House Committee Considers Property Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Systems

This morning the House Tax Policy Committee considered HB 4245, a bill that would exempt eligible renewable energy systems from real property taxes. The League testified in opposition of this legislation.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Daley as a result of concerns he heard from farmers in his district who were installing renewable energy systems on their farms and then being taxed for those systems. While the League is supportive of renewable energy, we are not supportive of the continued peacemeal property tax exemptions that continue to be considered by the legislature.

The League was joined in opposition by the counties, townships and numerous school groups. 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 Online Notice Legislation

Yesterday the House Local Government Committee continued a discussion regarding online legal notices. Last week the committee heard testimony from various groups including the League. For several years the League has been trying to pass legislation that would allow communities to publish legal notices online.

The committee took up several pieces of legislation. Senate Bills 7 and 8 allow publishing in an online publication if there is no print publication that meets the criteria of “newspaper”. The League is neutral on this legislation. While it starts to open the door to this important conversation, the legislation is very specific and limited.

The committee also heard testimony on HB 4298 which would allow a country treasurer to post foreclosure notices online in addition to print publications. In addition it would require posting only twice in a newspaper instead of the current requirement of three postings. Again we think this is a start in the right direction, but we would like to see more comprehensive legislation reflecting the way residents get their news.

We expect a vote on the legislation next week.

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

Federal 911 Security Scheme Information for Local Public Safety Officials

Information has been recieved from the National Association of Telecommunication Officers and Advisors (NATOA) regarding denial of security attacks and an extortion scheme targeting US 911 centers. The materials come from the US Department of Homeland security and discuss the problem and local officials’ role in the solution. This information should be passed along to the appropriate local public safety officials in your community.

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

APCO TDoS to Public Safety Communications Phone Services – Recommended B .pdf (109.46 kb)

DHS.docx (58.95 kb)

NENA TDoS to Public Safety Communications Phone Services – Recommended B .pdf (143.20 kb)

MI Public Service Commission issues state of competition of video services report

The MPSC issued its sixth annual status of competition for video services in Michigan as required by the Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act (Public Act 480 of 2006).

The MPSC made three recommendations to the legislature: changing the due date of the annual report to March 1 from February 1 to provide survey respondents more time to provide information to the MPSC; requiring providers to provide certain contact information to the MPSC; and requiring a provider to notify the Commission if it changes its name, goes out of business, or merges with another company.

The entire report is available on the MPSC’s website.

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

Limited online notice legislation passes Senate committee

This afternoon the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed Senate Bills 7 and 8, bills that would allow publication on a newspaper’s website if there were not other options available to the local unit of government.

While the League is neutral on this legislation, we continue to push for a larger conversation that would allow legal notices to be published online – not just on a paper’s website. As newspapers continue to stop publishing print copies, we need to give local units of government additional options.

In addition local units must pay to publish in newspapers, which is not the most cost effective or efficient way to publish notices.

The bills will now go to the full Senate for consideration.

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

Think The National Broadband Map is Inaccurate? You Can Have a Say!

You have an opportunity to help improve the accuracy of the National Broadband Map (NBM). The FCC recently released a request for comments to update and correct the Map.  Comments are due January 4, 2013; reply comments are due January 22, 2013. This is NOT an opportunity to simply complain about data inaccuracies.  Rather, it is an opportunity for communities in your state to provide comment on areas where coverage is either overstated or understated.

Commenters claiming that an entity’s coverage is overstated are encouraged to serve a copy of their comments on the entity whose service area the commenter is challenging. The Bureau also seeks comment on whether any of the census blocks on the list are served through the Broadband Initiatives Program or the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. The Bureau additionally seeks comment on whether commenters have brought any changes to the attention of the relevant state mapping entity or any other entity, and, if they have, to further describe the outcome of any of those discussions. In commenting on this list of potentially unserved census blocks, the above suggested topics are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. Commenters are free to bring any information they deem relevant to the Bureau’s attention

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration updates the NBM every six months.  If the Commission decides to do an additional round of Phase I funding, and the NBM is updated prior to the adoption of such a final rule in response to the FNPRM, the Bureau may incorporate that update, as well as any other relevant information that commenters provide, into its final list of unserved locations eligible for any additional rounds of Phase I incremental support.

