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Politics & Government

Michigan-Indiana state line commission bills clear House

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(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
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Bills to solidify Michigan’s border with Indiana are close to final passage in the Legislature.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed SB 627 and 628 this week.

They would fund Michigan’s share of survey costs to mark the state line with something more permanent than the original wood posts.

“This is great news for Southwest Michigan and for residents of Indiana as well,” state Senator Kim LaSata (R-Niles) said in a press release. “Once completed, a formal survey along with updated, clearly identifiable monuments will finally establish a clear border between the two states.”

The legislation would also create the new Michigan-Indiana State Line Commission to coordinate that study with its Hoosier counterpart.

Land surveyor Jack Owens has raised the issue for two decades. He said unlike with Ohio or Wisconsin, markers along the Michigan-Indiana border haven’t been re-examined in nearly 200 years.

“They weren’t done to the level of accuracy today. So, the line is marked, but do we want to know it better than two or three feet?” Owens said.

He said modern technology like GPS can present a much more accurate picture of the border.

Owens has described the Indiana border as “the quiet boundary.” He said the goal is to preserve it and keep the peace.

“The importance is it’s the limit of sovereignty of both Michigan and Indiana. You know, our laws pertain up to the line, and so each state is sovereign within its own territory. So, you want to know: where is that boundary?” Owens said.

Not having a clearly defined boundary has left open questions over jurisdiction for things like car accidents and crimes that occur near the border.

Owens said an attorney once reached out to him after a car accident on a road near the state line.

“The question is which state was the accident in? Because you either have to use the laws in Michigan or the laws of Indiana and he didn’t know which was going to apply,” Owens said.

Michigan and Indiana have tried to update the border markers for years, but past collaborations fell through.

The Michigan Senate could vote to concur with House changes to the current plan and advance legislation to the governor as soon as next week.

Indiana passed legislation funding its part of the survey and re-creating the Indiana-Michigan boundary commission back in 2019.