Urge Your Representative to Vote NO on HB 5016

Here is an urgent action alert we’ve sent to our members this morning:

We need your help! The Michigan House is currently working on legislation, HB 5016, that could be voted on this week that the Michigan Municipal League strongly opposes. The bill would require municipalities to reimburse a telecommunications provider a portion of relocation costs if a community fails to notify the provider at least one year in advance of a project that will require relocation of their lines.

Additionally, communities will no longer be able to charge for a permit fee, inspection fee, or survey cost, when a relocation is required. The bill also fails to provide any protection to the municipality if the provider installs or relocates their lines in an area other than allowed by the permit or causes construction delays.

If passed, municipalities would be required to pay a private for-profit company for moving their telecommunication lines within the public right-of-way. Communities are already prohibited from denying the telecommunications access to these public spaces they get to occupy for free. This proposed legislation sets a terrible precedent in this state and could lead to other utility providers, i.e. gas and electric companies, to seek the same deal.

Relocation costs can be very expensive. If communities are required to shoulder a portion of those costs it could result in projects being delayed, scaled back, or even eliminated as a result of this unnecessary, one-sided legislation.

The League encourages you to contact your representative TODAY and tell them to oppose HB 5016 and protect our taxpayers from paying these costs. Go here to get the contact info for your legislators.

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

USDOT Proposes to Remove Restrictive Design Guidelines

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) took an encouraging and surprising step, proposing to ease federally-mandated design standards on many roads, making it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets that are safer for everyone.

Currently, FHWA has a long list of design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads, unless they choose to go through an arduous process of requesting an exception to do things like line a downtown street with street trees, reduce the width of lanes to add a bike lane, or curve a street slightly to slow traffic and make it safer for people in cars and on foot.

In this new proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteria for certain roads because they decided these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and has a stronger connection for rural roads, freeways and higher speed urban arterials.

FHWA deserves praise for their leadership on this important issue. The rule is open to public comment through December 7, 2015. Let’s take the opportunity to provide public comment and thank FHWA for their leadership and make sure it is implemented to help make safer streets for all to enjoy.

For more information click here.

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

Legislature Considering Bills That Would Remove Local Control Over Setting Speed Limits

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering five bills, HB 4423, 4424, 4425, 4426, and 4427, that would dramatically impact the ability of local units to set safe and context sensitive speed limits within their municipal boundaries.

HB 4425 would require that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of speed. Fundamentally, we believe that all users of the roadway should be taken into account when setting a speed limit. The 85th speed study within this legislation is set up to look only at the free-flow of traffic, under ideal conditions, and on the fastest portion of the roadway. We believe this completely neglects taking the context of the roadway, the surrounding environment, pedestrian traffic (walking or biking), transit, or the views and needs of the community into account.

When we look at the 85th percentile of speed, it should be a diagnosis not a prescription. It can be a useful and rational tool to help understand speeds on on local streets but should not be looked at as the only solution. Other states incorporate a broad number of mitigation criteria that allow flexibility to lower speed limits below the 85th percentile of speed. Too often we talk just about increasing the speed to the 85th percentile for safety reasons but rarely do we talk about how we could reduce the 85th percentile so everyone using the roadway is safer.

Each community is best suited to understand local conditions that place children, the disabled, seniors and other vulnerable roadway users in harm’s way, and we are opposed to any attempt that diminishes our communities efforts and ability to provide a safe and inviting environment.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislator and ask that they do not take away local control over our ability to set speed limits. Additionally you may choose to adopt a resolution such as Grand Haven and Grandville have done and share that with your legislator.

