The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



STATE OF MICHIGAN

FRANK J. KELLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL


CONSTITUTIONAL LAW:

NATURAL RESOURCES,
DEPARTMENT OF:

Validity of section 803 of 1997 PA 12 under Const 1963, art 4, 24



Section 803 of 1997 PA 112, the Department of Natural Resources 1997-1998 fiscal year appropriations act, which requires the department to offer to sell specified state land, violates Const 1963, art 4, 24, which requires that a law not embrace more than one object which must be expressed in its title.


Opinion No. 6997

October 23, 1998


K. L. Cool, Director
Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 30028
Lansing, MI 48909


You have asked whether section 803 of 1997 PA 112, the Department of Natural Resources 1997-1998 fiscal year appropriations act, which requires the department to offer to sell specified state land, violates Const 1963, art 4, 24, which requires that a law not embrace more than one object which must be expressed in its title.

1997 PA 112 is the appropriations act for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the 1997-1998 fiscal year. Section 803(1) of PA 112, which requires the DNR to offer to sell specified state land, provides:

The department shall offer for sale to Verona Township, to expand its cemetery, property legally described as follows: Commencing at the Northeast corner of Section 35, Township 16 North, Range 13 East, Verona Township, Huron County, Michigan thence South along East section line 330 feet to point of beginning thence West 536.25 feet; thence South 330 feet; thence East 536.25 feet to East section line thence North along said East section line 330 feet to the point of beginning, 4.06 acres.

Section 803(2) of 1997 PA 112 provides that the sale proceeds "shall be credited to the land sale fund," a fund created by section 802 of 1997 PA 112. The question to be resolved is whether the Legislature may mandate the sale of state land in an appropriation act, as distinguished from a separate, substantive act, in light of the title-object rule set forth in Const 1963, art 4,  24.

While the DNR has control over the state land in question, the title to the land remains in the state. Under Const 1963, art 4, 1 (see also art 10, 5), the Legislature may, by general law, provide for the sale, lease or other disposition of state-owned lands. Only the Legislature may authorize the sale and conveyance of state land. See also, OAG, 1926-1928, p 604, 605 (January 25, 1928); OAG, 1939-1940, p 28, 29 (February 1, 1939). On prior occasions, the Legislature has invoked this authority by enacting general laws authorizing the DNR and its predecessors to sell various classes of state land. E.g., 1908 PA 320 (Public Domain Act). It has also adopted public acts authorizing the sale or conveyance of specific parcels of state land. E.g., 1998 PA 16; 1998 PA 27; 1997 PA 76; 1997 PA 141; 1996 PA 156; 1996 PA 208; section 3 of 1996 PA 531; and section 2 of 1996 PA 542.

The Legislature has, among other things, authorized the DNR, in its discretion, to sell land under its control, provided the DNR determines, in accordance with the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA), 1994 PA 451, MCL 324.101 et seq; MSA 13A.101 et seq, that the land is surplus. Section 2131. The NREPA specifies that proceeds from the sale of surplus land shall be deposited into "the [land exchange facilitation] fund" (section 2132(5)), and may be used to "purchase . . . land for natural resources management, administration, and public recreation" purposes. Section 2135(1)(a).

The people have provided in Const 1963, art 4, 24, that:

No law shall embrace more than one object, which shall be expressed in its title.

You have inquired whether 1997 PA 112, section 803, adds a second purpose to PA 112, in violation of Const 1963, art 4,  24.

One purpose of Const 1963, art 4, 24, is to prevent combining diverse and unrelated subjects in one bill to secure the support of legislators who might oppose certain of them if acting on them separately. Commerce-Guardian Trust & Savings Bank v State, 228 Mich 316, 330; 200 NW 267 (1924), cert den 268 US 700; 45 S Ct 636; 69 L Ed 1164 (1925). State Mutual Rodded Fire Ins Co v Foster, 267 Mich 118, 120; 255 NW 174 (1934). Const 1963, art 4,  24, is violated only when the subjects of a bill are so diverse in nature as to have no necessary or logical connection. Builders Square v Dep't of Agriculture, 176 Mich App 494, 497; 440 NW2d 639, lv den 433 Mich 912 (1989). In the instant case, mandating the DNR to offer state land for sale to a particular purchaser is not germane, auxiliary, or even incidental to the object of making a fiscal year departmental appropriation, even where the department to which the appropriation is made manages the state land in question.

It is my opinion, therefore, that section 803 of 1997 PA 112, the Department of Natural Resources 1997-1998 fiscal year appropriations act, which requires the department to offer to sell specified state land, violates Const 1963, art 4, 24, which requires that a law not embrace more than one object which must be expressed in its title.

In MCL 8.5; MSA 2.216, the Legislature has mandated that a statute be construed so that any unconstitutional portion be severed from the rest of the statute with the remaining portions being given effect unless doing so would be inconsistent with the manifest intent of the Legislature. Avis Rent-A-Car System v City of Romulus, 400 Mich 337, 348; 254 NW2d 555 (1977). There is no language in 1997 PA 112 suggesting that the Legislature intended its provision to be nonseverable. The remaining provisions of 1997 PA 112, being independent and capable of being given effect without reference to section 803, are severable and may be implemented independently of section 803. OAG, 1991-1992, No 6724, p 161 (June 30, 1992).

FRANK J. KELLEY
Attorney General