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.

Performance Audits No Longer a Requirement for Local Road Agencies

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has re-evaluated its decision regarding performance audits. Upon receiving numerous audits as well as concerns regarding the value of these audits, MDOT is no longer requesting that these audits be completed and submitted to the department. Therefore, all local road agencies are not required to begin or complete any scheduled Act 51 performance audits.

It has been further determined by the Department that costs incurred related to these performance audits can be submitted to MDOT for reimbursement. Invoices for fees paid for the performance audit and supporting documentation should be submitted to the attention of Patrick McCarthy by email at mccarthyp@michigan.gov.

For a copy of the letter please click the following link. MDOT Performance Audit Letter

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.

 

MDOT Seeking Input From Local Agencies on Construction Services by October 20

The League is working with MDOT to get your feedback!  The department would like to engage in a more consistent and aligned approach to satisfying their duty of ensuring local agency program compliance with state and federal requirements.  In order to do so, They need to identify areas of construction oversight inconsistencies and gauge the effectiveness of current activities, guidance, and processes.  Your feedback will help them identify things that work well, and more importantly, areas they need to improve.  Please take a few minutes to complete the survey at https://www.research.net/r/X2766XJ

The survey will be open until October 20, 2017.  Anyone who works on Local Agency Program projects, in particular the construction side of things, is welcome to participate.  Responses are not limited to one per agency. Please also feel free to share this survey with your consultants as well.

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.

$500 million federal TIGER program accepting grant applications for road projects; due October 16

The federal government has announced it is now accepting applications for the FY 2017 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, with $500 million in available funds for infrastructure projects including roads.

The application deadline for the 2017 TIGER solicitation is October 16.

The Department of Transportation will hold public two webinars:

  • September 13 and 19, 2 – 4 p.m., on “How to Compete for TIGER Grants;” and
  • September 18, 2 – 4 p.m., on “Preparing a Benefit Cost Analysis.”

To register for the free webinars, please visit the TIGER Webinar Series webpage.

Additional information about the TIGER program is available at the TIGER website. Questions may be directed to Ryan Brumfield, 202.366.2639, ryan.brumfield@dot.gov, in the TIGER program office or to FHWA TIGER program staff Sam Snead, 202.366.0857, sam.snead@dot.gov.

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.

MDOT kicking off 2018 Local Grade Crossing Surface Program; applications due October 27

MDOT provides funding assistance for highway-railroad grade crossing surface improvements on local roads. This annual program offers 60% funding for eligible projects, with railroads responsible for the remaining 40% of costs. Projects are selected in compliance with criteria established by state law.

After a successful launch in 2017, 2018 Local Grade Crossing Surface Program announcement letters are being mailed to all railroads and road agencies with active highway-railroad grade crossings within Michigan.

The 2018 Call for Projects opened in early September, with program letters containing additional details mailed to road authorities and railroads. Application materials for road agencies are now available, with a deadline for submittals of October 27, 2017. Project selections are expected to be confirmed by late November, with authorizations scheduled to be issued in time for the 2018 construction season. The 2017 Program had over 130 applications resulting in more than 70 approved projects to improve local crossing surfaces.

2018 Application
Sample Surface Program Railroad Authority Letter
Sample Surface Program Road Authority Letter

Questions about the program should be directed to Kristian Foondle, MDOT Local Grade Crossing Program Manager, at foondlek@michigan.gov. Click here for a list of railroad contacts

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.

 

Draft Michigan Freight Plan Comment Period/Webinar Opportunity on September 12th

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is pleased to release for public review and comment the draft Michigan Freight Plan, a supplement to the 2040 MI Transportation Plan. MDOT is seeking comments on the plan through Sep. 29 and has scheduled a Sep. 12 Webinar to discuss it in detail. The plan is available for viewing online at www.michigan.gov/freightplan or at MDOT’s region offices and Transportation Service Centers. Comments can be made electronically at the above link, or by writing Geralyn Ayers, Public Involvement and Hearings Officer, Bureau of Highway Development, Michigan Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 30050, Lansing, MI 48909.

