A Quick Look at Michigan’s Primary Election Results

A Quick Look at Michigan’s Primary Election Results

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It’s Official:  Schuette vs. Whitmer

As expected, Attorney General Bill Schuette and former Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer easily won their respective primary battles.  In fact, both won outright majorities in crowded contests.

The ease of the Whitmer primary victory was a bit surprising to some as progressive candidate Dr. Abdul El-Sayad appeared to be gaining momentum in the closing weeks of the campaign.  That energy did not produce votes; however, as Whitmer easily won.

U.S. Senate

In the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, John James – a young, energetic, Iraqi War Veteran and businessman from Southeast Michigan defeated businessman Sandy Pensler.  James will take on U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) who is seeking another 6-year term in the United States Senate and will, as always, be very difficult to beat.

United States House of Representatives

In Michigan’s 9th Congressional District, Andy Levin – the son of the retiring Congressman and former Governor Jennifer Granholm appointee - defeated former Rep. Ellen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods).  In this heavily Democratic district, Mr. Levin is almost certain to win in November.

Michigan’s 13th Congressional District is currently vacant after the resignation of former Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit). Former State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) appears to have won a crowded primary battle. Since there is no Republican in this solidly Democratic seat Tlaib would win the November election. Potential election irregularities in Wayne County have given pause to final results.

Congressman David Trott (R-Birmingham) of Michigan’s 11th Congressional District is also not seeking re-election; however, unlike the 9th and 13th described above, the 11th Congressional District will not be decided in the Primary Election. While the seat has been in Republican control for quite some time, the shifting demographics of Oakland County and the national political momentum have put this race squarely on the Democrat’s top tier of potential victories. On the Democratic side, Haley Stevens, a digital manufacturing executive and former Hillary Clinton campaign official defeated Rep. Tim Gremiel and Suneel Gupta in a tough primary battle.  On the Republican side, Lena Epstein – the businesswoman who had originally begun campaigning to take on Senator Stabenow defeated former Congressman Kerry Bentivolio (R-Milford), State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), State Representative Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township), and former State Representative Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski. 

 State Senate

In looking to the State Senate, where Republican have been in control for more than 30 years and still hold a huge majority (27-10), Democrats are hoping to capitalize on the motivation and messaging that has led to Democratic victories in legislative seats throughout the country during recent months and cut into the Republican’s stronghold in November.  There were a few key races that set the stage for the November elections, and one stunning upset of an incumbent.

Perhaps the most stunning result of the evening was the upset of Senator David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) in the 5th Senate District by little-known challenger Betty Jean Alexander of Detroit.  Alexander has signed a waiver not to raise or spend more than $1,000 on the race.  She has no campaign website or social media presence making this race even more intriguing.

The 24th Senate District – where current State Representative Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) defeated State Representative Brett Roberts (R-Eaton Twp.) and will now face longtime Lansing public relations executive and Democrat Kelly Rossman-McKinney to replace the term-limited Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge).

The 31st Senate District – State Representative Kevin Daley (R – Lum) defeated State Representative Gary Glenn (R-Auburn) and will now focus on Democratic Bay County Clerk Cindy Luczak.  Senator Mike Green (R-Mayville) is term-limited.

The 34th Senate District – former State Representative Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo) defeated   State Representative Holly Hughes (R-White River Twp.) for the chance to succeed term-limited Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart); however, will have to defeat Poppy Hernandez who unexpectedly defeated former State Representative Collene LaMonte (D-Montague) in the Democratic primary.

The 38th Senate District – where current State Representative Scott Dianda (D-Calumet) is trying to put the seat back into Democratic hands will see former State Representative Ed McBroom (R-Norway). In the November election. Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) is term-limited.

While not in play in November, there were spirited democratic primaries in several Detroit area Senate seats. In the 1st Senate District, Rep. Stephanie Chang defeated Rep. Bettie Cook Scott and former Representative Alberta Tinsely Talabi.  In the 2nd District Adam Hollier defeated a crowded list of challengers including the presumed favorite former Representative Brian Banks who finished third in the race. In the 3rd District, Rep. Sylvia Santana defeated Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak 41% to 38%.  In the 4th District primary, Marshall Bullock, former staffer to Mayor Duggan defeated Rep. Fred Durhal 43% to 37%. All four candidates should easily win their elections in November.

