Pre-Election Legislative Wrap Up & Lame Duck Predictions

Posted on October 19, 2018 by Dene Westbrook

Earlier this month the Legislature wrapped up its pre-election session schedule, meeting for nine days between Labor Day and the first week of October.  Both chambers recessed on October 4th until their scheduled return on November 7th, following the General Election.  While the Lame Duck session period technically begins on November 7th, most of the action on legislation is expected to occur during the 12 scheduled session days between November 27th and December 20th.

Most of the focus for the House and Senate centered on the legislative adoption of the minimum wage increase (PA 337 of 2018) and paid sick leave (PA 338 of 2018) proposals that had previously been approved for the ballot.  Legislative adoption of these proposals means these two initiatives will no longer appear on the ballot and will go into effect in early 2019.  Adoption by the Legislature also means that any future amendments to these new acts can be accomplished through a simple majority vote as opposed to a 3/4 vote requirement had the proposals been approved by voters in November.  Legislative amendments to these two acts are expected during lame duck.

In addition to the approval of the ballot initiatives, numerous bills were positioned for further activity following the election through work group meetings, committee hearings and initial legislative action in one of the chambers.  League staff tracked many of these bills and engaged in negotiations and public testimony on the following items:

  • Combating Unfunded Mandates: HB 4679.  This legislation requires all legislation being considered in Lansing to have a detailed fiscal analysis that examines both state and local revenue and cost impacts, to the extent that the data is available and that the fiscal agencies have appropriate time to develop the analysis.  Signed by the Governor as PA 340 of 2018.
  • Residential Solar Improvements: HB 5143 & 5680.  This legislation addresses the question of how residential solar improvements are treated from a property tax assessment standpoint.  The League supported the revised versio of HB 5143, treating residential solar improvements similar to installation of a new furnace. Passed House and reported from Senate committee where it awaits further action.
  • Principal Shopping District & Business Improvement Zone Assessments: HB 5325 & 5720. This legislation provides additional flexibility to apply PSD and BIZ assessments on all property, including residential, within the designated district.  Bills passed the House and had an initial Senate committee hearing.
  • Creation of Building Code Advisory Committees: HB 5376. This proposal creates a series of sub-group advisory committees that include local building officials and inspectors in the Building Code development process at the state level.  The bill has passed the House.
  • Fireworks Regulatory Authority: HB 5939-5941. A bipartisan group of legislators is actively working with the League and other local government groups to develop changes to the existing fireworks law that would grant additional regulatory authority to local units of government and reduce the number of legal days and hours for fireworks usage.  The bills have had multiple work group meetings and an initial House committee hearing.
  • Economic Development Incentive Evaluations: HB 6052. This proposal calls for regular, independent evaluation analyses of state incentive programs.  The bill has passed the House.
  • Preemption of Local Advertising Flag/Banner Ordinances: HB 6063.  This bill is a reaction to the enforcement of a sign/banner ordinance on a restaurant that was displaying a number of banners and flags honoring fallen veterans and first responders that exceeded what was allowed under the local ordinance.  This bill has been reported by the House committee and awaits further action on the House floor.
  • State Infrastructure Bank: HB 6087. Clarifies municipal authority to borrow money from the state infrastructure bank.  HB 6088. Exempts loans from the state infrastructure bank from definition of municipal security under the revised municipal finance act. Both bills have had an initial House committee hearing.
  • Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Formula: HB 6348.  Bill is a reintroduction of a proposal earlier this year that seeks to rationalize the distribution to local units of any PPT reimbursement dollars remaining after all communities have been reimbursed for 100% of their losses. Passed out of the House
  • Elimination of Pension Rolling Amortization: HB 6371.  New proposal that seeks to implement one of the components of the OPEB and pension reform debate from last year that was dropped during the passage of PA 202 of 2017.  This bill would end the practice of “rolling” amortizations for pension plans and would require all plans to abide by a fixed schedule for paying down their unfunded liabilities.  This bill was recently introduced in the House.
  • Small Cell Technology Deployment Regulations: SB 637.  Legislation would preempt local regulatory authority on small cell telecommunication equipment in favor of a single, state-level standard for permitting and fees.  Passed the Senate earlier this year and was reported by the House committee where it now awaits further action by the full House.
  • Drones: SB 917, 918, 919, 921, and 922. Bills would add additional individuals to the list of public safety officials that drones are prohibited from interfering with. Also strengthens the language related to protecting key facilities, like prisons.  Passed out of the Senate.
  • PPT Exemption for Rented Heavy Equipment: SB 927. The League has opposed this bill that offers a complete personal property tax exemption for all rental heavy equipment, with no local government reimbursement mechanism. The bill would especially hit communities that host equipment rental companies or rental yards.  The bill passed the Senate earlier this year and had an initial House committee hearing.
  • Assessing Reform Proposal: SB 1025 & HB 6049.  Following an initial committee hearing before the summer recess, legislative sponsors and the State  Treasurer embarked on a listening tour around the state gathering feedback from local officials on this proposal.  Following those public forums, the League and other local government groups have participated in work group meetings designed to develop consensus around an alternate approach from what was introduced.  A new draft proposal is expected before the Legislature reconvenes in November.
  • Local Road Improvement Grant ProgramSB 1116. The MDOT budget provided a new $3 million grant program for road projects in communities that are less than 10,000 in population. This legislation provides the statutory structure for that grant program.  The bill was reported by Senate committee and awaits further action on the Senate floor.

Governor Snyder has also identified his Renew Michigan and Rebuild Michigan proposals as top priorities for his Administration before the end of the year.  The core pieces of legislation for these proposals center on increasing the state’s solid waste tipping fee at landfills (SB 943) to provide replacement revenue for the now expired Clean Michigan Initiative bond program that had been funding brownfield clean-up projects and creating a new water user fee (HB 5898) to fund emergency infrastructure needs and create a capital infrastructure grant and loan program.  The League has raised concerns with both of these proposals, as originally introduced, and we expect to be heavily engaged in any debate of these bills during the lame duck session.

We also continue to pursue legislative action before the end of the year on League member priorities for:

  • Basement Back-up Liability Protection: HB 4290.  This bill would create clear, data-based criteria that recognizes governmental immunity.  Awaiting action on the House floor.
  • Statutory Guidance for Storm Water Authorities: SB 756 & HB 4100.  This language will clarify existing ability to establish storm water authorities to align with Bolt v Lansing court decision and protect local governments from litigation.  Awaiting initial action in House and Senate committees.
  • Restore the State Historic Tax Credit: SB 469.  Legislation would re-create the previously eliminated state tax credit.  Passed Senate and awaiting final action on the House floor.
  • Below Market Housing Incentives: SB 110.  Bill clarifies local authority to negotiate certain housing incentives with developers.  Passed Senate and awaiting House committee action.
  • Veterans Exemption Cost Shift to the State: SB 1042 & HB 4986.  Proposals would repeal the current disabled veteran property tax exemption that local governments have been forced to pay for and shifts the exemption onto the state income tax as a state budget expense.  Awaiting initial House and Senate committee action.
  • Eligibility Expansion for Pension Bonding: SB 1129.  Bill would extend the end-of-year sunset for the existing bonding authority for AA-rated communities and expand bonding eligibility to A-rated communities under certain circumstances.  Awaiting initial Senate committee action.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and [email protected].

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