The Michigan Freight Plan provides a comprehensive overview of the state’s freight transportation system, including existing assets, system performance and the investments required to ensure long-term success. Freight is defined as any good, product or raw material carried by commercial transportation, including air, highway, rail, water and pipeline.

A multi-modal and intermodal resource, the plan provides an overall framework for freight system improvements and priorities. It is an element of the 2040 MI Transportation Plan and integrates its overall vision, goals, objectives, strategies and decision-making principles.

The public Webinar is scheduled for 9 to 10 a.m., Sep. 12. To participate, please register at the Freight Plan website at www.michigan.gov/freightplan or by calling (517) 373-2227. Details, including Web address and audio connection information will be sent with E-mail confirmation. Copies of the plan also may be obtained by calling Geralyn Ayers at (517) 373-2227.

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.

2017 Edition of Local Agency Programs Guidelines for Geometrics On Local Agency Projects

The MDOT Local Agency Program (LAP) has posted the 2017 Edition of the Guidelines for Geometrics on Local Agency Projects, as approved by FHWA and replacing the 2014 Edition. A summary of major changes is posted on page A-3 of the 2017 Edition for a quick reference. Designers are encouraged to become familiar with the new Guidelines as they will apply to all Local Agency Projects submitted for funding, beginning with Fiscal Year 2018 funds

The MDOT 2017 LAP Guidelines for Geometrics is posted on the LAP website and can be found by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact Mark Harbison, PE, Urban Program Manager, at 517-335-2744 or by email at harbisonm@michigan.gov with additional questions.

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.

 

Save the Date: Transportation Asset Management Council’s Fall Conference

Michigan’s Transportation Asset Management Council will be having their annual fall conference in Marquette on October 5th.This conference presents critical information for League members and we encourage all of those that are able to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

A full agenda and registration information will be be coming soon. For additional information about hotel reservations, contacts and presentations, please click here for the Save the Date flyer.

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.

2019 Federal Local Safety Program Solicits Applications

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is pleased to announce the solicitation of new applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 general Local (HSIP) Safety Program. The FY 2019 federal budget for this program is estimated at $9,000,000. This amount may be subject to revisions. Unselected FY 2019 High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) projects will automatically be included in this Call.

Local Agencies may submit more than one project application for consideration. Federal safety funds shall not exceed $600,000 per project or a maximum amount of $2,000,000 per Local Agency, HSIP, and HRRR combined, for the fiscal year. Selected projects are to be obligated in FY 2019.

Application are to be electronically submitted or postmarked by Monday, August 7, 2017. Please click here for additional information.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Pamela Blazo, Local Agency Programs Safety Engineer, at 517-335-2224 or at blazop@michigan.gov.

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.

2019 Federal High Risk Rural Road Program Call for Application

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is pleased to announce the solicitation of applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 High Risk Rural Road (HRRR) program. Federal funds for the HRRR program are apportioned from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and derived from the HRRR Special Rule under 23 USC 148(g)(l), The FY 2019 federal appropriation for this program is estimated to be $6,000,000. This amount may be subject to revisions.

Local agencies are allowed to submit more than one project for consideration. Federal safety funds shall not exceed $600,000 per project or a maximum amount of $2,000,000 per Local Agency for the fiscal year, including any select FY 2019 HSIP projects. Any non-selected projects submitted under this HRRR call for projects will automatically rolled over to the general FY 2019 HSIP safety call for projects. Selected HRRR projects are to be obligated in FY 2019; the Local Agency will not be allowed to delay a selected HRRR to a different year.

Applications are to be electronically submitted or postmarked by Monday, August 7, 2017. Please click here for additional information.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Pamela Blazo, Local Agency Programs Safety Engineer, at 517-335-2224 or at blazop@michigan.gov.

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.