For the first time in 55 years the legislature adjourned for the year before December. Both chambers passed resolutions setting Nov. 14 as its “sine die” session. Barring an unexpected special session called by the Governor, lawmakers won’t return until Jan. 10. The early adjournment is a result of a constitutional requirement that a bill cannot become law until 90 days after the session adjourns unless it receives support from two-thirds of the members of each chamber to give it “immediate effect.”
Immediate effect was withheld from legislation setting next year’s presidential primary on Feb. 27. If the Legislature had waited until after Christmas to adjourn, the presidential primary law would not have gone into effect until late March. The early adjournment will also allow other legislation not given immediate effect, a tax credit for working families, gun violence prevention measures, fewer abortion restrictions, equal rights for the LGBTQ community and tax relief for seniors, to take effect early next year.
With the legislature wrapping the year early, the previous few weeks have seen a flurry of legislative activity. The League was involved in several pieces of legislation, and while there were a couple of issues that negatively impacted local units, there were several issues taken up that the League supports. Below is a recap of those issues:
Revenue Sharing Trust Fund:
The Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (HB 4274 and 4275), in an incredible sign of support for this policy, passed the House by votes of 106-4. These bills would dedicate 8% of the 4% sales tax and place them in a trust fund specifically for statutory revenue sharing. We have long advocated to fully fund and protect revenue sharing under the law. These bills would go a long way to preserving resources that are currently being used to fund revenue sharing.
These bills are now before the Senate. We look forward to working them and sending this legislation to the Governor for her signature.
Public Safety and Violence Prevention Trust Fund:
Legislation that would create a Public Safety and Violence prevention fund also passed the house with a significant majority. Like the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund, HB 4605 and 4606 would dedicate 1.5% of the 4% sales tax to cities, villages, townships, and counties to provided resources to help reduce violent crime across Michigan. These bills are also before the Senate and we look forward to offering our continued support.
When combined with the Revenue sharing Trust Fund, these four bills will secure over $700M in protected funding for local government.
Local Preemption of Renewable Siting:
While in the House, the League secured an amendment that if city or village has a wind, solar, or energy storage facility that would normally be subject to the preemption in these bills, that if energy facility was located entirely within the city or village, the city or village they would be exempt from the provisions in the bill. The senate eliminated this provision and our requests to restore language that was altered in committee went unmet. The final version of this legislation does not provide any meaningful local control over the siting of energy facilities in cities and villages.
We are disappointed that this legislation failed to recognize and address our specific concerns. For our communities to balance and meet all our residents’ needs, local control must be consistently recognized as an essential and critical part of the process. We are committed to our continued advocacy for these principles.
Minimum Staffing Requirements:
HB 4688, which would make minimum staffing levels for all local government units a mandatory topic of collective bargaining, was successfully passed out of House Labor Committee over the League objection. Fortunately, after engaging our members and explaining the disastrous effects of this language, the bill was not voted on by the full House.
The League has voiced strong opposition to this bill, both in committee and broader since its introduction. We have also proposed alternative language stating staffing levels are a mandatory subject of bargaining but not subject to Act 312 arbitration. If passed, HB 4688 could place local governments in a difficult, or impossible, situation to maintain sufficient fund balances because unions will argue in arbitration (where these negotiations will inevitably end up) that funds can be spent to support increases to staffing levels because parks and recreation programs, maintenance of roads, and other matters that create or maintain a sense of place can be cut to do so.
We will continue to actively engage on this legislation when the legislature returns and express our opposition to this bill.
Video Franchise Fees:
We were also able to successfully hold off action in the Senate on HB 4965 after in passed the House just a few short weeks after it was introduced. This bill would exempt streaming services from the Video Services Act and likely will have far reaching negative impacts on the franchises fees currently being collected by local units of government.
Streaming service is the very likely the future of cable, and rather than blindly exempting them from the Video Services Act, we must have a conversation on how we modernize our system of collecting franchise fees that are rightly owed to local units of government under the provision of the Michigan Constitution.
The House passed HB 4360 from Rep. Felicia Brabec with a bipartisan vote of 76-30. This bill would allow for the partial jurisdictions of cities, villages, or townships to join as fire authorities. Currently, local units may only come together as complete jurisdictions to form a fire authority. If passed, this change in statute would allow for more flexibility for local governments to structure fire authorities and deploy services more efficiently and effectively for the communities they serve. The bill will now go to the Senate to await a hearing in the Senate Local Government Committee.
Election Official Intimidation:
HB 4129, which the League supported, was passed by the Michigan Legislature and is on its way to the Governor. This legislation criminalizes the actions of intimidating an election official and preventing an election official from performing their duties. Depending on the action, an individual could receive a misdemeanor or felony charge. The actions include intimidating an official because of their status with the specific intent of interfering or preventing the performance of that election official’s related duties. The bill does specify that this legislation does not apply to constitutionally protected activities.
There has been an increase in the number of election officials, including volunteers, who have left positions on account of threats and a perceived increase in danger on account of their status. The League felt it was important to support efforts increasing protections for our election officials, especially with the expanded need for, and demand on them resulting from Proposal 2 requirements such as early voting.
Mandate to Provide Public Employee Information to Bargaining Representatives
The League opposed SB 169, which will add a new section to the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) to require public employers provide collective bargaining representatives with their employees’ employment and contact information. Specifically, the bill requires that within 30 days of hiring an employee, and every 90 days, a public employer must provide the following information to a bargaining representative:
- The employee’s full name.
- The employee’s department or agency and classification.
- The address of the employee’s primary work location.
- The employee’s home address.1
- The employee’s personal telephone number and email address.
- The employee’s work email address.
- The employee’s date of hire.
- The employee’s identification number, if applicable.
- The employee’s wage and full-time or part-time status.
Out of concern for employees’ privacy and an increased administrative burden, MML advocated for alternative language that would instead require a public employer to provide the bargaining representative’s contact information for a new employee should there be interest in reaching out. Ultimately, our suggestion was not incorporated into the bill.
Public employers should be aware of this change in policy as it is slated to take effect in spring of 2024.
We will cover these issues and more on Live with the League this coming Monday. Please register here to join us.
John LaMacchia is the League’s director of state & federal affairs. He can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0303.