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Regulation restrictions repeal passes Michigan Senate

Fertilizer runoff causes toxic algal blooms. This one covered a third of Lake Erie in 2011.
Creative Commons
Fertilizer runoff causes toxic algal blooms. This one covered a third of Lake Erie in 2011.

Michigan agencies could once again create government regulations tougher than federal standards. That's under a bill that passed the state Senate Wednesday.

A 2018 law took away the state’s ability to do so, except in extreme circumstances.

Senator Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) sponsored the bill to remove those limits. He said they had a “chilling effect” on the state’s ability to set environmental standards.

“This mandate is poorly defined, confusing and presents a lengthy process that prevents Michigan from acting swiftly to address environmental and public health crises,” McCann said during a floor speech ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

The current law passed during 2018’s lame duck session, before Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office. It faced criticism at the time from Democrats and environmental groups for its predicted effect.

Environmental groups are celebrating the vote to undo those changes.

“Michigan is a special place with unique natural resources. We can’t properly protect our environment and public health if we have to rely on outdated federal minimums, so repealing No Stricter Than Federal is critical,” Michigan Environmental CouncilChief Policy Officer Charlotte Jameson said in a press release.

But Republicans are criticizing the bill as creating room for a slew of new rules coming from the state.

“Let’s be clear, the bill before us opens the door to a tidal wave of regulations that could cripple small family businesses in this state. Small businesses may not have the ability to pay for lobbyists and lawyers to manage regulations,” Sen. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills) said while speaking in favor of a proposed amendment to tie the bill to a resolution he introduced.

McCann wrote off the idea of a rush of new regulations coming in as a result of this legislation as “not a valid one.”

Other critics questioned whether the current law ever prevented the state from responding to important situations.

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Waucedah Township) said those concerns are “much ado about nothing.”

“Where’s the evidence that we weren’t able to quickly respond to disasters? Where’s the evidence that we’re not reacting?” McBroom said.

The bill passed the Senate by a 20-18 party-line vote. It now heads to the House of Representatives.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.