Governor Whitmer Continues Additions to Her Staff

Governor Whitmer's new staff additions include;

Greg Bird, the director of state relations at Wayne State University, will be her new legislative director.

Emily Laidlaw, an associate at Karoub Associates, will be Whitmer's policy director.

Ghida Dagher, the Director of government partnerships at the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators will be the Appointments Director.

Scottie Barton will the constituent services director.

Mary Hannaford, Whitmer's scheduler for the campaign, will move into that role for the new governor. 

Tiffany Brown, the current public information officer for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, will be Whitmer's new press secretary.

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MNRTF Board recommends $26M to enhance public outdoor recreation

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommended $26 million in grants for outdoor recreation development and land acquisition projects for approval by the state Legislature.

The board recommended a total of $26 million in grant funding, including $7.4 million for 34 recreation developments and $18.6 million for 30 land acquisition projects. The funds will support a variety of outdoor recreation projects and improvements including; expanded public access at popular beach destinations, additional snowmobile and multi use trail easements, facility and playground improvements at urban parks, construction of new trails and connectors, water trail projects and sports field expansions.

Funding for these projects is provided in part by revenue derived from royalties on the sale and lease of state-owned oil, gas, and mineral rights. the MNRTF has contributed immeasurably to protecting our states natural beauty and helped pave the way for wise and prudent development of our state's abundant energy resources.

“Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund grants make a long-lasting impact in communities across Michigan, providing a positive impact on the lifestyles of Michiganders through better public access to outdoor recreation opportunities, while giving a boost to regional economies,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “The Trust Fund is a unique Michigan model that is working to yield benefits around the state.”

The board's recommendations will go to the state Legislature for review as part of the appropriations process. Upon approval, the Legislature will forward a bill for the governor’s signature.

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Incoming Gov. Whitmer Appoints Department Heads

This week, incoming Governor Whitmer announced several Department Heads;

Paul Ajegba – Michigan Department of Transportation Director (MDOT) – He has been an MDOT employee for 28 year starting in the Engineering Development Program and rising through the ranks to his most recent position as Metro Region Engineer. Paul was also named the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials’ Public Agency Executive of the Year in 2017. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas and his Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan.

Liesl Eichler Clark – Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Director – She is the co-founder and partner of a policy consulting firm, 5 Lakes Energy. She has also served as President of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and as Deputy Director for Energy Programs at the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, & Economic Growth. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from MSU’s James Madison College and a Master’s Degree from Michigan State University.

Dan Eichinger – Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Director – Currently serves as Executive Director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs. He previously served in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University and a Master’s of Public Administration from Central Michigan University.

Gary McDowell – Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director– A farmer who owns and operates McDowell Brothers Farm and McDowell Hay, Inc. with his brothers. He also served for 22 year on the Chippewa County Board of Commissioners and 6 years as a State Representative for the 107th District. He attended Lake Superior State University.

Captain Joe Gasper – Michigan State Police Director (MSP) – He joined the MSP in 1998 and currently serves as Emergency Manager. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree from Northern Michigan University.

Heidi Washington – Michigan Department of Corrections Director (MDOC) – She will continue to serve in her current role. Under Washington’s leadership, MDOC has seen a significant decrease in its prison population and has implemented a skilled trades training program to help prisoners complete career and technical education and be better prepared to find jobs upon release. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University, as well as a Law Degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Brigadier General Paul Rogers – Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Director – He most recently served as the Deputy Commander of the 46th Military Police Command. Prior to becoming Deputy Commander, he served as the 46th Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations and the Chief of Staff. Having deployed to Iraq in 2005 as the Battalion Commander of the 507th Engineer Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, BG Rogers commanded a total of 823 soldiers, 139 marines and 114 airmen in combat operations during the deployment.

Orlene Hawks - Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Director – She currently serves as Director of the Office of Children’s Ombudsman (OCO) where she has worked for the last five years. Prior to the OCO, she managed the Quality and Program Services section in the Michigan Department of Community Health (now MDHHS). She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State University.

