Monday, November 19, 2012

From Michigan LCV: A Lame Idea for Lame Duck

By Ryan Werder, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Political Director
Posted Nov. 19, 2012, on the Michigan LCV's "Political Week in Review"

We successfully targeted Rep. Matt Huuki (R - Atlantic Mine) for defeat this election because of his history of supporting anti-conservation legislation.

Two days after he was defeated, Huuki underscored our point by introducing a mining tax package that fails to compensate his district and the state for the natural resources that are extracted -- and the risk of sulfuric acid leakage that comes with it.

Huuki Gift-wraps severance tax package for sulfide mining companies

On the first day of the lame duck session, outgoing Representative Matt Huuki (R - Atlantic Mine) introduced a mining severance tax package that could end up being far more helpful to out-of-state mining companies than to Michigan.

The package, composed of House Bills 6007-6012, would replace the traditional method of valuing and taxing a nonferrous metallic mine (like sulfide mines) with a 2.75 percent severance tax. This is simply too low. The hazards of sulfide mining are immense and well documented. Those pictures of yellowish-orange rivers? That is the same sulfide mining that was recently approved by the DEQ to be constructed within 200 ft. of Lake Superior.

Not only is this under-valuing of remarkable Northern Michigan land selling ourselves short, the revenue collected from the proposed "severance tax" of 2.75 percent would not properly benefit the local communities who will feel the brunt of this invasive mining technique. Of the funds collected, 60 percent would go to local units of government and 40 percent would go into a rural development fund. Furthermore, it creates exemptions for transportation and environmental compliance costs.... Click here to read more.

Inside the Election

Starting this week, I'll take you inside our electoral work to give you a glimpse of how we replaced  anti-conservation incumbents with environmental champions. As we typically say here at Michigan LCV, for Michigan to have legislators who value our natural resources, we have to elect them first. We’ll begin with a race in Northern Michigan -- particularly fitting considering the race involved the re-election of the aforementioned Rep. Huuki. I’m sure it’s no surprise given his anti-conservation lame duck agenda, but we endorsed his challenger, Scott Dianda.

Our strategy for Michigan LCV endorsements is to make limited endorsements, and back them up with significant resources. This cycle, the process started off with a questionnaire that we sent to candidates early in the year. Scott Dianda's response to the questionnaire showed that he was the kind of conservation leader we wanted to see in the legislature.

Additionally, Huuki's dismal record on conservation issues made this seat one that could greatly benefit from a change in representation. Huuki's record included sponsorship of HB 4746, which made it almost impossible for local townships to zone out natural resource mining -- like sulfide mining -- unless they could prove that "very serious consequences" would result.

We officially endorsed Scott Dianda for the general election in early October, 2012, and began an independent expenditure campaign through our Conservation Voters of Michigan PAC. We sent four rounds of high-quality mail pieces to 10,000 specifically-targeted voters in the 110th District in the western Upper Peninsula. The mailers highlighted Matt Huuki's lowlights as a legislator, including his votes to weaken environmental protections. In the last weeks before Election Day, we stepped up our efforts with radio ads emphasizing the same message.

When the final votes were counted, Scott Dianda had defeated Matt Huuki by a margin just over a thousand votes. Scott Dianda ran a great campaign in his own right, and we certainly don't take sole credit for his victory. Our efforts, though, helped put Dianda over the top and make sure that the western Upper Peninsula is represented by someone who shares the conservation values of its residents in the Michigan House of Representatives.

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