Tag Archives: michigan senate

Michigan Legislature honors MSU Extension

Thursday marked the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson’s signing of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service (and with it, the Michigan Cooperative Extension Service, now known as Michigan State University Extension). U.S. Sen. Hoke Smith of Georgia and U.S. Rep. A. F. Lever of South Carolina authored the Smith-Lever Act to expand the “vocational, agricultural and home demonstration programs in rural America” by bringing the research-based knowledge of the land-grant universities to people where they live and work.

Our Michigan Legislature is expected to adopt two resolutions that honor MSU Extension. Yesterday, May 8, the Michigan Senate adopted Senate Resolution 143. It recognizes the significance of the Smith-Lever Act to the establishment of Cooperative Extension nationwide and encourages people to observe and celebrate the centennial with a focus on launching an innovative and sustainable future for Cooperative Extension. Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker was the lead sponsor of the resolution in the Michigan Senate, and was joined by co-sponsors Darwin Booher, Jack Brandenburg, Michael Green, Goeffrey Hanson, Michael Kowall, John Pappageorge and John Proos.

Rep. Roger Victory is the lead sponsor on a similar resolution in the House of Representatives, and the House members are expected to vote on the resolution next week. I’m grateful for the support we receive from our Legislature as well as from Michigan residents.

We’ve spent 100 years delivering programs to help people improve their lives, and you as educators, specialists, support staff, volunteers – whatever your contribution ‒ have been a part of that history. We will continue to extend university-based research and knowledge to Michigan residents. You can be proud of our past, our present and the future that MSU Extension will create.

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M4-HYCC testifies before Senate committee

We talk often about how our Michigan State UniversityExtension4-H Youth Development Program creates the leaders of tomorrow. But often, 4-H’ers don’t wait till they’re all grown up to use those leadership skills to make a difference. That was obvious when a group of 19 members of the Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council (M4-HYCC) gave a presentation before the Michigan Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes on April 24.

The council is a leadership and confidence-building opportunity for teens who get a chance to explore solutions to environmental issues and provide a voice in state government public policy-making. Each year, members of M4-HYCC select and research a current environmental issue that affects the entire state. They spend about three months researching, which includes interviewing people, listening to presentations, and studying books and articles on the issue. The research concludes with a presentation before the state Senate.

Members of the M4-HYCC , a Michigan Senate Committee and a staff member pose for a photo after the council testified before the committee April 24, 2014, in Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson

Members of the Michigan 4-H Youth Conservation Council and the Michigan Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes as well as a staff member pose for a photo after the council testified before the committee on improving the regulations related to home heating oil storage tanks April 24, 2014, in Lansing, Mich. Photo credit: Jamie Wilson

This year, the group’s research and presentation focused on home heating oil tanks. The council recommended expanding the regulations of PA 207 to include a broader jurisdiction over the tanks. It suggested that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) be given the ability to ticket inadequate home heating oil tanks and supporting structures. It also suggested that education and training in proper inspection and fuel tank maintenance for fuel distributors be enhanced.

The senators expressed appreciation for all the hard work the 4-H’ers put into the project. They were impressed and spent time talking individually with them after the hearing ended.

“I thought the senators seemed surprised that home heating oil tanks in Michigan are largely unregulated,” said Extension educator Darren Bagley who coordinates the program.

The teen council members have been responsible for influencing the legislature in the past. In 2008, their testimony helped pass Senate Bill 152 and 362, which reduces the amounts of phosphorus permitted in dishwasher and laundry detergents. In 2003, their recommendations led to an introduction of a bill that directed the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to include special information about marine fuel spills in its boating safety course. Members also testified for a bill introduced in 2000 that promoted the development of the Michigan heritage water trail program. The bill was passed in 2002.

4-H member Dakota Hewlett, an MSU freshman who has been with the council since he was 13, provided leadership. Mallory Ramelis from Mackinac County took leadership for the presentation, and Samantha Ellison from Tuscola County took leadership for the paper.

