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.

Michigan Municipal League Members Testify on Dark Stores Issue; Call for Immediate Fix

Chris Hackbarth testifies on the Dark Stores issue along with MTA and MAC officials.

Chris Hackbarth testifies on the Dark Stores issue along with MTA and MAC officials.

(UPDATE: View the League’s new Dark Stores resource web page and view additional Dark Stores-related photos here).

The Michigan Municipal League and some of our members were given the opportunity to offer testify on the Dark Stores tax loophole issue Wednesday before the House Tax Policy Committee. If you’re not aware, the Dark Stores situation involving property tax appeals by Big Box stores like Meijer, Kmart and Wal-mart, is quickly becoming one of the most significant issues, with the biggest implications, facing Michigan communities.

The League testified along with the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan Townships Association. We discussed the impact from Dark Store theory of assessment and the need for immediate fixes. We told the committee about the manipulation of property values that big box retailers are perpetrating through the placement of negative use deed restrictions to devalue buildings that they vacate and then point to later on as support for lowering their assessments.

The League has organized a coalition of more than a dozen organizations to take on this issue. View our joint statement previously given to the committee. Along with organizing this coalition, the League is pursuing an aggressive public relations campaign to bring attention to this important issue through radio, television and print media. We urge your assistance with this effort by contacting your Senator and Representative to explain to them the importance of addressing these dark store appeals and restoring a fair and proper valuation system.

Three Rivers City Manager Joseph Bippus and Mayor Thomas Lowry testify on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Three Rivers City Manager Joseph Bippus and Mayor Thomas Lowry testify on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Among those testifying Wednesday were League members Three Rivers Mayor Thomas Lowry and City Manager Joseph Bippus. They testified as guests of State Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis. Lowry discussed the financial impact of the Dark Stores issue on his city.

“In the last two years we’re pushing well over $300,000 that we had to give back. We only have a $4.3 million budget, we’re approaching 10 percent of (our budget) just from the Dark Store theory,” Lowry told the committee. “We can get an employee for roughly 1 ½ percent of our budget. So for every 1 to 2 percent reduction in our general fund revenues we’re letting an employee go. This absolutely affects the level of services that we can provide to our citizens and our citizens still expect the same level of services.”

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 (aka “dark”) and may not even be located in Michigan. In the last few years, the political appointees on the Michigan Tax Tribunal have upheld this “Dark Store theory” and cut property tax assessments in some cases by as much as 50 percent. This impacts local revenues and subsequently local services and making Michigan one of the only places in the country that assess Big Box retail buildings in this manner. These rulings have resulted in a loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue for local governments across Michigan and now other businesses – not just Big Box stores – such as drug stores and auto repair businesses are attempting to get their taxes lowered based on this same Dark Store argument.

Auburn Hills officials talk with State Rep. Jim Townsend following a House Tax Policy Hearing on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

Auburn Hills officials talk with State Rep. Jim Townsend following a House Tax Policy Hearing on the Dark Stores issue Dec. 9, 2015.

 

Grand Rapids Attorney Jack Van Coevering, former chief judge and chairman of the Michigan Tax Tribunal, testified about how the Michigan Tax Tribunal rulings have resulted in Big Box property tax assessments that are significantly lower in Michigan compared to other states. He gave multiple examples:

  • In Michigan, Lowes stores are assessed at $22.10 per square foot. In Lowes home state of North Carolina, the same stores are valued at $79.08 per square foot.
  • In Michigan, Menards and Target are valued at $24.97 per square foot. In Menard’s home state of Wisconsin, the sames stores are valued at $61.23 per square foot.
  • Sam’s Clubs and Wal-Mart now average around $25.68 per square foot in Michigan. Studies of those buildings in the home state of Arkansas are being done, but Van Coevering said he expects them to be much higher than they are in Michigan.

Van Coevering added that most of the Big Box stores in Michigan used to be valued in the $55 range per square foot and now the amounts have been cut in half due to the Dark Stores theory.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden attends the Dark Stores hearing Dec. 9, 2015.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden attends the Dark Stores hearing Dec. 9, 2015.

