Congress Passes Another Transportation Extension Hours Before Deadline

Despite the Senate working many days to iron out various amendments before passing a six year transportation authorization bill (three years of which were funded under the plan), in the end, local communities are handed another short term extension. The House essentially refused to consider a long term bill and argued that there was not enough time to negotiate differences. Part of this included a non-transportation issue: the Export-Import bank reauthorization which the Senate supported and attached to the transportation bill. So the House sent the Senate a short term extension, funding transportation through October 29th, 2015. This means the debate will begin again within a few weeks. One very positive note in this effort is that both Senators Peters and Stabenow signed on to the Wicker-Booker amendment, which would have sent more money directly to locals. We’re hopeful the significant support that was displayed on that amendment will translate into inclusion during the next round of bill drafting. And we are thankful to our Senators for their support of local governments!

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

Senate Nears Passage of Long Term Federal Highway Bill

The United States Senate worked through the weekend on the six year authorization bill that would be the longest federal transportation bill the nation has seen in decades. But as it nears completion by the upper chamber, the House leadership has stated that they will not take up the Senate bill, and are encouraging the Senate to instead, take up the House passed extension. The House sent over a temporary extension this month which funds federal highway programs through December 18th. The current authorization expired this Friday, July 31st.

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

As Federal Transportation Funding Nears Expiration, House and Senate Take Different Paths

The good news is that there has been action on transportation funding in both the House and the Senate this week in DC. The bad news is that they are taking different paths with respect to how to solve the problem with just two weeks remaining before the existing funds expire on July 31st. This week the House passed an $8 Billion extension which would fund federal transportation projects through the end of the year. However, Senate leaders are still working and have stated they intend to produce a six year bill yet next week. That does not leave much time for the two sides to negotiate differences. In addition, the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank is being thrown into the transportation debate and could complicate the passage of the bill this month.

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

Redevelopment Ready Communities Program 2015 Training Schedule Set

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) program has set the training schedule for the 2015 calendar year (See flyer: RRC Best Practice Training Series (2)). Each participant will learn about RRCs Best Practices 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 depending on which date (s) is registered for.  Participants will receive detailed information, examples and implementation steps from experts in each of these RRC Best Practices.

Participants who attend all six training sessions will receive a certificate of completion for the training series, which will signal that the community is taking proactive steps towards being Redevelopment Ready.

The training sessions are being held at the League’s Lansing Office.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate handling economic development, land use and municipal services issues for the League.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.  

Contact Your Member of Congress on New E-Fairness Legislation

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has introduced a bill to modernize our nation’s outdated sales tax collection process. The League has already sent a letter to our Michigan congressional delegation asking them to support this bill, and we need you to do the same!
The Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) would close the online sales tax loophole and level the playing field for the businesses that help build your community.
Take two minutes now to click this link and send the National League of Cities’ pre-written message to let your representative know how important this issue is to you. The letter is already drafted – all you need to do is fill out your name and address. Please help us send a message to our Representatives that the time for sales tax parity is now!

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

E-Fairness Legislation Introduced in US House

This week, Rep Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced a new E-Fairness bill, which would bring online sales tax parity to retail transactions and help states generate significant sales tax revenues which are currently going uncollected without federal action. The bill is called the Remote Transactions Parity Act (H.R. 2775) and has bipartisan co-sponsors – including Michigan Rep. John Conyers (D-13). You may recall that legislation passed the Senate last session but failed to pass the House by the end of the year, requiring the introduction of a new set of bills. The League is hopeful that this momentum will help us see this legislation become law sometime soon.

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

New, Six Year Federal Transportation Authorization Bill Passes Senate Committee

The new transportation authorization bill, – Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) – passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week. It authorizes (but does not fund) $275 billion over the next six years. The current authorization, MAP-21 expires at the end of July. The bill makes some strides for local government priorities, including transit oriented development and complete streets. With respect to TOD – the bill opens up TIFIA to TOD projects. In addition the TIFIA project threshold was lowered from $50 million to $10 million, which should open up opportunities for communities. On the complete streets front, the design criteria for the National Highway System “shall” consider all modes of transportation, rather than “may.” Locals would have greater design flexibility under this bill, and all Transportation Alternatives Program funds would go directly to locals under the bill (although there is a provision that state “may” divert up to half).

