Governor Signs Fix for Local Candidate Filings

Governor Snyder signed House Bill 4892 (Chatfield) on Monday morning, just in time for the affected communities to print and prepare their November ballots for mailing.

Now known as Public Act 118 of 2017, HB 4892 will allow any community that inadvertently followed candidate filing deadlines outlined within their charter, as opposed to the uniform filing date established within Michigan election law (15th Tuesday prior to the election), to place all otherwise eligible candidates back on the November ballot.

One provision was added to this bill in the House that differentiates this language from a similar fix that was done in 2015 for the city of Flint.  The House amendment now includes a $2500 penalty/reimbursement of costs for any community that utilizes this extension in 2017 and adds a $5000 penalty for any community that misses the state filing deadline in the future.

The League worked with the cities of Sault Ste Marie and Tecumseh to develop the original language in HB 4892 (and the companion SB 526-Schmidt) and move the bill through both the House and Senate in a matter of weeks to ensure implementation in time to meet federal ballot deadlines for military and overseas voters.

The League will continue working with member communities, the Legislature and the Secretary of State to guard against similar situations occurring in the future.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

House Moves Bill To Correct Local Candidate Filing Deadline Errors

The League's Chris Hackbarth (center) testifies in Lansing Wednesday along with Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Oliver Turner (left) and Tecumseh City Manager Dan Swallow (right).

The League’s Chris Hackbarth (center) testifies in Lansing Wednesday along with Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Oliver Turner (left) and Tecumseh City Manager Dan Swallow (right).

The Michigan House voted 92-13 on Wednesday afternoon to send the League-supported House Bill 4892 (Chatfield) over to the Senate for their consideration.  The bill had moved out of the House Elections & Ethics committee earlier Wednesday morning and is on a tight schedule for completion in order to be effective during the current election cycle.  This bill provides an avenue for local candidates, who relied on incorrect filing deadline information and were subsequently prevented from appearing on the upcoming November election ballot, to have the filing deadline extended to include their names.  Officials from the cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Tecumseh were in Lansing to testify with the MML and their local State Representatives, Rep. Lee Chatfield and Rep. Bronna Kahle, in support of the bill.

Recent situations in these two communities brought this issue to the forefront when they discovered that their city charter deadline provisions were no longer in compliance with recent state law changes.

Rep. Lee Chatfield meets with Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Oliver Turner and City Clerk Robin Troyer in Lansing Wednesday.

State Rep. Lee Chatfield (right) meets with Sault Ste. Marie City Manager Oliver Turner and City Clerk Robin Troyer in Lansing Wednesday.

Legislation passed in late 2012 moved all candidate filings from the 12th week prior to the election back three weeks to the 15th week prior to the election.

Officials in these two communities -Tecumseh and Sault Ste. Marie – realized this discrepancy too late and a number of candidates for city council and mayor were precluded from appearing on the ballot. In working with their local legislators and the League, we were able to craft language in HB 4892 (duplicated in SB 526-Schmidt) that is a mirror image to what was done in 2015 when the City of Flint encountered a similar situation and needed a change in the state election law to get that city’s mayoral candidates back on the ballot. Today’s action moves the bill forward as a way to allow a community that utilized an incorrect filing deadline to work with the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections to accommodate those candidates that otherwise would have qualified for the November ballot.

Swift action is needed in the Legislature to ensure that all ballots are printed and military and overseas ballots are mailed by September 23rd.

The Michigan Municipal League will be working to get the bill brought up and acted upon next week in the Michigan Senate.

Communities utilizing filing deadline or other election dates within their charter need to be aware of state election law changes and make the necessary adjustments to their internal processes or charter amendments to protect themselves from encountering this same issue.  The Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections publishes an election calendar each year with all of the relevant filing and election process dates outlined. Communities are encouraged by the Bureau to track these dates closely to avoid being out of compliance with state law.

The League will be working with the Bureau of Elections and the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks as we move forward from HB 4892 to promote a more robust level of communication and education on key election deadlines and law changes.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

Treasury Announces Grants for Financially Distressed Communities

Treasury released the following information this morning regarding grant dollars available through Treasury’s financially distressed city, village and township program:

Cities, villages and townships experiencing financial struggles can now apply for a grant to help fund special projects and free up tax dollars for important services, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury).