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

 

Legislation Attempts to Shift Broadband Relocation Costs to Communities

Legislation recently introduced in the House attempts to shift broadband relocation costs to communities and we urge you to reach out to your legislator to defeat it. HB 5016 would require cities and villages to reimburse an entity holding a license under the Michigan Telecommunications Act, or a franchise under the Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act, for relocation costs if both of the following apply:

  1. The city, village, township, or county, or the state transportation department, did either of the following: Requested the entity to temporarily or permanently relocate its facilities, or requested the entity to temporarily or permanently relocate its facilities to protect those facilities due to construction or other activity by the city, village, township, or county, or the state transportation department.
  2. The entity invests money in broadband infrastructure in this state.
If a city or village requests an entity to relocate facilities, the community would also be required to waive any permit fees or inspection fees.
If a city or village requests an entity to conduct any survey or study related to relocating facilities, the community must reimburse the entity for those survey or study costs.
A reimbursement of relocation costs by the government agency to an eligible entity shall be made as follows:
  • 100% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way less than five years before the date of the request to relocate
    those facilities.
  • 75% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way five years or more but fewer than nine years before the date of the request to relocate those facilities.
  • 50% reimbursement for relocation costs,if the entity’s facilities were placed in the
    public right-of-way nine years or more but less than 12 years before the date of the
    request to relocate those facilities.
  • 25% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way 12 years or more but less than 15 years before the date of the
    request to relocate those facilities.

The METRO Act requires telecommunication providers to pay the Metro Authority an annual maintenance fee for access to and use of municipal public rights-of-way. The Act also provides that they receive an annual property tax credit equal to the funds/costs paid in annual maintenance fees. The receipt of this tax credit results in the telecom provider paying little or no annual costs for access to and use of municipal public rights-of-way. The METRO Act provides that the tax credit shall be the sole method of recovery for the costs required under the act.

Additionally, Section 4.10 of the METRO Act permit agreements requires “…If a Municipality requests Permittee to relocate, protect, support, disconnect or remove its Facilities because of street or utility work, or other public projects, Permittee shall relocate, protect, support, disconnect, or remove its Facilities, at its sole cost and expense…”

The League believes the transfer of these cost to our communities makes them unfairly shoulder the costs and is in direct conflict with the METRO Act. We urge you to reach out to your legislator and let them know that municipalities should not be responsible for these costs and to vote no on this legislation. This bill could be voted on the first week of December when the Legislature returns from Thanksgiving break. They need to hear from you if we are going to be successful in defeating this bill.

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

Fluoridation Equipment Grant Available Through Department of Health and Human Services

Fluoridation of a community water system is one of the most cost effective and efficient ways to reduce dental disease in a population. Over 65 years of research on this topic has proven community water fluoridation to be safe and effective in improving the oral health of the community’s citizens.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Oral Health Program is primarily looking to promote community water fluoridation by offering to reimburse communities currently not fluoridating for fluoridation equipment purchases for the sole purpose to initiate community water fluoridation in their community. A generous gift from Delta Dental of Michigan is once again available to help communities with acquiring new fluoridation equipment.

Close to 7 million people in Michigan are benefiting from community fluoridated water. For those systems currently wishing to initiate this basic public health practice in their communities the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Oral Health Program is providing grants of up to $24,000 to assist with the cost of the purchase and installation of fluoridation equipment. The funds must be used for new and replacement fluoridation equipment purchased in the contract period of April 1, 2016- September 15, 2016.

First priority will be given to Michigan water systems currently without a water fluoridation program. If funds allow, reimbursement for replacement fluoridation equipment will be offered to those Michigan communities needing to update their fluoridation equipment for the sole purpose of continuing community water fluoridation in their community.

For more information please click the following link. 2015-16_Fluoridation_RFP_504412_7

Should your community have any question regarding the fluoridation of a community water system please contact Sandra Sutton, Community Water Fluoridation Coordinator, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, at 517-373-0238 or suttons2@michigan.gov.

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

Significant Changes Coming to Rural Task Force Program

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), in conjunction with the Rural Task Force (RTF) Oversight Board, is pleased to announce it has achieved significant milestones in improving the RTF Program in a way that fulfills federal oversight rules and better meets the needs of rural programs.

In early 2016, the RTF Oversight Board will begin rolling out materials and guidance documents to bring more transparency and equity to the way federal funds flow through Michigan’s Rural Task Forces and Regional Planning agencies.

