Bill Creating a Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act Sent to the Governor

This afternoon House Bill 5397 was sent to the governor after unanimously passing the Senate. This bill creating the Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act and would enable municipalities that own electric utilities to establish a program to help provide financing to residential property owners for energy efficiency projects. This is modeled after the PACE Act.

This legislation passed the full House prior to the legislative recess in June on a 108 to 2 vote.

This is an idea that was brought to Rep. Joe Haveman’s attention by the city of Holland who would like the opportunity to create a program such as this. The League has been supportive of this bill throughout the process and is very pleased that it has been sent to the Governor.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Budget Extension – Doesn’t Include Marketplace Fairness

Congress passed a $1.1 Trillion budget bill, which is a combination of an omnibus budget and continuing resolution, funding most of the federal government through Sept 30, 2015. However, the Department of Homeland Security only received funding through February 27th, 2015. Overall, the bill increases federal spending for the year by $1.1 Billion; 1.8% for non-defense spending, which is still negative growth when adjusted for inflation. The budget held a mixed bag of results for local leaders. First, the biggest disappointment was that Marketplace Fairness did not get included in the mix. Marketplace Fairness would have leveled the playing field for brick and mortar businesses with online retailers, which don’t have to remit sales taxes.

Specifically, in the budget, TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants were reduced by 16%, but transit programs saw an increase in $141 million. Federal highway programs maintained their level of funding. CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funding was reduced by $30 million and a provision was included which bans locals from selling CDBG grants to other communities. There was also a reduction in HOME (Home Investment Partnerships Program) funds of $100 million, bringing that down to $900 million.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.

 

Transportation Funding Talks Ongoing: Stay Tuned, We May Need You

The League supports a comprehensive transportation funding solution that services all modes of transportation, including roads, rails, trails, and ports.

The League supports a comprehensive transportation funding solution that services all modes of transportation, including roads, rails, trails, and ports.

Usually the term is “hurry up and wait,” but this week when it comes to transportation funding in Lansing it’s more like “wait and possibly hurry up.”

That’s the situation currently at the state Capitol. Michigan legislators have been meeting behind closed doors to come up with a transportation funding package. The Michigan Municipal League is anxiously waiting to see what they’ll come up with. Once the League learns what the proposal is we could very well be asking our members to do a “hurry up and do XYZ” scenario. So we’re asking our members to be in stand-by mode and ready to make phone calls and send emails if necessary.

Of course, we’re hoping the lawmakers come up with a transportation funding solution that does not negatively impact communities. If that happens, we may ask you to contact your lawmakers in support of the plan.

Here are some links to recent blogs we’ve written on the issue that explain what’s happened up to this point:

Dec. 12: Transportation Funding Bills Sent to Conference

Dec. 9: League Needs Your Help on Transportation Issue

Dec. 8: Ask Michigan Senators to Pass Comprehensive Transportation Funding Plan

Related: Bills Requiring Regulation of Transportation Network Companies Dead This Session!

For questions regarding the transportation funding issue, contact the League’s John LaMacchia II at jlamacchia@mml.org and 517-908-0303.

Michigan Water Environment Association to Host Seminar on Infrastructure Project Funding

Utility systems are continually being challenged to provide quality services while budgets are being decreased. This seminar has been developed to provide relevant information to Utility Owners, Managers, Superintendents, and Consultants associated with infrastructure systems. Attendees will be informed of current funding programs and what other utilities are doing to stay ahead of today’s challenges with infrastructure systems.

For more information on this helpful seminar being hosted by the Michigan Water Environment Association please click on the following link. 2015 Infrastructure Postcard

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Call for Projects: Federal Land Access Program

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Eastern Federal Lands (EFL) Division will be accepting applications for Federal Lands Access Program (FLAP) funding, in order to develop a four year program of projects for Fiscal Years (FY) 2015 through FY 2018. EFL will accept applications via electronic submittal only, from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015.

Projects eligible for FLAP funding include transportation facilities such as a public highway, road, bridge, trail, or transit system that is located on, adjacent to, or provides access to Federal lands for which title or maintenance responsibility is vested in a State, county, town, township, tribal, municipal, or local government. Generally, a 20% matching share of the project total is required for this program.

Examples of projects that are eligible for funding include transportation planning, research, engineering, preventive maintenance, rehabilitation, restoration, construction, and reconstruction of Federal Lands located on or adjacent to, or that provide access to a Federal land (adjacent vehicular parking areas; acquisition of necessary scenic easements and scenic or historic sites; provisions for pedestrians and bicycles; environmental mitigation in or adjacent to Federal land to improve public safety and reduce vehicle-caused wildlife mortality while maintaining habitat connectivity; construction and reconstruction of roadside rest areas, including sanitary and water facilities); Operation and maintenance of transit facilities. However, Michigan projects should focus on construction or preventative maintenance of the existing eligible transportation facilities.

