Election Results and Changes in House Leadership

State House

Republicans will retain control of the Michigan House of Representatives next year, as Democrats were unable to take the nine seats required to win the majority. The Republican majority is the same as in the 2014 general election, with 63 Republicans and 47 Democrats.

Two House Districts flipped this election. In the 17th House District, Incumbent Representative Bill LaVoy (D – Monroe) was unseated by Republican Joseph Bellino. Representative LaVoy was the only incumbent to not win re-election this year. The Democrats made up this one loss with Democrat Darrin Camilleri winning the Downriver-based 23rd District, currently held by Representative Somerville (R – New Boston).

Leadership

Those elected for Republican and Democrat leadership of the 99th Legislature will begin their new roles on January 1st, 2017.  Representative Tom Leonard (R – DeWitt) is the new Speaker of the House, replacing current Speaker Kevin Cotter (R – Mount Pleasant).

Representative Sam Singh (D – East Lansing) is the new House Minority Leader. House Minority Leader Tim Greimel announced Wednesday he would not seek re-election after the party was unable to narrow the Republican majority during the election. Representative Singh has many years of local government experience prior to him joining the House of Representatives. He served on East Lansing City Council for 10 years and is a former Mayor of East Lansing. See below for the new leadership.

house

New Members

There are 43 new members of the House of Representatives. Of these 43, there are over 15 with a background in local and county government. Please see below for a detailed chart, indicating their roles in municipal governments.

 

New House Members with Local Government Backgrounds
Name (District – Main City) Party Affiliation % Won Municipal Background
Julie Alexander (64 – Hanover) Republican 63% Jackson County Board of Commissioners
Sue Allor (106 – Wolverine) Republican 61% Cheboygan County Board of Commissioners
Julie Calley (87 – Portland) Republican 67% Ionia County Commissioner (8 years)
Brian Elder (96 – Bay City) Democrat 58% Bay County 7th District Commissioner (2003-2010) & Michigan Association of Municipal Attorneys
Jim Ellison (26 – Royal Oak) Democrat 59% Past Chairman of the Royal Oak Planning Commission & 7 terms as Royal Oak Mayor
Ben Frederick (85 – Owosso) Republican 56% Owosso City Council (9 years) & Mayor of Owosso
Patrick Green (28 – Warren) Democrat 66% Warren Councilman
Beth Griffin (66 – Mattawan) Republican 54% Van Buren County Commission Vice Chair
Michele Hoitenga (102 – Manton) Republican 69% Mayor City of Manton
Jewell Jones (11 – Inkster) Democrat 66% Inkster City Councilman
James Lower (70 – Cedar Lake) Republican 63% Vice-Chairman Ionia County Commission & Edmore Village Manager
Steve Marino (24 – Harrison Township) Republican 55% Macomb County Commissioner
Ronnie Peterson (54 – Ypsilanti) Democrat 75% Washtenaw County Commissioner
Yousef Rabhi (53 – Ann Arbor) Democrat 80% Washtenaw County Commissioner
Terry Sabo (92 – Muskegon) Democrat 68% 2011-12 Muskegon County Road Commissioner
William Sowerby (31 – Clinton Township) Democrat 56% Clinton Township Treasurer
Jeff Yaroch (33 – Richmond) Republican 70% Richmond City Council (16 years)

 

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

Lame Duck Agenda Whispers in Michigan Legislature

MIRS article related to a OPEB issue.

MIRS article related to a OPEB issue.

In case you didn’t see it, there was a recent article in MIRS quoting Governor Snyder as suggesting municipal retirement health care reforms could be considered during the upcoming lame duck legislative session. This is an issue that the League has identified as a key cost driver for communities (www.SaveMICity.org) and is a major area of interest for our members.

While there are only between nine and eleven session days currently scheduled and no bills or proposals to react to, we are monitoring this issue very closely and working to ensure that should any proposal surface, municipal concerns and fiscal stresses will be at the forefront of the debate.