Anita Fox - Department of Insurance and Financial Services Director (DIFS) – She brings more than 30 years of experience in the legal field to the role, having specialized in litigating a wide range of business and insurance issues. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Kalamazoo College then graduated Cum Laude from the University of Michigan Law School. She also holds a State of Michigan Secondary Teaching Certificate.

Lisa McCormick - Office of the Children’s Ombudsman – She has been a long-time criminal prosecutor and child advocate. She served a 21-year tenure at the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office, where she ultimately became Chief Assistant Prosecutor. McCormick also founded Small Talk Children’s Advocacy Center with the belief that every child deserves a safe place for healing. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh and graduated Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude, from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

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Renew Michigan Supplemental Approved to include $69 Million in Continuing Money for Environmental Clean-ups

Renew Michigan has been the top priority of the Governor, with rumblings that, if money was not found for brownfield clean-ups, no Part 201 bill would be signed by Snyder.  A deal was made late last night and a supplemental was approved that included $69 million in continuing money for clean-ups.  The money is broken down into three pots ($44.85 million in environmental clean-ups, $15.18 million for local recycling and $9 million) and comes from the general fund.  This money will come from the general fund, but will cause no loss in the school aid fund because of the Wayfair online sales tax revenue which will more than cover the loss. 

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Michigan Voters Will Decide Fate of State Parks Improvements Plan

In 2020, Michigan voters will be weighing in on whether more oil and gas revenue should be steered to state park improvements instead of land and development purchases under a measure that passed the House and Senate with two-thirds support.

Sen. Tom Casperson's SJR O, SB 0763, SB 0931 and SB 0932 would rearrange how officials could spend the oil, gas and mineral revenue that goes into the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund (MSPEF) above $800 million. Currently, it required that half of these revenues be spent on land purchases and development. The rest must be spent on maintaining state parks. 

This new package of bills would put 55 percent toward state park operations and infrastructure and 15 percent toward local development projects. The other 30 would go to the principal of the NSPEF 

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Bill Providing Accountability and Transparency in the Ballot Proposal Process Heads to the Governor.

A bill that will provide more accountability and transparency in the ballot proposal process is on it's way to the Governor's desk. It will also make it more difficult for groups to place initiatives on the ballot.  Under the bill, no more than 15 percent of the total signatures submitted for a ballot proposal could be collected in a single congressional district. Any additional signatures, over the 15 percent in a district, would not be counted.  This will help ensure that signatures come from all corners of the state.

The bill moves the date by which the Board of State Canvassers (BSC) must certify a petition to no later than July 1st before an election. This could previously be done as late as September. It will also require that any legal challenges to the Canvassers' findings be filed within three days, directly to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The bill will require paid circulators to register with the state, invalidate of any signatures that were not signed in the circulator's presence, and ensure a factual 100-word summary of the proposal be included on the front petition.

Additional bills have been passed that will prohibit petition circulators from intentionally making a false statement or misrepresentation about the petitions and will allow a petition signer to remove his or her name from a petition, particularly if they were duped by a collector on the intention and implications of the petition.

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Whitmer Announces Several Department Leaders for her Incoming Administration

On Friday, December 21, 2018, Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer announced several key positions in her incoming administration. Here are the positions we have so far; 

Department Leaders are as follows;

Treasurer: Rachael Eubanks, a current Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) member, will be the new state treasurer.

State Budget Director: Chris Kolb, president of the Michigan Environmental Council.

Director of the Office of the State Employer: Liza Estlund Olson, executive director of the SEIU Local 517M.

Leadership Positions in her Executive office;

Chief of Staff: JoAnne Huls, chief of staff at Sterling Group.

Chief Strategist: Mark Burton, Whitmer's former legislative chief of staff.

Chief Legal Counsel: Mark Totten, MSU College of Law associate professor and former Attorney General candidate.

Chief Compliance Officer: Corina Pena Andorfer, attorney and former chief compliance officer at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Cabinet Secretary: Jay Rising, former state treasurer and retired executive vice president/chief financial officer of Detroit Medical Center.

Chief of Staff to Lt. Gov. Garlin GILCHRIST IIShaquila Myers, the legislative director for Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich

Communications Director: Zack Pohl, the communications director on Whitmer's gubernatorial campaign.

