Year-End Legislative Wrap-Up

While last week’s House and Senate adjournment merely marks the mid-point of this two-year legislative session, that did not mean that the Legislature coasted into their holiday break.

Highlighted by the intense activity surrounding OPEB reform, both legislative chambers pursued aggressive agendas in the final days before adjourning.  Numerous bills that the League was tracking and engaged with experienced some measure of action:

The now 13-bill OPEB package was signed by Governor Snyder this week as Public Acts 202-214 of 2017 and takes effect immediately.  New reporting requirements under the bill are expected to be phased in over the next year, with some reporting expected due as early as January 31, 2018.  The League will work to update member communities as more information becomes available in the next couple of weeks.

Senate Bill 110 clarifies that municipalities implementing plans to increase the supply of below market housing are not violating the Rent Control Act (PA 226 of 1988) by offering voluntary incentives. This League-supported legislation was introduced in February and received a committee hearing this last week of session. It’s anticipated the bill will receive another committee hearing in early 2018 and be voted out.

Two economic development proposals of key interest to municipalities were also voted out of the Senate during the last week of session.  Similar to legislation that died at the end of 2016, the Senate sponsor introduced Senate Bill 393, which consolidates all tax increment financing authorities, excluding Brownfield Redevelopment Authorities, into one act with added transparency and reporting requirements.  Senate Bill 469 would reinstate the Michigan Historic Preservation Tax Credit.  Both of these bills were voted out of committee and out of the Senate last week and have been referred to the House Tax Policy committee where they are expected to receive committee consideration in the new year.

The League was also pleased with the Governor’s signature on legislation allowing urban grocery store projects to access funding from the community revitalization program this week. The House and Senate coordinated efforts last week on House Bill 4207 to provide State Rep. Andy Schor with one last Public Act before he resigns to take over as mayor of the City of Lansing.

Three different proposals related to the new Personal Property Tax system also saw movement before the recess, with Senate Bills 570-573 being finalized and sent to the Governor.  These bills provide for a much needed local mechanism to address late-filed business exemption applications.  Senate Bills 590-593 were voted out of the Senate and were referred to the House Local Government committee.  These bills, promoted by the League and reported from the Senate committee earlier this fall, would essentially hold communities harmless from any reduction in their debt limit due to a reduction in their property tax base from now-exempt personal property.  Finally, House Bill 5086 was developed between local government groups and the Department of Treasury to address a host of technical and minor policy issues related to the continuing implementation of the new system and the need to align the statute with the practical realities of managing and administering the new law.  This bill moved nearly unanimously out of the House last week and will be considered by the Senate Finance committee in early 2018.

Finally, a League-supported proposal to allow for the voluntary coordination of election duties and functions moved this month as House Bill 4671 received overwhelming support in the House and is now awaiting further action before the Senate Elections & Government Reform committee.

Infrastructure and technology issues also experienced a flurry of lobbying and negotiation over these final weeks of 2017.

Our advocacy efforts combined with a broader coalition opposing legislation which would have preempted most local control over private telecommunication provider line relocation projects.  We were able to delay action on House Bill 5098 that was being pursued by the industry before the end of the year.  This proposal remains alive, however, and we will continue to work to block further action on this bill.

The discussions surrounding the proposed industry roll-out of small cell technology is quickly becoming a big issue for municipalities. Small cells are low-powered antenna nodes that have a range of up to 2 miles and are installed for the purpose of relieving congestion for wireless users. The term “small” refers to the footprint of the device. Small cell devices can be mounted on their own 40’ poles, or on existing utility or street light poles. Senate Bill 637 was recently introduced that would create a new act that allows for small cell technology to be consider a permitted use both inside and outside the right-of-way with limited exceptions. The bill would severely limit local control around siting, impair municipal ability to protect the public health, safety and welfare of residents, and hinder local government’s ability to manage the ROW, potentially leading to a significant increase in the number of new poles within our communities.  Supporters of this proposal are looking for a statewide regulatory structure that is similar to the Metro Act and the Video Franchise Act.

