Bills to Watch: Water Pollution Credits, CAFO Permit Fees, Board Vacancies


Washington Island Observer legal notices

Rep. Joel Kitchens is introducing this bill to allow the Washington Island Observer to be eligible to receive compensation for the publishing of legal notices. Local governments are legally required to publish certain notices in newspapers, but the Washington Island Observer does not meet the criteria to be an eligible newspaper because it reduces the number of its publications in the winter. “Washington Island still has close to 350 full-time households, and nearly 300 of them – or 86 percent – are Observer subscribers,” Kitchens wrote in a memo circulating with the bill. The bill is circulating for co-sponsorship until March 4.


Water pollution credits

Rep. Joel Kitchens, Sen. Rob Cowles and Sen. Jerry Petrowski are introducing this bill that creates a marketplace for credits that wastewater-permit holders could purchase to increase their pollutant discharges. The credits are produced when nonpoint sources – typically farms – employ practices to improve water quality. Wastewater facilities and other firms that serve as point sources of pollution can then purchase those credits through a third-party central clearinghouse instead of reducing their own levels of pollution. The program is intended to provide a revenue stream for farmers and improve water quality in a time of low commodity prices while giving communities an option when faced with multi-million-dollar wastewater treatment plant improvements. The bill is circulating for co-sponsorship until March 8.


Keeping CAFO permit fees in segregated fund

A bill authored by Sen. Rob Cowles would require that the entire $245 fee for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) be deposited in a segregated fund supporting environmental-quality functions and management of state water resources, including administration of the CAFO permit program. Currently, only $95 of each permit is placed in the segregated fund, and the rest goes into the state’s general fund. The Department of Natural Resources estimates this will increase the program’s funding by $76,250.


Filling vacancies on city councils and village boards

This bill attempts to simplify the process for cities and villages to fill vacancies on their governing bodies by specifying the date upon which a vacancy can be filled in a subsequent election. The bill also clarifies that a vacancy in an elective office in a city and village may be filled by appointing a successor to serve for the rest of the unexpired term or until a special election is held, or the office may remain vacant until an election is held. The bill is circulating for co-sponsorship until March 5.