Early-December 2023 Newsletter

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) unanimously approved a $368 million rate increase for DTE to fund utility reliability upgrades, a figure 40% lower than the $622 million rate increase the company initially requested.

The rate increase will take effect Dec. 15 and result in a 6.38% monthly rate increase for customers who use 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, equatable to $6.51. 

DTE is said to need the increase to pay for infrastructure investments to increase reliability and deploy clean energy generation faster.

On the decision, House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo), House Minority Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus (R-Rockford) and Rep. Mark Tisdel (R-Rochester Hills) pointed to the rise in Michiganders’ electric bills as proof that “mandates come with expensive compliance costs."

“As the state ramps up new energy requirements, Michiganders’ electricity prices will keep ramping up, too,” Tisdel said. “We’re already seeing rates rise because of previous ‘clean energy’ regulations, and burdensome new laws will require costly investments and make electric bills more expensive for residents and local businesses.” 

With clean energy legislation signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week, he said the price increases will keep coming. 

Mullkoff said the company also initially requested a permanent capital structure of 50% equity and 50% long-term debt, along with funding for tree trimming research funding in 2025 and several electric vehicle charging pilot programs. 

Along with the rate increase, the MPSC approved the requested debt-to-capital ratio, and a two-year investment recovery mechanism (IRM) designed to help track investments in DTE’s electric distribution system and ensure continued investment. 

The $350 million in investments in 2024 and 2025 will go towards circuit conversions, sub-transmission redesign and rebuild, breaker replacement, underground residential distribution replacements and a 4.8 kilovolt circuit automation. 

“The commission emphasizes the importance of providing transparency to the selection and prioritization of certain distribution grid investments,” Mullkoff said. 

The program is limited to two years and is expected to conclude late summer 2024. 

Other requests that were approved include: 

– An additional $2 million in funding for DTE’s pilot program providing $1,500 rebates for income eligible households which purchase electric vehicles under $50,000. 

– $9 million for the utility’s planned 220-megawatt Trenton Channel Battery project. 

– Funding for DTE’s strategic capital program to improve reliability and modernize the grid. 

– Funding for DTE’s efforts to harden the city of Detroit’s 4.8 kV grid, in exchange for providing a detailed, longer-term plan for the work, with performance benchmarks and an analysis of equity impacts using a Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy interactive mapping tool.

– A request to accelerate DTE’s ongoing tree trimming surge in an attempt to address outages in Michigan, along with a study on tree trimming on residential service drops, or the electric lines between power poles and homes, which is normally maintained by homeowners, but can have an impact on the length of outages. 

– The MPSC also ordered DTE to conduct a study examining the impact of on-peak rate structures on low-income customers before they transition to the new time-of-day rates, which were implemented in March 2023 and incur higher charges on weekdays between 3 and 7 p.m.  June through September.

Costs that were not approved included $346 million in capital costs, $133 million in information technology costs and $59.6 million in avoidable capital expenses associated with the coal-fired Monroe Power Plant. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel said when the case was filed, she noticed that it was the largest requested increase her office has ever seen, “and that my team would review it with a fine-tooth comb to make sure customer interests are protected.

“That is exactly what we did, and today’s Commission order validates the extensive work my office did in an attempt to limit any rate increase to reflect reasonable expenditures,” Nessel said. “While I am pleased the Commission limited the increase, I recognize that $368 million is still a tremendous rate increase and is too high for many ratepayers, especially right before the holidays.  

She said she also advocated for strong metrics and benchmarks to hold DTE accountable for poor electric reliability, and was “disappointed” it was not adopted. 

DTE’s last rate increase was granted in November 2022, a $30.5 million increase but a 90% reduction from the $388 million the utility had requested. 

MPSC Chair Dan Scripps said the focus with this order was on improving grid reliability and decreasing the number and duration of outages. 

“And that’s as it should be,” he said. “The Commission remains committed to supporting reasonable and prudent investments in basic grid infrastructure, so long as there is adequate support for these investments on the record.” 

The Michigan Freedom Fund’s Mary Drabik said: “the utility companies took Democrats for a ride and Michiganders are paying the price.

“Power companies agreed to Democrats’ wildly unrealistic green energy laws in exchange for the ability to continue to raise electricity rates without guarantee of improved service for customers, and the second it became the law of the land, the rate-raising began,” she said. “As utilities continue to work hand-in-hand with the Michigan Public Service Commission which fails to hold them accountable, Michigan residents can count on increased electric bills and continued blackouts."