The House Tax Policy committee led by Representative Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, first met on the issue Nov. 4 and scheduled this follow-up hearing after it ran out of time to hear from all those who wanted to speak on the issue. Officials from Auburn Hills were also present and attempted to testify and unfortunately time ran out and they did not get a chance to speak. Instead, they did submit written testimony and those in attendance were recognized by Chairman Farrington. I want to thank the Auburn Hills contingent for their continued work on this issue – Auburn Hills City Manager Thomas Tanghe; Assessor Michael Lohmeier; and City Attorney Derk Berkerleg.

Escanaba Assessor Daina Norden also attended the hearing.

The House Tax Policy committee has established a work group to study the issue. The work group, being led by House Tax Policy Committee Vice-Chair David Maturen, R-Vicksburg, includes representatives from all sides of the issue, including the League. Check out an in-depth radio video interview of Maturen discussing the issue and the workgroup.

Posted by Matt Bach on behalf of Chris Hackbarth, the League’s director of state affairs. Chris can be reached at 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

League, MAC and MTA Issue Joint Statement on Data Center Abatement Proposals

The Michigan House Tax Policy Committee today is reviewing legislative proposals regarding what’s known as the data center issue and the Michigan Municipal League along with other organizations have distributed a joint statement regarding the legislation.

The biggest concern from the League’s perspective is ensuring that local communities continue to have the ability to establish local control on both existing and future abatement requests, like we have for other economic development abatement tools. One proposal being shopped by the existing data center industry would eliminate the current language providing local involvement in future data center investments. The League and other local government groups are opposed to this effort. We feel it is appropriate to maintain local involvement in any decision on whether to abate taxes as an economic development tool.

Here is the full statement on this issue by the League, the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) and the Michigan Townships Association (MTA):

As the representatives of local government in Michigan, our organizations ― which are responsible for delivering the daily services Michigan residents count on ― wish to clarify our position on the various legislative proposals being discussed for the data center industry, especially those surrounding exemptions for personal property.

Local governments welcome economic development/job creation in this state and our goal is to continue to partner with the state.

If the Legislature and administration believe exemptions for existing firms and their existing equipment in a broad-based personal property exemption framework are necessary, we recommend the exemption for current equipment follow the recently adopted system for small taxpayers and manufacturers, allowing the local units to be fully reimbursed for the reductions to their tax base.

In our view, though, a blanket, state-ordered exemption would be counterproductive, given the existing economic development tools available to reduce/abate personal property for business, including data centers.

Absent a reimbursement mechanism, language similar to what the House and Senate are considering, which allows for a local unit to approve/deny a request for an abatement of data center personal property, is vital. Allowing local governments to be involved in this way ensures they are able to evaluate the local budget costs against the benefits of proposed exemptions, just as they do with all other economic development decisions.

Adoption of one of these approaches will protect existing local government budgets and preserve the role of the local unit in these critical local economic development decisions.
Thank you for your consideration. We welcome the opportunity to discuss further should you have any questions.

– Chris Hackbarth, Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League
– Judy Allen, Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Townships Association
– Steve Currie, Deputy Director for the Michigan Association of Counties

Posted by Matt Bach on behalf of Chris Hackbarth. For more information contact Hackbarth at chackbarth@mml.org and 517-908-0304.

Senate Committee Reports Bill To Expand Recreation Authorities

Michigan Municipal League members, including Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (right), testified in Lansing recently on an issue facing park and recreation authorities.

Michigan Municipal League members, including Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (right), testified in Lansing recently on an issue facing park and recreation authorities.

Working in conjunction with officials from the City of Big Rapids, the League was successful in getting Senate Bill 481 (Booher) reported from the Senate Local Government committee earlier this week.

The bill, modeled on similar legislation from previous sessions, would expand the definition of an eligible municipality to include a school district.

This change would allow 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.

Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (left) testifies in Lansing.

Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (left) testifies in Lansing.

Language was added in this bill to address concerns raised previously about the need to clarify the appropriate use of any funds raised by an authority that included a school district.

