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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of February 23, 2017

By Judy Augenstein

During a dramatic late night session this week House Republicans attempted to change its income tax reduction plan to a gradual decrease to 3.9 percent over four years instead of eliminating the tax entirely over several decades.  Reducing the income tax to 3.9 percent under HB 4001 would cut revenues to the state by $195 million in the upcoming fiscal year; $463 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year; $780 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year and reach its full cost of $1.01 billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

A tortured 12 hour House session with Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt twisting arms of his caucus members to find the votes to pass the plan ended in stunning defeat of the measure.  HB 400l failed 52-55, three votes short of passage.  Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance was one of 12 votes against the bill.  Rep. Sheppard lost his chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee over the dust up.  Speaker Leonard contends that Rep. Sheppard promised a "yes" vote on the bill, but at the last minute flip flopped to a "no" vote.  

Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee commented this week that the first way to find more money to deal with a major need for improved infrastructure is to review spending at the Department of Transportation and local road agencies.  Rep. Cole and Transportation budget subcommittee Chair, Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron are taking a long look at the MDOT budget.  Both feel it is important to prioritize, to make sure that resources are put into asphalt and concrete.  

Rep. Triston Cole is willing to hold a hearing on the P.A. 51, the state's road funding formula, but he is not interested in changing the law.  Rep. Cole is firmly against opening P.A. 51.  Rep. Cole's counterpart in the Senate, Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Chair, Senate Transportation Committee commented he would proceed with caution on any revamp of P.A. 51. 

Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake has reintroduced PPP legislation.  The bill, S.B 97 creates Public Private Partnerships.  The bill allows companies willing to put up money to get projects moving ahead without the state paying out of pocket expenses.  Companies would get repaid as projects begin to earn money.  The bill is being advanced at the direction of Governor Rick Snyder and is on a fast track in the Senate.  Since the bill creates a framework for toll booths on roads sold by private companies, we actively lobbied for its failure last session and continue to do so this session.

Legislation nicknamed "The Right to Business Equity Act" is being crafted by Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville.  The bill requires religious sects owning sawmills to pay workers compensation with employees working 35 hours or more and for 13 consecutive weeks.  Rep. Barrett is a member of the House Insurance Committee where we will request the bill be referred for review.  Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet is drafting legislation to require all employers to follow MIOSHA requirements, post MIOSHA signage or pay a fee and to require employers to verify workers compensation insurance if a MIOSHA or WC inspector is on cite for an investigation or inspection. Rep. Dianda is a member of the Regulatory Affairs Committee where we will attempt to get the bill referred.

Legislation to create a multiple use permit for truckers, tailored after Wisconsin is being prepared by Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona and will be ready for introduction by the end of the month.  Rep. Cole and Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba have sent a letter to the County Road Association requesting they assist log haulers in their effort to move their equipment from job to job during spring frost restrictions.  Log haulers will participate in a panel discussion with county road commissioners at the upcoming CRA annual meeting in March.  The purpose is to create a better relationship and understanding between loggers and commissioners so both can do a better job at getting logs to market which in turn generates tax dollars for local government.

This week, I continued to meet "newbie" legislators, including  dinner with Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain and staff, a meeting with Rep. Roger Hauck, R-Union Township, lunch with Rep. James Lower and staff and a meeting with Rep. Julie Alexander, R-Hanover and a meeting with Rep. Bettie Cook Scott, D-Detroit.
I attended the SBAM PAC reception with Governor Rick Snyder and  the House Mahout Reception sponsored by Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Lansing.  

At this point, next week, I will be hosting lunch for Rep. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington and staff.  I will attend a fundraiser for Rep. Mike McCready, R-Birmingham and continue more meet and greets with new legislators.

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