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A View from the Capitol

State Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, shares his thoughts from Lansing.

From My Desk in Lansing

Michiganders across this beautiful state can attest that summer has flown by once again.  Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” no longer applies, as our children flock back to the classrooms.  Now, we can look forward to good times ahead.  Our climate is changing in Michigan; both in terms of weather, and signs of economic recovery. 

I have enjoyed the ability these past weeks to focus on subjects that directly relate to those I represent in the 24th District.  I have spent much of my time on local concerns such as, the water quality issues involving Lake St. Clair.

Water Quality Town Hall

We hosted a on Sept. 5th at MacRay Harbor as a follow-up to last year’s Town Hall on water quality issues. The large turnout did not go unnoticed and those that attended from the state know that we are not going to be ignored. 

Last year the focus of the meeting was in regard to the muck that was appearing on our shoreline.  Our once pristine sand beaches and shorelines are now being inundated with algae, muck, new species of weeds, as well as floating mats of muck which are developed to such a degree that vegetation is growing on their surfaces. The results of those tests are posted on our website www.repforlini.com.

This year we wanted to focus our attention on the sources of the E. coli that has been closing our beaches. We had a lively, informative, and productive discussion with guest speakers: Erin Dreelin, associate director of the Center for Water Sciences at Michigan State University; Joan B. Rose, Homer Nowlin chair in water research at Michigan State University; and Jeff Goodwin, an aquatic biologist at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. 

Through the research conducted to date, some questions were answered while additional questions were raised. Most of the bacteria microbes of E. coli were determined to be of human source. These findings are significant. The conversation can now refocus our line of attack on the sources of the E. coli. We viewed graphs depicting the fluctuations in e coli levels over the last year in both Veterans Memorial Beach and Lake St. Clair Metropark.
2011 Water Samples 

The next stage in the investigative process is to compare the graphs with the weather conditions that occurred during that same period. Additionally, studies will be done to determine the source/sources through examining wind and water currents. Once we pinpoint the origins of contaminates, we can develop solutions to rectify the problem. 

Sustained changes in our climate of higher summer heat indexes, longer periods of continued heat and overall reductions in rainfall over many cycles these past few years have resulted in lower water levels in our lakes. This coupled with the zebra mussels allow the sunlight to reach the bottom of the lake in ever-increasing distances from the shorelines, which in turn promotes ever-increasing quantities of nuisance vegetation in these areas. 

Just as many of you, I am very concerned about improving and protecting our precious waters and beaches as well as the health and safety of those of us who live, recreate, and vacation in the area.  It is a priority of mine to continue working towards finding permanent solutions to restore and maintain clean, safe water and beaches in my district and around the state.

For those that want more information the slideshow is up on my website, www.repforlini.com, and all of the DEQ forms are under the “publications” tab on the left-hand side.

Smart Meters

Recently, I co-sponsored House Bill 5411 to amend Public Act 3 of 1939. The original Act provides for certain regulations and controls of public and certain private utilities. 

Some but not all of the fundamental points included in HB 5411 are as follows:

  • Require an electric utility to allow a customer to decline the installation or use of an advanced meter;
  • Prohibit an electric utility from imposing any disincentive on a customer for not accepting the installation or use of an advanced meter; and
  • Prohibit an electric utility from obtaining data from an advanced meter more than once per month, unless requested by a customer.

The entire bill can be accessed by the following link:

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(twehqs45o1vodr55l0apxqer))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=2012-HB-5411

The Michigan Public Service Commission ruled on Sept. 11, 2012, stating that those consumers choosing the opt-out will be required to pick up the tab for the traditional meters. I am strongly opposed to the section of the decision, which in my mind, unfairly punishes the consumer. This is not fair or equitable to the consumer.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette weighed in on the issue on Sept. 11, 2012, in Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS). Attorney General Schuette stated, "Utility customers should be given a meaningful choice of whether to have smart meters installed and operated on their property. An 'opt-out' program that requires those customers who opt out to pay an unwarranted economic penalty for doing so does not afford customers such a meaningful choice."

His suggestion is that rather than penalize consumers “that a financial incentive be provided for those who do switch to smart meters”.

I agree with the Attorney General statement and hope the battle to protect citizen rights continues.

9/11 Ceremony

On Sept. 11, 2012, the Legislature gathered in somber reflection and remembrance of the tragic loss of life that occurred this day 11 years ago. We also expressed our immense gratitude to all those who selflessly and bravely responded to assist the victims and their families. I was honored to have special guests with me in the House chambers for this moving observance; Ron Lagocki, of Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and Dave Caldwell, a former Harrison Township firefighter and a member of CERT. They represent a local group of volunteers who assist our first responders in times that stress their resources.

I also had the solemn duty to make distinctive mention of one of our local heroes.  Army Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, of Harrison Township, who died May 23, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan honorably serving our country. 
There are no words that properly express my gratitude for the sacrifices these brave young men and women have made and continue to make in the fight against terror and the protection of the freedoms we cherish.
 
“Police Officer’s and Firefighter’s Survivor Tuition Act”

Currently, I am working on a piece of legislation that will modify the “Police officer and firefighter survivor tuition act.” The act provides for a tuition grant program at Michigan institutions of higher education for children and surviving spouses of Michigan police officers and firefighters killed whereby, death is the direct and proximate result of a traumatic injury incurred in the line of duty.  Pending introduction, the bill changes the department that administers the program from the Michigan State Police Department to the Michigan Treasury Department. 

This is a codification of current practice and makes sense. Other state scholarship programs are administered through the Department of Treasury as they are better equipped to administer such a program. 

A second, substantive change is that instead of being classified as a “tuition waiver” program, the Police Officer and Firefighter Survivor Tuition Act will be classified as a “tuition grant” program. This change more accurately reflects the nature of the program being that tuition is not technically waived but rather paid by the state on behalf of the individual. 

St. Clair Shores Green Fair and the St. Hubert’s Annual Festival

On Aug. 18, St. Clair Shores held its annualat . As a strong supporter of water quality and environmental issues as a whole, this fair is something that I always enjoy.

It was exciting to see so much enthusiasm for the environment. Hopefully, the momentum will continue as we look to assist our neighbors in being more “green” themselves. At the fair, we passed out recycling coloring books for the kids and had fliers for the Water Quality Town Hall on Sept. 5.

On Sept. 7-9, St. Hubert’s hosted its 27th Annual Fall Festival in Harrison Township. What a great success. The number of volunteers that come out to support the event is amazing.  I look forward to taking part in the festivities in the years to come.

District Office Hours

Monday, Sept. 17, 2012
8-9 am at Big Apple Bagel in Harrison Township
6-7 pm at in St. Clair Shores

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