Political Director Special Message

Tags: bipartisan, Bottle Bill, conservation, Pure Michigan

photo ryan werder mlcv political director

Yesterday was rough. The State House voted 91-19 to approve a bad amendment to the Michigan Bottle Bill that discourages the recycling of new “party in a pouch” alcoholic drinks that people (apparently) want to drink. If you haven’t seen them yet, keep an eye out along your favorite riverbank or lakeshore.

More than being a rough day yesterday, though, it was a reminder: Citizens who care about conservation in this state must take notice of the Assault on Pure Michigan that is happening so consistently in Lansing right now, and they must voice their objections.

If you told me we’d be losing a fight on the Bottle Bill even a year ago, I would have laughed. Me-from-one-year-ago would have said, “The Bottle Bill is the best bottle deposit legislation in the nation, it's wildly popular, was passed by the voters via ballot over 30 years ago, was spearheaded by a bipartisan (if not relatively conservative) hunter/angler group, and, above all else, requires a supermajority vote to change it - You’re crazy!,” me-from-one-year-ago would have said to me-from-today.

But me-from-one-year-ago would be wrong. That is exactly what happened and it happened in record time. The State constitution requires that bills take at least five days to proceed from introduction to passage in a chamber of the legislature. Pulling together 91 out of 110 votes took only those five days. It was as if defending the Bottle Bill was a strong poker hand equivalent to a straight flush that the environmental community was holding … and then the opposition dropped a royal flush – oh so casually – into the middle of the table. This is a fight that we never should have lost.

One other thing to note here: This was clearly not a party-line vote. In fact, the House Democrats second-highest ranking official, Kate Segal, was the co-sponsor of this bill and helped slam this through in record time. Given the conservation impact of this, she didn’t even attempt to win any concessions to counteract the littering effect it will have, a fact I know many in her caucus did not appreciate. Dozens of Democrats chose to ignore the implications of this bill and nearly every Republican did the same.

I want to give a special shout-out to two representatives, though: Representative  Frank Foster (R) and Representative Jeff Irwin (D).

Rep. Foster was the only Republican who voted “no” on this bill and he did it because his district is in the heart of Pure Michigan, up north, in beautiful Petoskey. He recognized what “party in a pouch” drinks would look like scattered across the banks of Little Traverse Bay or Walloon Lake.

Rep. Irwin led the charge against this bill from the inside and worked hard to educate his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as to what it actually meant and what both Republican and Democratic leadership was attempting to pull off in record time.

Both Representatives deserve kudos for bucking their parties and doing what was right for Michigan conservation. You can call Representative Foster and thank him at (517) 373-2629 or FrankFoster@house.mi.gov. You can call Representative Irwin at (517) 373-2577 or jeffirwin@house.mi.gov to thank him, too.

This fight is not over, though. We’re now moving to the Senate where we can collect our chips again and play another critical hand. The stakes are whether or not you will see “party in a pouch” liquor containers strewn across Michigan rivers and shorelines, because no one will have the incentive to recycle them as they would a can of Miller Lite or a bottle of Coke.

Ultimately, as Representatives Foster and Irwin showed us, we cannot just trust these questions to the Democrats or the Republicans. Ultimately, both are most concerned with retaining or regaining power. Our job at Michigan LCV – and your job as a Michigan conservationist – is to wield our own power. We must show them by way of education, accountability, and, ultimately, elections, that for them to hold their positions of power, they must first do right by us as conservationists.

If we can prove that, then that is real power … and that means we need youPlease click here to donate to our Conservation Voters of Michigan Political Action Committee, which will play a heavier role than ever in the 2012 elections to ensure a conservation majority in the Michigan Legislature. We’re already the 6th largest Super PAC in the state. Will you help take us to the next level?

If you can’t donate at this time, please volunteer with us. As I type, our team is making thousands of calls across the state on this very issue. With your help, we can amplify that message even louder. Click here to join our Conservation Action Team!

Thank you for your passion, your love of Pure Michigan, and your willingness to stand with us to defend it.

All the best,

Ryan Werder

Political Director

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