Following a committee hearing in which Big Rapids city and school officials testified in support of the bill, the committee voted the bill out to the full Senate for consideration once they return from break in December.

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

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.

Senate Passes Amended Preemption Bill

The Michigan Competitiveness Committee met this morning and reported a modified version of House Bill 4052.  The bill, which was jointly opposed by the League, Michigan Townships Association, and Michigan Association of Counties, was amended to address some of the concerns we raised and quickly passed the full Senate early this afternoon.

The bill that left the House at the end of May would have prohibited a municipality from negotiating a broad range of conditions as part of the normal procurement process with their own vendors and blocked any employment conditions from being included in an economic development or tax abatement agreement.  Zoning decisions or noise abatement regulations impacting a business’s hours of operation would have been precluded, along with any local business license requirements that could have been interpreted as regulating the relationship between an employer and their employees.

There was broad recognition in the Senate that corrections were needed for many of these unintended consequences.  The Senate committee reported an S-1 version of the bill that made a wide variety of changes that we had requested.  Decisions impacting a business’s hours of operation were excluded from the bill.  An attempt was made to acknowledge community-wide ordinances impacting public safety by allowing business license requirements to include background checks.  Non-discrimination ordinances are not impacted by the proposal.  Language was added that recognizes a local government’s ability to negotiate with a vendor for services and in connection with a tax abatement or tax credit agreement, except that wage and benefit conditions may not exceed state or federal law as part of those negotiations.  Finally, language was included that allows for the enforcement of existing agreements.

We welcomed many of these changes as common sense and an acknowledgment that the original bill constituted a broad over-reach, but we remain opposed to the bill. You can read the testimony that we submitted here. While the Senate version is an improvement, the proposal lies in direct conflict with local control and Home Rule.  We remain concerned with the broad language in parts of the bill and the potential impact on a community.  These concerns along with the unjustified infringement on a local government’s ability to fully negotiate the terms and conditions of any contract or agreement investing public tax dollars ultimately dictated our position.  This bill now returns to the House for concurrence with the Senate amendments sometime next week.

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

LaMacchia: ‘Roads Will Only Get Worse’; Vote Yes on Proposal 1 for New Road Funding in Michigan

About 60 people attend a symposium on Proposal 1 Tuesday in Sterling Heights.

About 60 people attend a symposium on Proposal 1 Tuesday in Sterling Heights.

Last night the Michigan Municipal League hosted a “Safe Roads Symposium” on Proposal 1 in Sterling Heights. The event was attended by about 60 people, including multiple officials from the city of Sterling Heights and surrounding communities.

The League’s John LaMacchia, Legislative Associate, was one of several officials who spoke on the issue as part of a panel during the symposium.

Other event panelists were Gilda Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy; Dr. Robert Livernois, Superintendent of Warren Consolidated Schools; Dr. Christine Johns, Superintendent of Utica Community Schools; and Carmine Palombo, Deputy Executive Director of SEMCOG.

During the informative event, LaMacchia gave a brief history of how Proposal 1 came about and why the Michigan Municipal League supports the initiative heading to voters on May 5.

LaMacchia encouraged those attending to vote yes on Proposal 1.

Panelists get ready for the symposium.

Panelists get ready for the symposium.

“Michigan now spends less per resident on roads than any other state. Let me say that again: Michigan is now dead last in per-capita funding for roads. We’ve neglected properly invest in our roads and bridges and everywhere you travel in this state you can see the repercussions of that. This proposal will constitutionally guarantees that every penny we pay in state fuel taxes goes to transportation while protecting funding for local governments and schools. This proposal is not perfect … nothing from Lansing ever is. But it does provide a long-term sustainable solution that will fix our roads, and the only guarantee we will have on May 5th if this fails is that our roads will get worse. Vote Yes!”

For additional information on Proposal 1 go here: http://www.mml.org/advocacy/safe-roads-yes-neutral-info.html.

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

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.