Addressing barriers to employment, bolstering infrastructure spending, closing funding gaps in education and understanding the drivers of inequity were among the suggested next steps for Michigan as it seeks to grow its population over the next few decades.

Those and other recommended next steps were delivered to the Growing Michigan Together Council as the body convened by Governor Gretchen Whitmer prepares to issue population growth strategy recommendations on December 15.

The council met Friday in Detroit, with members indicating that it was still developing its recommendations based on a draft report presented by Guidehouse, the consultants hired to identify the current barriers stymying population growth and retention. The meeting was not the group’s final gathering, with members saying they would meet again to deliver final recommendations.

Friday’s meeting was one day after Gongwer News Service obtained a working draft of the report the council will submit to the governor later this month, which included recommendations for regional transit, passenger rail and overhauling funding mechanisms for education and roads.

The Guidehouse draft report was meant to invoke discussion and lay out in finer detail what the council might propose for as a strategy for the state.

Various Guidehouse employees detailed key findings, focusing on a fiscal analysis of the state, its revenue and expenditure stature compared to peer states and the nation, per capita education spending, infrastructure expenditures, and labor force participation.

Shaun Fernando, a partner with Guidehouse, said the report found that Michigan has over the last 20 years seen a decoupling from national population growth statistics, which in turn has created a gap the state is unlikely to close within the next 20 years. While several factors contributed to the decoupling, Fernando said the future outlook shows that Michigan’s number of aging residents and its inability to retain residents represents concern over further decline.

In 1980, 60 percent of Michigan’s residents were made up of younger residents in the under 19 years old and 20-34 years old brackets. Just 10 percent of its population were aging adults 65 years or older. The projections for 2045 show that shifting, Fernando said, with 21 percent of its population in that older adults category and 41 percent of the population under the age of 34.

A graph that once looked like a pyramid in the ’80s in the future would look more rectangular. That shows concern about the state not attracting enough younger people to balance the pyramid, he added.

The topline recommended next steps were for the council to focus on talent, prosperity and economic development, Fernando said.

In the talent category, it was recommended that Michigan first and foremost address educational funding gaps, which have declined by $5 billion since 2011. The state should monitor the impact of increased funding for education, including its recently passed school investments in the Fiscal Year 2024 education budget.

Addressing barriers to employment is another talent-based consideration, as Michigan continues to have a disproportionately low rate of labor force participation. The state should identify strategies growing states have used to address those barriers, including child care, elder care and transportation.

Identifying attractive growth industries could also help on the talent front, looking to peer states and those most expected to drive growth in Michigan. The state should aim to align its workforce development with educational and skill program supports to meet the needs of those industries.

Prosperity considerations for the council include a better understanding of inequity drivers, placemaking strategies and natural resources supports. The state should further analyze disproportionate inequities in both education and health outcomes of its current residents, focusing again on peer states Michigan could follow.

Attracting young workers and families with placemaking and what was defined as "drive-in migration" could include the building of new affordable housing, increased accessibility throughout key communities and creating better quality school systems.

Natural resources investments were also key to create an environment for sustained prosperity. The state should focus on bolstering funds for parks and recreation to maximize competitiveness against states with fewer opportunities to experience the outdoors and Michigan’s natural splendor.

The economic development recommendations included bolstering Michigan’s infrastructure investments, which have largely increased but based on bonds with debt service or through short-term federal funding. The state should explore alternative funding sources like public-private partnerships to help complete and maintain critical infrastructure projects. Those partnerships should seek long-term funding strategies beyond the lifespan of temporary investments already made by the state.

Focusing in on the jobs of the future, so to speak, could also get Michigan back in control of its population growth destiny. Creating incentives for foreign investments and aligning them with homegrown entrepreneurship was recommended, some of which the state is already doing, was suggested. Further aligning those strategies increased pathways for future employees with the needs of high-skill, high-wage industries could simultaneously drive population and economic growth. That again comes down to increasing education and closing funding gaps.

A DEEPER LOOK AT THE ROAD AHEAD: Kristy Throndson, an associate director at Guidehouse, said that key revenue and expenditures in the state have grown slowly or declined in real terms over the last 40 years, which puts the state at risk in terms of educational and infrastructure outcomes.

