Senate Takes Testimony on Provisions of Certain Utility Service Contracts

Senate Local Government Committee took testimony yesterday on SB 687 sponsored by Senator Darwin Booher (R-Evart). This bill would regulate the provision of utility services (water, sanitary sewers, wastewater treatment, or electricity) provided by certain municipalities to other municipalities. It would prohibit a municipality providing utility service to another municipality from terminating the service, or refusing to renew the existing contract for the service, for any reason other than a lack of physical ability to continue providing that service.

This bill was introduced because of a situation in Senator Booher’s district involving the City of Cadillac and 4 surrounding townships. Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia did a terrific job testifying on behalf of the League. He expressed not only the concerns of Cadillac and their specific situation, but also the statewide implications this legislation could have.

The main concerns about this legislation include that it effectively voids any end date or termination clause in a contract our communities may have with a surrounding municipality because this bill would not allow that contract to be terminated and offers guaranteed renewal. Voiding a contracts expiration date does not promote good faith negotiations between parties. Rather, it provides an incentive for the non-providing community not to accept terms of a new contract that may include a higher rate for service because service must continue. Finally, this bill would have a significant impact on future collaboration efforts between communities because of the lack of certainty that would happen at the end of an expiring contract.

The League is opposed to this legislation and is very concerned about the impact of this legislation statewide.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

Federal Government Making Changes to How Communities Deal with Volunteer Firefighters Under the ACA

Recently, several articles have appeared that reference a “glitch” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in which communities with more than 50 employees will be forced to provide coverage for volunteer firefighters. Since this came about, Treasury and the IRS have reviewed the information and just released a statement, saying they will be providing rules soon that addresses this unintended consequence. The release from Treasury can be found by clicking here.

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

FOIA Bill Passes Out of House Committee

The House Oversight committee passed out HB 4001, the bill making many changes to FOIA. The substitute that was adopted can be viewed here: HB 4001 H-2.  While the substitute has improved from the introduced version, the League still has concerns and is opposed to this legislation.  The League along with two attorneys for the city of Ann Arbor were prepared to offer testimony with our concerns but the bill was passed out of committee with no testimony taken.

We do appreciate the opportunity we had to be involved in the workgroup held early in July and are pleased to see there is now an internal appeal process that must be exhausted (if the municipality offers an internal process) prior to commencing an action in the courts to try and resolve any disputes.  Additionally, we do appreciate the time and labor calculations are now to be made on a total sum basis instead of individually broken out into the multiple new invoice categories as in a previous version.

However, Governmental entities are still not able to recover the true cost of the FOIA request, one of our existing concerns with the legislation.  The legislation specifically states benefits are not to be used in calculating the cost of FOIA.  Medical insurance and other benefits are a large portion of a person’s hourly labor cost.  Local municipalities do not stop providing an employee’s benefits while they are working on these requests.  Not being allowed to recover the true cost means every other tax payer in the municipality is now subsidizing the request.  Additionally, the language still states that all partial time increments when calculating labor costs must be rounded down, again, not allowing for the true cost of the request to be recovered.

Rep. Jim Townsend offered up a handful of amendments, two of them (clarification pieces) were accepted.  One that he offered would have allowed a municipality to include benefits when calculating the labor charges but that was voted down.

The League will continue, with the help from the municipal attorneys who have been so gracious in providing their feedback and assistance on this, to work on this issue to make sure as many of our concerns are addressed as possible.

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.

Bill Allowing Communities to Combine Election Activities Passes House Committee

A bill to allow local communities to enter into written agreements with other local governmental units for election activities passed the House Ethics and Election Committee.  HB 4878 would allow a city or township clerk to enter into a written contract with the county or another city or township to handle election administration duties such as handling absent voter ballot applications/ballots and processing voter registrations and maintenance of the qualified voter file.  Two communities (city or township) could also enter into a contract to prepare and conduct election day operations.  The governing body of each of the participating units would have to approve the action by resolution in order for the written agreement to be entered into.  A local unit can terminate this agreement with 60 days written notice to the other participating party.

This legislation also allows a local governmental unit to approve the bureau of elections or a county, city or township to handle an election if the office of the clerk becomes vacant in close proximity to an election.

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

Wednesday: Join President Obama and Secretary Sebelius for Health Insurance Marketplace Conference Call

You are invited to join President Barack Obama and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for a conference call with state and local elected officials on Wednesday, September 25, at 2:30 pm EDT to discuss the October launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace. The White House encourages you to invite other community partners working on Health Insurance Marketplace outreach to join you in your office for the call. In the meantime, you can find more information on the Health Insurance Marketplace in the toolkit for state and local officials, which is attached.

outreach-and-enrollment-toolkit-for-elected-officials

WHEN: Date: September 25, 2013
Time: 2:30 PM EDT (please dial in no later than 2:30 pm EDT)

HOW: RSVP at www.att-rsvp.com with Conference ID # 303712 to receive the call-in information.

This call is off the record and not for press purposes.

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

Affordable Care Act Local Government Toolkit Now Available

The US Department of Health and Human Services has just released a toolkit for local governments to understand and implement the Affordable Care Act.