The League is opposed to the language as introduced but working with the Chairman, Senator Mike Nofs, of the Senate Energy and Technology Committee to improve the bill. To do that we have extensively researched legislative efforts in other states, discussed the issue with several communities and municipal attorneys, and looked at the Distributed Antenna System (DAS)/Small Cell License Agreement created by the Grand Valley Metro Council.

League staff have met with Chairman Nofs and presented alternative language based on our research and conversations with members. This viable alternative to the introduced legislation strikes a balance between local control and the nationwide deployment of this new technology. The telecommunications industry will continue its push for the bill when the legislature returns next year in the hopes of quick action . We have asked the Chairman that this issue not be rushed and that all parties be brought to the table to discuss this bill and our alternative.

The Michigan Municipal League is also participant on the Lead and Copper Rule Stakeholder Workgroup that is assisting MDEQ with recommendations to address modifications to the Administrative Rules promulgated pursuant to Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act, 1976 PA 399, as amended. The ongoing discussion continues to be about how to best protect the public from lead exposure.  Unfortunately, the preliminary draft rules add additional burdens to community water supply systems that run counter to the principles of asset management and may ultimately hinder the protection of public health. In addition to the League, there are more than a half dozen community water suppliers, the American Water Works Association, public health departments and others participating on this work group.

The draft rule would reduce the action level from 15 parts per billion down to 10 parts per billion, require communities to map their existing system to identify the presence of lead, require that a community water supplier be responsible for the replacement and cost of private lead service lines, along with many other requirements that could pose significant financial and logistic hardships on a community. The League has taken a stance that we are not opposed to determining how much lead is present in water systems or the need to systematically begin removing lead from systems, but it cannot be done in such a way that causes a financial hardship or conflicts with the Headlee Amendment or the Bolt decision.

Link to the Preliminary Draft Rule: 2017 Preliminary Draft Lead and Copper Rule

Link to the DEQ Summary Document: Summary Lead and Copper Rule Requirements

The Governor has requested this issue be placed on an aggressive timeline and a finalized draft rule is expected by the first of the year. Should our concerns not be addressed through the stakeholder process, communities will need to be prepared to offer public comments on the rule in early January. In the meantime we will continue to work with those stakeholders that have common concerns with the process and draft rules to make the necessary adjustment to help prevent exposure to lead while still allowing for the efficient management of our water supply systems.

The Legislature is scheduled to return to full session on January 10, 2018, with the Governor’s final State of the State message and the Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget presentation to follow shortly thereafter.

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.

Legislative Committee Orientation Event at Capitol Teaches Ins and Outs of State Politics

League staff John LaMacchia and Chris Hackbarth at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

League staff John LaMacchia and Chris Hackbarth at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

(View more photos here)

About 60 local municipal officials from throughout the state were at the state Capitol Thursday in Lansing for the Michigan Municipal League’s Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation. The first-time event for the League was highly successful as members from the League’s various legislative policy committees heard from state lawmakers, League staff and communications experts.

The League makes policy decisions based on the input from its five League policy committees that are broken into topics – energy, environment and technology (chaired by Brighton City Manager Nate Geinzer); land use and economic development (chaired by Lake Isabella Village Manager Tim Wolff); municipal finance (chaired by Howell City Manager Shea Charles); municipal services (chaired by Novi City Manager Pete Auger); and transportation infrastructure (chaired by Farmington Hills Public Services Director Gary Mekjian).

The event was hosted by State Rep. Dan Lauwers in the Speakers Library in the Capitol across the street from the League’s Lansing office. Lauwers welcomed the group to the Capitol and was followed by League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin who thanked the members for their services on the policy committees and explained how important their work is to the League’s success as an organization.

State legislators speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

State legislators Rep. Christine Greig, Rep. James Lower and Sen. Ken Horn speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday. Kyle Melinn (left), co-owner of MIRS News Service, was moderator of the panel discussion.

Other event speakers were League staff members Chris Hackbarth, director of state and federal affairs; John LaMacchia, assistant director of state and federal affairs; Jennifer Rigterink, legislative associated; Emily Kieliszewski, member engagement specialist; and Shanna Draheim, policy director. There was also a panel discussion moderated by Kyle Melinn, news editor and co-owner of Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS) and featuring State Rep. Christine Greig, House Democratic Floor Leader; State Rep. James Lower; and State Sen. Ken Horn.

