Unwrapping Lame Duck 2018 – What Happened?

Posted on January 3, 2019 by Dene Westbrook

When the Legislature wrapped up the 2017-18 session in the morning hours of Friday, December 21st, most of the legislators, staff, and lobbyists had no idea that this lame duck session had set records for the amount of bill activity. When the House and Senate adjourned that morning, following the final 22 hour session marathon, it was reported that nearly 400 bills had moved during the four weeks of lame duck session…more than had passed during the preceding 23 months of the term.  The Governor signed 340 new public acts and vetoed 56 bills during this record-breaking period.

Numerous pieces of legislation that were brought up before the year ended had potential impacts on local government and the League was extremely active from both a proactive and defensive standpoint. The League’s State Affairs team tracked and engaged on nearly 100 separate bills during lame duck 2018.

One of the biggest negotiating pieces of the lame duck session was the completion of the supplemental budget deal. This deal hinged upon finding a funding stream for brownfield site clean-ups and expanding recycling programs once it became clear that the Governor’s proposed solid waste tipping fee increase did not have the votes to pass.  In the end, HB 4991 was amended to earmark a portion of the state’s income tax revenue for additional road funding and the newly created “Renew Michigan” fund.  Renew Michigan will receive $69 million per year for brownfield projects and recycling planning and expansion grants, all of which will be available to local units of government.  This bill also allocates more than $100 million for the next two years to the Michigan Transportation Fund.  The income tax revenue earmarked in this bill was shifted away from the school aid fund earmark in an amount equal to what the school aid fund is expected to increase as a result of the recent Wayfair US Supreme Court decision that allows states to collect sales taxes from online purchases.

Once HB 4991 passed, that cleared the way for the budget supplemental, SB 601, to pass.  This bill included spending items of more than $1.2 billion, about $380 million of which was General Fund revenues.  The 14 page analysis of the budget bill identified a $100 million deposit in the state’s rainy day fund, $114 million in additional road spending for the current year (about $25 million of that amount directly to cities and villages), the aforementioned $69 million for the Renew Michigan program, about $20 million in PFAS mitigation spending, $20 million in broadband expansion funding for under-served communities, $52 million dedicated towards the new Soo Lock project (pending federal appropriation), $7.5 million targeted at emergency disaster relief support for U.P. communities to help meet match requirements following the 2018 flood damage, and more than $115 million in “enhancement” grants spread among projects all around the state.  Numerous League members received specific spending support for projects in this section and throughout the rest of the budget bill.

While overall appropriations for revenue sharing were not impacted by either the income tax earmark or this supplemental appropriation, SB 601 did include a change in boilerplate for statutory revenue sharing payments that will allow any community that missed the December 1, 2018 certification and reporting deadline to receive 90% of their missed December payment if they submit the required documentation by February 1, 2019.

With Governor Snyder completing his review of each of these nearly 400 bills late last week, the following is an outline of the main bills that the League engaged on and what we expect to return to in the new term.

Bills and/or language we initiated or negotiated that were signed by the Governor –

  • HB 6348 – The Personal Property Tax reimbursement formula. Now PA 616 of 2018, the bill creates a new mechanism to fully fund fire protection grants to more than 30 League member communities for the first time ever.  The bill also accelerates the implementation of the next phase of the PPT reimbursement process to allow communities to start seeing their reimbursements reflect their current economic conditions and industrial investments, as opposed to their reimbursements being based on what their industrial tax base looked like in 2012.
  • SB 838 – Expansion of pension and OPEB bonding authority for local units.  Now PA 575 of 2018, this bill will allow single-A rated communities access to bond financing as tool to manage unfunded pension or OPEB liabilities. The law had previously been reserved for use only to those rated AA and above. 
  • HB 6049 – State Treasurer’s assessing reform proposal. Now PA 659 of 2018, the final product was modified significantly based upon our lobbying efforts and the input of local officials. Local government groups, including the League supported the compromise version and we were able to secure a huge concession that now will allow villages located in more than one township the option to consolidate their assessing duties under one assessor of record that they choose.
  • HBs 5939-5941 – Enhanced local regulation of fireworks. Now known as Public Acts 633-635 of 2018, these changes to the state’s fireworks law produced major concessions from the fireworks industry, shrinking the number of days and the hours within those days that fireworks can legally be used. The new changes also offer local governments the ability to assess stiffer penalties for violations and additional regulations on temporary structures in some higher population communities.
  • HB 6582 – Ballot FOIA reforms. PA 523 of 2018 was a priority for the League following the huge outcry from local clerks and communities when an unidentified “Emily” placed FOIA requests in nearly every community around the state for copies of every ballot and related information from the 2016 election. We worked to negotiate language in the Freedom of Information Act that will require a requester to provide their full name and contact information and institute a time frame for the requester to respond back to the local unit of government after they have received a payment or deposit request or the request becomes void.
  • SB 110 – Clarifying authority for communities to negotiate below market housing incentives with developers.  Now PA 585 of 2018, this legislation is the culmination of more than two years worth of effort to clear up the concern that these types of negotiations with developers are allowed and do not violate the state’s Rent Control Act.
  • HBs 6087-6088 – MI Infrastructure Bank clarification. The League worked with legislators and the state to pass what are now Public Acts 507 & 508 of 2018 to ensure that communities could legally utilize the state’s Infrastructure Bank program without violating the Municipal Finance Act.
  • SBs 1222-1223 – Tax capture conflicts with new PPT law. Public Acts 480 & 481 of 2018 reconnect a hold harmless provision that had been missed for certain TIF districts that had been impacted by the recent changes in the state’s personal property tax laws.  When the new PPT system was adopted in 2014, language that had held districts in Battle Creek and Detroit harmless from any negative impact on their debt-related captures from exempt equipment was inadvertently left out of the PPT law and had to be reestablished. This change will restore approximately $3 million in lost reimbursements for those communities.
  • SB 1253 – Street conversions. PA 440 of 2018 clarifies authority for cities to turn one-way streets back into two-way streets.
  • SB 1116 – New Transportation Economic Development Fund categorical. PA 473 of 2018 creates the statutory language needed to implement the new Transportation Economic Development Fund Category B Community Service Infrastructure Fund grant program for road projects in cities and villages with populations less than 11,000. The current year budget has allocated $3 million in grants for eligible cities and villages under this category.
  • HB 6064 – Creates a Rural Development Fund. PA 423 of 2018 establishes this new fund within the MEDC/MI Strategic Fund to benefit economic development efforts in smaller communities around the state. The bill allows for communities of less than 15,000 population to now access Community Revitalization Program grants for up to 50% of a project’s eligible investment (maximum $10M) as opposed to the 25% maximum that normally exists for single project investments under the CRP. A new Rural Jobs and Capital Investment Fund is also created within the MSF that will have access, upon appropriation, to no more than $30 million to invest in eligible companies/economic development projects located in counties with less than 225,000 population.
  • SB 995 – Wetland Mitigation Board. PA 471 of 2018 provides for an increase in available funding and a needed clarification to the local agency wetland mitigation board. The bill provides changes that the League had sought to the fund program board make-up related to League-member participation and improved access to funding from this program.