A double-edge sword for Michigan in that regard is its status of being a relatively low tax state, which depending on one’s view of taxes could be a great or bad situation. Throndson said Michigan has fallen in the ranking of tax collections and overall tax burden in recent years.

Total state and local tax revenues in Michigan have only grown by 3 percent since 2007. Adjusted for inflation, the median income in Michigan rose 3 percent in that same period.

Compared to peer states, Michigan in 2021 was at an 8.7 percent rate of total state and local tax collections per percentage of personal income. That puts Michigan in line with states like North Carolina and Washington state, while its Midwestern neighbors in Indiana and Minnesota saw higher rates, 9.5 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. The entire nation’s average tax collections per capita is at a rate between those neighbor states at 9.9 percent.

Those figures appear to be on a downward trend, Throndson said. From 2007 to 2021, Michigan fell two places in that ranking of tax collections per capita.

Decreases in overall education spending have also affected Michigan’s competitiveness. The state was 8th in the nation for per capita state and local education spending in 2007. It fell 20 ranking spots over the subsequent decade and a half. Michigan was ranked 31st in 2021.

Michigan’s fall from grace in education spending now places the state well below the national average and in the bottom half of identified peer states, including Indiana and Minnesota but also Washington, Colorado and North Carolina.

Although Michigan has made strides in upgrading and bolstering its infrastructure with one-time money, new or alternative long-term funding sources were needed in the next 20 years. If it does not find new sources, Michigan is poised to drop in its ranking, Throndson said.

Michigan was ranked 43rd in 2007, but its recent efforts placed that state at 29th in the nation as of 2021. Michigan is now more in line with national infrastructure spending but is still behind Colorado, Minnesota and Washington, said Emily Plumley, a managing consultant with Guidehouse.

Compared to those peer states, Michigan’s educational attainment, employment growth and labor force participation were all notably lower than its peers. A focus of the Whitmer administration has been to close inequity gaps for women and minority populations, the state is currently faring poorly compared to peer states in outcomes for women, minorities and less-educated residents.

Michigan’s fourth grade reading proficiency rate for Black students is 10 percent lower than growing peer states and 25 percent lower than white students in Michigan. The largest proportion of adults 25 years or older with bachelor’s degrees was seen in Asian populations at 57 percent, while Hispanic or Latin populations in the state made up its smallest proportion at 20 percent.

Fewer Black adults 25 years or older held bachelor’s degrees, 19 percent, than Black adults in peer states and the nation overall, which sits at a rate of 25 percent.

Labor force statistics did not fare any better, Plumley said. Those without a college education saw lower labor force participation in Michigan than any other peer state analyzed in the report. Labor force participation rates for those with some college or an associate degree stood at 78 percent but was lower in Michigan then three of its five peer states and the U.S. average for that population.

In all, Fernando said that slow growth will directly impact that state’s ability to gain revenue and would drive up state expenditures in programs like Medicaid and public welfare, as well as health and hospital expenditures.

If the state seeks to truly address the problem, it must attract and retain a population of 20-34 year olds at working age. Individual income taxes must be funneled to areas of need to meet demands of that population, again with a focus on infrastructure, education and recreational amenities to give Michigan a greater sense of place, Fernando said.

Those population remediation efforts may ultimately place a larger burden on local government budgets, so additional state support may be needed to offset local spending. Smaller local governments also may need what was described as greater autonomy to use new or innovative funding tools to enhance services. Fernando mentioned road user charging, municipal bonds or seeking public-private partnerships.

Drug test regulations are slowing the process of filling some of the numerous vacant public bus driver positions statewide, according to the executive director of the Michigan Public Transit Association.

Clark Harder, of the Public Transit Association, said local agencies share the same problem, “The biggest hurdle that transit agencies face in hiring and staffing, particularly on the driver front, is that drivers have to pass alcohol and drug tests.”

The requirement to be drug free is necessary, but still creates barriers to recruitment and retention, Harder said.

“You want the people driving large buses properly screened. But it’s making it very difficult for us to lure people into driving transit vehicles because the requirements are much more stringent than for other jobs,” he said.

Heidi Wenzel, director of transportation for the city of Ionia, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates alcohol and marijuana testing of drivers. 

“There’s pre-employment testing, random testing, reasonable suspicion and post-accident testing,” she said. 

Wenzel said the biggest problems agencies are seeing stem from the legalization of marijuana in Michigan. While consumption of marijuana is legal, if it’s found in a bus driver’s drug test it could be grounds for termination because of federal standards. 

