Homeless Awareness Week, November 15th – 23rd

Did you know that more than 92,000 people were homeless in Michigan in 2013, and more than half were families with children? Watch Veronika Scotts’s heartwarming story of how a college project turned into a creative design solution and a passion for solving the homeless crisis in Detroit one coat at a time. She began producing her fantastic coat-that-converts-to-sleeping bag at Ponyride in Detroit, a space for artists and socially conscious entrepreneurs. As local leaders you are in a position to raise awareness and inspire action by participating in Michigan’s Homeless Awareness Week, November 15th – 23rd. The Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness offers sample proclamations and news releases, suggested community awareness activities, and much more. Michigan Mayor’s may also wish to join their colleagues in the national Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness which is supported by the National League of Cities and encourages mayors to make a commitment to ending Veteran homelessness in their cities in 2015.

Derek Tisler is a Legislative Assistant for the Michigan Municipal League.  He can be reached at 517-908-0302 or email at dtisler@mml.org

Bad News: Public Act 54 Amendment Likely to Pass Senate This Week

House Bill 5097 is on the Michigan Senate agenda for this week, and it will likely pass overwhelmingly. The governor is supportive and is expected to sign this legislation. The Michigan Municipal League needs your help and requests that you contact your state senators today demanding they VOTE NO on HB 5097. This is a bill that would exempt police and fire from Public Act 54 so that they can have retroactive pay increases after a contract expires.

The Senate has already passed a similar bill, and the governor’s office has been pushing for this legislation to pass. This bill undoes the most effective reform passed by the Legislature in 2011.

The Michigan Municipal League strongly opposes this bill due to the detrimental financial implications for our communities. It’s highly important that you contact your senators now as a vote is expected as early as this morning. We’re out of time for emails, so please call your lawmakers this morning. Get the phone number for your senators here. Please call them even if you contacted them earlier this year on this issue.

Background: 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. Now public safety groups pushing this bill argue that the number of Public Act 312 filings would proliferate and the legislature only intended this bill to impact teachers.

HOWEVER, 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.

Talking points: Here are a few bullet items to follow when contacting your state Senators:

  • Please oppose HB 5097
  • You’re trying to fix something that’s not broken
  • Passing this legislation results in eliminating the most effective labor reform passed in 2011 and is inconsistent with all of the reforms passed including PA 152 and PA 312 reforms.
  • Maybe this was intended just for teachers, but it’s helped cities tremendously
  • The state has cut more than $6 billion in revenue sharing to communities in the last decade so we need every dollar we can get to provide the essential services our residents expect
  • So can I count on your NO vote?

If you have additional questions please contact Samantha Harkins, is director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, at sharkins@mml.org or 517-908-0306.

The Atlantic Hosts Town Hall on Energy and the Mid-Term Elections

Next week, on October 7 at 9 am, The Atlantic will convene our American Town Hall on Energy and the Mid-Term Elections. The event will be held at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.

Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) will part of the panel as well as building leaders off stage from the advocacy and business communities.

If you’re interested in attending or for more information you can sign up on the event’s website.

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


Update: MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions

The Michigan Municipal League would like to offer a quick update on SB 882. Last week a blog was posted that explained the compromised the League had reached with the House and the anticipated vote today on the bill. As a result of a few key House Republicans being unable to attend session today, the House has decided not to take up any bills for a vote. This move was completely unexpected and out of our control. After following up with staff, they have indicated that a vote will take place on the bill tomorrow. As a result of this delay it appears that the Governor will not be presented with the opportunity to sign this legislation before Thursday.

The more difficult issue with this is that there will be a two day period where if you have not certified to the department that you are in compliance with current statute you may be at risk of losing Act 51 funding. In my discussions with the department I don’t believe that they will begin immediately enforcing this statute with a heavy hammer and are willing to work with us to bring all of our members into compliance. That being said the current statute does require that you comply no later than today, September 30.

Although today’s delay was not anticipated we remain confident this issue will be resolved before the end of the week.

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

League Checks into Building Code Book and Reference Concerns

We have received a number of emails from members recently regarding a letter sent from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) detailing the requirement to have on hand a copy of building codes and references.  According to the department, this was a proactive move on the part of the commission and NOT a new requirement. This was an attempt by the commission to provide more narrow guidance on what was really important as far as references and books go to keep your library up to date as opposed to all books and references.  The department will be investigating local community books and references at the point of complaint, as has been done in the past.

If you are a local community who is not currently performing these functions, you are not required to have the materials referenced, including if you contract your services out to the county or a third party.

Also confirmed by the department is that you may have group access to these materials.  You could create an MOU with other communities, universities, etc. to show you have access when needed and that would be sufficient.  I mentioned the possibility of having these documents available on a statewide website and each community performing these functions can subscribe to the website for access.  This is a direction the department has considered going in but because of copyright issues with the books and references, it is not doable at this time.  This is why the option of at least sharing the materials with other communities to save on costs was brought up as a solution at this point in time.