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

Internet Security Bills Pass House of Representatives

The House of Representatives passed SB 1291 and 1292, bills that would provide for regulation of a new product on the market that allows any web access device to be used to remotely control security and other devices (heater/air conditioner, etc) in a home or business.  While the senate passed version of the bills are not perfect, we were able to work with the bill sponsor and the industry to put in a few amendments to help minimize the impact this has on our locals. The League was successful in getting the restrictive fees taken out of the introduced bill so local communities can charge what they need to in order to run the program.  The League also worked to narrow the local preemption language and is reflected in the version that passed the full Senate. 

The House adopted an H-4, and the bills now go back to the Senate for concurrence.

Nikki Brown is a Legislative Associate for the League handling economic development issues.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305

Senate passes MISS Dig Law rewrite

UPDATE: The Senate has passed these bills. SB 1083 (S-4) and HB 1084 (S-1) each passed on a 26-12 vote.

The Senate will be taking up SB 1083 and SB 1084 today. The bills as passed by the Senate Energy and Technology Committee rewrite the MISS-DIG Act to create a structure to incent municipalities to comply with the Act.  In those versions, if a local unit of government fails to comply with the Act it is subject to a fine of up to $5,000 from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). A second violation results in a fine of up to $10,000. A third violation carries a fine of up to $15,000 and actual property damages.  All of these fines are preventable by calling MISS-DIG. If facilities are mis-marked, that is not the fault of the local unit of government. The League opposed these in the Senate.

The S-3 substitute is below for SB 1083. Here are the changes:

1. Add effective compliance date for agricultural excavators of “not later than May 1, 2014”.

2. Provide for an “agriculture project ticket” that is good for 36 months provided:
   a. Call to MISS DIG is made to mark the agricultural property;
   b. Any facilities marked are located by the excavator pursuant to Section 5;
   c. The excavator creates a map or diagram of all  facilities including their depth at soft excavation interval sites;
   d. The agricultural landowner keeps map as part of farm records and informs any employees working the fields of the location of all facilities and provides a copy of the location map to any lessee who works the field.
3. Exempt MI Dept. of Transportation from requirement to mark ITS facilities. (Note: MDOT is NOT exempt from the requirement to call MISS DIG when doing excavation nor from the municipal provisions of Section 12.

4. Possible new Section 10(?) or include elsewhere:  “Notwithstanding other provisions of this act, and excavator that complies with this act shall not be responsible for damages that occur to an underground facility that is improperly marked, not marked, or that is determined to be within the “safe zone” as defined in this act.”

5. Page 12, line 15; delete “the location of”

6. Page 18, lines 3-4; the MPSC is suggesting the language of subsection (4) be changed to read something like: “A party to a complaint under Section 11 or Section 12 may file an appeal of a commission order under this Act in the Ingham County Circuit Court.”  The reasoning is that all appeals of orders in complaint cases would go to the ICC, not just those arising out of the Sec. 12 process.

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

SB 1083 (S-3) final.pdf (252.71 kb)

Governor Snyder Releases Energy and Environment Special Message

Governor Snyder today released a Special Message from the Governor to the Michigan Legislature on Ensuring our Future: Energy and the Environment.

The message includes sections on:
- Energy including efficiency, production, and transmission;
- Environment, including land, water, invasive species, and a water plan

You can read the Special Message and the talking/discussion points from the Governor’s office below.

Andy Schor is the Assistant Director for State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, but will be leaving at the end of the year to take office as a State Representative from the 68th District. You can reach him through the end of the year at aschor@mml.org.

2012 November Special Message_Energy & Environment Talking Pts.pdf (179.84 kb)

2012 November Special Message_Energy & Environment.pdf (276.75 kb)

Security Alarm Legislation Pushed to Next Week in House

The House Energy and Technology committee today was expected to take up SB 1291 and 1292 but instead decided to hold it over until next week.  If you recall, the League was able to get the local preemption language narrowed as well as get the fee language as it was originally introduced stricken to allow our local communities to charge the fees they see as necessary.  We still have concerns regarding the lack of accountability with background checks as do the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.  A substitute is being drafted with language (which we have not seen) to try and address those concerns and should be available in the next day or so.  The plan as of right now looks like they will take up the substitute and pass it out of committee next week where it will then head to the house floor.  I will update the blog as the process moves along.

Nikki Brown is a Legislative Associate for the League handling economic development issues.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.