Videoconference for MI Senate meeting coming to U.P.

For the first time ever, people in six different U.P. locations will have the opportunity to attend a Michigan Senate committee meeting without being in the same room.

Senate Bill 50, introduced by Sen. Tom Casperson, will be taken up in the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee on Thursday, March 21 from 8:30 a.m. EST to 10:00 a.m.  The committee meeting will use videoconferencing technology to make the meeting accessible to residents from as far away as Ironwood.

Casperson,  has long advocated for a more wide-ranging use of technology to help bridge the geographical challenges presented by the State’s enormous size and allow the state to work smarter and more efficiently.  Casperson previously employed technology to link three U.P. communities to a Senate committee through video conferencing.  Through the leadership of a number of local stakeholders, including the Copper Country Intermediate School District, Northern Michigan University, the Upper Peninsula Economic Development Alliance and UPLink, the opportunity has now been expanded to bring a half-dozen U.P. communities together to participate via video directly with the Legislature.

Casperson noted that his district includes 13 of the 15 counties in the Upper Peninsula, and given the distance, it is difficult in both practical and financial terms for residents to make a trip to Lansing in order to listen or give testimony in committee meetings.

“The time is now to employ this technology,” said Casperson. “We have the technical ability, and UPLink has the vision to bring high definition video conferencing throughout the entire state. “The possibilities are nearly endless of how we can use this technology to make local and state government more accessible to people, and to permit government to work more effectively and efficiently— thereby presenting real savings to taxpayers.”

Casperson is once again using this as an opportunity to bring the voice of the Upper Peninsula to a legislative committee, this time to permit the Natural Resources committee to hear many different local perspectives on off-road vehicle (ORV) related issues that will help to help the committee better understand the issue and craft a sensible policy.

The UP videoconference locations are as follows for the March 21st Committee:

· Bergland – Gogebic-Ontonagon ISD, 202 Elm St.

· Escanaba – Michigan Works Conference Room, 2950 College Ave.

· Hancock – Copper Country ISD, 809 Hecla Street

· Iron Mountain – Bay College West, ITV Room 108, 2801 North U.S. 2

· Manistique – Manistique City Hall, 300 N. Maple Ave.

· Ironwood – Gogebic Community College, Solin Business Center, Room B21, E-4946 Jackson Rd.

The committee will hear testimony on SB 50 that would allow ORV riders to access state highways and cross bridges to help connect trails and reach tourist attractions or towns for fuel and food.  The highway access must be approved by county boards and meet the approval of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  The bill also would allow an ORV free sticker weekend and make changes to DNR’s group event permit process.

The public is welcome to attend at the committee meeting locations.  To help the committee run efficiently, anyone who is interested in speaking is asked to contact Sen. Casperson’s office in advance at 866-305-2038.