This week kicked off the first full week of lame duck legislative activity since the November election. The League’s advocacy team is engaged on multiple fronts to promote a number of pieces of legislation we have been supporting and defending against a host of proposals that will harm local control and local budgets.
While the full calendar of expected lame duck session days is still a bit murky, our team is preparing for this lame duck period to extend through December 17th, giving legislators and committees two more weeks to try and complete legislative priorities.
Given that limited schedule, this first week of action focused on putting a large number of bills in play so that they could have enough time to be completed before the final adjournment for the year.
The following is a brief summary of action that occurred this week on bills that the League’s State & Federal Affairs team is engaged with…
HB 5824-5825 – These bills would codify the Governor’s Executive Order from earlier this year, that the court’s struck down, which extended the March and July Boards of Review. The League supported these bills in Senate committee earlier this week and the full Senate voted today in unanimous support.
SB 1234 & HB 4828 – These bills are identical to each other and amend the current residential property tax poverty exemption to assist with various COVID-related impacts residents are facing as they attempt to apply for the exemption. The League and the City of Detroit testified in support of these bills in both the House and Senate committees this week. The full Senate reported SB 1234 unanimously this afternoon and further work is expected on the bills next week.
SB 1105–1106 – These two bills would exempt all utility-grade solar projects from the industrial personal property tax and replace that lost property tax revenue with a $3500/MW Payment In Lieu of Tax. This amounts to pennies on the dolar for many local units versus the existing tax liability and would require mandatory approval of the exemption by all local units. The League previously testified in opposition to these bills, but did indicate a willingness to engage in discussions on a more reasonable PILT alternative that communities would have the option to employ, if this was a development they were choosing to incent. These bills were reported by the Senate in their original format earlier today along a mainly party-line vote and we continue to oppose.
SB 1153 & 1179 & HB 6198 & 6284 – These four bills are part of four identical tax exemption packages being considered by both the House and the Senate to provide Meijer and other commercial retailers with full sales, use, and personal property tax exemptions for all large-scale consumer goods handling warehouse distribution equipment and so-called “micro-fulfillment” system equipment used by retailers to assist with filling online orders. The League and all other local government and school groups testified in both chambers in opposition to these bills. The Senate reported the bills from committee yesterday and are expected to vote on the package later today.
SB 1203 – Would amend the General Property Tax Act to freeze the location of all personal property being used by remote workers as assessable only at the business’s ordinary location for the 2021 tax year. While the League took no position on this legislation, we are tracking its movement and making the argument that this proposal should be accompanied by a similar freeze in work location for remote workers whose ordinary work location falls within a city income tax community.
SB 676 & 1137 – These bills have been developed in response to a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision that found that all “excess” proceeds from a tax foreclosure sale must be paid to the former owner of the property. This court decision could have a long-term harmful impact on County Delinquent Tax Revolving Funds that will lead to chargebacks being assessed to local taxing jurisdictions. Communities that also leverage their right of first refusal to acquire these foreclosed properties for the minimum bid may also face a more expensive path to acquiring these parcels as the court decision also puts the ability to acquire parcels for the minimum bid at risk. Following months or work group discussions and negotiations with local units, the County Treasurers Association, and the Michigan Dept of Treasury, these bills were reported from the Senate this week by a unanimous vote.
SB 431 – The League continues to strongly oppose this blatant move to preempt local units of government from virtually any zoning or other currently authorized regulation of gravel and aggregate mining. This bill is expected to be brought up for a vote on the Senate floor later today and the League is vigorously working with our allies to secure enough votes to block its passage.
HB 6207 and SB 1246 – This legislation extends the current Open Meetings Act allowance for remote meetings during the current pandemic. The current sunset date of 12/31/2020 would be extended through March of 2021 under the bill. The League has made this change a primary focus of our advocacy during lame duck. The bill was reported by House committee earlier this week and is expected to move off the House floor early next week.
HB 5822 – This League supported this legislation in House committee earlier this week to allow the City of Grand Rapids to establish their own Land Bank Authority in light of the recent dissolution of Kent County’s Land Bank.
SB 54 – This bill would restore Michigan’s state-level Historic Tax Credit program that was repealed under former Governor Snyder. This proposal has long been supported by the League and was reported unanimously from committee and overwhelmingly out of the Senate earlier today.
HB 6440 – This is the main bill in a more than 100-bill package that would reform the current, obsolete public notice requirements throughout state law. This is a reintroduction of a similar package that the League supported in the 2015-16 session. The package was brought up on the House floor where it awaits sufficient support for passage.
HB 4035 – Legislation that allows regulation of dangerous behavior of dogs without reference to breed. The League is neutral on this bill following significant negotiations to achieve the current compromise language and the bill was reported from Senate committee earlier this week.
HB 6448 & 6467 – These bills provide amendments to the recently enacted COVID employment protections that were passed earlier this fall by expanding the types of critical infrastructure workers exempt from the new law’s 14 day quarantine requirements. The League testified in support of both HB 6448 and HB 6467 in the House Judiciary Committee along with officials from the cities of Oak Park and St. Clair Shores, while also stressing the importance of incorporating all critical municipal services, like water and wastewater, in the exemption from the quarantine requirements. Both bills passed House Judiciary Committee and await action on the House floor.
SB 234 – This proposal would allow Police Academy enrollees to be held accountable for tuition support from a municipality if they do not end up working for that community. The League supports this proposal and it was reported from committee earlier this week.
SB 714 – Bill provides for the erection of certain emergency structures to prevent shoreline erosion. Following a number of months of workgroup negotiations with EGLE, the League supported the version that was reported by the House committee this week. The compromise proposal will streamline the application and processing timeline and allow for coordinated application processing with the Army Corps of Engineers.
HB 4733 Speed Limits – This bill would further clarify local government’s ability to adjust speed limit below the 85th percentile speed when we are able to demonstrate a situation with hazards to public safety through an engineering and safety study. This bill was voted out of House Ways and Means Committee this week with the League’s support.
SB 1215–1218 Movable Bridges – The League and Bay City officials testified in support of a package of bills in Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee this week that would help Bay City address the replacement of two city-owned movable bridges. Due to the unique nature of these bridges and the extraordinarily high cost of replacement, legislation was needed that would allow for Bay City to enter into a public-private partnership that will provide for the replacement of both bridges and free up substantial city resources that can be invested in other infrastructure projects. This package received bipartisan support this week as it moved unanimously out of the Senate.
HB 5762 – Provides for waste water or drinking water energy performance contracting projects to be funded by the state revolving loan fund. The League supported this legislation based on the added flexibility to this program that will continue to increase opportunities for funding for municipalities. The bill was reported from House committee earlier this week and awaits final floor action.
Many of the bills outlined above will likely see continuing action next week. League members are encouraged to connect with their legislators on these issues. Please reach to anyone of the State & Federal Affairs team if you have questions on these or any other bills. Thank you for your support!
Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and [email protected].