Local officials listen to a presentation at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Local officials listen to a presentation at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Policy committee members from throughout the state attended representing the following communities: Village of Beverly Hills, City of Novi, City of Flushing, City of Gibraltar, City of Wyoming, Village of Copemish, City of Dexter, City of Center Line, City of Howell, City of Southgate, City of Grosse Pointe, Village of Chesaning, City of Livonia, City of Taylor,
City of Brighton, City of Charlotte, City of Westland, City of Woodhaven, City of Springfield, City of Dearborn Heights, City of Ann Arbor, Village of Mendon, City of Grand Blanc, City of Menominee, City of Midland, City of Berkley, City of St. Clair Shores, Village of St. Charles, City of Ovid, City of Monroe, City of Ann Arbor, City of Hazel Park, City of Douglas, City of Farmington Hills, City of Mt. Pleasant, City of Hamtramck, City of Alma, City of Hastings, City of Farmington Hills, City of Grandville, City of Dexter, City of Adrian, City of Rochester Hills, City of Orchard Lake, City of Cadillac, City of Rochester
City of Plymouth, City of Wayne, Village of Cassopolis, City of Dexter, City of Milan, City of Midland, Village of Sparta, City of Alpena, City of Saline, City of Gladstone, City of East Lansing, City of Clio, Village of Lake Isabella, Village of Blissfield, and Village of Quincy.

Dusty Fancher and Dave Waymire speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

Dusty Fancher and Dave Waymire speak at the Legislative Committee Kick-Off Orientation Thursday.

After lunch, the group heard about communications, public relations and the insider’s guide to lobbying from Dave Waymire, partner at Martin Waymire; and Dusty Fancher, partner with Midwest Strategy Group.

To learn about the latest legislative issues involving Michgian’s communities, subscribe to the League’s Inside 208 blog here: http://blogs.mml.org/wp/inside208/ (view subscribe box on right side of page). Learn more about the League’s policy committees here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/committee/index.html. View additional photos from the event here.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Governor Snyder Signs Recreational Authorities Bill with Support from Big Rapids and League

The League's Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

Today, the Michigan Municipal League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing House Bill 4578.

The new law clarifies the use of tax proceeds by a recreational authority and is expanded to include school districts. Working in conjunction with officials from the City of Big Rapids, the League was successful in getting the legislation approved with support from bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac. View a previous blog about the legislation here.

The legislation, modeled on similar legislation from previous sessions, expands the definition of an eligible municipality to include a school district. This change also allows a city, village, or township to partner with a school district to form a recreation authority allowing broader access to recreation programming and facilities throughout a region.

Thank you to Mayor Warba and other Big Rapids area officials for their support on this bill! We also like to thank bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Outstanding ‘Boxed In’ Documentary Film Explains Dark Stores Tax Loophole Issue in Michigan

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There is a fantastic new documentary film that does an outstanding job explaining the complex, yet devastating “Dark Stores” tax loophole issue facing Michigan communities. This is a hot topic the Michigan Municipal League has been fighting for more than a year and at a compact 24-minutes it is great film to show in your local communities when explaining this issue.

“Boxed In” is a documentary by Northern Michigan University Professor Dwight Brady, an Emmy Award winning producer, and 14 NMU students.

It premiered in Marquette Aug. 24 and will be shown again Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Escanaba at 7 p.m. in the Besse Theater at Bay College.

You can watch the documentary and read more about it, including a press release, here: http://boxedin.news/what-is-boxed-in-all-about/.

Attorney Jack Van Coevering is featured in 'Box In'.

Attorney Jack Van Coevering is featured in ‘Box In’.

You can also read more information about the Dark Stores issue on the League’s Dark Stores resource page here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/dark-stores/.

