LANSING — A bi-partisan bill to license and regulate meteorologists and TV/radio weather forecasters was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives Friday.
The measure’s primary sponsor, State Rep. Sam Yeotis (D-Engadine), said he had secured 96 co-sponsors from both major political parties, well more than the 55 votes needed to the pass the bill in the lower chamber when the House returns to session April 18 after its annual spring break.
Yeotis said he was “confident” that the state Senate will agree to the House’s action, but he’s “not sure” about securing the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder.
“That March 8 wind storm was the last straw for me,” said Yeotis. “This was the worst storm in Michigan history by one standard. It was the biggest power outage ever, but an exhaustive study shows that not one single news outlet predicted it. Instead, there was a lot of ‘happy talk’ about the approach of spring and whether we were going to have a hot and dry summer, or a cold, wet one. Who cares? More than a million people were without power for days, a falling tree murdered a couple of motorists in Clare County, and a wind-fanned arson fire killed five people in Detroit.”
“There was no warning of the magnitude of this catastrophe from the news media,” Yeotis charged. “The most you heard or saw from these buffoons on TV was that there might be some ‘high winds.’ Well, DOH!”
Yeotis’s bill calls for at least the same amount of training for anyone engaged in weather-forecasting as an airline pilot must obtain to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration — 1,500 hours. That is less than the 1,800 hours the state requires for barbers.
“Tell me, said Yeotis. “Are you in more danger of having your ear sliced off by a barber, or by venturing out on overcast day when the so-called experts have failed to warn you that 70 mile-per-hour winds are headed your way?”
Michigan currently licenses at least 160 occupations by maintaining training hours, tests, and fees. Advocates of more licensing — typically the industries being licensed — claim this protects public health and safety. Opponents of more licensing, however, contend that Michigan’s licensing apparatus leads to fewer jobs, lower wages, higher prices, a worse economy and little to no positive health and safety effects. Interestingly, weather forecasters are the one pursuit that has never asked to be licensed.
“I’ve heard all the arguments for and against licensing,” stated Yeotis, sitting in his Upper Peninsula office. “But the idea that some incompetent boob in a clown suit or mini-skirt can stand in front of a high-falutin’ video screen and claim to know what is or isn’t going to happen with the weather later today, or tomorrow, or next week is not only obscene — it’s downright dangerous. It’s not nice to try to fool Mother Nature, and Mother Nature is clearly paying us back.”
“It’s a case of “The Emperor has no clothes,” said Yeotis. “I believe news media moguls and their stations — to boost their ratings — have been preying upon the anxieties of the citizenry, particularly seniors, about atmospheric vagaries and potential catastrophes.”
The 37-year-old freshman lawmaker said the damage done by last month’s storm to homes, vehicles and other pieces of property left many people wondering whether their homeowners or auto insurance will cover the cost of repairs.
Yeotis said that, as part of his reform effort, he was also going to ask the Speaker of the House to establish a task force to investigate whether weather forecasters should be held financially responsible if their predictions prove to be wrong — “Which they almost always are,” he added.
“Damage to homes and autos are generally covered under a standard homeowners, renters or auto insurance policy, but I think we ought to look at whether the forecasters and their stations should be held accountable for losses above a certain level. The World of Oz that exists in TV and radio studios must be banished for good.”
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