Applications are now being accepted for the Financially Distressed Cities, Villages, and Townships (FDCVT) grant program. Municipalities interested in applying for an award must submit applications to the state Treasury Department by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017.

All cities, villages and townships experiencing at least one condition of “probable financial distress” as outlined in the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act are eligible to apply for up to $2 million. A total of $5.4 million in funding is available for Treasury to award through the FDCVT grant program for the 2018 fiscal year. 

Grant funding may be used to pay for specific projects or services that move a community toward financial stability. Preference will be given to applications from municipalities that meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • A financial emergency has been declared in the past 10 years.
  • An approved deficit elimination plan for the General Fund is currently in place.
  • Two or more conditions indicating “probable financial distress” currently exist.
  • The fund balance of the General Fund has been declining over the past five years and the fund balance is less than 3 percent of the General Fund revenues.

Due to requirements outlined under state law, school districts are not eligible for funds from this grant program.

For more information about the FDCVT grant program or to download an application, go to www.michigan.gov/revenuesharing.

 

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

MSP Announces Hazard Mitigation Assistance Grant Opportunity

Attached is the official Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) announcement for the open application period for two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mitigation grant programs for FY 2017.  This funding announcement includes the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Program.  Both of these FEMA hazard mitigation grant programs are now under one umbrella known as Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA).  FEMA has unified all of the mitigation grant programs under one set of guidance documents.  The two guidance documents (linked below) are dated 2015 because there have been no changes to the guidance since last year.

The information contained in the announcement below include limited time lines and requires a timely response.

Deadlines:
· NOIs must be submitted to the MSP/EMHSD by no later than September 1, 2017.
· eGrants applications (initial draft) are due to the MSP/EMHSD for review by October 13, 2017.
· After review and revision, eGrants applications are due to FEMA by November 14, 2017.

HMA funds can be used for the implementation of hazard mitigation projects as well as the development or update of local hazard mitigation plans.  Many of the FEMA approved local mitigation plans across Michigan will be expiring within the next two years.  The available HMA funding offers an excellent opportunity for communities to use grant dollars to update their local hazard mitigation plans.

IB 17-01 – HMA Funds Available
HMA_Guidance_022715_508
HMA_Addendum_022715_508

Joel Pepper
Asst. State Hazard Mitigation Officer
Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division
Michigan State Police
TX: 517-284-3955

Physical Address:
7150 Harris Drive
Dimondale, Michigan 48821

Mailing Address:
PO Box #30634
Lansing, Michigan  48909

 

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

State Budget Signed By Governor

The Governor affixed his signature at the end of last week to the omnibus state budget bill.  This bill (HB 4323) includes a 2.5% ($6.2 million) increase to statutory revenue sharing. This spreadsheet from the House Fiscal Agency outlines the expected revenue sharing payments for each municipality based upon this increase.  These new dollars will flow strictly to communities that received a CVTRS payment in the current year and will be distributed to those units on a per capita basis.  Constitutional payments are expected to grow by approximately $40 million in the coming year, subject to actual state sales tax collections.

http://house.michigan.gov/hfa/PDF/Revenue_Forecast/CVT_Revenue_Sharing_Payments_FY16thruFY18_Conference_Report.pdf.

In addition to this welcome increase in revenue sharing, the budget also includes an increase above the Governor’s original proposal to fire protections grant funding of $1.4 million.  While not as high as the supplemental, one-time increase in the current year’s budget, this will be the second year in a row where fire protection grant funding has been higher than the baseline recommendation.  State PILT payments for purchased lands will also see a slight increase in this new budget.  The budget estimates $4 million in revenue coming in from the new medical marijuana law that will be distributed as grants to local units of government.  A new grant program has $500,000 available within Treasury that will provide reimbursements to local units that implement a financial data analytic tool.  Project Rising Tide will receive an additional $2 million to expand beyond the current 10 communities in that program.  The Michigan Enhancement Grant program will receive nearly $36 million to fund 20 projects in communities around the state.  Within the MDOT portion of the budget, an additional $49 million is anticipated being distributed from the MTF to cities and villages, along with additional revenue appropriated to transit and the TEDF.

From a broader level, the budget deposits another $150 million into the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund and $35 million into the Governor’s new Michigan Infrastructure Fund.