Extension educator Insa Raymond acted as advisor, and Sam Owens (Midland County) and Paula Ramelis (Mackinac County) served as volunteer advisors.

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Our state appropriation for FY 2013 is (nearly) set

I’m still adjusting to the notion of writing articles with this headline in June rather than in September or October. For the second year in a row, the Michigan Legislature has completed the appropriations process for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2012, by the first week of June. What a welcome change this has been!

 And unlike last year’s budget, in which we received a 15-percent reduction in funding, this time we’re targeted to receive a 3-percent budget increase in state funding. The size of the increase is welcome, but even more important is that it’s an INCREASE and not a DECREASE. It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to say that.

 The Conference Committee for the Omnibus Education Budget completed negotiations on the higher education portion of the budget last Thursday evening (May 31), and the House of Representatives quickly approved the compromise on June 1. The Michigan Senate provided their approval on Tuesday morning, June 5. So now all that remains is for the governor to sign the legislation, and then we will know for certain that our funding for next year will grow by 3 percent. There are some requirements in the legislation that call for us to report on outputs and impacts of our programs, which our new reporting system should help us to fulfill. This is right in line with our goal of providing greater accountability through our redesign process. And the increase is primarily targeted at development of a strategic initiative on growing food and agriculture sectors in the state’s economy, something that cuts across all four of our program institutes.

 As is always the case with a process like this, many people deserve credit and thanks for their roles in achieving this outcome. Within Michigan State University, many of you and other colleagues have helped to tell our story effectively to legislators. I’d like to highlight the role of Dr. Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, for his leadership in working with the MSU Governmental Affairs office and with legislative leaders and staff to address the concerns and questions that were raised throughout the process and to keep us all focused on the outcome we achieved. Given that we began the process with an Executive Budget proposal that had no increase for MSU Extension and AgBioResearch, coming out with a 3-percent increase is an outstanding achievement. Mike was our coach and captain in the campaign that produced this outcome. MSU vice president for governmental affairs Mark Burnham and his colleagues David Bertram and Monique Field also provided great assistance and guidance.

 Many legislators also deserve credit for their roles in this process. We especially benefited from Senators Tonya Schuitmaker, Howard Walker, Darwin Booher, Roger Kahn and John Moolenaar, and Representatives Chuck Moss, Al Pscholka and Amanda Price. They and other legislators deserve thanks and appreciation from our stakeholders who spoke out in support of our programs.

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Behind-the-scenes work critical to MSUE’s future

March is known for Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Week, changing weather, first day of spring, paczki, spring break, mud and wrapping up the winter meeting schedule. But in the world of Bruce Haas, planning and reporting specialist, March is federal report month. Each year, on the last day of March (today), Bruce, together with Val Osowski, MSU AgBioResearch communications manager, submits the joint accomplishment report for Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), our federal partner, indicating the impact of our $8 million federal investment in Smith-Lever funds and $5.5 million in Hatch funds. And, each year, behind the scenes, Bruce reads through the Extension Information System (EIS) reports, gathers impact information related to the reporting categories, and works with the business office to document salaries and programs on federal dollars to bring the MSUE content to the report.

In addition, March is an important month for me in meeting with legislators and testifying at Michigan House and Senate hearings that often demand 24-hour response reports related to specific legislative requests. Bruce frequently comes up with details I didn’t realize we had to help address those requests. For the most part, his work goes unseen and unheralded – yet it is critical to helping us live up to our goal of being more accountable to decision makers at all levels.

 This spring, in addition to preparing the federal reports and helping to address state requests for details, Bruce has been leading our efforts to move into a new online system, the Michigan Planning and Reporting System (MI PRS). Over the last year, Bruce has worked with Deb Mault, ANR Technology Services information technologist, and the team of folks in the New England Planning and Reporting Consortium from whom we purchased the software to create a system that works for Michigan. Over the past two months, Bruce has traveled around the state and conducted 19 hands-on training sessions for 283 participants. No one looks forward to April Fool’s day more than Bruce! Please join me in thanking Bruce for his valuable contributions, transparent to many in the organization, yet critical to ensuring our future!

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