Revenue Sharing Recipients: Accountability and Transparency Certifications Due by Dec. 1

Just a reminder that accountability and transparency certifications are due to the Department of Treasury by December 1, 2014. You’ll recall that this is the only requirement remaining from the old EVIP program.

To meet the requirements for Accountability & Transparency under the revenue sharing program, eligible local units must certify to Treasury that they have produced and made available to the public a citizen’s guide, a performance dashboard, a debt service report and a projected budget report.

You can find additional information and forms on the Department of Treasury’s website.

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.

House Committee Considers Pneumatic Gun Legislation

Yesterday the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on  Senate Bill 979 (sponsored by Sen. Hildenbrand, R-Grand Rapids), a bill to include pneumatic guns (i.e. paint ball guns) in the list of pistols or other firearms that local units of government currently cannot tax, regulate ownership of, registration of, sale/transfer/possession and transportation of (PA 319 of 1990).

The legislation does allow a local unit to regulate the possession of a pneumatic gun in someone under the age of 16 unless it is their private property as well as allow a local unit to prohibit discharging of a pneumatic gun in heavily populated areas.

The League is opposing this legislation. The committee did not vote, but we expect they will do so in the remaining session days.

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 Passes Legislation to Amend the Tax Appeals Process

Yesterday afternoon the Senate passed 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 many of those concerns. At this point our biggest concern with the legislation is philosophical.

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 now neutral, and the business community is not pushing for the legislation to move.

Initially the legislation had a  3-year look back for property tax appeals which would have created uncertainty for local budgets. Sen. Caswell did address that concern with an amendment.

The bills now go to the House for their 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.

House Committee Passes Online Notice Legislation

This morning, the House Local Government Committee reported House Bill 5560, legislation that would phase out the newspaper publication requirement for public notices and transition the notices to the Internet.

HB 5560 creates a tiered system for legal notices and phases them out over time. The legislation is vague, but the least “serious” notices would be considered Tier A. Tier C would include those notices that deal with property and finances.

Under the bill, beginning January 1, 2025, a local government would be required to change how it provides public notice. A Tier A public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 30 days.  A Tier A public notice with a link would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 30 days with a link to the full document.  A Tier B public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 14 days.  A Tier B public notice with a link would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of a website for 14 days with a link to the full document. A Tier C public notice would be posted on the ‘active notice portion’ of the website for 14 days.

The legislation allows local electors to hold a referendum to require continued publication in a newspaper. It allows local units to enter into contracts with media outlets for publication on their websites. The bill also requires archiving of public notices for five years.

The bill now goes to the House for its approval.

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 Considers Cancer Presumption Legislation with State Paying Increased Costs

The legislature is one again considering cancer presumption legislation. After being vetoed by Governor Engler in 1998 cancer presumption has returned in some form each legislative session.

This morning the House Insurance Committee heard testimony Senate Bill 211, a bill that creates a cancer presumption for firefighters. It is presumed that if a firefighter develops certain types of cancer that it occurred during the course of his or her employment.

The League has always opposed cancer presumption because in its previous versions it would more than double workers compensation premiums for communities with full-time firefighters.  We consider that a conservative estimate. In a time where communities’ budgets are still reeling from revenue sharing cuts and property tax declines, this is a cost our communities are unable to afford.

In the Senate-passed version the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund is created in workers compensation but as a separate fund (similar to what the State has done with the silicosis or dust fund). Unlike the dust fund (where workers compensation providers are charged an assessment) the legislation indicates that the State will pay for claims submitted to the fund.

The bill indicates that the fund will not begin until the legislature appropriates money. If there is not enough money in the fund, claims will not be paid.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

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

House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee Considers Municipal Security Legislation

This morning the House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee heard testimony on House Bill 5650, legislation that would amend the Revised Municipal Finance Act to provide for a statutory first lien on all taxes subject to an unlimited tax pledge for a municipal security authorized or issued before December 23, 1978, or approved by the electors of a municipality. This would apply to an unlimited tax pledge made prior to or after the date of enactment of the bill.

Current law requires that the taxes be set aside as collected for the payment of the principal and interest on the municipal securities divided pro rata among the various sinking funds and debt retirement funds in accordance with the amount levied. Upon collection and prior to dividing the funds pro rata, House Bill 5650 would require the funds set aside to be held in trust for the owners of the municipal security.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

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 Considers Legislation to Allow More Local Bonding for Pension/OPEB Costs

This morning the House Financial Liability Reform Committee heard testimony on House Bill 5279, legislation that would allow communities with an A credit rating to bond for pension and other post employment benefit (OPEB) costs if that community obtains bond insurance.

In 2012 the Governor signed Senate Bill 1129, legislation that allows communities with a AA bond rating or better to bond for the costs of switching from a defined benefit to a defined contribution plan or for OPEB costs. This tool is very important for communities.

A number of communities with A bond ratings wanted to be included, and it was made clear by the Department of Treasury in 2012 that the administration would not expand the scope. The Department is opposed to HB 5279 as well, but we will continue to push forward.

The committee did not vote on the legislation.

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 Committee Approves Bill Enforcing Income Tax Collection from Lottery Winners

This morning the House Tax Policy Committee reported House Bill 5924, legislation that would require the Department of Treasury to withhold local income tax from a lottery winner at the time the winnings are claimed.

While a lottery winner is required to pay local income tax (if applicable), it can be very difficult to enforce. This would aid in that enforcement.

Thank you to Rep. Daley for introducing this legislation and to the committee chair, Rep. Farrington, for giving us a hearing so quickly.

The legislation now goes to the full House 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

West Michigan Environmental Council to Host Fracking in Michigan Conference

On Wednesday, December 3, 2014 the West Michigan Environmental Council will host a conference exploring Fracking in Michigan. The event will be held at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing beginning at 10 a.m.

The event will explore a number of issues around fracking including the impact on local government. For more information or if you are interested in attending, you can check out the event’s website.

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

Senate Passes Firefighter Bargaining Preemption

This morning the Senate passed on House Bill 4624, a bill that would make a full-time firefighter’s ability to work as a firefighter in another community a prohibited subject of bargaining.The legislation is supported by the fire chiefs and the Michigan Townships Association.

The League is opposed to this legislation as it violates local control in the bargaining process. The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence.

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