The Oversight Board has come to a consensus on a better path forward to improve how local federal obligation dollars are distributed, allocated, and obligated in the RTF Process.

Please click on the following link for key statements that summarize the new milestones. MDOT RTF Milestone Letter

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

Drain Commissioners Seek Guidance on Improving Cooperation with City Officials

The Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners is working to improve communication and partnerships with locally elected officials. To advance this goal, the group has constructed a quick survey for city leaders to complete. The survey should take no more than five minutes. The group believes our input is crucial in determining where and how they need to improve the relationships between county drain commissioners and city officials.

To begin the survey please click here.

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

County Road Association to Host Road Funding 101 Seminar

The County Road Association of Michigan will be hosting a “Road Funding 101” seminar in Mt. Pleasant on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, from 12 – 4 pm. The half-day session will cover the basics on Michigan road revenues, the Michigan Transportation Fund and formula, and Act 51 reporting.

For more information or to register please click here.

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

 

Roads Deal Passes Michigan Legislature, Governor Snyder Prepares to Sign

A school bus travels over bumpy roads. Vote yes for safe roads on May 5.

A school bus travels over bumpy roads.

Late last night the Michigan Legislature narrowly cobbled together the necessary votes to send a road funding package to the Governor Snyder’s desk for signature.

Over the past two-plus years the Michigan Municipal League has consistently called for a long-term sustainable solution that relies heavily on a significant amount of dedicated funding for transportation and doesn’t leave future state and local budgets hanging in the balance. This plan falls far short of that and there simply isn’t enough real revenue for roads in this package.

It’s an over-statement to say that a $1.2 billion plan with $600 million in new revenue and $600 million in General Fund dollars will fix Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure. This is especially true given that two-thirds of the new revenue will simply replace General Fund money already budgeted for roads in the current fiscal year and the plan doesn’t fully phase in for almost a decade.

The framework of the plan includes 7.3 cents gas tax increase and a 20 percent increase in registration fees. Those increases don’t go into affect until January 1, 2017, meaning no new money will be infused into the system for 14 more months. Gas and diesel taxes will be indexed to inflation but not until 2022.

Additionally, the $600 million in General Fund revenue will be phased-in over three years beginning in FY 19 and relies on future Legislatures – some of whom aren’t even elected yet – to appropriate those General Fund dollars to uphold the promises of this current Legislature. History has proven that similar earmarks of this nature have gone unfulfilled.

Plan Details:

HB 4736  increases passenger and commercial vehicle registrations fess by 20 percent per vehicle beginning January 1, 2017. The bill provides for additional increases for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle registrations. These changes result in a $200 million revenue increase for transportation.

•  HB 4738, HB 4614, and HB 4616, provide for gas and diesel tax increases to 26.3 cents, an increase of 7.3 cents per gallon beginning on January 1, 2017. The bills also implement diesel parity, institute a process for taxing alternative fuels, and tie the fuel tax rate to inflation beginning in 2022. These changes result in a $400 million revenue increase for transportation.

HB 4370 dedicates $600 million of income tax revenue to transportation phased in over three years, $150 million in FY 19, $325 million in FY 20 and $600 million in FY 21. will This bill also provides $200 million in tax relief by expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit. According to both the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies that when fully phased-in this will reduce the state General Fund by more that $800 million, or roughly 7 percent.

HB 4737 requires MDOT and local road agencies to secure warranties, where possible, for construction and preservation projects over two million dollars and mandates new reporting requirements for MDOT and local road agencies on those warranties.

HB 4737 also creates a “Roads Innovation Task Force” that will form no later than December 1, 2015 and prepare a report no later than March 1, 2016. The Roads Innovation Task Force will evaluate road materials and construction materials that will allow MDOT to build roads that could last at least 50 years, will focus on materials and processes that may cost more upfront but produce life-cycle construction and maintenance savings, and concentrates on longer-term time frames that seek to maximize value of the taxpayers of this state

Additionally, HB 4737 creates a Roads Innovation Fund. This fund will collect the first $100 million each fiscal year starting in 2016-17 from fuel taxes and every year thereafter. The funds can only be released once the House and Senate approve a one-time concurrent resolution approving the report done by the Roads Innovation Task Force. Those funds shall be appropriated only for the use of specific higher quality, longer life cycle road construction purposes. Once the concurrent resolution is approved the fund shall no longer annually receive the allocation.