A suggestion was made for a clarifying letter to be sent out by the department because of the confusion the previous letter created.  Please let me know if you have any additional concerns or questions you wish to have addressed and I would be happy to reach out and get answers.

Nikki Brown is a legislative associate for the League.  She can be reached at nbrown@mml.org or 517-908-0305.

Repeal of MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions Awaits Final Passage in the House

Senate Bill 882 that repeals the MDOT Annual Certification of Employee-Related Conditions under Act 51 Section 18j is currently awaiting final passage in the House. This bill was voted out of the Senate just before the Legislature left for their summer break by a vote of 35-1. Upon their return in September we knew we would be working on a short timeline to get this bill out of the House. The first committee hearing on the bill was last week and our testimony was well received by the committee. Following committee there were a few questions that were brought up by policy staff in the House that we addressed and after some debate the bill was brought up for a vote in committee. It passed by a margin of 13-2.

There continued to be some questions raised by a few legislators about the need to repeal requirements placed on local government. As a result further movement on the bill was suspended and discussions and negotiations resumed. Yesterday the League supported compromise with the House that would remove the requirements for additional dashboards and financial reporting but would still require us to certify to MDOT on an annual basis that we are in compliance with PA 152. The legislation would also push the implementation date back a year to September 30, 2015. Please click on the following link for the most recent version of the bill. 2014-SCVBH-0882-14645

After reaching the compromise, the House moved the bill from 2nd reading to 3rd reading but did not vote on it. They will not return to session again until next Tuesday September 30th, the current implementation date in statute. In our discussions with the House they have indicated that when they return next Tuesday they will vote on the bill with the changes mention above and send it back to the Senate for concurrence. The plan is for the Senate to concur in the changes to the bill later that day, send it to the governor for signature, and just narrowly beat the deadline.

The bill does not represent the full repeal that we pushed for but we believe it is a very good compromise at the end of the day.

As you know nothing is guaranteed until the Governor’s signature is dry, but at this point, based on the conversations we have had with legislators and staff, we are confident that SB 882 will be passed on Tuesday.

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

Smart Growth America Offering a Limited Number of Technical Assistant Workshops

Is your community interested in creating vibrant, walkable neighborhoods, but not sure where to start?

Smart Growth America’s technical assistance workshops can help. Our experts can work with your community to understand your goals, show how development strategies can help achieve goals, and provide ideas to make it happen.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of these workshops at no charge, and we’re proud to announce that applications are now open for our 2015 free technical assistance workshops.

Now in its fourth year, our free technical assistance program has helped over 50 communities grow in ways that benefit residents and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Visit our website to learn about this year’s opportunity, including the types of workshops available and information about how to apply. Applications are due by October 23, 2014 at 5:00 PM EDT.

For more information or to apply click here.

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

House Committee Hears Legislation on Mobile Home Park Inspections

The House Regulatory Reform committee heard testimony on a bill that makes changes to the Mobile Home Commission Act.  HB 5513 (substitute found here: HB 5513 sub) was introduced by Rep. Andy Schor in an effort to address a situation that occurred in his district with the Life O’Riley Mobile Home Park. This legislation requires the DEQ to outline clear roles for local units of government and enforcement (a problem that occurred with the Life O’Riley mobile home park that ended being condemned and residents forced to seek housing elsewhere). In addition, there are more reporting requirements of the DEQ to local units of government of rules promulgated or when a mobile home is found to be in violation.

The League is supportive of this legislation.

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 Finance Committee Passes Tax Appeal Legislation

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Finance Committee reported 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.

The League sent a list of concerns to the sponsor, Senator Caswell, and he addressed several of those concerns. However there are several large issues that remain unresolved.

First and foremost we think this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. The Department of Treasury is pushing for this legislation; however, none of the stakeholders who actually use the tax appeals process (including local units of government and the business community) are interested in this legislation passing. Local government and schools are opposed, and the business community is neutral but not pushing for the legislation to move.

Another concern is a 3-year look back for property tax appeals which would create uncertainty for local budgets. In addition this could be problematic for the newly passed personal property tax repeal package.

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 legislation now heads to the full Senate for approval. Please contact your Senator and ask them to vote no on this legislation!

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 Passes Unfunded Mandates Package

Yesterday afternoon the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee unanimously reported on Senate Bills 495-498, a package of bills that seek to induce heavier enforcement of the constitutional prohibition on unfunded mandates for local units of government.

The bills require the legislature to appropriate money in accordance with the Headlee Amendment. They also create a Local Government Mandate Panel to create a fiscal note to determine the financial impact on local units of government before legislation passes each chamber.

Among other requirements the legislation creates a Special Master in the Court of Appeals to specifically assist in Headlee cases. The legislation specifically states that local units would not have to comply with state mandates unless the legislature appropriates money to fund the mandate.

The legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

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