In terms of background on this issue: for over a year now, the Michigan Municipal League has been advocating for the need to reform the state’s municipal finance system. The League Board of Trustees approved a platform of municipal finance reform centered around cost, structure, and revenue.

opeb-chart-with-percentagesThe single biggest cost reform identified by our members is the need to restructure our retiree health care obligation, commonly known as OPEB – “Other Post-Employment Benefit”. The data (view pie chart and go here) supports what our members have repeatedly told us: the escalating costs of providing retiree health care benefits, not pensions, are the biggest impediment and greatest threat to investing in their communities.

We will continue to keep members updated if there are any developments along this topic.

(Posted by Matt Bach, League director of media relations, on behalf of Chris Hackbarth).

Please feel free to contact Chris Hackbarth if you have any questions: 517-908-0304 and chackbarth@mml.org.

League Opposes Bill to Amend The Highway Advertising Act

Last week the Senate voted 23-13 in support of SB 953, a bill allowing commercial activities that are not related to education purposes on school owned property. The legislation opens the door for all school property to be exempt from zoning when used for a private commercial purpose such as billboards, cell towers or other commercial uses that would financially benefit the school without the opportunity for public input or consideration of possible negative impacts on quality of life for residents.

The Highway Advertising Act of 1972 (PA 106) was enacted to protect scenic beauty and viewsheds, and eliminate visual distractions for drivers. SB 953 challenges the original intent of PA 106 by providing the signage industry with special protections. This also further limits local units of government the ability to establish policies which protect and enhance community character and vitality.

The bill has been referred to the House Local Government Committee. Please contact your State Representative and urge their opposition to this bill.

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

Flint Water Crisis Report Released

Senator Jim Stamas, chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency, on Wednesday announced the release of the committee’s report.

“After many months of work and discussions, I am pleased to release a bipartisan, bicameral report of the joint committee,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “The report contains more than 30 policy proposals based on testimony and a comprehensive review of materials presented to the committee.”

The Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency met six times and took more than 18 hours of testimony from more than 60 participants. In addition to hearings in Lansing, the committee traveled to Flint to hear from residents affected by the water crisis.

The committee heard from officials from the Office of the Auditor General; members of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force; the directors of the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services; representatives of the Genesee County Health Department, Flint Water Treatment Plant and Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association; and various government officials and residents from Flint.

For a copy of the Flint Water Crisis Report please click here.

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.

TIF Legislation Passes Senate

Yesterday, the Senate passed SB 1026, the TIF legislation, on a 37-0 vote. The bill now heads to the House. The legislation consolidates all tax increment financing authority acts, excluding the brownfield redevelopment act, into one TIF act. It also focuses on reporting requirements and accountability for adhering to those requirements as well as transparency measures.

The League has been heavily involved in working with the sponsor and will continue to be as this legislation heads to the House.

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

League Opposes Bill That Could Expand Charitable Property Tax Exemption

The Senate Finance committee met today and reported Senate Bill 960 (Brandenburg), despite testimony from the League and the mayor of the city of Dexter in opposition to the bill.  This bill was introduced at the request of non-profit organizations, claiming inconsistency between municipalities in the application of the charitable exemption standards in the current law, especially in the wake of the 2006 Wexford decision.  In opposing this bill, the League was joined by the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Department of Treasury in asserting that the language in the SB-960-s-1 being considered by the committee goes beyond a simple codification of the Wexford decision and expands access to the exemption to entities that are not currently eligible.  The Senate Fiscal Agency has estimated the impact on local property tax revenue from this expansion to be $27.6 million in the first year, with State Education Tax and local school operating mill revenue impacts as well.

The city of Dexter testified that the inclusion of new language in the bill providing for the “promotion of health and wellness” as an eligible charitable purpose was an over-broad expansion of the current standards, offering an invitation for potential abuse and could impact a case that the city has been successful in before the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

The bill was reported by a vote of 5-1 with one abstention and is now on the Senate floor awaiting a vote, which could be scheduled yet this week.  Please contact your State Senator TODAY and urge their opposition to this expansion and instead consider language proposed by Treasury which would scale this bill back to a strict codification of the Wexford decision and the 120 years of existing case law on this topic.

