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Lawmakers consider forcing state agencies to pay court costs of people who sue

A photograph of the exterior of Michigan Capitol building
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Tomorrow,a state Senate committee takes up legislation that would require state agencies to pay the court costs of people who sue the state and win. 

State Sen.Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, says state agencies have an unfair advantage over people in disputes over taxes and permits.

“The weight of the government against the small guy, there seems to be an imbalance there,” says Casperson. “We’re trying to find a way to at least balance that out.”

Casperson accuses some departments of pushing cases into court in an effort to dissuade people from pursuing the issue. 

The Upper Peninsula lawmaker says people have trouble with three state agencies in particular.

“I would place the DNR, DEQ and probably Treasury as the three that have been the toughest to deal with,” says Casperson.

Casperson says forcing the state to pay court costs may put pressure on state workers to avoid potential lawsuits.

However, Gov. Snyder’s office is concerned about Casperson’s bills.

“(The Legislation) goes against long-standing provisions of American rule of law and has unintended consequences that could be incredibly costly to taxpayers and actually increase litigation,” reads a written statement for the governor’s office. 

The state Senate Elections and Government Reform committee is taking the unusual step of receiving video conference testimony as part of its review of the proposed legislation. The video conference will feature witnesses from Casperson’s district in the Upper Peninsula.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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