In essence, the Dark Store theory is a tax loophole scheme being used by Big Box retailers to lower the amount they pay in property taxes. Retailers such as Meijer, Lowe’s, Target, Kohl’s, Menards, IKEA, Wal-Mart and Home Depot across Michigan are arguing that the market value of their operating store should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned and may not even be located in Michigan. The stores also place deed restrictions on the vacated buildings that greatly limit what can go in the buildings once they are empty and become dark.

A bill to address the issue was overwhelming approved in the Michigan House in a 97-11 vote (http://blogs.mml.org/wp/inside208/2016/06/08/dark-stores-fix-wins-approval-in-house/) in June, but is pending in the state Senate where greater opposition is expected.

An example of a Dark Store. Big Box stores argue vacant, or dark stores, like this one should be used as a comparable for tax evaluation purposes when valuing a vibrant, open big box store. Unfortunately the Michigan Tax Tribunal since 2010 has started to agree.

An example of a Dark Store. Big Box stores argue vacant, or dark stores, like this one should be used as a comparable for tax evaluation purposes when valuing a vibrant, open big box store. Unfortunately the Michigan Tax Tribunal since 2010 has started to agree.

The documentary film started out as a class project but it quickly developed into a much larger story that took Dr. Brady and his students from Marquette, to Lansing, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Grand Blanc and other other stops along the way.

They interviewed 15 different sources, including State Rep. David Maturen, who authored the bill that was approved in the House. The bill would require the Michigan State Tax Tribunal to follow traditional methods of assessing property.

The students also interviewed Grand Blanc Township Superintendent Dennis Liimatta, current Chair of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, Steven Lasher, and Former Chief Judge Jack Van Coevering to get different perspectives on the issue. Read more about the film here: http://boxedin.news/what-is-boxed-in-all-about/.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Got Blight? Money Available for Local Governments for Targeted Demolition

Got blight? Our friends at MSHDA asked that we share this with our member communities:

MSHDA 2016 Hardest Hit Blight Elimination NOFA

The Michigan Homeowner Assistance Non Profit Housing Corporation (MHA) working in conjunction with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is seeking proposals in support of targeted demolition activity within local units of governments across Michigan with the goal of initiating or triggering private investment and development; supporting current investment and development; and to promote the increase in values of the surrounding areas. Proposals selected to participate in the Hardest Hit Blight Elimination Program will be funded by an award MHA received from the U.S. Department of Treasury. MHA and MSHDA are partners but separate entities.

For further information on MHA, contact Mary Townley on behalf of MHA at 517-373-6864 or townleym1@michigan.gov.

LaMacchia: Infrastructure Issues in Flint Symptom of Larger Problem

The League's John LaMacchia (center, right) and fellow panelists.

The League’s John LaMacchia (center, right) and fellow panelists.

What’s happening in Flint, Detroit and other cities is a symptom of a larger problem. A problem where cities in Michigan are only allowed to fall with the economy but not to prosper as the economy grows. And it’s only going to get worse if we don’t change the way the nation invests in communities.

This was a key message by the Michigan Municipal League’s John LaMacchia when speaking Thursday in Washington D.C. as part of Infrastructure Week 2016. The Infrastructure Week celebration organized by the National League of Cities and its partners is to raise awareness about the nation’s infrastructure needs. Cities construct and maintain the majority of our nation’s infrastructure and depend on a solid infrastructure network to provide safe and healthy communities, and grow their local economies.

The League's John LaMacchia is in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Infrastructure Week celebration. As part of his work, LaMacchia (center left) met with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (right).

The League’s John LaMacchia is in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Infrastructure Week celebration. As part of his work, LaMacchia (center left) met with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (right).

LaMacchia, assistant director of state affairs for the League, spoke as part of a panel discussion on “Securing Our Water Future: 21st Century Solutions for 21st Century Cities”. Other panelists were Council Member Matt Zone, City of Cleveland, Ohio, and National League of Cities 1st Vice President; Council Member Ron Nirenberg, City of San Antonio, Texas, and Chair, National League of Cities Energy and Environment Committee; Commissioner Heather Repenning, President Pro Tempore, Los Angeles Board of Public Works; Tyrone Jue, Senior Advisor on Environment to Mayor Ed Lee, City of San Francisco, California; Jonathan Trutt, Executive Director, West Coast Infrastructure Exchange; and Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and Executive Director, National League of Cities.

