LANSING – State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Township, chairman of the Michigan House Energy Policy Committee introduced a bill earlier this month that would prevent conflicts of interest for local officials related to potential wind farm developments.
Glenn announced the legislation on Tuesday, Dec. 12 in a press release. House Bill 4968 would prohibit members of local government planning commissions from voting on issues on which they or their families have direct financial interest. The bill includes strong provisions to make sure local officials can’t approve wind energy projects if those officials would personally profit because they have already signed a wind-lease contract on their own private property, the release states.
Failure to disqualify themselves from such votes would constitute grounds for removal from office and could result in criminal charges and fines under the bill.
“Public officials should act in the public’s best interest – not their own personal financial interests,” Glenn said in testimony before the Energy Policy Committee recently. “Government officials shouldn’t be voting on wind farm developments if they stand to personally profit from approval of the projects.”
Glenn said his bill would strengthen current law regarding conflicts of interest at the local government level.
“Existing law has not sufficiently addressed this issue,” Glenn said in the press release. “We need legislation with teeth. We cannot have situations where members of a government board are allowed to vote on a project that would pay them $1,000 or more a month if the project is approved.”
Glenn added that the need for the bill has been heightened because of Michigan’s mandate that 15 percent of all energy in Michigan must come from renewable sources such as windmills.
To ensure that local planning commissions aren’t prevented from continuing their work on proposed wind projects if multiple members already hold wind lease contracts, the legislation would allow local governments to appoint as many temporary planning commission members as required to constitute a quorum. That portion of the bill came at the request of officials from Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township, Glenn said.
Glenn represents District 98, which includes portions of Bay and Midland counties. He has announced his candidacy for state senator in Michigan’s 31st District, which includes Lapeer, Tuscola and Bay counties. He is vying to replace current Senator Mike Green in the 2018 election. Green is term-limited and will vacate his senate seat on Jan. 1, 2019.
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