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.

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.

Energy Deal Reached on the Last Day of Lame Duck

Legislation making major changes to how the state regulates energy, including the construction of new power plants, how customer choice is managed and increasing the percentage of electricity that must be generated from renewable sources finally passed the House and the Senate.

Passage came after a tentative framework of a deal came together between the state’s major utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, and those advocating greater customer choice, two groups long at odds on energy legislation.

The approved versions of SB 437 and SB 438 would put in place strict parameters as to how the Public Service Commission would calculate the charge alternative electric suppliers would pay Consumers or DTE if they did not reach a contract with an entity to supply them with power to sell to their customers.

The deal drops Senate language that would have meant a minimum 4-year charge and maximum 10-year charge on customers of alternative electric suppliers. The bills could also reduce the size of the choice market if those customers return in large numbers to utilities.

The legislation sets up a revised certificate of necessity process for utilities to win state approval of building new power plants or purchasing existing ones. And another major provision requires utilities to submit integrated resource plans to the state showing five-, 10- and 15-year projections of their load obligations and plans to meet those obligations.

The legislation would increase the percentage of electricity utilities must generate from renewable sources from 10 to 15 percent by 2021.

Finally, those who currently generate their own power through the net metering program would avoid having to pay a charge to support the grid for the first 10 years, but there would be a study on the subject with the PSC later implementing a tariff no sooner than 18 months from the bill’s effective date on new net metering users.

The Governor is expected to sign the bills.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State and Federal Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Legislation Attempts to Shift Broadband Relocation Costs to Communities

Legislation recently introduced in the House attempts to shift broadband relocation costs to communities and we urge you to reach out to your legislator to defeat it. HB 5016 would require cities and villages to reimburse an entity holding a license under the Michigan Telecommunications Act, or a franchise under the Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act, for relocation costs if both of the following apply:

  1. The city, village, township, or county, or the state transportation department, did either of the following: Requested the entity to temporarily or permanently relocate its facilities, or requested the entity to temporarily or permanently relocate its facilities to protect those facilities due to construction or other activity by the city, village, township, or county, or the state transportation department.
  2. The entity invests money in broadband infrastructure in this state.
If a city or village requests an entity to relocate facilities, the community would also be required to waive any permit fees or inspection fees.
If a city or village requests an entity to conduct any survey or study related to relocating facilities, the community must reimburse the entity for those survey or study costs.
A reimbursement of relocation costs by the government agency to an eligible entity shall be made as follows:
  • 100% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way less than five years before the date of the request to relocate
    those facilities.
  • 75% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way five years or more but fewer than nine years before the date of the request to relocate those facilities.
  • 50% reimbursement for relocation costs,if the entity’s facilities were placed in the
    public right-of-way nine years or more but less than 12 years before the date of the
    request to relocate those facilities.
  • 25% reimbursement for relocation costs, if the entity’s facilities were placed in the public right-of-way 12 years or more but less than 15 years before the date of the
    request to relocate those facilities.

The METRO Act requires telecommunication providers to pay the Metro Authority an annual maintenance fee for access to and use of municipal public rights-of-way. The Act also provides that they receive an annual property tax credit equal to the funds/costs paid in annual maintenance fees. The receipt of this tax credit results in the telecom provider paying little or no annual costs for access to and use of municipal public rights-of-way. The METRO Act provides that the tax credit shall be the sole method of recovery for the costs required under the act.

Additionally, Section 4.10 of the METRO Act permit agreements requires “…If a Municipality requests Permittee to relocate, protect, support, disconnect or remove its Facilities because of street or utility work, or other public projects, Permittee shall relocate, protect, support, disconnect, or remove its Facilities, at its sole cost and expense…”

The League believes the transfer of these cost to our communities makes them unfairly shoulder the costs and is in direct conflict with the METRO Act. We urge you to reach out to your legislator and let them know that municipalities should not be responsible for these costs and to vote no on this legislation. This bill could be voted on the first week of December when the Legislature returns from Thanksgiving break. They need to hear from you if we are going to be successful in defeating this bill.

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.

Oakland County Bar Association to Host Fracking Panel and Discussion

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has issued new instructions pertaining to oil/gas drilling in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties.

The Energy, Sustainability and Environmental Law and Municipal Law Committees of the Oakland County Bar Association are hosting a panel discussion for attorneys and municipal employees focusing on hydraulic fracking in Michigan on February 26, 2015 at the Management Education Center in Troy starting at 1:00 pm. Please see the following flyer for details. Hydraulic Fracking

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.

Free webinar on New FCC Wireless Siting Rules on Nov. 5th

On November 5th from 1-2pm, BB&K telecommunications attorneys are providing a free webinar to provide an overview of the new FCC wireless siting rules, the timetable for responding to them, and the challenges and opportunities facing public bodies as they attempt to protect local interests, while complying with federal requirements governing zoning of wireless facilities.

The webinar will cover:

The FCC’s new rules, which are expected to affect both the substance and the process associated with wireless siting.

The effect of the new rules on contracts for use of publicly owned property

The legal issues raised by the rules and what local governments need to do if they wish to challenge, or obtain clarification of, the rules

Ways local governments can respond to the rules that provide the maximum protection to the public

To register for the webinar click here.

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

EPA Extends Deadline to Submit Comments on Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Power Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline to submit comments on the proposed plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants to December 1st, from October 16th.

Click here to access additional information on the proposal and to submit comments.

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

Webinar This Thursday on EPA’s proposed rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under Clean Air Act

This Thursday, September 18th from 1-2 pm the State and Local Legal Center will be hosting a webinar on the legal issues raised by EPA’s proposed rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. This webinar will be particularly helpful to those who are in the process of drafting comments, which are due on Oct. 16. There is no pre-registration for the webinar; simply click here at the appropriate time and sign in as a guest.

EPA has invited comment on a number of issues that may have legal implications for states. Given the compliance obligations this rule will create for states, the National Governors Association has worked with the SLLC to develop a presentation that will provide states with an opportunity to explore topics that will most directly affect them. Some of these topics will be addressed in the webinar and include:

o   State-level considerations for regional compliance and a legal roadmap for how states could join together to develop a regional consortium to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

o   Whether states can legally adopt multiple approaches to reducing carbon emissions, including approaches that are rate based, mass based, market based, or some combination of those three.

o   The authority for states to implement approaches outside of reductions at individual power plants (regardless of the legal interpretation at the federal level), or whether states need internal authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through other measures like regional agreements or the implementation of energy efficiency measures through 111(d).

o   The ability of states to adjust the specific percentage by which they must reduce their carbon emissions by 2030.

Roger Martella,, a former General Counsel for the EPA and current partner with the law firm of Sidley Austin, will lead the discussion and answer questions.

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

EPA extends Comment Period for Proposed “Waters of the U.S.” Rule

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced they are extending the deadline for comments regarding their proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule until October 20th. The proposed rule would change the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” in the Clean Water Act, which determines jurisdiction of water bodies under the CWA, impacting permitting and other CWA requirements.

Under the proposed rule, all tributaries and adjacent waters would  be considered jurisdictional, as well as “other waters” that would have to meet a “significant nexus” threshold in order to fall into that category as well.  There are other changes that you can find by going to the National League of Cities resource page here and scrolling down to the Clean Water Act portion.

Communities can submit comments for this rule, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 online by clicking here or by emailing ow-docket@epa.gov and including EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880 in the subject line of the message.

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

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