LaMacchia discussed the Flint water crisis and explained how the Flint issue is part of a much larger infrastructure problem in communities statewide.

Some of his key points included:

  • Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Gov. Rick Snyder agree Flint’s lead-tainted service lines need to be removed. But it will take at least $55 million to replace all the lead-tainted lines. Money for water infrastructure has been put into appropriations bills in the Michigan Legislature and U.S. Congress, but the bills are still making their way through those legislative bodies.
  • The service lines are just part of the problem. The rest of Flint’s water system, from aging water mains to other infrastructure, needs to be totally replaced. The city’s water system loses a large percentage of the water to leaks, one reason Flint has some of the highest water rates in the country. Again, the City of Flint will need help from the state and federal governments to modernize its water infrastructure, a process that is expected to cost of hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • When we look at Michigan as a whole we have neglected to properly invest, maintain and right size our infrastructure.
    The league's John LaMacchia speaks on a panel during Infrastructure Week in Washington D.C. May 19, 2016.

    The League’s John LaMacchia speaks on a panel during Infrastructure Week in Washington D.C. May 19, 2016.

  • For nearly 30 years Michigan has been about 10 million people yet we have increased the amount of infrastructure in the state by roughly 50% and giving little thought to how we would maintain both the old and new infrastructure.
  • Time and time again we have built new water and sewer plants without capitalizing on the existing capacity of a nearby system.
  • This not only speaks to how we have been inefficient in managing infrastructure in Michigan but also how we have disinvested in our communities in general.
  • Why cities are important: Our goal at the Michigan Municipal League is to make Michigan communities places people want to be. Places that can attract a talented work force and businesses. Having placemaking strategies in all communities is important. But it’s hard to even think about creating great places when you’re fighting every day not to drown. How can you attract businesses and a work force if your roads are crumbling, bridges are in disrepair and you’re communities have slashed the number of police officers, firefighters, public works employees and more?
  • The numbers show that some states – particularly Michigan – do not understand the importance of cities as economic drivers. If they did they would be investing in cities. But unfortunately they are disinvesting in cities.
  • According to U.S. Census data all but one state showed growth in municipal general revenue between 2002 and 2012. View chart here.
  • Many want to blame this on a single state recession but the numbers tell a different story.
  • Why is this the case in Michigan – property values decrease in 2008 crash and the Michigan Constitution limits their ability to recover, PLUS revenue sharing to the tune of $7.5 billion over the last decade plus.

LaMacchia concluded explaining Michigan’s system for funding municipalities is fundamentally broken and unless it gets fixed we’re going to see more situations like what’s happening in Flint and Detroit occur in other communities.

Also earlier this week, NLC released a new report called, Paying for Local Infrastructure in a New Era of Federalism. Read a blog about the report by the League’s Summer Minnick.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Revenue Sharing Budgets Positioned for Initial Action; Senate Cuts Statutory by 1.5%

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan.

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan. A 2016-17 Senate budget plan would cut statutory revenue sharing to communities even more. Learn more at SaveMiCity.org

The Michigan House and Senate Appropriations committees made their opening moves on the state budget this week by reporting the full budget bills to the floors of their respective chambers. Following expected floor action on these bills in the coming week or two, each chamber will review the other’s proposal and move toward a final budget deal sometime in early June.

Both proposals continue the current practice of ignoring the fiscal needs of local government, failing to make revenue sharing and the larger issue of municipal finance a budget priority. Without a renewed focus and commitment by the Governor and Legislature, Michigan will continue to occupy last place nationally in our treatment of local government. Learn about the League’s municipal finance initiative at SaveMiCity.org. View how much money your community has lost in revenue sharing here.

The House committee reported an omnibus budget bill, House Bill 5294, to the floor which includes funding for revenue sharing. The House proposal maintains current-year funding for revenue sharing, only deviating from the Governor’s original recommendation by maintaining the $5.8 million that the Governor would have removed for approximately 100 townships that hadn’t received revenue sharing previously.

