Lawmaker urges legal clarification in testimony before House panel
Building on his efforts to secure critical infrastructure, state Rep. John Damoose on Tuesday testified before the House Committee on Transportation in support of his plan to protect Michigan airports by clarifying a state law that restricts weapon possession in airport sterile areas.
The sterile area is the part of the airport past the security screening. Michigan law already prohibits possessing or carrying a firearm, explosive, knife, or other dangerous weapon within a commercial airport’s sterile area, but Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, is working to close a loophole noticed by county prosecutors. Damoose said updating state law to remove confusion would ensure airport weapon crimes can be prosecuted.
“Airport security helps protect aircraft, passengers, and crew to avert catastrophes,” Damoose said. “That’s why Michigan law prohibits taking dangerous weapons into an airport’s secure, sterile area, but because of a change at the federal level, our state law is now unclear. This confusion could interfere with prosecuting criminals who put safety at risk.
“By bringing the law up to date, my plan will protect our airports, which are truly critical infrastructure in our state. Legal clarity will ensure airport security.”
Current state law defines the sterile area based on an outdated federal rule; the statute references a part of the Code of Federal Regulations that no longer deals with airport sterile areas. Damoose’s House Bill 6123 updates the law to define sterile area based on current federal regulations.
Damoose introduced the committee to Prosecutor James Linderman from Emmet County, where Pellston Regional Airport is located. Linderman testified that a correct definition in law will ensure that citizens and law enforcement know exactly what is prohibited, and that prosecutors can press charges against violators based on the clear criminal law.
Securing Michigan transportation and infrastructure is a priority for Damoose. He is also the sponsor of House Bill 5315, which would increase penalties for illegal entry to major state tunnels and bridges, including the Mackinac Bridge. The bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this year with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it is currently under consideration by the Senate after earning unanimous approval from a Senate committee.
Rep. Damoose talks about his HB 5335, which is currently out of the House and pending in the Michigan Senate. HB 5335 would require local clerks to provide badges, which poll challengers would wear while at a polling place or counting board. Rep. Damoose says the legislation is part of a larger move toward transparency.
After advocating to protect efficient air travel for passengers from Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, state Rep. John Damoose today praised the planned restoration of direct, nonstop flights between local airports and Detroit.
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