Sewer Back Up Legislation taken up in Senate Committee

Posted on September 17, 2012 by Dene Westbrook

On Wednesday September 12, the Senate Local Government and Elections committee took testimony on SB 1220. This bill would amend the governmental immunity law to revise procedures for the resolution of claims regarding sewage disposal system overflows or backups. In doing so the bill as introduced would eliminate the option for a claimant to start a civil action against a local governmental agency for a sewage disposal system event. The bill would also establish a hearing process for the settlement of claims, and allow any party to appeal.

The hearing process would be set up if no agreement was reached within 45 days after the agency received notice. The local governmental agency would then have to schedule a hearing within 30 days and would have to appoint a neutral hearing officer who is a licensed professional engineer. The hearing officer would then determine whether the claim could be maintained and determine the property and economic damages. The hearing officer would then have to give the parties written findings of fact and conclusions of law. After that process, any party could appeal  to the circuit court.

The League opposed this legislation as introduced on Wednesday and has worked with the sponsor to make the hearing an option for the city rather than make it mandatory. This amendment is expected to be offered in the Senate committee hearing this Wednesday. If adopted the League would become neutral on this legislation. If the amendment to make this permissive is adopted and this bill becomes law, a local governmental agency could then continue with their current process in regard to sewer backups, or adopt this new provision that would allow for a hearing.

Jason Mancini works for the Michigan Municipal League handling Municipal Services. He can be reached at 517.908.0303 or by email at [email protected]

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