 

 

Proposal 1 FREE Webinar Now Available from Michigan Municipal League

A newly posted webinar (watch above) by the Michigan Municipal League lays out the details on Proposal 1 heading to voters May 5 and includes neutral information as well as details on why the League supports the proposal. The League is an active member of the Safe Roads Yes! coalition that is backing Proposal 1. Check out the League’s Safe Roads Yes! webpages that explains the impact Proposal 1 will have on Michigan municipalities.

Bad Roads Potholes April 2014 Local Roads Matter (2)-square-small-webThe webinar by the League’s John LaMacchia II took place on Friday (Feb 27, 2015) and is available for viewing for free for League and community members. The webinar focuses on the history leading up to the Legislature coming up with Proposal 1, what it means for communities and how there’s no Plan B for fixing our roads should the plan fail on May 5.

There has been a lot of media coverage and work by the Safe Roads Yes! coalition in recent days regarding Proposal 1. One of the best, most informative pieces came out Friday (Feb. 27, 2015) by the Detroit Free Press. With the headline, “Roads 101: What you need to know about Proposal 1,” the opinion piece by the Freep editorial board is in question and answer format. It does an excellent job laying out some of the concerns people may have about Proposal 1 and then addressing those concerns.

One other thing that happened late last week was the approval of the official ballot language for Proposal 1. You can read that here.

In addition, the League continues to ask its member communities to approve resolutions in support of Proposal 1. These resolutions are vital to letting your residents know that Proposal 1 is good for communities and will improve our deteriorating roads. Go here for a sample resolution in both Word and PDF formats.

League members who have questions about Proposal 1 should contact the League’s John LaMacchia II at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

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

Michigan Municipal League Staff Help Prepare Detroit City Council for Future After Bankruptcy

Detroit City Council MML Meeting

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones introduces League CEO Dan Gilmartin at a recent education session.

Michigan Municipal League staff has spent the last few weeks working with Detroit City Council members as they move forward and prepare to bring the city out of bankruptcy. League staff has led education sessions on a variety of topics, including the importance of placemaking, city finance and financial management, parliamentary procedure, legislative advocacy and other areas.

“We wanted to do this to help create a good foundation on which they can build as the city moves out of bankruptcy,” said Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. Gilmartin was the first person from the League to meet with the city council in sessions that started July 14 and expected to wrap up later this month.

Gilmartin gave an overview of what the League does for its member communities and he discussed the concept of placemaking and why it is key to the revitalization of not only Detroit but to all of Michigan. In essence, placemaking is about creating communities in which people want to live, work and play. Detroit already has many outstanding placemaking examples.

The League’s Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and COO, spoke to the council about a variety of municipal finance topics. Several hours were spent laying a foundation upon which the council can use as the bankruptcy ends and the emergency manager prepares to leave. The dialog that took place made clear that the council is preparing for a new day and setting new expectations for reporting and management of the budget. Topics covered included Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) pronouncements, fund types, allowable expenses, understanding financial statements, municipal budgeting, and long range planning considerations.

Other sessions were on lobbying 101; planning and zoning; legal framework of municipalities by the League’s General Counsel William Mathewson; and roles and responsibilities.

Kelly Warren, the League’s director of events, said the goal of the sessions were to give Detroit leaders the core lessons taught through the League’s Elected Officials Academy (EOA) program. Go here for more information about this EOA program.

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

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Federal Workforce Bill

The Senate passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, H.R. 803 by a margin of 95-3, sending the bill back to the House for action as soon as the next week. WIOA reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 by retaining many positive aspects of the program, while updating and streamlining others in a positive way.

The bill maintains and enhances the role of local elected officials in their local workforce development programs and guarantees funding for the program for the next six years. In addition, the new components ensure the effectiveness of local one stop centers, by requiring a full range of partner organizations to locate in the one stop including unemployment insurance, veteran’s employment, adult education, welfare and other services. It also allows for the creation of regional workforce development areas based on labor markets rather than political jurisdictions, but only with the agreement of local elected officials.

Both Senators Stabenow and Levin supported the bill. The League will keep you updated on action on this issue in the House.

Summer Minnick is the Director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at 517-908-0301 or sminnick@mml.org.