For more information please click here.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303

Governor Snyder Approves Financial Assistance to Local Governments Affected by Spring Flooding, Deep Freeze

Governor Rick Snyder has approved more than $2.7 million from the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to provide financial assistance to Michigan counties and communities impacted by last spring’s flooding disaster and deep freeze emergency.

Eligible local governments affected by the flooding or deep freeze were allowed to apply for assistance grants for up to $100,000 or 10 percent of the previous year’s operating budget, whichever is less.

The Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund is used when communities demonstrate an exhaustion of local resources during a disaster or emergency. The money can be applied toward the immediate prevention, response and recovery of a disaster or emergency, as well as cover overtime for public employees, contracts used during the response, shelter supplies, gasoline used during the response and repair of public buildings and infrastructure.

Under extraordinary circumstances, the governor may authorize reimbursement from the fund to provide state assistance to counties and municipalities when federal assistance is not available.

Snyder declared a “state of disaster” on April 17 for Newaygo and Osceola counties due to severe weather and widespread flooding. On May 7, the disaster declaration was amended to include Isabella, Mecosta, Missaukee, Muskegon, Roscommon and Wexford counties.

Snyder declared a “state of emergency” for Marquette County on April 17 due to the damage caused by last winter’s extremely cold temperatures and deep frost levels. On May 7, the emergency declaration was amended to include Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Delta, Emmet, Gogebic, Luce and Mackinac counties.

In July, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division was notified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that northern Michigan communities affected by the deep freeze did not meet the required statewide federal threshold for consideration for a presidential disaster declaration.

In October, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved more than $7.6 million in aid to communities in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula through the Community Development Block Grant program to assist in repairing critical infrastructure damaged by last winter’s deep freeze.

The state of Michigan continues to monitor the situation and is looking at all options to ensure communities recover and rebuild after these incidents.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303

Bill Requiring Statewide Regulation of Transportation Network Companies Dead this Session!

HB 5951 would provide statewide regulations for Transportation Network Companies (TNC). The most recognizable TNC operating in Michigan today is Uber. This bill would preempt local control of a TNC but it does allow for locals to enforce provisions of the statewide regulation. We have many communities that have already negotiated contracts with and regulate TNCs. This would make those contracts null and void. After opposition from the League and others, HB 5951will not be passed this session.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303

Transportation Funding Bills Sent to Conference

In the second to last week of lame duck session, tensions were high as transportation talks continued. The House and Senate sent the transportation bills to conference committees where a small bi-partisan group of six legislators will ultimately vote on the conference report being negotiated by legislative leadership and the Governor. The conferees in the Senate are Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-Holland), Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) and Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint). The House conferees are Rep. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) and Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser). The legislative leadership and Governor have met for several hours in each of the last few days on this issue, and we anticipate some sort of resolution next week.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303

Senate Passes Main Street Fairness Legislation

Yesterday afternoon the Senate passed two bills, SB 658 and SB 659, that would require that a sales tax be added on to purchases made by retailers who have a so-called “nexus” within the state. These bills are more commonly known as the Main Street Fairness legislation.

The bill includes a seller who sells “tangible personal property” and includes new provisions that a seller is presumed to have a nexus if it uses its employees, agents, representatives, or independent contractors to promote sales to purchasers.

It also tags a seller if it shares management, business systems, business practices, or employees with the seller, or in the case of an affiliated person, engages in “Intercompany transactions” with the seller to establish or maintain the seller’s market.

And a seller is presumed to have a nexus in the state if its total cumulative gross receipts from sales for storage, use or consumption to purchasers in this state exceed $50,000 during the immediately preceding 12 months.

The League is supportive of this legislation that now heads to the House for review. The House also has its own versions, House Bills 4202 and 4203.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

Senate Committee Passes Cell Tower Colocation Bill

Yesterday the Senate Energy & Technology Committee reported House Bill 4237, a bill that would open state police communications towers to colocation for broadband expansion.

As introduced, this legislation would allow both public and private entities to colocate for the purpose of broadband expansion; however, a substitute passed by the committee would limit this to only private entities for three years and then allow public entities to colocate only in “underserved areas.”

The League is a staunch supporter of broadband expansion; however, banning public entities from this colocation seeks to inhibit broadband expansion to only if a private entity decides to expand. This is a disservice to Michigan residents and job providers as broadband access becomes more necessary for both businesses and residents.

We continue to oppose this version of the legislation and encourage you to contact your Senate members to do the same. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.