House Passes Detrimental Public Safety Exception to PA 54, Tell Your Lawmakers to Oppose this Plan

Yesterday  afternoon the House passed House Bill 5097, a bill that would exempt police and fire from PA 54 so they can have retroactive pay increases after a contract expires. The bill passed by a vote of 97-12.

The House adopted a substitute bill on the floor. The stated intention of the amendments was to only allow step increases if a contract expressly calls for them and to deal with health care retroactivity. Unfortunately the way the amendments are drafted the bill is not much better than the introduced version. The health care language references PA 152 of 2011 in a way that would create significant confusion and potential litigation.

In 2011 the legislature passed a number of reforms to help employers control costs and be better stewards of taxpayer resources. One of the, if not the, most significant reform was to prohibit retroactive pay increases after a contract has expired. This game changing statute, PA 54 of 2011, has helped communities settle contracts more quickly and provides more certainty in municipal budgets. Passage of HB 5097 would be detrimental to our ability to settle contracts quickly and efficiently.

The Michigan Municipal League has been strongly opposed to this bill, and we continue to urge you to contact your legislators to let them know how detrimental this carve out would be. The arguments the public safety groups use for supporting this bill are that the number of PA 312 filings would proliferate and the legislature only intended this bill to impact teachers.

According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission there were only 43 PA 312 filings in 2013 as opposed to 69 in 2011. PA 312 filings are significantly lower than they were before enactment of PA 54.

In addition, even if the legislature only intended this for teachers, it has been a game changer for municipal budgets, and it’s critical that we keep this tool to allow local units the opportunity to settle contracts expeditiously and save taxpayers money.

We appreciate all the members who have already contacted their lawmakers on this issue and we hope others follow their lead. It is critical that you please contact your legislators and ask them to OPPOSE House Bill 5097. You can find the contact information for your Legislators here. We’ve also prepared a letter you can email directly to your lawmakers. Go here to do that today.

The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. A Senate version, Senate Bill 850, is in the House Commerce Committee.

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

Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on DDA Legislation, Push for Opt Outs Continues

Today the House Commerce committee took testimony on HB 5856, the legislation introduced by Rep. Kowall yesterday dealing with DDA transparency and spending. If you recall it contains a number of transparency pieces as well as teeth to obtain compliance.

Much of the testimony for the day, including that of the League’s, centered not on the bill itself necessarily but what the bill does not have in it: opt outs or resetting of baselines, both of which are extremely problematic.  There is a clear desire on Rep. Kowall’s part and a push by the Michigan Association of Counties to add in some element of either or both of those concepts.  It remains unclear which direction the bill sponsor is wanting to go in at this time.  It is imperative that you contact your representative and tell them how detrimental an opt out or resetting of baselines would be for economic development in your community.

Dana Foster

Dana Foster, city manager, City of Brighton

There were many members who testified or came to show their support providing a good representation of areas from across the state and I thank each and everyone one of them. The Michigan Downtown Association was in attendance as well and testified in support of the legislation.

At this time, they intend on having a committee hearing again next week Wednesday on this legislation and potentially voting it out of committee that same day.  If you are interested in testifying, please let me know.  Again, please contact your representatives regarding this legislation and opt outs/resetting of baselines.

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.

Pneumatic Gun Legislation Passes Senate

Today, the full Senate passed SB 979 (Sen. Hildenbrand), a bill to include pneumatic guns (i.e. paint ball guns) in the list of pistols or other firearms that local units of government currently cannot tax, regulate ownership of, registration of, sale/transfer/possession and transportation of (PA 319 of 1990).

The legislation does allow a local unit to regulate the possession of a pneumatic gun in someone under the age of 16 unless it is their private property as well as allow a local unit to prohibit discharging of a pneumatic gun in heavily populated areas.

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.

Senate 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.

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 27 months. The Senate increased the sunset to 36 months.

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 back to the House for concurrence.

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 Passes Bill Extending Sunset for OPEB Bonding

This afternoon the House 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 Senate for concurrence.

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.

DDA Transparency Legislation Introduced Today, In Committee Tomorrow

Rep. Eileen Kowall has introduced legislation to require more transparency and limit some TIF fund operations of Downtown Development Authorities.  HB 5856 (Kowall DDA Act Legislation (4)) is significantly different than Draft 1 we posted about last week.  HB 5856 would do the following:

  1. Definition of Public Services and states a DDA can spend money on increased levels of public services that the municipality is not providing within the downtown district.
  2. Adds language stating the intent of the legislature in the DDA act of what a downtown is:
    A. DDAs intended to revitalize and develop downtown areas with intensive private and public capital investment that are densely settled commercial cores that serve as social, economic and cultural centers.
    B. Downtowns are multifunctional geographically contiguous spaces where residents can shop, dine, live, worship, access government, and be entertained, and that are compact and walkable and serve as a defining characteristic for the community’s overall sense of place.
  3. Adds abilities within a development district such as demolish, reconstruct, develop, redevelop, operate, repair, maintain, improve, etc.  Also adds in environmental remediation of property as an eligible activity.
  4. States all documents for the DDA (budget, audit, minutes, plans, etc) must be on either the DDAs website or the muni’s website.
  5. Requires an annual meeting of the DDA to which other taxing jurisdictions are invited to and allowed to speak on DDA specific issues.
  6. TIF reports that are currently submitted to state must also be submitted to the other taxing jurisdictions.
  7. Adds significant that must be a part of the TIF report including:
    Value of projects
    Number of businesses established and left area
    Other funds aside from TIF used for projects
    Job growth
    Growth in creation of businesses and existing businesses
    Vacancy rates
    Residential growth
    Increased activity from events sponsored by DDA
    Evidence of the reversal of blight or deterioration
  8. TIF revenues need to be used within 5 years of receipt or be turned back over to the other taxing jurisdictions.  However, that 5 years could be moved to longer than 5 but no more than 15 if the TIF plan states why the accumulation is needed, a timeframe for when it will be expended and for what it will be expended.  Additionally, TIF revenues may be accumulated as required pursuant to terms of bonds issued.
  9. Penalty for noncompliance: If State Tax Commission notifies the authority of failure to comply, the authority may not capture any TIF except what is needed for bonds or other obligations until they are back in compliance.

At this time, there are no additional opt outs or resetting of baselines.  However, it is extremely important that you all are contacting your representative regarding this legislation and letting them know how detrimental an opt out or resetting of baseline would be for economic development in your community.

This legislation will be taken up in House Commerce committee tomorrow morning at 10:30 am.  The intent is to then have one more committee hearing on this next week Wednesday where they pass it out and then potentially pass the full House next week Thursday (essentially the legislatures last day until after the election).

If you are interested in testifying on this issue, please let me know!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions!

 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 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.

Congress Passes $1 Trillion Short Term Spending Bill, Goes on Break

After failing to pass the 12 budget bills before the October 1st fiscal year began, Congress enacted a $1 Trillion short term spending measure to avoid a government shutdown. Congress is now on recess for the mid-term campaign season. The short term budget extension sunsets on December 11th, ensuring Congress comes back for a lame duck session.

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

EPA Extends Deadline to Submit Comments on Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Power Plants

The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline to submit comments on the proposed plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for existing power plants to December 1st, from October 16th.

Click here to access additional information on the proposal and to submit comments.

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

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.