Public Affairs Director: Jen Flood, government policy advisor at Dykema.

Community Affairs Director: Melanie Brown, director of public affairs and community engagement at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Stay tuned for continuing updates as the new administration announces cabinet positions. 

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Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Approves Tunnel Agreement

Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority’s first Meeting was held on Wednesday Dec. 19 in St. Ignace.

The Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace was packed to the brim on Wednesday, as the first meeting of the MSCA drew a crowd of over 200 people. The Michigan Oil and Gas Association was well represented, with just shy of a dozen members in attendance.

Following presentations on the proposed tunnel agreement, the newly appointed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Board members heard public comment for nearly three hours on the agreement and the pipeline. Over 50 audience members had the opportunity to speak, including several MOGA Members. Among those making comments or in attendance to show their support of
the agreement and pipeline were: Cliff Roberts, Thad Shumway, Ken Prior, Erin McDonough, Mike Cornelius, Luke Miller, and Michael Kler, Tim Rudolph, Bob Parsons, and James Burmeister. Click Here to Read MOGA's Comments submitted on the Tunnel Agreement. 

Just before the conclusion of the meeting, the MSCA Board approved the tunnel agreement with Enbridge to build the multi-use utility tunnel beneath the Straits and approved the transfer of a property right that will allow Enbridge to construct the tunnel in bedrock beneath the Straits.

The fixed schedule for pre-construction work, definitive timelines, and financial penalties for missed deadlines established by the agreement, will make certain that the tunnel project moves forward expeditiously, while the independent oversight will ensure it is done correctly. The approval of the agreement ensures the safe and continued operation of the existing pipeline while design and construction of the utility corridor is underway.

“Today’s actions will result in the removal of the oil pipeline from the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac, maintain critical infrastructure connections between our peninsulas, provide energy security for residents of the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan and create good-paying jobs," Governor Snyder said. 

*The MSCA was created when Senate Bill 1197 was signed into Law as PA 359 of 2018. Click Here to Read More

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Update: New Appointees to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) Board

Snyder announced Monday that East Lansing native, Michael Nystrom will replace Mike Zimmer, of Dimondale, on the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Board. Nystrom, a Republican, is the executive vice president and secretary for the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA).

Mike Zimmer's resignation came after a possible legal conflict arose concerning his appointment. The law that created the tunnel authority states that no person "shall serve as a member of the corridor authority board during his or her term as a member of the Mackinac Bridge Authority board (MBA)." Zimmer was announced as having resigned from the Bridge Authority Board at 3:36 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12. Zimmer was appointed to the tunnel authority earlier in the day at 10:28 a.m., according to the press releases sent by the Snyder administration. To avoid any conflict, Zimmer stepped down from the position. 

"I see it as a nice opportunity to be a part of what is going to be a legacy project for the state of Michigan," Nystrom said. "I'm looking forward to being involved."

Last week, Governor Snyder appointed James (J.R.) Richardson to the Board, replacing the Geno Alessandrini who stepped down citing personal reasons.  J.R. currently serves as vice chair of the state's Natural Resources Commission through the end of the year.

Tony England, who is dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and who had been serving on the Governor's Pipeline Safety Advisory Board (PSAB) will remain on the Board. 

The Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) will hold their first meeting on Wednesday, December 19 in St. Ignace. 

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The Proposed Tunnel Agreement Submitted by the Gov. to the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority

The Proposed Tunnel Agreement was submitted by the Governor to the newly formed Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority (MSCA) this week.  The new Board will oversee construction and operation of the proposed Straits tunnel. Under the proposed Tunnel Agreement, Enbridge would be required to design, construct, operate and maintain the tunnel and turn over ownership of the tunnel to the MSCA once it is complete, provided certain conditions are met.
The proposed Tunnel Agreement contains measurable milestones and definitive timelines for tunnel progress as well as significant financial penalties for missed deadlines, provided delays are within the company’s control. The new law requires the MSCA to enter into this agreement by the end of the year providing the Agreement meets the requirements of PA 359.
Comments on the draft document can be made by phone at 833-367-6713 or by email to Comments will be accepted through December 18. The agreement is posted on the website.
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