While not hailed as a huge success from transportation advocates, this bill would provide much needed stability in transportation planning, which has been a key message the League has taken to Washington. The question now will be – how will these programs obtain the funding necessary to make this bill reality?

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

Congress Cuts Programs in Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted this week on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development budget and there are some steep cuts to important programs to local officials. The most significant is the HOME program, which provides state and local funding for low income housing, from $900 million to just $66 million – essentially gutting the program. Another key program cut is the Federal Transit Authority’s New Starts program. The Senate Committee cut that program by $520 million. In this version – funding for Amtrak was restored and the TIGER program is funded at the current level. The budget now goes before the full Senate for consideration.

On the House side, however, a different pattern of steep cuts emerged. The full House voted last week to cut funding for TIGER grants form $500 million to $100 million. Amtrak was also cut by the House. However, CDBG and HOME funds were kept in tact at $3 billion and $900 million, respectively.

These funding levels are reflective of the sequestration caps set in the Budget Control Act. President Obama has said he will veto any budget that adheres to the reduced spending caps, so this budget process is still a long way from over. However, with just four weeks left before Congress goes on summer break, it’s important to let your member of Congress know that these cuts would have significant impacts to your community so they feel the pressure when they return to the district.

To contact your member of Congress, click here.

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

2015 Metro Act Distribution Payments

On May 29, 2015, the Authority Council of the new Local Community Stabilization Authority (LCSA) met and approved the distribution of the 2015 annual payments to cities, villages, and townships under the Metropolitan Extension Telecommunications Rights-of-Way Oversight Act (METRO Act), 2002 PA 48. The following link lists the amounts payable to each city, village, and township this year. 2015 Metro Payments to Cities Villages

The total distribution of $18,602,739.39 for 2015 decreased by 10.8% from the $20,871,269.12 distributed in 2014. The decrease can largely be attributed to the reduction in telecommunication facilities reported by telecommunication providers, particularly AT&T Michigan, the state’s largest telecommunication provider.

In 2015, most cities and villages will receive about 9% less than in 2014. The majority of townships will also see a decrease, but the percentage varies because of the statutory formula used in determining maintenance fee payments to townships.

As you may be aware, because the functions and responsibilities of the former Metro Authority were transferred to the LCSA, municipalities will not receive METRO Act payments via State of Michigan warrants or electronic transfer. For those municipalities that did not make arrangement with the LCSA for electronic transfer, METRO Act payment checks will be processed by Comerica Bank on behalf of the LCSA with a notation that the payment is a METRO Act payment. Communities should expect to receive these payments in July.

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.

Preemption Bill Undergoes More Changes – Headed to Governor

The grand-daddy of local preemption bills, House Bill 4052, was bounced back and forth between the House and Senate last week as the Governor’s office weighed in on the arguments that the League and other local government organizations were raising about the broad, negative impacts the bill would have state-wide.  As previously reported, this bill was originally introduced and amended in the House to purportedly only deal with a local government establishing community-wide wage or benefit regulations.  Examples of $15 minimum wages being passed in Seattle and New York City or requiring that all employers provide paid sick leave were mentioned as the rationale for the bill.  Legislators were sold by business organizations on the need to protect Michigan’s economy from a “patchwork” of confusing wage and benefit requirements being adopted by local governments, all without any examples from communities in Michigan. Beyond those issues, though, the bill included language that focused on preempting anything that could be construed as impacting the “relationship” between an employer and their employees, without a definition of what constitutes that “relationship”.  The League lobbied aggressively against this broad over-reach, pointing out the unintended consequences of such loose language.  Local operating licenses for businesses, training requirements for vendors contracting with a city, and special land use permits restricting a business’s hours of operation were just a few examples of interactions being swept into the preemption contemplated by the bill.  After close votes in both the House and Senate, the bill was nearly on its way to the Governor’s desk before the unintended consequences side of the proposal was addressed and the broad “relationship” language was removed.  The preemption language that remains in the bill precludes any policy or ordinance that directs wage or benefit requirements (beyond state or federal law) from a community’s procurement or economic development process.  The significant changes that were made to the bill, though, will allow local governments to evaluate the actual impact of the bill and avoided invalidating every day, common interactions between community’s and their businesses.

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