Potvin pushes weighmaster reforms

LANSING — At least in part spurred by a continuing debate in Osceola County, State Rep. Phil Potvin (112 District, R-Cadillac) is working toward clarifying the definition of weighmaster, and trying to improve legislation covering the ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘where’ of a weighmaster’s duties.

In July and August of 2011, an argument raged in Osceola County over what a Road Commission appointed weighmaster could and couldn’t do during the performance of his duties.

Also in question was the even more basic question of who could appoint, and who could be a weighmaster in Osceola County.

The discussion turned into occasionally heated debate.

Previous to the Road Commission’s appointing of a weighmaster at that time, the county weighmaster had been a certified police officer working under command of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department — with all the legal rights and duties of a any police officer.

Then the Osceola County Road Commission decided to exercise more control over the position and appointed a weighmaster on its own — a worker with the Road Commission, not a certified or trained police officer.

Questions  were raised, however, both in law enforcement quarters and in the public square, over whether such an appointed weighmaster could actually stop vehicles and issue violations if needed — without training or proper certification.

Because of conflicting opinions, the situation arose in which tickets were being issued for weight violations, but were not being fully followed up on or  enforced in the courts.

There were conflicting opinions as to legal duties, capacities, and responsibilities.

Clarification was sought from Attorney General Bill Schutte.

A letter was sent from the Attorney General’s office to Rep. Potvin and communicated to the county commissioners from his office.

This letter was not a legal opinion by the AG, but rather a clarification — an informal opinion.

The debate continued, with Commissioner Tammy Stoner even suggesting the Board of Commissioners and local courts needed to apologize to members of the  Road Commission for the embarrassment brought upon them in this matter.

Nothing really changed.

And so ... Potvin decided the issue needed to be cleared up legislatively through House Bill 5487 — not only for Osceola County, but for the entire state.

This bill will clearly define who can be a weighmaster and notes specifically “An authorized agent of a county road commission is not required to be certified as a police officer under the commission on Law Enforcement Standards Act.”

The bill also notes limitation on the weighmaster.

He or she cannot carry a firearm unless they are “certified as a a police officer under the commission on law enforcement standards.

The bill also notes: “A duly authorized agent of a county road commission shall be granted access to the Law Enforcement Information Network for purposes of enforcement ...”

Access to LEIN was one of the bones of contention between the Road Commission and local law enforcement agencies.

Potvin’s bill may not please everyone, but it should clear up any disputes.

“What we needed was a better definition of who could do what, and where,” said the congressman.

“It was getting to a point at which the courts and the prosecutor were not willing to deal with cases coming before them.

“The interpretation of responsibilities was foggy — at best.”

Potvin reported his bill has been sent to committee and was moving forward through the legislative system.

“This really is pretty basic stuff,” he continued.

“At the end of the day, it empowers the Road Commission to do the job they need to be doing, while at the same time provides for a continuing need for cooperation between the weighmaster and other law enforcement agencies.

“Real simply put, this bill is being promoted because it is good for the community to have this mess straightened out correctly.”