The Senate committee, on the other hand, moved Senate Bill 788 to the Senate floor with significant changes to the Governor’s proposal for revenue sharing. Statutory revenue sharing would see a 1.5% reduction ($3.85 million) in the Senate version, with the dollars from that reduction being shifted to cover a proposed local match requirement for the purchase of new voting equipment. The League urges you to contact your Senator, asking them to join us in opposition to this approach.

In the Governor’s original budget proposal, the effort to replace existing voting equipment statewide was supported by $10 million in General Fund and $5 million in requested (unidentified) local match. These dollars would be coupled with remaining federal Help America Vote Act funds and dollars appropriated for this purpose in the current budget year. The purchase of new voting equipment has been championed by the County and Municipal Clerks Associations and the Secretary of State’s office, but the call for a local match requirement had not been voiced prior to this year’s budget.

The proposal to accommodate the Governor’s local match request in the Senate version raises serious concerns for the Michigan Municipal League and member communities, even beyond the further erosion of an already devastated statutory revenue sharing base.

  • All cities, villages, townships and counties would benefit from the purchase of new voting equipment, but the local match requirement would only be paid by those cities and villages and few townships that receive a statutory payment. ***Counties and townships that do not receive non-Constitutional revenue sharing payments would pay no local match.  
  • By paying the local match only out of the statutory revenue sharing line, there is no correlation to the actual match requirement for equipment being purchased within each community. In a sample comparing similarly sized communities, one with 19 voting precincts would forgo only about $1,500 in revenue sharing, while another community with only 12 polling places would lose more than $22,000 … and this does not account for the more than 1,000 local government units that would pay nothing in local match!
  • County statutory payments, already funded at 100%, would receive a 2% increase ($4.3 million) in this proposal. Again, without any requirement for a local match for voting equipment purchases by a county.
  • This match requirement would be deducted during the FY 16-17 budget year, yet voting equipment would not be received by any local government until at least 2017 and delivery would like be phased in over two to three years.

Comments have been made that under this proposal, every local unit will receive at least what they received during  the current budget year even with the 1.5% base reduction, but this statement assumes that there will be growth in sales tax revenue driving higher Constitutional revenue sharing payments. Early indications from the most recent Senate Fiscal Agency monthly revenue report reveal that it is unlikely that the state will even meet its already reduced sales tax estimate for the current year, let alone meet the overly optimistic 3.9% growth estimate for the coming year. It is more probable that Constitutional revenue sharing payments will be flat for a third year in a row, if not reduced at some point over the next year.

It is expected that the Senate’s revenue sharing plan will be voted on by the full chamber next week. Please remember to contact your Senator and urge them to begin restoring the cuts of the past decade and reform the way local governments are funded. They should start by rejecting the committee proposal.

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

New “Dark Store” Solution Focuses on Michigan Tax Tribunal Process

A big box "dark store" in southeast Michigan.

A big box “dark store” in southeast Michigan.

State Representative Dave Maturen (R-Vicksburg) introduced House Bill 5578 this week (http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2016-HB-5578) with the support of the Michigan Municipal League and other local government groups, to address the ongoing crisis of “dark store” property tax appeals.

The legislation proposed by Rep. Maturen, was developed following a workgroup process which he chaired and involved participation by the League and numerous local assessors, appraisers and other property valuation experts. The proposal would require Michigan Tax Tribunal members to equitably apply universally accepted appraisal standards when deciding larger property tax appeal cases. These standards will provide consistency in determining highest and best use as part of the property valuation process. The legislation would also restrict the consideration of comparable sales that have deed restrictions if the deed restrictions are imposed by the seller to keep competitors of the seller from the  market and  the deed restrictions provide no benefit to the property but only to the seller’s business.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 27) before the House Tax Policy committee. League members are encouraged to contact the legislators on the Tax Policy committee at this link and your own Representative and Senator to explain the importance of this issue and to urge their support for HB 5578. Use the League’s Action Center to contact your lawmakers.

