The Atlantic Hosts Town Hall on Energy and the Mid-Term Elections

Next week, on October 7 at 9 am, The Atlantic will convene our American Town Hall on Energy and the Mid-Term Elections. The event will be held at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) will part of the panel as well as building leaders off stage from the advocacy and business communities.

If you’re interested in attending or for more information you can sign up on the event’s website.

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

 

Update: MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions

The Michigan Municipal League would like to offer a quick update on SB 882. Last week a blog was posted that explained the compromised the League had reached with the House and the anticipated vote today on the bill. As a result of a few key House Republicans being unable to attend session today, the House has decided not to take up any bills for a vote. This move was completely unexpected and out of our control. After following up with staff, they have indicated that a vote will take place on the bill tomorrow. As a result of this delay it appears that the Governor will not be presented with the opportunity to sign this legislation before Thursday.

The more difficult issue with this is that there will be a two day period where if you have not certified to the department that you are in compliance with current statute you may be at risk of losing Act 51 funding. In my discussions with the department I don’t believe that they will begin immediately enforcing this statute with a heavy hammer and are willing to work with us to bring all of our members into compliance. That being said the current statute does require that you comply no later than today, September 30.

Although today’s delay was not anticipated we remain confident this issue will be resolved before the end of the 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

League Checks into Building Code Book and Reference Concerns

We have received a number of emails from members recently regarding a letter sent from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) detailing the requirement to have on hand a copy of building codes and references.  According to the department, this was a proactive move on the part of the commission and NOT a new requirement. This was an attempt by the commission to provide more narrow guidance on what was really important as far as references and books go to keep your library up to date as opposed to all books and references.  The department will be investigating local community books and references at the point of complaint, as has been done in the past.

If you are a local community who is not currently performing these functions, you are not required to have the materials referenced, including if you contract your services out to the county or a third party.

Also confirmed by the department is that you may have group access to these materials.  You could create an MOU with other communities, universities, etc. to show you have access when needed and that would be sufficient.  I mentioned the possibility of having these documents available on a statewide website and each community performing these functions can subscribe to the website for access.  This is a direction the department has considered going in but because of copyright issues with the books and references, it is not doable at this time.  This is why the option of at least sharing the materials with other communities to save on costs was brought up as a solution at this point in time.

A suggestion was made for a clarifying letter to be sent out by the department because of the confusion the previous letter created.  Please let me know if you have any additional concerns or questions you wish to have addressed and I would be happy to reach out and get answers.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate for the League.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.

Repeal of MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions Awaits Final Passage in the House

Senate Bill 882 that repeals the MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions under Act 51 Section 18j is currently awaiting final passage in the House. This bill was voted out of the Senate just before the Legislature left for their summer break by a vote of 35-1. Upon their return in September we knew we would be working on a short timeline to get this bill out of the House. The first committee hearing on the bill was last week and our testimony was well received by the committee. Following committee there were a few questions that were brought up by policy staff in the House that we addressed and after some debate the bill was brought up for a vote in committee. It passed by a margin of 13-2.

There continued to be some questions raised by a few legislators about the need to repeal requirements placed on local government. As a result further movement on the bill was suspended and discussions and negotiations resumed. Yesterday the League supported compromise with the House that would remove the requirements for additional dashboards and financial reporting but would still require us to certify to MDOT on an annual basis that we are in compliance with PA 152. The legislation would also push the implementation date back a year to September 30, 2015. Please click on the following link for the most recent version of the bill. 2014-SCVBH-0882-14645

After reaching the compromise, the House moved the bill from 2nd reading to 3rd reading but did not vote on it. They will not return to session again until next Tuesday September 30th, the current implementation date in statute. In our discussions with the House they have indicated that when they return next Tuesday they will vote on the bill with the changes mention above and send it back to the Senate for concurrence. The plan is for the Senate to concur in the changes to the bill later that day, send it to the governor for signature, and just narrowly beat the deadline.

The bill does not represent the full repeal that we pushed for but we believe it is a very good compromise at the end of the day.

As you know nothing is guaranteed until the Governor’s signature is dry, but at this point, based on the conversations we have had with legislators and staff, we are confident that SB 882 will be passed on Tuesday.

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

Smart Growth America Offering a Limited Number of Technical Assistant Workshops

Is your community interested in creating vibrant, walkable neighborhoods, but not sure where to start?

Smart Growth America’s technical assistance workshops can help. Our experts can work with your community to understand your goals, show how development strategies can help achieve goals, and provide ideas to make it happen.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of these workshops at no charge, and we’re proud to announce that applications are now open for our 2015 free technical assistance workshops.

Now in its fourth year, our free technical assistance program has helped over 50 communities grow in ways that benefit residents and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Visit our website to learn about this year’s opportunity, including the types of workshops available and information about how to apply. Applications are due by October 23, 2014 at 5:00 PM EDT.

For more information or to apply 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

House Committee Hears Legislation on Mobile Home Park Inspections

The House Regulatory Reform committee heard testimony on a bill that makes changes to the Mobile Home Commission Act.  HB 5513 (substitute found here: HB 5513 sub) was introduced by Rep. Andy Schor in an effort to address a situation that occurred in his district with the Life O’Riley Mobile Home Park. This legislation requires the DEQ to outline clear roles for local units of government and enforcement (a problem that occurred with the Life O’Riley mobile home park that ended being condemned and residents forced to seek housing elsewhere). In addition, there are more reporting requirements of the DEQ to local units of government of rules promulgated or when a mobile home is found to be in violation.