State House of Representatives

With 110 seats, the list is simply too long to analyze each seat.  Republicans currently hold what would in most years be a comfortable 63-46 majority (one vacancy in a strong Democratic seat); however, Democratic campaign leadership is optimistic that the strong victories in other state legislatures and U.S. Congressional races in recent months will translate in Michigan to flipping House control.

Last night brought two unexpected upsets within the House Democratic rank and file as Rep. Patrick Green (D – Warren) was unseated by elementary school teacher Lori Stone also of Warren.  In another surprise, Rep. William Sowerby (D – Clinton Township) was defeated by Michelle Robertson.

On the Republican side, Matt Hall, a longtime Republican grassroots activist defeated Rep. Dave Maturen in the 63rd House district.  Hall had 57% of the vote to Maturen’s 37%. 

Two incumbents won in very close races.  On the Republican side, Rep. Kathy Crawford (R – Novi) was able to overcome challenger Chase Turner winning with 53% of the vote.  On the Democratic side, Rep. Jewell Jones defeated Garden City Mayor Randy Walker.  Mr. Jones is the youngest person ever elected to the Legislature and survived his first real electoral test in his victory over Mr. Walker.  Many insiders believed Jones was at risk of losing his seat in the days leading up to the election.

Significant Sales Tax Implications of U.S. Supreme Court Decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

Significant Sales Tax Implications of U.S. Supreme Court Decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

Significant Sales Tax Implications of U.S. Supreme Court Decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

John D. Lindley


Disclaimer: This article is not intended and should not be used as legal or tax advice. If the reader has questions regarding nexus or taxability of sales in Michigan or other states, the reader should communicate with a CPA or legal counsel.

In a 5-4 decision June 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court brought into question decades of sales tax standards for the collection and remittance of taxes and essentially opened the door to new standards at the state-level throughout the Country. The question was, and remains to a certain extent, what is the jurisdictional standard a remote seller (a company selling a good or goods to a customer in another state) needs to meet to trigger a requirement to collect and remit sales tax.

In order for a state to require a remote seller to collect and remit sales tax on a transaction the seller must have “substantial nexus” with the state. In prior Court decisions, the concept of substantial nexus had been further defined as physical presence – having property, office space, people, and/or equipment in a state. This ultimately evolved over time to a standard more along the lines of “activities to establish and maintain a market” in the state, such as periodic presence of a sales team, participation in trade shows, etc.

States have always viewed this standard as a high hurdle and a restriction relative to a revenue source; however, the constitutionality of states’ efforts to address nexus is often questioned (that’s a matter for U.S. Congress or the judiciary). Alternatively, states have focused on efforts to simply understanding of nexus standards and collection processes through consistent definitions of what is taxable and what is not, and sourcing rules to determine where the transaction takes place and, therefore, who is responsible for collecting and remitting. The Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement is an example of these efforts for consistency.

In South Dakota, a law was passed and enacted stated substantial nexus could be established if a remote seller has $100,000 or more in sales or 200 or more transactions in a calendar year – adding an economic presence standard to the historical physical presence standard.

Simply put, in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., SCOTUS determined the South Dakota law establishing an economic presence standard will stand.

In the decision, the Court stated that the prior physical presence standard (more-or-less established in 1992) created a judicial-authorized tax shelter for remote sellers and a competitive disadvantage for brick-and-mortar businesses. Further, the decision specified that in prior decisions, the Court could not have contemplated the role of the internet – where now the nation’s largest retailer is online.

According to the decision, the South Dakota law contained three factors that aided in leading to it being upheld:

1.       The $100,000 or more in sales and 200 or more transactions creates a safe harbor for small businesses.

2.       The law contains no retroactive application.

3.       South Dakota is a member of the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement to aid in simplification and consistency in application.

The Court; however, left many questions unanswered as well. Will a similar law enacted in another state with a lower threshold (e.g. $50,000 in sales or 100 or more transactions) also be upheld? How about a law that does provide for limited retroactive application? What about marketplace sellers – those entities that don’t sell items but rather creates the marketplace for others to do so (e.g. EBay)?