SB 414 creates an automatic rollback of the income tax. The rollback occurs when General Fund growth exceeds the rate of inflation plus 1.425%. The first rollback could not begin until January 1, 2023.

HB 4610 allows townships contributing 50% or more to a road project to require an RFP for pavement projects over $50,000 and gravel projects over $25,000.

HB 4611 requires an RFP process for all projects over $100,000 for MDOT. Local road agencies must do RFPs for all projects, excluding routine maintenance, over $100,000, unless the local road agency affirmatively finds that they can do it themselves for less.

The League believes this plan is overly reliant on existing tax dollars and very likely establishes a foundation for potential cuts to local police and fire protection, higher education, economic development and our ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. It fails to address the key principles for which we consistently advocated – a long-term sustainable solution that invests in our road network, protection of essential services, and fiscal responsibility in regards to future state and local government budgets.

View a League media statement on the roads plan passed by the Legislature.

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

House Passes $1.2 Billion Road Funding Plan that Relies on $600 Million in General Fund Revenue

A fire truck makes an emergency run over crumbling roads in Macomb County.

A fire truck makes an emergency run over crumbling roads in Macomb County.

Late last night the Michigan House of Representative passed a plan that would raise $1.2 billion to fix Michigan’s infrastructure but relies heavily on state general fund revenue to do so. The plan could have a significant negative impact on the essential services that communities provide and Michigan Municipal League has consistently expressed our concern with any road funding solution that would jeopardize the long-term fiscal sustainability of this state and its communities.

This plan contains $600 million in new revenue and $600 million in general fund revenue. The new revenue would be generated by increasing gas taxes by 3.3 cents and registration fees by 40%. The plan does not identify where the existing revenue will come from. The following bills were included in the House passed plan.

HB 4370 provides $200 million in tax relief by expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit and also dedicates $600 million of income tax revenue to transportation. Based on current revenue and expenditure projections, this statutory dedication of General Funds would not result in a year end budget deficit greater than $60 million in the next five years.

HB 4736  increases passenger and commercial vehicle registrations an average of $55 (40%) per vehicle. Additionally, the bill provides for plug-in hybrid ($30) and electric ($100) vehicle registration fee increases resulting in $400 million revenue increase for transportation.

HB 4614, HB 4616, and HB 4738 provide for gas/diesel tax increases to 22.3 cents (increase of 3.3 cents) per gallon by 2019. The bills also implement diesel parity, institute a process for taxing alternative fuels, and tie the fuel tax rate to inflation resulting in $200 million revenue increase for transportation.

HB 4610 allows townships contributing 50% or more to a road project to require an RFP for pavement projects over $50,000 and gravel projects over $25,000.

HB 4611 requires an RFP process for all projects over $100,000 for MDOT. Local road agencies must do RFPs for all projects, excluding routine maintenance, over $100,000, unless the local road agency affirmatively finds that they can do it themselves for less.

HB 4737 requires MDOT and local road agencies to secure warranties, where possible, for construction and preservation projects over two million dollars.

SB 414 creates an automatic rollback of the income tax rate equal to the amount General Fund revenue exceeds the rate of inflation annually. The rollback begins on January 1, 2019 and the tax cut level will be dictated by annual General Fund levels and will vary from year to year.

The League strongly encourages Governor Snyder and quadrant leaders to restart their conversation and come up with a road funding plan that does not jeopardize the essential services that Michigan citizens rely on, such as police and fire protection, schools and public transit.

Additionally, the League encourage you to reach out to your individual Senator and ask them to pass a long-tern fiscally sustainable solution that relies more on new revenue and less on general fund revenue , does not jeopardizes future state budgets and does not  negatively impact the essential services communities provide.

View a League media statement on the House roads plan.

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