Supplemental budget language was added for the current (FY16-17) budget, as well. The Ambulance Quality Assurance Assessment Program (QAAP tax) was eliminated from the current year budget, but language allowing for its inclusion in the coming budget was retained, though it was amended in an attempt to tighten the revenue base upon which this new tax could be assessed.  Efforts will continue to keep DHHS from implementing this new tax and repealing the language in the Public Health Code.

New funding has been added to the current budget year aimed at providing reimbursement dollars for the under-development local Indigent Defense Commission standards to the tune of $5 million.  As these plans continue to be finalized within each county, the picture will become clearer as to how much more will need to be appropriated for full implementation of those plans.

New funding was also included in this supplemental section for the newly created Municipal Wetland Alliance for wetland mitigation banks ($3.9M) and for a Regional Infrastructure Asset Management Pilot ($2M), both of which could benefit communities around the state.

The Governor’s line item vetoes focused mainly on education or human services program additions and did not impact any of the items referenced above.  The new budget goes into effect on October 1, 2017.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

Legislature Moves Into Summer Recess

The Legislature took a break from their summer break last week to return to session for one day (July 12th) to finalize action on a few bills.  Highlighting this one-day session was the Good Jobs for Michigan economic development bill package (SBs 242-244).  The proposal would incent a business to bring in large numbers of new jobs to the state by locating a new company in Michigan.  These bills are being pushed heavily by Governor Snyder and are supported by a broad coalition, including MML.  The Governor is pointing at these bills as a necessary tool to attract larger business investment projects (like the FoxConn flat screen manufacturing facility being discussed in the media), where Michigan is competing against other states that all offer some sort of tax or job creation incentive.  The bills were approved by large margins in both the House and Senate and are on the Governor’s desk where he is expected to sign them in the coming days.

Also during session on the 12th, two more bills were finalized that the League had been engaged in…Senate Bill 332 corrected a technical oversight from a change that occurred at the end of 2016 to medical waiver requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. This year-end law change created an unintended negative impact on licensure requirements for municipal employees necessitating SB 332.  The language we supported in this bill will restore municipal employment licensing requirements and mirror the state law more closely to the federal guidelines for allowable exemptions. Another bill requiring our involvement is House Bill 4160.  This bill finished its winding way through the legislative process as a piece of legislation attempting to address the recent Attorney General opinion prohibiting non-profit organizations from fund-raising within road rights-of-way.  HB 4160 went through multiple proposed versions and saw MML’s position move from support, to opposition, to the eventual hold-our-nose neutrality.  SB 332 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature while HB 4160 has yet to be presented to Governor.

With last Wednesday’s session activity complete, the House and Senate are now back on recess, not expected to officially return for voting until September, following Labor Day.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

PPT Equipment Exemption Deadline Moving

Senate Bill 359 was recently introduced in the Michigan Senate, proposing to extend the late February deadline for eligible manufacturing equipment to file for an exemption from personal property tax assessment.

The sponsor introduced this bill in an attempt to address a situation where a business within his district encountered postal issues mailing the requisite form to the local unit.  The hard deadline within the act does not allow for any exceptions, necessitating an amendment to the act to provide an extension of the deadline.  As reported from committee, SB 359 would mimic the extension that occurred in 2016, allowing businesses with eligible manufacturing personal property to file for the exemption on that property by May 31st of this year.

With Senate floor action expected this week, House action would be needed next week for the bill to get to the Governor and allow any time for businesses to actually file under this extension.  Such a narrow window will hopefully result in very few new filings and little disruption at the local level.

Treasury also testified that this extension will likely require the October local unit PPT reimbursement checks be delayed until November, similar to what took place last year. A separate bill is being introduced this week and will likely be voted on next week in Senate committee for this purpose.  The bill sponsor did commit, in his committee testimony, to work with MML and Treasury on a mechanism that could be added to the act to allow for local corrections to filing issues or mailing delays so that there will no longer be a need to amend the law for the whole state to address a correction in one community.  This discussion will likely occur later this spring, with legislation to follow.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

Proposed Ambulance Service Tax Raising Concerns Among Municipalities

A proposal adopted in early 2015 to draw down additional federal Medicaid match revenue to support increased ambulance reimbursements is proving to be a bigger challenge to implement than originally believed and is bringing out potential unintended consequences that could be devastating to communities with publicly-operated ambulance services.