With Congress expected to take a “wait and see” attitude toward the decision rather than passing a measure to create a federal standard, state legislatures are expected to have an incredible amount of action to establish standards similar to South Dakota.

Michigan’s 2018 Ballot Initiatives: Approved and Awaiting Approval

Michigan’s 2018 Ballot Initiatives: Approved and Awaiting Approval

Approved by Board of State Canvassers

518204: Michigan One Fair Wage – APPROVED

Gradually increase the hourly minimum wage to $10.00 in 2019 and then to $12.00 in 2022.  The law would also apply to restaurant workers and other employees who work for tips.

518010: Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol – APPROVED

To allow under state law the personal possession and use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older. The proposal would also enact a 10 percent state excise tax on all marijuana sold by retailers. The new revenue would be used for municipalities, counties, public schools, and roads.

Awaiting Approval from Board of State Canvassers

516183: Protecting Michigan Taxpayers

To end the state's prevailing wage law, which applies union-level wages to job sites for public projects like schools and government buildings. Under this new legislation, less taxpayer money will be needed to fund these public projects.

518110: Keep Our Lakes Great

To enact the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Regulation Act. This act would prohibit the transmission of crude oil through the line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac and require that all crude oil be moved “over, through, under or upon the bottomlands of the Great Lakes.”

518111: Clean MI Committee

A proposal to amend the state constitution of 1963 by amending Article IV, section 12, and Article IV, section 13, to require a part-time legislature that must complete its regular session each year by April 15. The proposed amendment would also lower legislators’ salaries and eliminate their pensions and health care in retirement.

 516642: Raise Michigan

Provide workers with the right to earn sick time for personal or family health needs, as well as purposes related to domestic violence and sexual assault and school meetings needed as a result of a child's disability, health, or issues due to domestic violence. This proposal would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours of work, with a maximum of 72 hours.

518200: MI Time to Care

Provide workers with the right to earn sick time for personal or family health needs. This proposal would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours of work, with a maximum of 72 hours.

518049: Voters Not Politicians

Amend Michigan’s constitution to create an independent citizens redistricting commission, comprised of four registered voters from each party and five independent voters, which would redraw the boundaries of the state and congressional districts in order to avoid gerrymandering.

 517306: Abrogate Prohibition MI

Make the use of the cannabis plant lawful in Michigan for virtually all purposes. Under this legislation, the government could not place any ban on pot use, nor could it impose any fees, fines, taxes or regulations that would “diminish the use of cannabis.” This initiative also does not include any age restrictions, allowing parents to monitor or prohibit pot use amongst their own children.





Michigan Legislature Makes Controversial(?) Changes to Super PAC Law

Michigan Legislature Makes Controversial(?) Changes to Super PAC Law

Seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and the federal district court decision in Michigan Chamber of Commerce V. Land, the Michigan legislature has now codified how our state will treat independent expenditures and Super PAC’s through these bills. 

Road Financing Bill to Snyder

A bill to fix local road financing passed the House on Thursday. It is unclear whether Governor Rick Snyder will sign the legislation.

SB 1068 is similar to a bill vetoed by Governor Snyder earlier this year. House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mount Pleasant) commented the chamber did not expect the Governor to veto the bill, but that is still a possibility. A large change made to the new version of the bill exempts major projects from being the sole financial responsibility of the municipality. In other words, the local communities would not have to pay for a road they do not own.

PAAdvisory Briefs

Roberts Leaves as Budget Director

Budget Director John Roberts will leave his position to join the private sector. Mr. Roberts will continue in his position until the 2017-18 budget is presented, but will leave afterwards to work at a company in southeast Michigan. He has served as Governor Snyder’s deputy chief of staff before being named as budget director. Additionally, he worked as a policy advisor in the White House for former President George W. Bush and was the policy director for the House Republican Caucus.

McDaniel has Support as RNC Chairman

Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel officially received support from President-elect Donald Trump to serve as the RNC chairman for 2017. Ms. McDaniel will be named deputy chair with a pending formal election to chairman once current chair Reince Preibus is named Mr. Trump’s chief of staff.

