Summer 2018
Registration open for upcoming meeting of Great Lakes Legislative Caucus; some travel scholarships available for Sept. 21-22 event in Erie, Pa.
Great Lakes Legislative Caucus members are encouraged to register now for the group's upcoming Annual Meeting — the only gathering of its kind for state and provincial legislators from the region. Registration can be completed via The Council of State Governments' membership and registration website. Log into your CSG account (or, for first-time users, set up a new one) and then go to the events page.

Registration is free for GLLC members and other government attendees. A limited number of travel scholarships are available to GLLC members. Please contact Lisa Janairo if you have questions about the meeting or about registration.

This year's GLLC Annual Meeting will include a site visit to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle; an opening night reception; and policy sessions on federal Great Lakes-related activities; safe drinking water laws in the region; climate change and its potential impact on coastal communities; and policy barriers affecting the implementation of green infrastructure projects.
State legislative update : Ohio legislators OK new plan for cleaning up Lake Erie; Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes bill on ballast water; and more
The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus monitors numerous state and provincial bills related to water policy and protection via its state legislative tracker. Here are some notable recent developments:

  • Ohio legislators have unanimously approved a measure that invests $36 million in projects that aim to control phosphorus runoff from agricultural operations and prevent harmful algal blooms in the western Lake Erie basin. SB 299, also known as the Clean Lake 2020 Plan, is based on the findings of scientific experts on how to best protect and restore Lake Erie. Great Lakes Legislative Caucus members were key proponents of this bill, including Rep. Steve Arndt and Rep. John Patterson. This CSG Midwest article on the legislation details some of the initiatives that will be funded under SB 299 — for example, more soil testing on agricultural land, a greater use of filter strips and soil-application technologies, and the installation of more drainage management systems.
  • Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation in June that would have eliminated the state's existing rules on ballast water discharges and issued permits for vessels that demonstrate compliance with federal regulations. In his message vetoing HB 5095, Snyder focused on concerns about language potentially allowing for the issuance of permits to vessels that employ "alternative management systems" not fully vetted by the U.S. Coast Guard or state Department of Environmental Quality. "There can be no ambiguity when it comes to the safety of our Great Lakes," he said. At the federal level, meanwhile, the U.S. Senate (led by senators from the Great Lakes region) rejected a proposal that the Alliance for the Great Lakes says would weaken "rules that protect the Great Lakes from invasive species." One part of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (included in S. 1129) would preempt states from setting their own rules on ballast water discharges.
  • Several other bills of interest have either been passed or introduced in Michigan. The recently enacted HB 5638 will change how the state Department of Environmental Quality reviews proposed water withdrawals, reports. A four-bill legislative package introduced in June focuses on protecting the Straits of Mackinac — and all of the Great Lakes — from oil spills by strengthening pipeline safety standards. The bills' sponsors include two Great Lakes Legislative Caucus members: Reps. Triston Cole and Lee Chatfield. Also last month, another caucus member, Michigan Rep. Winnie Brinks, introduced HB 6099, which would require polluters to provide an alternative supply of safe drinking water to homes whose drinking water has been contaminated.
  • Legislation sent to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner calls for a study of contaminants of emerging concern (as identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), their presence in state wastewater treatment plants, and steps to address any public health or environmental concerns. Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel, a GLLC member, is the lead sponsor of HB 5741.
  • Under a bill passed by the New York Senate (SB 3292), the state would invest in upgrades to the state's aging water and sewer infrastructure. The Safe Water Infrastructure Program would offer assistance to local governments — at funding levels equal to what the state currently provides through an existing program for local street and highway improvements.
Federal legislative update : Farm bill, infrastructure legislation among measures with major implications for the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus also tracks relevant federal legislation. Here are some of the measures to watch in the weeks ahead.