House Bill 4447 became Public Act 104 in July of 2015.  This legislation, among numerous other things, provided the Department of Health and Human Services with authority to develop a Quality Assurance Assessment Program (QAAP) on ambulance services as a financing mechanism to draw down additional Medicaid match from the federal government.  This same financing scheme has been used within other health care industries as a way to improve reimbursement rates for providers without straining the state’s budget.

As originally proposed, this mechanism would have imposed a state tax on ambulance run revenues that the state would have used to improve reimbursement rates for Medicaid-eligible ambulance runs.  In gathering the data and developing the formula needed to arrive at an appropriate tax rate, however, the Department interpreted federal guidelines as requiring that ambulance service providers needed to submit all local government revenues related to providing ambulance services, not simply revenues accrued from ambulance runs.  With this interpretation in place, publicly-operated ambulance providers stand to bear a much larger burden of the proposed QAAP tax than the private ambulance providers who do not provide additional EMS or fire services.

Additionally, the complexity of dividing out costs related solely to ambulance services in communities with multiple tax revenues supporting their fire and EMS services and/or personnel serving multiple functions, including ambulance service, and applying a tax on top of those existing taxes is causing alarm bells to sound for many municipalities that operate their own ambulance services.

The League is participating in meetings with the Department, fire chiefs and other municipal fire personnel, and state legislators in an attempt to get a better understanding of the potential that this program could cause a negative financial impact on communities.  While increased Medicaid reimbursement rates are a laudable goal, they cannot come on the backs of municipalities.  Enough concerns have been raised that warrant this concept be re-evaluated before being implemented.

If your community provides municipal ambulance service, please contact our office to discuss this issue and the potential impact on your community.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

State Budget Process Set to Resume Following Spring Recess

Budget subcommittees in both the House and Senate were hard at work last week wrapping up much of the initial work on their respective appropriation responses to the Governor’s FY17-18 proposed budget.

Responding to requests for additional funding from the League and other local government groups, the House General Government subcommittee sent House Bill 4232 to the full House Appropriations committee recommending a $12.4 million increase to the statutory revenue sharing (CVTRS) line item.  For communities currently receiving a CVTRS payment, these additional dollars would be distributed on a per capita basis, equating to an additional $1.62396 per person.  If adopted as part of the final budget framework, this would be the first statutory revenue sharing increase in three years and a welcome increase in light of last year’s overall revenue sharing cut as sales tax revenue driving Constitutional payments fell below the previous year.

The League also had the opportunity to testify before the Senate General Government subcommittee, making a similar case for increased funding for revenue sharing.  While the Senate subcommittee has yet to complete their proposal, public comments from members of the subcommittee seem to indicate an interest in looking at options for a funding increase to this line.

Once subcommittee work is completed following the spring break, the full Appropriations committees in each chamber will begin their consideration of the various budget recommendations, followed by consideration from the full House and Senate, all before the mid-May consensus revenue estimating conference.  Final budget action is on track for completion in early June.

Please contact your State Representative and Senator and urge them to support an increase to statutory revenue sharing.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

Early Morning Income Tax Vote Comes Up Short

After over 12 hours of behind the scenes negotiations, the Michigan House ended up voting down a third alternative for an income tax cut in the early hours of Thursday morning.  The amendments that were proposed to HB 4001 H-3 would have lowered the state’s income tax rate from 4.25% down by .1% per year for the next two years and then any further reduction down to 3.9% would have been conditioned on the state’s Rainy Day Fund having a balance of at least $1 billion.  If fully phased down as proposed, the legislation would have sliced more than $1.1 billion from the state’s General Fund revenues.  Once the final vote was tallied, the amended version only had 52 supporters, with 55 members voting against the measure (see page 4 of the linked pdf to see how each legislator voted).

The Municipal League was joined in opposition to this legislation by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, including Governor Snyder.  As an organization we are extremely thankful for everyone who engaged with their State Representative this week, urging them to protect revenue sharing and local government services and opposing this bill.  We encourage you to reach back out to those legislators who voted No and thank them for their vote.

While the bill was defeated this morning, it is possible that the vote could be reconsidered in the coming weeks, so please be prepared to re-engage with legislators should this bill come back up.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.