Bill Allows Retailers to Ship Alcohol

SB 1088 passed the House Wednesday to allow in-state and out-of-state retailers to ship alcohol into the state. The House amended the bill to add specially designated distributors to allow entities to ship spirits as well. A third party facilitator would be allowed to ship alcohol under the bill, but must obtain a license from the Liquor Control Commission and pay additional fees. The Senate concurred with the changes and the bill has been sent to Governor Rick Snyder for Approval.

Unemployment Fraud System Changes Approved

A bill to ensure the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) provides quality service was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The bill requires the UIA to establish fraud on the bases of unreported earnings, possession of the weekly wage information from the employer, and the benefit years beginning on or after May 1, 2017. A three-year time frame is established for the UIA to initiate administrative or court action to recover improperly paid benefits. The measure received unanimous approval. 

House Passes Overhaul to Automated Unemployment System

Thursday the House unanimously passed a bill altering the automated unemployment system in the state. HB 4982 changes how the Unemployment Insurance Agency deals with potential fraud by shortening the statute of limitations and prohibiting discrepancies from being identified solely by a computer. This legislation with 80 cosponsors, passed after many committee hearings.

The bill will fix issues stemming from the unemployment agency’s computer system. The system found thousands of cases of fraud through various discrepancies, however did not provide adequate notice to claimants. Several lawsuits are pending with people claiming they were falsely accused of fraud, were cut off from benefits and were charged large penalties. The bill reduces the statute of limitations to three years and established that fraud cannot be solely established by a computer.

The bill moves to the Senate and awaits discussion. Sponsor of the bill Representative Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Township) commented he is hopeful the Senate will act in the remaining week of lame duck. 

Road Financing Bill

The Senate passed a road funding bill on Wednesday that closely mirrors a previous road financing bill vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder in July.

SB 1068 has one key change to the bill from the summer; it would exempt major projects from being the sole financial responsibility of the municipality. This eliminates a city from having to pay for a road they do not own. As an example, Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) referred to a project on I-75 where communities such as Troy, Madison Heights and Royal Oak would have to pay a certain percentage toward the project.

The bill also gets rid of the cost sharing requirement in some circumstances but does maintain it in others. The bill as passed says that cities and villages with a population over 50,000 or more would incur 12.5 percent of the cost of the project. Cities and villages with 40,000 or more but less than 50,000 would incur 11.25 percent of the costs and those with 25,000 or more but less than 40,000 would incur 8.75 percent.

It is unclear whether Governor Rick Snyder will sign this bill into law.  

Uber, Lyft Regulations Pass

The House on Wednesday approved a series of bills that regulate transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The bills, HB 4637, HB 4639, HB 4640 and HB 4641 with SB 392 passed without discussion. The bills set up a regulatory framework for Uber and Lyft as well as taxicabs and some limousines. Local ordinances regulating taxicabs, transportation network companies and limousines will be nullified once approved, however for four years the regulations by an authority covering East Lansing and Lansing will be preserved.

Servicers will have to apply to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for a license to operate with a sliding scale that enables large companies to pay a $30,000 fee if there are more than 1,000 vehicles in operation. Each company would also provide the auto insurance coverage for each driver to the department. Each driver will be subject to a local and national criminal background check and would have to apply to the company with information showing their driver’s license number, driving history, motor vehicle registration and auto liability insurance.

With minor changes made to SB 392, the Senate will need to approve those alterations before the package can be sent to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. 

Speed Limits Increase

The Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would increase speed limits to 75 miles per hour on freeways and 65 mph on rural highways.

The new speed limits are limited to only 600 miles of freeway and 900 miles of rural highways after a study. The base speed limit is now 55 mph. The bill also establishes that speeds can only be changed if a study is conducted by the Department of State Police and paid for by the Department of Transportation. In order for a change to be feasible, 85 percent of drivers must average the proposed limit change.

Additionally, speeds would be reduced in hospital zones. The government in charge of the road would reduce the speed limit by up to 10 mph in areas where the speed limit is at least 50 mph in a certain number of lanes if the hospital requests. The speed limit could be decreased by more than 10 mph if supported by an engineering and safety study.

The package of bills includes HB 4423, HB 4424, HB 4425, HB 4426, and HB 4427.

