The 2018 Michigan State Senate races document has been updated to reflect recent changes.
The 2018 Michigan State Senate races document has been updated to reflect recent changes.
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.
Michigan voters in 2018 may decide the fate of up to eight statewide ballot questions, including proposals to legalize marijuana for recreational use, end the state’s prevailing wage law, change how we draw our political districts, and shut down a controversial oil pipeline.
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.
The Civil Service Commission on Wednesday approved contracts for state employees to receive wage increases in 2017.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association joined with insurers to revamp auto insurance medical coverage bills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cotter Chief-Of-Staff to Appeals Court
Brock Swartzle has been named to the Court of Appeals by Governor Rick Snyder. He will succeed Judge Donald Owens who is resigning at the beginning of the year. Mr. Swartzle is currently serving as the chief of staff to House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) and has been in that role since 2015. He previously served in the majority caucus counsel and was a partner at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn.
Utilities Exceed Energy Efficiency Goals
Utility providers met 121 percent of their electric energy savings target and 117 percent of their natural gas energy savings target, according to the Public Service Commission’s 2015 report on utility energy optimization programs. The savings targets account for 1 percent of retail sales for electric providers and .75 percent for natural gas providers. Electric savings totaled more than 1.1 million megawatt hours and natural gas more than 4.58 million Mcf.
Trump Objects to Recount
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s petition for a voter recount has been placed on hold after President-elect Donald Trump filed an objection. In response, the Board of State Canvassers will meet today and potentially tomorrow to discuss if the recount will take place. The Electoral College is meeting on December 19, and as such, all results must be finalized by December 13.
Minimum Wage Increase
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued a reminder that the state minimum wage will increase in the new year. The minimum wage will increase from $8.50 to $8.90 an hour. By law, the minimum wage will rise again in 2018 to $9.25 an hour, then rise according to inflation. Tipped employees will increase to $3.38.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver signed an extension of the State of Emergency in Flint on Tuesday. Even though work has continued since both the federal and state emergencies expired in August, Ms. Weaver feels there is much work to be done and Flint cannot do it alone.
Additionally, U.S. Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) introduced the National Opportunity for Lead Exposure Accountability and Deterrence Act (NO LEAD Act). The act aims at improving lead testing procedures and providing more information to the public regarding the safety of their drinking water. It also seeks to lower the level of lead contamination needed to trigger a public water system notice. The EPA would also update the Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) within nine months under this legislation.
The State also filed a request for an emergency stay on water bottle delivery in the city, pending appeal. Anna Heaton, a spokesperson for Governor Rick Snyder, commented the resources needed to accomplish a full water bottle delivery service could potentially strain the State’s efforts that could otherwise be focused on pipe replacement. Several entities disagreed with the governor’s office. U.S. District Judge David Lawson is presiding over the case and can rule at any time.
The Department of Health and Human Services received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allocate nearly $24 million toward lead related projects.
The funding will go toward preventing lead exposure across the state and prevent lead’s short and long term health effects. The money stems from an amendment on the Michigan’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The amendment provides CHIP funding for lead abatement services such as permanent removal, enclosure, or encapsulation of lead-based paint and lead dust hazards to applicable areas. In the city of Flint, the program also includes the replacement of the exterior lead service lines that provide drinking water to homes.
Residents anywhere may also be eligible for expanded abatement services if there is a Medicaid or CHIP eligible child younger than 19 or pregnant woman living in the residence. Flint homes will receive priority status. The total amount available for the program in fiscal year 2017 is $23.8 million. The federal match is 98.61 percent. Michigan would contribute about $330,000 in General Funds.