The toolkit includes an overview of the Affordable Care Act, a sample outreach and enrollment plan that you can tailor for your community, frequently asked questions and answers, resources and information on training sessions, contacts for HHS regional offices and sample materials that can be used for newsletters, social media and public events.

You can find the toolkit by clicking here. Email the HHS Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs at HHSIEA@hhs.gov with any questions.

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

Governor Snyder announces Regional Prosperity Initiative

The Governor Snyder administration has announced a new regional initiative. Dubbed “Regional Prosperity Initiative” the effort is meant to better coordinate service delivery and strengthen local economies through greater regional collaboration.

The initiative, first unveiled in the Governor’s 2014 budget request, is making $2.5 million through a competitive grant process for existing state-designated planning regions and Metropolitan Planning Organizations. The goal is to empower local and regional partners to develop a consensus vision and implementation plan for economic success.

According to a press release, all state government departments will begin serving 10 regions across the state, enhancing service delivery and encouraging communities to collaborate on a regional basis. The new regional map supports the governor’s vision that economic development must be viewed as a system that encompasses and coordinates talent and infrastructure along with traditional economic development strategies.

For more information visit www.michigan.gov/regionalprosperity

Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or at aweinfeld@mml.org

Michigan Municipal League’s Partnership for Place Agenda Presented to State Lawmakers

Samantha Harkins discusses the League's Partnership for Place legislative agenda today in Lansing.

Michigan Municipal League staff members met with key state lawmakers today in Lansing about the League’s new proactive legislative agenda, called the Partnership for Place. You can check out the agenda here.

The League is hosting three free webinars for League members about the Partnership for Place agenda 10-11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 15, and again on Thursday, Aug. 22, and Thursday, Aug. 29. Sign up for any of the one-hour sessions here.

This Partnership for Place legislative agenda is baseed around the belief that thriving communities are key to Michigan’s long-term success and sustainability. The agenda is a commitment of action in partnership between the State and its municipalities to facilitate Michigan’s economic growth and allow for the development of places to provide key services and amenities that contribute to a high quality of life.

The proposed actions called for in the agenda focus on funding, transportation, talent retention, and infrastructure and development. Read the Partnership for Place Agenda.

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

Senate Considers Tax Exemptions for Disabled Veterans

Yesterday the Senate Finance Committee considered two bills that would create tax exemptions for disabled veterans.

Senate Bill 104 would allow a community to give a tax exemption to a qualified disabled veteran. This is an option for a community and not a mandate.

The committee also considered Senate Bill 352, which would specifically exempt from property taxes real property used and owned as a homestead by a disabled veteran who was discharged from the Armed Forces of the United States under honorable conditions.

The League continues to be opposed to mandatory property tax exemptions. In 2011 the legislature and administration eliminated state tax exemptions so as to not “pick winners and losers” and balance the state budget. Yet we continue to combat legislation that mandates our members give property tax exemptions for various individuals. The policy is inconsistent, and we are opposed to this piecemeal look at tax policy.

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

 

League Encourages State to Put Surplus Toward Restoring Revenue Sharing Cuts

LANSING, Michigan - A report saying the state of Michigan has nearly $400 million has the Michigan Municipal League requesting that the state use some of that surplus to restore massive cuts made to local revenue sharing. A consensus report released today (May 15, 2013) by state economists shows that revenues for the current fiscal year are $396.9 million higher than expected for the general fund for the current 2012-13 fiscal year.

The Michigan Municipal League has responded to this announcement by issuing a press release to media throughout Michigan calling for a portion of that surplus to go back to Michigan communities. View the League’s press release here. View an mlive.com article about the budget surplus that includes mention of the League’s request.

Here’s a portion of the press release:
“Over the past dozen years, the Legislature and governor have cut local revenue sharing by more than $6 billion, breaking promise after promise and ignoring statutes that require the appropriations to local communities,” said Daniel Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, in the press release. “Instead of appropriating the funds for local services, Lansing used the funds to fill holes in the state budget, to cut taxes, and for other state programs and services. While we recognize the state’s economy was in bad shape, and many state budgets were cut, local revenue sharing paid a far higher price than all the others.”

Gilmartin said the state budget surplus gives the Legislature and governor the opportunity to return some of the cuts they made to local services that keep people safe in their neighborhoods, keep local drinking water clean, maintain local roads and bridges, fund local parks and libraries, and more.

“The state Senate has proposed a 4.8-percent increase in local revenue sharing for the 2014 state budget. Given the anticipated state budget surplus, anything less than that is unacceptable and unconscionable,” Gilmartin said. “I promise that local leaders and their constituents will remember if the Legislature fails to invest part of the surplus to restore some of the massive cuts Lansing has made to revenue sharing and essential local services.”

Gilmartin said that using the surplus to restore cuts to revenue sharing “becomes critical” if the personal property tax (PPT) law passed by the Legislature in December is approved by Michigan voters next year.The PPT law would cut local taxes paid by local businesses to local communities across the state by hundreds of millions of dollars. The law will not take effect unless it is approved by Michigan voters in August 2014. The Legislature has not yet voted to put the question onto the ballot.

Matt Bach is director of communications for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (810) 874-1073 and mbach@mml.org.