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

Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation

The Governor signed medical marijuana legislation into law on Sept. 21, which sets the framework to regulate commercial marijuana facilities. Local municipalities choosing to allow for one or more types of the five different facilities can opt in by adopting an authorizing ordinance. If a municipality does not want any type of marijuana facility, they don’t have to take any actions.

Beginning 360 days after the effective date of PA 281, a person may apply for a license. The licensing board will be created within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The legislation does not put a time frame on local municipalities to have their authorizing ordinance in place, if they so choose.

The League, working with Dickinson Wright, has put together a one page fact sheet. Click here to review the fact sheet.

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

Initial Discussions Begin on Act 51 Changes

In the Governor’s veto letter of SB 557, which would have eliminated the cost sharing for road projects that 45 cities pay to MDOT, he stated that we should not take a piecemeal approach to revising ACT 51 but instead we should consider wholesale revisions. We agree with the Governor that this is an archaic and complicated formula and that we must tackle the complexities and nuances it contains. A formula that better recognizes our costs, drives resources to already existing infrastructure, and meets the demands of a 21st century workforce is imperative to creating the types of communities we advocate for every day.

A preliminary step was taken at the end of September when Senate Republicans granted a request by MDOT to present to their caucus a very basic framework of what they thought a new formula could look like. While a few specifics were included in the framework, there are no numbers available on how their proposal would affect individual communities. We recently met with Director Steudle and he stated that they still need to gathered a tremendous amount of input from both legislators and local road agencies before any legislative action would take place. We have also confirmed that this is only a preliminary step and that a complete overhaul of Act 51 will not happen during lame duck.

The Detroit Free Press recently ran an article explaining some of the changes that MDOT has proposed in their draft plan. In our discussions with the Director, he reinforced that this is only a starting point and that they are flexible and open to negotiating the specifics on many of the items they have proposed. You can read the article by clicking here.

The League is committed to protecting a community’s ability to maintain their infrastructure and will oppose any plan that would put any further stress on their budgets, which are already stretched thin. We will be prepared to have a robust conversation on how we think that formula should look, and have information to support those arguments. We look forward to continuing this conversation and will continue to advocate for a formula that supports a transportation network for 21st century communities.

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.

 

Conversation Continues on New Personal Property Tax System

The League co-hosted a webinar this afternoon with Howard Heideman from Treasury’s Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis as a continuation of our effort to provide information and greater access to Treasury as communities move through the initial phases of implementing the state’s new personal property tax system.  More than 125 members registered for today’s presentation, which follows along with meetings held earlier this summer in Muskegon and Marquette.

See below for the full webinar and referenced documents. In addition, please visit Treasury’s Personal Property Tax Reimbursements web page for more details.

A special thank you to Howard and to Treasurer Khouri for their partnership and assistance in this outreach effort!

Personal Property Tax Implementation Webinar from Michigan Municipal League on Vimeo.

Documents referenced in webinar:

Excel:
2016 PPT Reimbursement Draft – Example City

MS Word:
Form 5429 Example With Instructions

Form 5403 Expired Tax Exemptions – Example With Instructions

 

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

Senate Judiciary Passes Bicyclist Protection Bills

Senate Judiciary committee recently passed several pieces of legislation that will help protect the rights of a bicyclist and other non-motorized users of the roadway. This is an important step forward as more and more focus is place on creating communities that support all modes of transportation.

Two bills passed out of committee the League supported, SB 1029 and 1030. They would amend the Michigan Vehicle Code to prescribe misdemeanor and felony penalties for committing a moving violation causing injury to or the death of a vulnerable roadway user. A vulnerable roadway user is defined as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or wheelchair user.

Additional bills were passed out of committee that would require driver’s training to include three hours of instruction on safety for bicycles and require motor vehicle operators  to maintain a 5-foot distance when passing a bicyclist on the roadway.

John LaMacchia is the Assistant Director of State Affairs for the League handling transportation, infrastructure, energy and environment issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.