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      'Bear Bill' moving through Lansing

      Oswald's Bear Ranch near Newberry may soon allow visitors to pet and take photos with bear cubs again after the State House approved new legislation on Thursday. The bill was approved by four votes.

      It would allow the handling of bear cubs under nine months old or weighing no more than 90 pounds at places that already permitted it.

      Oswald's Ranch claims to be the largest of its kind in the United States with 31 black bears. The ranch allowed people to pose and take pictures with bear cubs for 15 years until last year, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told the ranch it was illegal.

      Representative John Kivela (D) from the 109th District voted in favor of the bill.

      "There was a lot of objection," said Kivela. "A lot of objection from different zoos, and some representatives were feeling a lot of pressure, and I worked both sides of the aisle very hard to get the bi-partisan support we needed."

      Rep. Ed McBroom (R) from the 108th District, Rep. Scott Dianda (D) from the 110th and Rep. Frank Foster (R) from the 107th, all voted "yes" on the bill. A Democrat from Lower Michigan who voted against the bill cited safety concerns.

      State Senator Tom Casperson (R) introduced the bill to the Senate in January, and they passed it in February. The measure will be returned to them for final approval before it heads to Governor Snyder, who said he supports the legislation.