We entered this second week of lame duck expecting action on bills along multiple fronts as the legislature positioned themselves to wrap up activity for the year next week. Instead, this second week ended up feeling a little more like waiting in limbo as the House cancelled all of their session and committee activities due to COVID concerns. That left the week’s action to center on the Michigan Senate, which had already moved most of the bills on their agenda over to the House last week. With the lack of House activity this week, that means most of the work left will fall on that chamber next week, while the Senate waits for the return of any items that will require Senate concurrence. It is possible that the lame duck session will now be extended into the week of Christmas to ensure enough time to get any agreed up bills completed before the term ends.
Despite the absence of House action, the Senate did move the most critical item on the League’s agenda for lame duck. Senate Bill 1246 (Theis), which amends the Open Meetings Act to provide an extension for remote/virtual public meetings until the end of March 2021, moved out of the Senate with an overwhelming 36-1 vote in support of the extension. This bill will be at the top of our list to push out of the House next week, once they return to session.
The following is a brief summary of action that occurred this week on other bills that the League’s State & Federal Affairs team is engaged with…
- SB 943 – Originally introduced this summer as part of the summer tax deferral proposal that was vetoed, a substitute version of SB 943 was quickly adopted and passed by the Senate yesterday to target a select number of industries hit hardest by the pandemic. This new version allows for the retroactive deferral of any currently delinquent summer tax bills and waiver of related penalties and interest from four specific industry segments, until Feb 15, 2021. The bill also provides that the state will reimburse local units for the lost penalties and interest owed on any of these deferred amounts. The bill moves back to the House for a concurrence vote and a separate appropriation of the funds needed to cover those lost penalties and interest. It is not known if the Administration will support the bill.
- SBs 1257 & 1258 – The Senate introduced their own versions of HB 6448 and HB 6467 to address the exemptions of critical infrastructure workers from COVID-19 quarantine requirements under certain circumstances. These bills specifically identify essential energy industry, water & wastewater, and other critical infrastructure workers. The League has been actively engaged in providing broader exemptions to the current quarantine requirements for critical municipal operations. The content of these bills continues to be negotiated between the legislature, Governor’s office, and interest groups like MML. Action in both chambers is expected next week.
- SB 241 – A new version of this bill was adopted on the Senate floor this week to codify the Governor’s previous Executive Order related to water shut-offs. In early July Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 144 that placed a moratorium on water shutoffs until December 31st of this year. This order was nullified by the Supreme Court. Since then the Admiration and the Legislature have been in negotiations to codify that order in statute and finally came to an agreement this week. This bill would reinstate the moratorium on water shutoffs and extend the date to March 31, 2021. Action on the bill by the House is expected next week.
- HB 4159 – Provides oversight to brownfield redevelopment authorities. A substitute version was adopted amending section 13b to increase the number of active projects that an authority may have at one time and also allow for a corresponding increase in administrative and operating costs relative to the number of projects. This change is also consistent with the recently updated MEDC strategic plan and their revised Community Revitalization Program guidelines. A concurrence vote is expected in the House next week.
A full agenda of bill activity is expected next week as both the House and Senate are expected to move most of the remaining lame duck priorities into position for final action.
Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 and [email protected].