Local conservation district boards have been protecting Michigan’s natural resources and farmlands through grassroots programs and professional support for 80 years and legislation introduced by Rep. Peter Pettalia is aimed to keep it that way.
The House last week approved House Bill 4132, which remedies a rare technical glitch discovered in Midland County when the local board experienced a simultaneous loss of multiple directors and didn’t have three of five members for a quorum to conduct business. Under the bill, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development would have the authority to make the necessary emergency appointments to reach the quorum number.
“This is one of those technicalities that seem to defy common sense, but rules are rules so we need to have a solution to this problem that no one saw coming all this time,” said Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. “The services and information provided by local conservation district programs that are part of Michigan’s outdoor and agricultural legacy are too valuable to be put at risk.”
In the current law, vacancies are filled by an appointment from the remaining board members until the next annual meeting election. In the Midland Conservation District situation, without being able to legally act to appoint new members the board fell into receivership and the state department became responsible for all its assets and obligations.
The bill also clarifies board election guidelines, per diem compensation and eliminates conservation district directors’ ability to request legal services from the state attorney general.
HB 4132 now goes to the Senate for consideration.