PAAdvisory Briefs

Tax Incentive Stalls in House

The House Local Government Committee heard testimony on SB 1153, SB 1154, and SB 1155, legislation that allows select businesses to keep income tax withholdings on incomes paid to newly hired employees. Despite hearing testimony, committee chair Representative Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) said the committee will likely wait until next term to hold further discussions on the package of bills. Representative Chatfield feels there are many questions on the legislation and the package is simply not ready.

 U.S. House Approves Aid to Flint

The U.S. House of Representatives passed $170 million in federal aid for Flint recovery on Thursday. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act passed by a vote of 360-61. The aid includes $100 million for the Safe Water Drinking Act State Revolving Loan Fund to replace pipes and other infrastructure, $50 million for expanded health care such as the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program and Health Start program, and $20 million in loans through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act for water improvement projects. The proposal currently awaits U.S. Senate approval.

Vote Recount to End

U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith dissolved his temporary restraining order on Wednesday to cease the presidential election recount in the state. The Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled the recount had no legal basis as Green Party candidate Jill Stein had no case as a candidate who received only 1.1 percent of the vote. This decision ordered the Board of State Canvassers to halt the recount. Jill Stein has appealed the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, however Department of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams said the department will inform county clerks to halt the recount.

Voter ID Law Passed House

The House on Wednesday passed a package of bills (HB 6066, HB 6067, and HB 6068) to require Michigan voters to present a photo ID in order to vote. Those without a photo ID would instead cast a provisional ballot that would be counted separately if the voter presented photo identification at their local clerk’s office within 10 days of the election and signs an affidavit certifying they are the same person. The package awaits Senate approval. 

Senate Approves Business Incentives

The Senate passed a group of bills on Tuesday that reinstates tax incentives as a way to lure businesses to Michigan.

SB 1153, SB 1154 and SB 1155 allow the state to authorize up to 15 new agreements with businesses to create more jobs. In exchange for creating at least 500 new jobs, or 250 if paying 125 percent of the average county wage, businesses will receive a portion of the income tax withholdings for the new employees. The abatement could reach as high as 100 percent; however, the Michigan Strategic Fund will develop a sliding scale to determine the abatement. There will be a limit of $250 million on the combined abatement agreements in effect at any time.

This method of incentive has the state giving up revenue it does not currently collect, according to Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Steve Arwood. Mr. Arwood added the state is well equipped for projects involving 150 or fewer new jobs. This legislation would help attract bigger projects to Michigan.

All bills were reported by the Senate Economic Development and International Investment Committee and passed by the full Senate the same day. 

Voter Bills

The House Elections Committee approved a package of bills aimed at increasing voter requirements. The bills require voters to show photo identification prior to voting.

HB 6066 was reported by a vote of 5-3 and both HB 6067 and HB 6068 were reported unanimously. These bills require voters without photo identification to cast a provisional ballot and then present identification within 10 days of the election along with an affidavit proving they are the initial voter. Voters additionally can provide documentation showing their current address and sign an affidavit if they are unable to afford, or have a religious objection to a photo ID.

Changes made include voters 62 or older living in a nursing home with no identification can sign an affidavit and cast a normal ballot. Additionally, $10 million was included for voter education and implementation of the bill. 

Uber, Lyft Legislation Passes

The Senate passed legislation that will regulate rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, along with taxicabs similarly.

HB 4839, HB 4641, and SB 392 did not see many changes from the committee versions save for HB 4637, which was amended. Senator Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) amended the bill to address the ability of an airport to enact ordinances and regulations over transportation companies on airport property. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) added another amendment that would sunset the fees imposed on drivers three years after the effective date of the act.

HB 4640, another bill in the package, was amended to define a personal vehicle, prearranged ride and transportation network company digital network. It also defines transportation network company vehicle. 

Medicaid HMO Use Tax Bill Approved

The Senate Michigan Competitiveness Committee approved a bill that sets up provisions when the use tax on Medicaid HMOs would and would not be collected.

SB 1172 was introduced earlier this month by Senator Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) and addresses concerns of HMOs in finances. Current law does not have an expiration date for the use tax, however the federal government may disallow the tax. If a plan is not enacted before December 31, HMOs are forced to count this as a loss in annual financial filings in the state and will serve as a premium deficiency reserve, according to Dominick Pallone, the deputy director at the Michigan Association of Health Plans.

The committee adopted a substitute to the bill before unanimously reporting it to the full Senate.