House Passes Bill Clarifying Reasonable Court Costs

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Cunningham that a court may impose costs in a criminal case only if those costs are authorized by statute. This decision has a huge impact on courts across Michigan including our district courts.

Last week the House passed House Bill 5785, legislation that would allow a court to impose any reasonable cost on a defendant found guilty of a crime. Unfortunately on the House floor an amendment was added that would sunset the legislation in two years. We’ll be working to remove the sunset in the Senate.

Reasonable costs include salaries and benefits of court personnel; goods and services necessary for operation of the court; and/or necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of court buildings and facilities.

The bill requires the court to make available to the general public and the defendant information about any costs, fines or assessments imposed beginning June 18, 2014.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Tax Appeal Legislation

This afternoon the Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on Senate Bills 1038, 1039 and 1040, bills that make changes to the tax appeal process and the Michigan Tax Tribunal Act.

The League has a lot of concerns regarding the way the Tax Tribunal has been valuing property and the losses sustained by our local communities; however, this legislation does not make changes that would address those concerns.

Among our concerns is that the bills in some instances bypass the local boards of review which would be more cumbersome for taxpayers as well as local units of government.

Additionally SB 1039 amends the Tax Tribunal Act to remove assessors and appraisers from the Tribunal, which would be made up only of attorneys under the bills.

In an attempt to “streamline” the process, the bills instead take away local control and make the process more cumbersome for both taxpayers and local units of government. The committee did not vote on the bills, and the sponsor expressed a willingness to work on amendments.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

Bill Creating a Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act Gets Senate Hearing

House Bill 5397, a bill creating the Municipal Utility Residential Clean Energy Program Act, received a committee hearing in the Senate Energy and Technology committee today.  This would enable municipalities that own electric utilities to establish a program to help provide financing to residential property owners for energy efficiency projects. This is modeled after the PACE Act.

This legislation passed the full House prior to the legislative recess in June on a 108 to 2 vote.

This is an idea that was brought to Rep. Joe Haveman’s attention by the city of Holland who would like the opportunity to create a program such as this.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

HAM Radio Legislation Passes Out of Committee with Significant Changes

Today, the Senate Energy and Technology reported out of committee SB 493, a bill dealing with amateur radio operations.  As it was introduced, it had a significant impact on local control and zoning.  However, through a workgroup process, the bill was made significantly better (substitute found here: SB 493 S2 (3)) and now mirrors the Federal regulations that our local communities are already required to adhere to.

It also discusses an advisory council made up of amateur radio industry folks and local government folks so anyone with a question can seek feedback and research from this group either at the industry level or the community level.

We appreciate the work the bill sponsor and his office put into the legislation and hearing our concerns from a local government perspective. Also, a big thank you to Tim Wolff, village manager of Lake Isabella, for attending the workgroup meetings with me and providing valuable feedback.

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

National League of Cities Announce Applications Open for Committee and Leadership Positions

Have you been involved in NLC before but want to take it to a new level? Are you considering expanding your professional involvement for the first time? If you are a member city of NLC, now is the time to submit an application!

The incoming NLC President will appoint chairs and vice chairs to NLC’s Policy and Advocacy Committees; the Council on Youth, Education, and Families; the International Council; the Large Cities Council; the Military Communities Council; the First Tier Suburbs Council; the Small Cities Council; and the University Communities Council.

City officials from NLC member cities who are interested in serving as Chairs and Vice Chairs should complete and submit online applications and biographical statements by October 3. Committee chairs and vice chairs will be notified of their selection in late October or early November.

Steering Committee Membership Positions Open

In addition, the incoming President will appoint city officials to be members of the Policy and Advocacy Steering Committees, the University Communities Council Steering Committee; and the Small Cities Council Steering Committee.

City officials from NLC member cities who are interested in serving as members on one of these Committees should complete and submit online applications by November 24. The Steering Committee appointments will be announced in December.

All appointments will be for a one year term.

 

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.

House Committee Passes Bill Clarifying Reasonable Court Costs

Earlier this year the Michigan Supreme Court held in People v. Cunningham that a court may impose costs in a criminal case only if those costs are authorized by statute. This decision has a huge impact on courts across Michigan including our district courts.

The House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 5785, legislation that would allow a court to impose any reasonable cost on a defendant found guilty of a crime. The League is supportive of this legislation.

Reasonable costs include salaries and benefits of court personnel; goods and services necessary for operation of the court; and/or necessary expenses for the operation and maintenance of court buildings and facilities.

The bill requires the court to make available to the general public and the defendant information about any costs, fines or assessments imposed beginning June 18, 2014.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

TIF Legislation to be Introduced This Week

Rep. Eileen Kowall plans to introduce legislation this week (draft of that legislation can be found here:TIF Draft 1 (2)) making significant changes to TIF districts.  Also available is a copy of the PowerPoint that was used to present the over all plan (with not a lot of detailed specifics): Tax Increment Financing Reform Presentation (9 11 2014).

Some of the goals of the legislation include:

  1. combine all the TIF acts into one (but leaving Brownfields and Nonprofit Railway Act on their own),
  2. increase in transparency along with an incentive to comply,
  3. define what activities TIF dollars can be used for, and
  4. add in special assessment capabilities similar to what is allowed for a Principal Shopping District, in addition to the up to 2 mill levy allowed currently under the DDA act.

Here is a brief analysis of what the Draft 1 legislation does: Brief analysis of Draft 1 TIF legislation.

The legislative timeline for completion is a fast one.  The bill is expected to be introduced this week followed by two weeks of testimony beginning September 24 with the goal of passing it out of the House before they leave at the beginning of October.  That would leave the Senate for lame duck.

As you read through the analysis and/or draft legislation and have questions or comments (especially feedback on how this will specifically impact your local communities) please contact me so we can continue to compile local impact lists.  Additionally, if you have any interest in testifying either next week or the following week, we would love to have you to put some local faces to the problems this legislation could create.

Please contact your Representatives with the local impact of the legislation and ask them to not rush a vote just to get something done before the end of the year.  This is a significant change and deserves a significant amount of attention, work, discussion and detail put into it so we are not creating bad public policy.

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

House Committee Passes Bill Extending Sunset for OPEB Bonding

Yesterday morning the House Financial Liabilities Reform Committee passed Senate Bill 922, a bill to extend the sunset for bonding for other post employment benefits (OPEB) and the costs of switching from defined benefit to defined contribution. This is an option for communities with a AA credit rating.

The sunset will be extended to December 31, 2015. The League has been pushing for an additional change to allow communities with an A rating or better to use this option if they purchase bond insurance. Thus far we have not been successful in getting this amendment.

The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.

Samantha Harkins is the Director of State Affairs for the League handling municipal finance issues.  She can be reached at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

House Committee Considers Open Meetings Act Legislation

This afternoon the House Oversight Committee heard testimony on HB 5580, legislation that would amend the Open Meetings Act (OMA) to require minutes of meetings to be more detailed.

The legislation would require minutes to detail how each member voted. If the meeting is not recorded, the minutes would be required to include the main points of discussing in support or opposition to each issue. It would also require a summary of the remarks of every person who addresses the public body.

The League was joined by the Michigan Association of Counties and the Michigan Townships Association in opposing the legislation. The fear is that this will have unintended consequences for communities. The legislation is vaguely written, and as a result could result in inadvertent violations of the Act.

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