the Delta Conservation District.
The Michigan Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee met Thursday morning to hear testimony on two bills sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson. According to Senator Casperson, Senate Bills 189 and 190 would require state departments to repay court costs of residents and businesses who prevail against those departments in court.
A group of residents from Delta and Menominee Counties spoke via teleconference to the committee about situations where this type of legislation would have been beneficial.
“A good example is with logging roads,” added Mattson. “They’re exempt from wetland laws, and these type of things, the Department of Environmental Quality sometimes is looking at them and saying, ‘well, we think they want to use it for another purpose.'”
“I spent, like I say, over $3,500 for a road I don’t have anymore, so, I mean I think that’s kind of a travesty,” said Menominee County resident Ed Maul.
Those testifying — including Casperson himself — expressed hope that this legislation could inspire citizens to have less financial fear when standing up to state agencies.
“These people don’t have that kind of money that they need to take these things as far as they have to go with them or as far as they have to go,” said Escanaba resident Dale McNamee. “These people don’t have the chance to win, and I would hope that you would go into this legislation with the idea that they deserve that chance.”
“I think too many times they’ve walked away from the issue where they may have been right, but they walked away because of the concern and the weight of what it would cost to take on that government,” said Casperson, “and I think it’s time, hopefully, that we can all come together and do something that’s got to be done.”
The committee ran out of time before completing all of the testimony. Discussion of the bills will continue at their next meeting.