ST. IGNACE, Mich. (WJMN) – On Tuesday, Mackinac Bridge Authority called on the Michigan Senate to take action on House Bill 5315 (Damoose, R-107) which was passed with overwhelming support in the Michigan House on February 16, 2022. The legislation – which was set for a vote by the full Senate last week but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute – would make it a felony to trespass on Michigan’s major bridges including the Mackinac Bridge.
The Mackinac Bridge Authority says that they pursued the legislation following incidents that endanger the safety of motorists and workers who need to investigate these incidents.
“It is time to stop playing games with this piece of legislation,” said State Rep. John Damoose. “The Mackinac Bridge is arguably the most critical piece of infrastructure in our state, and it is our duty as legislators to protect it. I call upon my colleagues in the Senate to pass House Bill 5315 immediately.”
The legislation would also apply to the Houghton-Hancock bridge, the Grand Haven Bascule Bridge, the new Gordie Howe International Bridge, the Ambassador Bridge, the Blue Water Bridge, the Zilwaukee Bridge, the International Bridge, the Charlevoix Memorial Drawbridge, the Windsor Tunnel and all other movable bridges.
“This legislation is imperative to maintaining safe driving conditions and send the message that these risky stunts will not be tolerated. Senate Republicans have the ability to move this legislation to the Governor’s desk but have inexplicably failed to do so,” said Shorty Gleason, Chair of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, and member of the Authority for 18 years. “With one session day left before they start campaigning, they still have an opportunity to get this legislation done.”
At the same time, the Senate is also considering legislation (Senate Bills 1078 and 1014, McBroom, R-38) expanding the types of motorized vehicles that can operate on the Mackinac Bridge to include farm implements that are currently only allowed on the “back” roads of Michigan. The Mackinac Bridge Authority is strongly opposed to SBs 1078 and 1014.
Farm implements vary greatly in purpose, size, width, weight and are currently prohibited from traveling on any “limited access” highway. SBs 1078 and 1014 would allow non-trailered farm equipment to drive on the Mackinac Bridge. The legislation was introduced in response to a farmer who wants to drive a manure-spreader across the Mackinac Bridge without using a trailer and following the permit process that everyone else follows. The Mackinac Bridge Authority has no evidence of the kind of demand that would warrant this serious change in law. Senate lawmakers are also considering linking the three bills together through a procedural move that would kill HB 5315 unless SBs 1078 and 1014 became law.
“The idea that Senate lawmakers might link the manure legislation to House Bill 5315 is shocking. Motorists in Michigan deserve to have the Senate pass legislation to stop trespassers from disrupting bridge crossings, and hold them accountable, without linking it to legislation for one Senator seeking a special-interest carve-out. No other industry would benefit from this counterproductive legislation,” said Bill Milliken, Jr., member of the Bridge Authority.
“The Mackinac Bridge Authority gave due consideration to SBs 1078 and 1014 and is always willing to work on common-sense legislation. However, these bills do not fit the definition of ‘common-sense’ and therefore we remain strongly opposed to this legislation,” said Tricia Kinley, member of the Bridge Authority.
“I have spent three decades working in the legislative process, and this is a classic example of how bad bills get passed, since they can’t stand on their own merit. We need Senate Republicans to remain focused on legislation to ensure the safety of motorists using our bridges; passing House Bill 5315 without linking it to bad legislation is a great way to do so,” concluded Gleason.