Budgets, Elections, and Municipal Finance, Oh My! Last Legislative Session Day Before Election has Flurry of Activity

Posted on September 30, 2022 by John LaMacchia

On Wednesday, the last legislative session day before the election, the House and Senate acted on dozens of bills well into the evening. The biggest legislative item was an agreement on a roughly $1 billion budget supplemental (SB 844). Of that funding, $846 million will go toward the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, which exists to bring new investment projects into the state. The bill will add nearly $300 million in new money to the fund and reauthorize $220 million. It will also invest $350 million into site prep.

In addition to the SOAR fund, there was also money for childcare and behavioral health, including $7.5 million to enhance mental health services for first responders and public safety personnel.

This deal was not easy to finalize and resulted in one legislator making an unanticipated announcement. On Wednesday morning as news was breaking that a deal had been made, Representative Albert resigned as House Appropriations Chair. He did not agree with leadership on the supplemental spending and stated in committee prior to resigning, “For a multitude of reasons, I am very opposed to the supplemental that is on the agenda for the House today. Chief among them is we are entering into a global recession. We have no idea how sharp this retraction will be.”

In other action that morning, the Senate Reg Reform Committee added the short-term rental legislation, HB 4722, to their agenda and sent it to the Senate floor without testimony. Fortunately for us, we have been anticipating they may try to do this and were able to quickly mobilize our members and directly engage legislators. While there were a few tense moments, we were successfully able to keep them from bringing this to a vote on the Senate floor. We know this fight isn’t over and we fully anticipate it will be an issue again in lame duck.

While we were able to showcase the strength of our grassroots advocacy in defending local control, almost simultaneously we were reaping the benefits of our education efforts on municipal finance. Senate Appropriations Committee took testimony on two bills, SB 1160 and SB 1161, that would create a Revenue Sharing Trust Fund. This is something we have long sought as it will protect current statutory revenue sharing resources by directing Treasury every other month to deposit a portion of the sales tax into a restricted fund. While still subject to an appropriation, for funding to be cut below current levels, the legislature would need to amend the statute and give a different directive to Treasury. This legislation is a significant step in protecting local resources and a top legislative priority as this session comes to an end.

If this wasn’t enough for one day, late in the evening the legislature and governor reached a second significant bi-partisan deal, this time on elections (HB 4491). Some local clerks will now have two days to preprocess absentee ballots prior to election day. The two days of preprocessing would be an option for communities of at least 10,000 residents, the Sunday and Monday prior to an election. In exchange, several provisions billed as security measures for absentee ballots were included in the final deal. These include requiring chain of custody logs for ballots placed in drop boxes and the setting up of a process for regularly taking dead voters off the voting rolls.

In addition to preprocessing, they also came to agreement on additional options for polling locations (HB 6071), allowing active-duty military members to vote electronically beginning after January 1, 2024 (SB 311), and addressing the electronic returning of absentee ballots by servicemembers overseas (SB 8).

As October begins, campaign season will kick into high gear, while the legislature won’t be in Lansing casting votes, you can bet they will be at your door, in your mailbox, and on your tv. Add three ballot proposals, the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and every Michigan congressional seat up for election, and it will likely make for an interesting next 5 weeks.

We will be keeping our finger on the pulse of all of it, providing updates when needed, and preparing for what could be a very active lame duck.

John LaMacchia is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.

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