Bills where we secured language to protect local governments from potential negative consequences –

  • SB 1235 – Bill to amend PA 33 public safety special assessments. Now PA 484 of 2018, the bill as originally introduced would have jeopardized access to this critical municipal finance tool and potentially every existing PA 33 special assessment in the state. we negotiated language to narrow the scope of the changes to simply clarify existing law and walk the sponsor back from gutting the law entirely.
  • HB 6400 – Adult foster care facilities. PA 513 of 2018 amends the Zoning Enabling Act relative to adult foster care facilities. The League secured language in the new act that tightens the exemption from zoning for these types of facilities to ensure that a loophole was not created for uses outside of those receiving foster care benefits.
  • HB 5098 – Utility/telecom line relocation. The League had originally opposed this bill, which is now PA 565 of 2018, based upon the negative impact it would have had on local control of rights of way. After sitting on the House floor for nearly a year due to strong local government opposition, the bill’s proponents compromised on a lesser reporting change, removing offending language that would have gutted local oversight, permitting, and fees.  Bill now simply clarifies project information sharing and reporting.

Bills the League opposed that were not completed and the bills died –

  • SB 329 & HB 4503 – Preemption of local zoning for “short-term” rentals
  • SB 1188 – Preemption of all local vegetation/tree ordinances
  • SB 927 – Rental Heavy Equipment PPT exemption without reimbursement
  • SB 1031 – Full PPT exemption for all utility distribution equipment
  • SB 1035 – Property tax exemption for certain sportsman/gun clubs
  • SB 796 – Prohibition on any paid union release time
  • SB 1260 – Requirement that all public labor unions re-certify every two-years
  • HB 5898 – Gov Snyder’s proposed water user fee
  • SB 943 – Gov Snyder’s proposed solid waste tipping fee increase
  • SB 741 – Preemption of local dog breed ordinances
  • SB 157 & HB 5723 – Preemption of local water & sewer system materials design specifications in favor of PVC materials
  • SBs 626-627 – Preemption of local sea plane ordinances
  • SB 924 – Proposal to authorize private police forces
  • HB 4968 – Proposed changes to conflict of interest standards for planning commission members
  • HB 5916-5917 – Preempts local pet shop ordinances related to puppy sales/puppy mills – these bills were vetoed by the Governor
  • SB 964 – Bill would broaden access to digital billboards, change permit and fee structures, and requirements for public notice for clearing vegetation – bill was vetoed by the Governor

Bills the League supported that didn’t make it through the process –

  • HB 4985-4986 – Switching disabled veteran property tax exemption from a local exemption to a state income tax credit
  • SB 1209 – Legislation to reverse recent court decision that undermines the state’s hard cap/80-20 health insurance cost-sharing law
  • SB 756 – Clarifying local government’s ability to create Storm Water Authorities in compliance with the Supreme Court’s Bolt decision
  • HB 4290 – Provide additional liability protection for local governments from basement back-ups during storm events
  • HB 5385 – Correct problem with speed limit setting for cities and villages in residential areas
  • SB 469 – Re-establish the state’s Historic Tax Credit program to complement the federal historic tax credit
  • HB 5680 – Address concerns with tax status of residential solar equipment, treating those components as part of the home, similar to replacing a furnace or water heater
  • HB 5325 & 5720 – Provide additional flexibility for Principal Shopping Districts and Business Improvement Districts to include residential properties within those districts in their assessment plans

Bills the League opposed that became law –

  • HB 6063 – Now PA 506 of 2018, this bill preempts local sign ordinances relative to flags or banners for military/first responders
  • HBs 5955-5965 – Public Acts 493-503 of 2018 were a package of bills that preempt local occupational licensing and regulation programs, especially related to local licensing of occupations where the state already requires a license

While this lame duck produced a number of victories for local governments, we expect many of the items that did not make it through the process to be brought back in the new legislative term. We will be prepared to continue engaging with League members to support or oppose those issues as appropriate in the coming months.

The 100th Legislature is scheduled to convene for the 2019-2020 session on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, but legislative action will likely not truly begin for a few weeks as we wait for new bills to be introduced and for House and Senate committee assignments and schedules to be announced.

As always, if you have any questions on these bills or other policy issues, please contact the League’s State Affairs team at 517-485-1314. Thank you to everyone for your support and engagement these past few weeks!

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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