Lansing — An effort to stop state agencies from adopting without explanation any rules stricter than federal benchmarks will head to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk, seven years after he vetoed similar legislation. 

The House on Tuesday approved the bill in a 57-51 vote. The legislation would require state government agencies to present evidence of a "clear and convincing" need when adopting any rule stricter than federal standards.

The legislation would not be retroactive and so would not affect the lead and copper rules Snyder put in place in the wake of the Flint lead-contaminated water crisis, said Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona.

Snyder’s lead rules are considered the strictest in the nation and would drop the “action level” for lead from the federal limit of 15 parts per billion to 12 ppb in 2025.  

“This allows directors to offer evidence as to why we need the rules in place so this would not impact that in a negative fashion,” Cole said last week. “It actually would allow transparency for how those were put in place.”

The proposed legislation was opposed by Democratic lawmakers who said the bill essentially cedes local control to the federal government and curbs the powers of the incoming Democratic administration of Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer.

"The incoming governor's hands would be tied," said Democratic Rep. Winnie Brinks of Grand Rapids, who has tried for more than a year to lower Michigan's per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances threshold from the federal level of 70 parts per trillion to 5 ppt.

"As the self-proclaimed party of local control, I struggle to understand how my colleagues across the aisle” support this legislation, Brinks said.

To make rules stricter than federal statute, agency directors must produce “a statement of the specific facts that establish the clear and convincing need” to adopt the rule and present that explanation to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Cole said.

Administrative rule-making largely bypasses the Legislature, Cole said. “I’m looking for clarification on how they come about and why they come about, and this legislation gives us that avenue to see that,” he said.

The legislation will help “to stabilize the regulatory process” and is “significantly different” from the legislation vetoed by Snyder in 2011, he said.

Snyder will review the legislation, his spokesman Ari Adler said, “taking into account whether the Legislature has addressed the concerns that led to the first veto, in addition to anything that may have arisen since then.”

His first veto of an entire bill as governor, Snyder nixed the proposal seven years ago because Michigan’s records showed instances in which Michigan’s residents and businesses had “petitioned the administration to promulgate regulations that go beyond existing federal standards.”

In a 2011 letter to legislators, Snyder said he supported the effort to rid the state of cumbersome regulations but was concerned the bill would “inhibit the state’s ability to work with businesses and citizens to ensure that our regulatory structure fits Michigan’s unique profile.”

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters called the legislation one of many “irresponsible and dangerous” plans cruising through the lame duck session, noting the bill could affect future PFAS drinking water standards.

The bill would handcuff state agencies, said Lisa Wozniak,  executive director of Michigan LCV.  

“Worse yet, it would put the health of our communities in the hands of an EPA that is dead-set on dismantling standards and rules that protect our air, land and water,” Wozniak added, referring to the Trump administration.

Cole denied that it would inhibit the agencies, but allows for greater transparency in the rule-making process.

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