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

Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Clarifying Reasonable Court Costs

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Cunningham that a court may impose costs in a criminal case only if those costs are authorized by statute. This decision has a huge impact on courts across Michigan including our district courts.

This morning the Senate passed House Bill 5785, legislation that would allow a court to impose any reasonable cost on a defendant found guilty of a crime. Unfortunately on the House floor an amendment was added that would sunset the legislation in 27 months. The Senate increased the sunset to 36 months.

Reasonable costs include salaries and benefits of court personnel; goods and services necessary for operation of the court; and/or necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of court buildings and facilities.

The bill requires the court to make available to the general public and the defendant information about any costs, fines or assessments imposed beginning June 18, 2014.

The legislation now goes back to the House for concurrence.

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.

Costly PA 54 Exemption on its Way to the Governor

We were told a costly PA 54 exemption, HB 5097, was a priority for the Governor. Now it is on its way to his desk for his signature.

House Bill 5097 exempts police and fire from Public Act 54 so that they can have retroactive pay increases after a contract expires. In the House-passed version they included retroactive health care language that references PA 152 of 2011 (the 80/20, hard cap, opt out legislation). The language is confusing and unnecessary, and we suspect it will result in major issues during negotiations.

The Michigan Municipal League has strongly opposed this bill due to the detrimental financial implications for our communities.

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.

HOWEVER, 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.

Unfortunately these arguments fell on deaf ears in the legislature, and HB 5097 passed both chambers overwhelmingly.

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

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.

 

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.

Senate Committee Passes Bill Clarifying Reasonable Court Costs

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Cunningham that a court may impose costs in a criminal case only if those costs are authorized by statute. This decision has a huge impact on courts across Michigan including our district courts.

Last week the House passed House Bill 5785, legislation that would allow a court to impose any reasonable cost on a defendant found guilty of a crime. Unfortunately on the House floor an amendment was added that would sunset the legislation in 27 months. The Senate increased the sunset to 36 months.

Reasonable costs include salaries and benefits of court personnel; goods and services necessary for operation of the court; and/or necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of court buildings and facilities.

The bill requires the court to make available to the general public and the defendant information about any costs, fines or assessments imposed beginning June 18, 2014.

The legislation now goes back to the House for concurrence.

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 Passes Bill Extending Sunset for OPEB Bonding

This afternoon the House passed Senate Bill 922, a bill to extend the sunset for bonding for other post employment benefits (OPEB) and the costs of switching from defined benefit to defined contribution. This is an option for communities with a AA credit rating.

The sunset will be extended to December 31, 2015. The League has been pushing for an additional change to allow communities with an A rating or better to use this option if they purchase bond insurance. Thus far we have not been successful in getting this amendment.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for concurrence.

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.