Bills to make state departments more accountable and work on common-sense solutions introduced

LANSING-Mich.—Sen. Tom Casperson announced Thursday that bills to make sure state departments do not unfairly push matters into court and to hold departments accountable if legal action is pursued and the department loses were introduced in the Michigan Senate.

Senate Bills 189 and 190 would make most state departments, including the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Natural Resources, responsible for paying all court costs of a resident or business that prevails in court against a department.

“Too often we see state bureaucrats failing to truly work in good faith with citizens and businesses on issues such as permits and tax matters, and instead they simply challenge people to take the department to court if they disagree with the department’s opinion,” said Casperson, R-Escanaba.”

“When departments set ultimatums and leave court action as the only avenue to help with requests from Michigan residents, which often concerns the use of their personal property or an inadvertent mistake that was made, the citizen is currently responsible for paying what could be a significant amount of money to defend their private property rights or correct an inconsequential or unintentional mistake.”

Sen. Dave Robertson joined Casperson as sponsor of the legislation.

“I am for great efficiency in the state departments being responsible for the issuance of permits involving private property owners,” said Robertson, R-Grand Blanc. “They are taxpayers and land owners, and we owe them effective delivery of services. What I am not for, and what I loathe, are the state departments using courts and the legal system in an unnecessary or frivolous fashion. This legislation should serve as an effective deterrent to this practice.”

Casperson said that many constituents have raised concerns that they do not have what seems to be the same limitless resources available to them that state departments have, so they often drop the issue they are trying to fix or just comply with the department—even if the department is wrong—because it is easier than fighting the department in court.

“As we work on this legislation, I look forward to ensuring that state departments face some consequences when they fail to work with people and instead push matters into court,” Casperson said. “These bills hopefully will cause them to think twice and really work hand-in-hand through issues with Michigan residents and small businesses in a more professional, expeditious manner.”

SBs 189 and 190 have been referred to the Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee.