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.

Communities Voice Opposition to Campaign Finance Bill

Throughout the week, communities across Michigan have been voicing their opposition to the last second inclusion of language to Senate Bill 571 that would ban communication with voters on local ballot questions within 60 days of an election.  This change happened in the waning moments of the legislative session for the year, late last Wednesday night, without hearing or notice to local government groups.

Council resolutions, letters of opposition, and direct phone calls have been pouring in to Governor Snyder’s office since this change was discovered.  You can read the League’s letter to the Governor here – VetoLetter SB571.  Organizations across the state are submitting similar letters asking the Governor to veto this bill.

Please continue to contact the Governor’s office and your State Representatives and Senators to let them know you are opposed to this unnecessary and heavy-handed proposal.

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

Last Second Addition to Campaign Finance Bill Puts Gag Order on Communities

As the House and Senate were winding down the final minutes of session for the calendar year late Wednesday night, a seemingly innocuous Campaign Finance Act bill was amended to include over 40 pages of new language and quickly passed back and forth between the two chambers for approval right before they adjourned.  Senate Bill 571 originally passed the Senate unanimously in November.  Late on Wednesday night, as the House brought this bill up for consideration a substitute version was adopted that increased the 12-page bill to 53 pages in length and introduced new language into Section 57 of the act that deals with permissible and prohibited activities by public bodies on election-related issues.  This language was inserted without any notice to the League or other local government organizations and moved without any public testimony, let alone public awareness of what was in the new version of the bill.

The new language in Section 57 states:

(3) EXCEPT FOR AN ELECTION OFFICIAL IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OR HER DUTIES UNDER THE MICHIGAN ELECTION LAW, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.1 TO 168.992, A PUBLIC BODY, OR A PERSON ACTING FOR A PUBLIC BODY, SHALL NOT, DURING THE PERIOD 60 DAYS BEFORE AN ELECTION IN WHICH A LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION APPEARS ON A BALLOT, USE PUBLIC FUNDS OR RESOURCES FOR A COMMUNICATION BY MEANS OF RADIO, TELEVISION, MASS MAILING, OR PRERECORDED TELEPHONE MESSAGE IF THAT COMMUNICATION REFERENCES A LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION AND IS TARGETED TO THE RELEVANT ELECTORATE WHERE THE LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION APPEARS ON THE BALLOT.

There are a number of key concerns that immediately surface when reading this new language.

  • Already existing language in this section provides for an allowance for elected and appointed officials to express their views without fear of violating the act.  This new subsection does not appear to account for that allowance and could be read as a ban on freedom of speech.
  • The prohibition on any communication by television that references a local ballot question would seem to put every public access broadcast of a city council meeting at risk for violating this new provision.  There is also no allowance for a public broadcast of a debate or voter forum, even if that forum is hosted by a third party.
  • Community newsletters or potentially even election day reminders that are mailed to residents could be banned under this language.
  • Because this language specifically bans communication on only local ballot questions, the provision creates inconsistent treatment between communicating with residents on statewide ballot questions versus local questions.
  • Any violation of this section puts a community at risk for a state fine of up to $20,000.

This language puts an undue burden on communities and their residents, blocking access to unbiased, objective communication on the local issues that matter most to the residents in every community in Michigan.  Please contact the Governor’s office to express your concern over this new provision.

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

City Income Tax Communities Oppose Senate Changes

The Michigan Senate voted Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, to discharge House Bill 4462 from the Senate Finance committee and then inserted language that many of the 22 income tax communities have weighed in on opposing. Despite the opposition, the Senate passed it late Tuesday night on a vote of 21-17.

The new language added by the Senate would allow a “voluntary” written agreement between an income tax levying city and an owner of property located in the city on behalf of a qualified employer or with a qualified employer who would make an advance payment of the withholding tax that would normally be deducted from employee compensation and remitted to the city, equal to the nonresident rate for the duration of the written agreement.

The Michigan City Income Tax Administrators Association, representing all 22 income tax cities met last week to discuss this proposal and subsequently, the 14 cities who were represented at the meeting passed a unanimous resolution opposing this proposal. Those cities represented at the meeting were: Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Pontiac, Saginaw, Lansing, Springfield, Jackson, Big Rapids, Lapeer, Ionia, Portland, Detroit, Battle Creek and Flint.

Beyond the grave concerns over the administrative burden that this type of concept would place on a city, there were numerous questions raised about the ability to administer such an agreement, where there is no model to follow and no other similar allowance for treatment of income tax and the federal, state, or local level.  Negative consequences for the taxpayer, possible loss of revenue for the city, and an inability to ensure accountability or compliance were among many of the reasons cited in opposition to this idea.

The League is working with these communities to oppose this legislation now that the bill has been returned to the House.

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

Urge Your Representative to Vote NO on HB 5016

Here is an urgent action alert we’ve sent to our members this morning:

We need your help! The Michigan House is currently working on legislation, HB 5016, that could be voted on this week that the Michigan Municipal League strongly opposes. The bill would require municipalities to reimburse a telecommunications provider a portion of relocation costs if a community fails to notify the provider at least one year in advance of a project that will require relocation of their lines.

Additionally, communities will no longer be able to charge for a permit fee, inspection fee, or survey cost, when a relocation is required. The bill also fails to provide any protection to the municipality if the provider installs or relocates their lines in an area other than allowed by the permit or causes construction delays.

If passed, municipalities would be required to pay a private for-profit company for moving their telecommunication lines within the public right-of-way. Communities are already prohibited from denying the telecommunications access to these public spaces they get to occupy for free. This proposed legislation sets a terrible precedent in this state and could lead to other utility providers, i.e. gas and electric companies, to seek the same deal.

Relocation costs can be very expensive. If communities are required to shoulder a portion of those costs it could result in projects being delayed, scaled back, or even eliminated as a result of this unnecessary, one-sided legislation.

The League encourages you to contact your representative TODAY and tell them to oppose HB 5016 and protect our taxpayers from paying these costs. Go here to get the contact info for your legislators.

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.

New Federal Transportation Bill, FAST Act, Becomes Law

President Obama signed the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act yesterday, making the first long term transportation bill in a decade official. There are some big wins for local governments within the new law, which is worth approximately $305 billion. A good, comprehensive 13 page summary of the law can be found here.

The biggest win for local communities, quite simply, is that it is a 5 year arrangement and local leaders will not have to wonder what will happen every six months under more extensions. The League had been advocating first and foremost for a bill that expands beyond the next fiscal year to enable more long-term planning for transportation projects. Specifically, there are many other significant victories being highlighted in the bill, which spans 1300 pages.

The Surface Transportation Program is now the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program and increases the amount allocated to local leaders from 50% to 55% over the length of the bill and gives locals greater flexibility in how the funds are spent.

The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program would now house the Transportation Alternatives Program, and is proposed to be increased from $835 million to $850 million. And the bill gives Metropolitan Planning Organizations additional flexibility in how to spend their funds.

Transit Oriented Development would be eligible for the TIFIA program and the minimum project size threshold would be lowered to $10 million, expanding the program significantly for smaller projects.

The Michigan delegation was mostly supportive with both Senators voting yes and twelve of the fourteen Representatives voting for the bill as well. Congressmen Amash and Huizenga were the two no votes.

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

Congress Poised to Pass Long-Term Transportation Package This Week

For the first time in ten years, Congress is on the verge of passing a long-term transportation package and there are some big wins for local governments within the new deal. The committee of House and Senate negotiators have agreed to the new bill worth approximately $305 billion, entitled the FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation), and both Chambers are expected to pass it by the deadline of this Friday, December 4th. The biggest win for local communities, quite simply, is that it is a 5 year arrangement and local leaders will not have to wonder what will happen every six months under more extensions. The League had been advocating first and foremost for a bill that expands beyond the next fiscal year to enable more long-term planning for transportation projects. Specifically, there are many other significant victories being highlighted in the bill, which spans 1300 pages.

The Surface Transportation Program is now the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program and increases the amount allocated to local leaders from 50% to 55% over the length of the bill and gives locals greater flexibility in how the funds are spent.

The Surface Transportation Block Grant Program would now house the Transportation Alternatives Program, and is proposed to be increased from $835 million to $850 million. And the bill gives Metropolitan Planning Organizations additional flexibility in how to spend their funds.

Transit Oriented Development would be eligible for the TIFIA program and the minimum project size threshold would be lowered to $10 million, expanding the program significantly for smaller projects.

The bill is being paid for by a series of sources, not including any changes to the federal gas tax. Some of the sources include the Federal Reserve surplus account, selling a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and cutting the dividend the Federal Reserve pays to some member banks.

We will notify you as soon as the bill has cleared both the House and Senate later this week. We’ll know more details of the bill in the coming days, but the changes identified so far show significant improvement for local governments and their support for transportation infrastructure by the federal government. We’re pleased after all these years to be on the verge of such a victory!

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

USDOT Proposes to Remove Restrictive Design Guidelines

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) took an encouraging and surprising step, proposing to ease federally-mandated design standards on many roads, making it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets that are safer for everyone.

Currently, FHWA has a long list of design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads, unless they choose to go through an arduous process of requesting an exception to do things like line a downtown street with street trees, reduce the width of lanes to add a bike lane, or curve a street slightly to slow traffic and make it safer for people in cars and on foot.