The League is supportive of this legislation.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development and land use issues.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.

Senate Finance Committee Passes Tax Appeal Legislation

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Finance Committee reported Senate Bills 1038, 1039 and 1040, bills that make changes to the tax appeal process and the Michigan Tax Tribunal Act.

The League has a lot of concerns regarding the way the Tax Tribunal has been valuing property and the losses sustained by our local communities; however, this legislation does not make changes that would address those concerns.

The League sent a list of concerns to the sponsor, Senator Caswell, and he addressed several of those concerns. However there are several large issues that remain unresolved.

First and foremost we think this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. The Department of Treasury is pushing for this legislation; however, none of the stakeholders who actually use the tax appeals process (including local units of government and the business community) are interested in this legislation passing. Local government and schools are opposed, and the business community is neutral but not pushing for the legislation to move.

Another concern is a 3-year look back for property tax appeals which would create uncertainty for local budgets. In addition this could be problematic for the newly passed personal property tax repeal package.

In an attempt to “streamline” the process, the bills instead take away local control and make the process more cumbersome for both taxpayers and local units of government. The legislation now heads to the full Senate for approval. Please contact your Senator and ask them to vote no on this legislation!

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 Unfunded Mandates Package

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee unanimously reported on Senate Bills 495-498, a package of bills that seek to induce heavier enforcement of the constitutional prohibition on unfunded mandates for local units of government.

The bills require the legislature to appropriate money in accordance with the Headlee Amendment. They also create a Local Government Mandate Panel to create a fiscal note to determine the financial impact on local units of government before legislation passes each chamber.

Among other requirements the legislation creates a Special Master in the Court of Appeals to specifically assist in Headlee cases. The legislation specifically states that local units would not have to comply with state mandates unless the legislature appropriates money to fund the mandate.

The legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League.  She can be reached at 517-908-0306 or email at sharkins@mml.org

House Passes Detrimental Public Safety Exception to PA 54, Tell Your Lawmakers to Oppose this Plan

Yesterday  afternoon the House passed House Bill 5097, a bill that would exempt police and fire from PA 54 so they can have retroactive pay increases after a contract expires. The bill passed by a vote of 97-12.

The House adopted a substitute bill on the floor. The stated intention of the amendments was to only allow step increases if a contract expressly calls for them and to deal with health care retroactivity. Unfortunately the way the amendments are drafted the bill is not much better than the introduced version. The health care language references PA 152 of 2011 in a way that would create significant confusion and potential litigation.

In 2011 the legislature passed a number of reforms to help employers control costs and be better stewards of taxpayer resources. One of the, if not the, most significant reform was to prohibit retroactive pay increases after a contract has expired. This game changing statute, PA 54 of 2011, has helped communities settle contracts more quickly and provides more certainty in municipal budgets. Passage of HB 5097 would be detrimental to our ability to settle contracts quickly and efficiently.

The Michigan Municipal League has been strongly opposed to this bill, and we continue to urge you to contact your legislators to let them know how detrimental this carve out would be. The arguments the public safety groups use for supporting this bill are that the number of PA 312 filings would proliferate and the legislature only intended this bill to impact teachers.

According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission there were only 43 PA 312 filings in 2013 as opposed to 69 in 2011. PA 312 filings are significantly lower than they were before enactment of PA 54.

In addition, even if the legislature only intended this for teachers, it has been a game changer for municipal budgets, and it’s critical that we keep this tool to allow local units the opportunity to settle contracts expeditiously and save taxpayers money.

We appreciate all the members who have already contacted their lawmakers on this issue and we hope others follow their lead. It is critical that you please contact your legislators and ask them to OPPOSE House Bill 5097. You can find the contact information for your Legislators here. We’ve also prepared a letter you can email directly to your lawmakers. Go here to do that today.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. A Senate version, Senate Bill 850, is in the House Commerce Committee.

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

Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on DDA Legislation, Push for Opt Outs Continues

Today the House Commerce committee took testimony on HB 5856, the legislation introduced by Rep. Kowall yesterday dealing with DDA transparency and spending. If you recall it contains a number of transparency pieces as well as teeth to obtain compliance.

Much of the testimony for the day, including that of the League’s, centered not on the bill itself necessarily but what the bill does not have in it: opt outs or resetting of baselines, both of which are extremely problematic.  There is a clear desire on Rep. Kowall’s part and a push by the Michigan Association of Counties to add in some element of either or both of those concepts.  It remains unclear which direction the bill sponsor is wanting to go in at this time.  It is imperative that you contact your representative and tell them how detrimental an opt out or resetting of baselines would be for economic development in your community.

Dana Foster

Dana Foster, city manager, City of Brighton

There were many members who testified or came to show their support providing a good representation of areas from across the state and I thank each and everyone one of them. The Michigan Downtown Association was in attendance as well and testified in support of the legislation.

At this time, they intend on having a committee hearing again next week Wednesday on this legislation and potentially voting it out of committee that same day.  If you are interested in testifying, please let me know.  Again, please contact your representatives regarding this legislation and opt outs/resetting of baselines.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development and land use issues.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.