Visit the League’s information page on the Dark Stores issue here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/dark-stores/

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

League, other organizations to Governor Snyder: VETO SB 571

Dearborn Mayor and League President Jack O'Reilly discusses SB 571 during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Dearborn Mayor and League President Jack O’Reilly discusses SB 571 during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016.

Governor Rick Snyder needs to veto a campaign finance bill sitting on his desk that would create more problems than it attempts to solve.

This was the basic message of a well-attended news conference Tuesday at the Michigan Municipal League’s Lansing office about SB 571. The event was covered by nearly a dozen members of the media, including radio, TV and print/online. Read articles about the news conference by: the Detroit News, mlive.com, WLNS TV, WILX TV, WOOD TVLansing State JournalDearborn Press & Guide, WSJM radio and subscription news services Gongwer and MIRS. The League’s call to veto this bill (read details about that here from the League’s Chris Hackbarth) seems to be gaining momentum.

Check out this Kalamazoo Gazette article that quotes some Republican lawmakers who are having second thoughts about approving SB 571. View this Detroit News editorial calling for a veto.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett discusses SB 571 during a press conference Tuesday,

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett discusses SB 571 during a press conference Tuesday,

Senate Bill 571 passed the legislature on Dec. 16 with some extensive last-minute revisions. The bill expanded from 12 pages to 53 pages, but the very last change is the one we had the press conference about. Section 57 of the bill would prevent public entities from distributing information about a ballot proposal in the 60 days before an election.

“In other words, in the weeks before an election we cannot use a mailing or local cable outlets to inform our constituents if a measure will raise or lower their tax rate, who it will affect, if it will mean the community will be selling a piece of property and where it is, how a charter change will affect them or anything else,” said Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, president of the Michigan Municipal League.

The legislation would prohibit them from distributing public notices on television, radio and in print media explaining property tax proposals, school bond issues or changes in a local charter.

Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett discusses SB 571.

Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett discusses SB 571.

“Local officials wouldn’t even be able to tell voters in their newsletter who’s running for city council,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin.

Chris Barnett, supervisor of Orion Township, said the legislation amounts to a “gag order” on election officials 60 days prior to an election.

“What (voters) expect me to do is answer questions and give them information,” Barnett said.

Republican Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said perhaps this is a legislative effort to stop tax increases, but that’s not what’s going on in his community. Over the past four years the largely conservative community has considered seven ballot proposals, and only one was a tax increase.

To educate voters on these issues, which are often complicated, Rochester Hills government has turned to YouTube and public access television. But the line could get blurry.

“Can I respond to a resident asking a question about a millage proposal? It’s very concerning,” Barnett said.

A large amount of media attend a news conference Tuesday on SB 571 at the Michigan Municipal League's Lansing office.

A large amount of media attend a news conference Tuesday on SB 571 at the Michigan Municipal League’s Lansing office.

That concern was echoed by Democratic Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly, who said “we’re going to end up having a lot of effort made trying to interpret where that line is.”

Governor Snyder has until Jan. 11 to decide whether to sign or veto the bill and already some Republican lawmakers who initially voted for it are saying it might be worth a second look. Read these articles from the Kalamazoo Gazette and Holland Sentinel that talk to lawmakers willing to revisit the bill.

The press conference was emceed by League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin and featured League Board President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and officials representing the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Sheriffs Association, Middle Cities Education Association, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan County Roads Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, and the League of Women Voters. View a joint press release about the issue.

League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin kicks off a news conference on SB 571.

League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin kicks off a news conference on SB 571.

We had nearly a dozen members of the media attend including two Lansing TV stations, Michigan Public Radio, Gongwer, MIRS, mlive, Lansing State Journal, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

The League along with numerous communities and organizations have sent letters to Governor Snyder asking him to veto the bill. Read the veto letters from: the League, Michigan Association of Counties, and the Michigan Townships Association.

You can register your opinion about this bill with Governor Snyder during regular business hours at (517) 335-7858. Or go to https://somgovweb.state.mi.us/GovRelations/ShareOpinion.aspx.

Excerpts from articles in mlive and Detroit News about the news conference were including in this blog post.

Matt Bach is Director of Media Relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 810-874-1073.