In this new proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteria for certain roads because they decided these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and has a stronger connection for rural roads, freeways and higher speed urban arterials.

FHWA deserves praise for their leadership on this important issue. The rule is open to public comment through December 7, 2015. Let’s take the opportunity to provide public comment and thank FHWA for their leadership and make sure it is implemented to help make safer streets for all to enjoy.

For more information click here.

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.

Legislature Considering Bills That Would Remove Local Control Over Setting Speed Limits

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is considering five bills, HB 4423, 4424, 4425, 4426, and 4427, that would dramatically impact the ability of local units to set safe and context sensitive speed limits within their municipal boundaries.

HB 4425 would require that speed limits be set at the 85th percentile of speed. Fundamentally, we believe that all users of the roadway should be taken into account when setting a speed limit. The 85th speed study within this legislation is set up to look only at the free-flow of traffic, under ideal conditions, and on the fastest portion of the roadway. We believe this completely neglects taking the context of the roadway, the surrounding environment, pedestrian traffic (walking or biking), transit, or the views and needs of the community into account.

When we look at the 85th percentile of speed, it should be a diagnosis not a prescription. It can be a useful and rational tool to help understand speeds on on local streets but should not be looked at as the only solution. Other states incorporate a broad number of mitigation criteria that allow flexibility to lower speed limits below the 85th percentile of speed. Too often we talk just about increasing the speed to the 85th percentile for safety reasons but rarely do we talk about how we could reduce the 85th percentile so everyone using the roadway is safer.

Each community is best suited to understand local conditions that place children, the disabled, seniors and other vulnerable roadway users in harm’s way, and we are opposed to any attempt that diminishes our communities efforts and ability to provide a safe and inviting environment.

We encourage you to reach out to your legislator and ask that they do not take away local control over our ability to set speed limits. Additionally you may choose to adopt a resolution such as Grand Haven and Grandville have done and share that with your legislator.

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.

 

December 1st Revenue Sharing Deadline Reminder

The Michigan Department of Treasury distributed the following reminder to all Cities, Villages and Townships this week about the upcoming December 1st deadline to submit the necessary documentation to receive statutory revenue sharing payments.

Official CVTRS Detailed Guidance FY 16 Letter

Subject: CVTRS/CIP DEADLINE – DECEMBER 1, 2015

This is a reminder that the due date for the City, Village, and Township Revenue Sharing (CVTRS) and County Incentive Program (CIP) is 11:59 pm on December 1, 2015.

In order to meet the deadline and qualify for the full CVTRS/CIP payment amount available, a local unit must submit to Treasury the documents listed below and make the documents available for public viewing in the city, village, township, or county clerk’s office or post them on a publicly accessible Internet site.

The required documents are:

  1. Signed Certification of Accountability and Transparency (form #4886)
  2. Citizen’s Guide (minimum General Fund)
  3. Performance Dashboard
  4. Debt Service Report (all funds)
  5. Projected Budget Report (minimum General Fund)

Please visit http://www.michigan.gov/treasury/0,4679,7-121-1751_2197_58826_62393_62406—,00.html for the required certification form and available templates.

If Treasury does not receive ALL of the above documents by 11:59 pm on December 1, 2015, your local unit will not qualify for the full CVTRS/CIP payment amount available.

Submissions can be emailed to TreasRevenueSharing@michigan.gov, faxed to 517-335-3298, or mailed to:

Michigan Department of Treasury

Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis

P.O. Box 30722

Lansing MI  48909

Email Submissions

If the required documentation is submitted via email, please take note of the information below:

  1. Prior to submitting the documentation:
    1. DOUBLE CHECK THE EMAIL ADDRESS to ensure that the address has been typed correctly.  If the email address is typed incorrectly, Treasury will not receive the submission and the local unit will not qualify for a payment.
    2. DOUBLE CHECK ATTACHMENTS to ensure that all the required documentation has been attached.  If all the documentation is not submitted (by the due date), the local unit will not qualify.
  1. After Submitting the documentation:
    1. Within two business days of Treasury receiving your email, YOU WILL RECEIVE AN EMAIL REPLY stating the submission has been received.  Starting November 23, 2015, Treasury will provide the email reply within four business hours.
    2. IF A RESPONSE EMAIL IS NOT RECEIVED from Treasury within the above time frames, contact Treasury at 517-373-2697 to verify that the submission has been received.
    3. Upon a review of the documentation at a future date, Treasury may request additional information to ensure a local unit’s compliance with 2015 Public Act 84.

For reference, attached is Treasury’s CVTRS Detailed Guidance for cities, villages, and townships and Treasury’s CIP Detailed Guidance for counties.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at 517-373-2697.

Thank you.

Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis

Michigan Department of Treasury

517-373-2697

 

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