Logging bill rolls state’s taxpayers

A single word in the English language does not exist to describe the act of the term-limited state senator representing the Upper Peninsula to propose legislation to allow his family’s logging trucks to tear up county gravel roads unrestricted by reasonable regulation.

It is shameless audacity. It is unbelievable gall. It is incredible nerve. It is a stunning betrayal to taxpayers.

However, there is a single Yiddish word that pretty much sums up Sen. Tom Casperson’s Senate Bill 396:

Hutzpah.

In a blistering resolution passed last week, the Baraga County Board called Casperson’s legislation “foolhardiness that defies common sense,” adding such a law “allowing such nonsense is poor public policy.”

Second that motion, and then some. But as they say those home shopping advertising programs, “Wait! There’s more!”

Casperson’s bill exempts “forestry vehicles” (read: logging trucks) from spring weight restrictions on gravel roads if operators obtain a paltry bond of $2,000 per mile.

That bond amount would pay to cover less than a tenth of a mile to repair taxpayer-funded roads.

What’s the punch line? This is a joke, right?

According to Casperson’s explanation, he would be willing to alter the bill’s language. So it is just a cynical starting position in negotiating just how much the logging truck industry represented by Casperson can get from Michigan taxpayers in riding roughshod on soft spring roads.

Once the media reported this travesty, the downplaying and backpedaling commenced. Backed by Casperson’s support in television ads, state Senate candidate Ed McBroom’s initial comment was he believes Casperson’s experience in the industry and the Upper Peninsula means he must have a solid reason to sponsor such legislation.

At a campaign event in Baraga on Wednesday, however, McBroom walked back those initial comments, saying the issue has “grown into a two-headed monster.” He blamed the bill’s existence on counties downstate (of course) using the current law to overly restrict the logging industry.

McBroom said Casperson’s bill has no chance of passing in its current form, and he wouldn’t support it if elected.

Despite attempts to get his position for the record, Democratic candidate Scott Dianda has been missing in action on the issue.

The whole episode shows one of the drawbacks of term limits: Politicians leaving office are free to bestow political favors and legislative gifts to their pet special interests, because they are free of working for the people.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial

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