  • The U.S. Senate's version of a new farm bill has been dubbed "a conservation powerhouse" by the Environmental Defense Fund. Passed with bipartisan support in June, H.R. 2 includes new money for projects that measure soil health and its impact on water quality, and boosts funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Major differences exist between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill.
  • Under a bill passed by a Senate committee in May (S. 2800), funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would increase from the current level of $300 million to $330 million in FY 2019, $360 million in FY 2020, and $390 million in FY 2021. This current version of the Senate's America's Water Infrastructure Act also would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete a final "Brandon Road" feasibility study by February of next year. This project is examining new methods for controlling the movement of aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins via the Chicago Area Waterway System. Other provisions in S. 2800 call for a coastal resiliency study and more funding for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
  • The Water Resources and Development Act, as passed by the U.S. House in June, sets a February 2019 deadline for the Brandon Road study and includes language on the "sense of Congress" that the construction of a new lock at the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., "is vital to our national economy, national security, and national need for critical infrastructure." A new study by the Army Corps pegs the cost of this project at $922 million, with annual benefits of $77.4 million.
  • The U.S. Senate's version of H.R. 5895 (a bill on energy and water appropriations) includes language on finalizing the Brandon Road study and prohibiting the Army Corps from dumping toxic material dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel into Lake Erie without approval from the state of Ohio.
Michigan's new Lead and Copper Rule includes requirement to begin replacing lead service lines starting in 2021
Michigan now has the strictest Lead and Copper Rule in the nation. The changes include reducing lead action levels from 15 parts per billion to 12 ppb (starting in 2025), requiring all public water systems to replace lead service lines (starting in 2021), establishing a statewide water system advisory council, and mandating that two water samples be collected at sites served by lead service lines.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the changes were needed because the federal Lead and Copper Rule "simply does not do enough to protect public health."
Summary of recent and upcoming caucus activities: Setting a strategic plan, starting a new policy institute, securing a Joyce Foundation grant, and planning to elect new leadership team
GLLC logo
  • Strategic planning — A meeting of caucus leaders in late April resulted in the GLLC’s first strategic plan, which will cover 2018 to 2022. In addition, the Executive Committee (made up of state and provincial legislators from across the region) developed and, in July, approved a policy agenda that will go before GLLC members at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Erie, Pa. Subcommittees of the Executive Committee, meanwhile, are developing a communications plan and a financial stability plan for the next five years. Members will hear reports on the strategic planning process at the Annual Meeting as well as on Dec. 7 during the caucus’s final web meeting of the year. That meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Central Time/10 a.m. Eastern Time.
  • Upcoming policy institute — A subcommittee of Executive Committee members has been planning the caucus’s new Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy Institute, which will take place in Erie, Pa., on September 20-21 prior to the GLLC Annual Meeting. The focus of this year’s pilot institute is preventing lead and other contaminants in drinking water through enhanced monitoring and testing, as well as improvements to infrastructure. The intended outcomes of the institute will be a position statement along with an action plan for the GLLC to implement in 2019-2020 as part of its evolving mission to serve as a forum for coordinated regional action on issues related to the Great Lakes and water quality. Twenty GLLC members will be invited to participate in the pilot policy institute. Invitations will be going out via email this week.
  • Electing a new leadership team — The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus is governed by an Executive Committee of legislators from each of the basin's 10 jurisdictions (eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces). Michigan Sen. Darwin Booher is the current GLLC chair; the position of vice chair is vacant. The GLLC will elect a new leadership team this year on Sept. 22 during the closing business session of the Annual Meeting in Erie. The nominating period will be open through July 20. Both officer positions are open, as are the seats for all 10 elected members of the Executive Committee. Legislators who have been members of the caucus for at least one year may nominate themselves or their colleagues to be a candidate. All GLLC members are eligible to serve on the Executive Committee; only members with prior experience on the Executive Committee can be candidates for GLLC chair or vice chair. Nominations should be submitted here. The Nominating Committee will recommend a slate of candidates to the Executive Committee for election. GLLC members will receive the slate on Aug. 21. Sen. Darwin Booher serves as chair of the Nominating Committee, with Wisconsin Sen. Janet Bewley, Ohio Rep. John Patterson, Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest and Minnesota Sen. David Senjem serving as members.
  • Securing a Joyce Foundation grant — Earlier this year, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation awarded the Midwestern Office of The Council of State Governments a new two-year grant to help expand the work of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus to address issues related to drinking water in the region. The GLLC and CSG Midwest greatly appreciate the foundation's support. Later this year, the caucus will pursue funding from other foundations to help establish the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy Institutes as a biennial core activity for the GLLC. Other measures to raise revenues will be determined by the financial stability plan being developed by GLLC leaders.
  • GLLC membership — Currently, about 230 state and provincial legislators are members of the caucus. Membership is free and open to any lawmaker representing the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces in the Great Lakes region. Membership services include the GLLC Annual Meeting, in-person and web-based policy training opportunities, advocacy efforts on behalf of the Great Lakes, and state and federal legislative trackers (see above). Any legislator from the Great Lakes states and provinces is eligible to become a member. Here is the form to become a member
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