“No matter what you have in your system, whether it’s medical (marijuana), whether you use CBD oil that has THC in it, it’s not regulated in terms of the content. You can’t guarantee that you’re not going to get any THC in those oils, so it flat-out does not matter,” Wenzel said. 

THC is the main psychoactive component in marijuana and is derived from cannabis plants.

According to the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency, THC is responsible for the temporary alteration of one’s psychological state.

Wenzel said marijuana is unique because it stays for a long time in the user’s system, and the presence of any THC from CBD products could cause a failed drug test, Wenzel said.

Scott Borg, the transportation director for Harbor Transit in Harbor Springs, said the rules pertaining to drug testing deter some people from applying for driver positions.

But, the rules are in place for a valid purpose, Borg said.

“For the safety of the general public, we need to have strict laws to prevent the use of drugs. Not only does the drug test cover alcohol, but it covers narcotics in the system,” Borg said.

Harbor Light suffered bus driver shortages due to COVID-19 but is currently back to full staff, he said. 

Wenzel said revising the testing law was considered when marijuana was legalized. 

“There was talk when first legalizing medical marijuana for regular recreational consumption about the impact that it would have on industries,” she said.

Meanwhile, there are some movements federally to change the way drivers are tested.

In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation revised its rules on the types of tests that can be performed and amended the program to include oral testing.

Wenzel said that formerly, testing was allowed only by urine sample.

“There’s some traction and understanding of the impact of marijuana. Even though it’s not affecting you anymore, most other substances are going to show up and attach after a shorter period of time,” Wenzel said.

Wenzel said everybody has an opinion on drug testing.

“You don’t know how things are going to impact drivers. You have a lot of different arguments towards different components of marijuana,” she said. “But for me, it’s contemporaneous. Are you under the influence? Is it an immediate impact on your ability to do your job?” 

Harder said drivers don’t think about what they’re doing when they use marijuana, and that can cost them their jobs.

“Because you smoked a joint three weeks ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re incapable of driving a vehicle. But that is a standard that we have to deal with in the industry. And it’s problematic for us,” he said.


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Early-November 2023 Newsletter

Big Ticket Items Awaiting Action In Potential Last Session Week of 2023
While legislative leaders have not officially announced an early adjournment next week, a spokesperson for House Speaker Joe Tate hinted at the possibility Friday, leaving several significant priorities, like the energy overhaul, siting changes for large-scale wind and solar and a prescription drug board, on the table for final action next week.

Adjournment could be earlier than what the Legislature is used to, said Amber McCann, press secretary for Tate (D-Detroit).

The final voting session day of the year is expected on November 9, but McCann said that date cannot be confirmed until the speaker and the Senate majority leader choose to announce the date. The formal sine die adjournment could come that day or wait until the following Tuesday, November 14. If the latter, no legislators would need to be present while the Senate secretary and House clerk wrap up the session.

Even if the Legislature weren’t adjourning for the year next week, it would still be going on a traditional two-week break at the end of November. So, a mad rush to pass key priorities would likely still occur, but likely not the degree seeing this week with the House going up until and then past midnight two days in a row. Nine December session days now scheduled would be canceled.

The motivation to get bills to the desk of Governor Gretchen Whitmer sooner than the usual mid-December adjournment is the effective date. Bills not given immediate effect this year will take effect 91 days after the sine die adjournment. Any controversial issues likely to pass party-line won’t take effect until 2025 if the Legislature doesn’t pass them before they adjourn sine die this year.

Both chambers passed the Senate’s clean energy and abortion packages, the House advanced its siting and its research and development tax credit package, and the Senate moved financial disclosure legislation.

The House needs to pass financial disclosure for lawmakers to fulfill their voter-mandated constitutional obligation under Proposal 2022-1. Although the House had its own legislation, the chamber was unable to move either package this week, so it must act on the Senate’s bills. The package includes SB 613 , SB 614, SB 615 and SB 616 and doesn’t require reporting for spouses of elected officials beyond disclosing their employer and if they are a registered lobbyist. Maximum optional fines for failing to report or filing a false claim are $2,000, but there is no criminal penalty for knowingly making a false statement in the report.

Prescription drug board bills and a drug manufacturer immunity bill are also waiting action in the House. Votes could be taken on SB 483 , SB 484 and SB 485 , which create a regulatory panel to review and cap prices on common prescription drugs. Those bills are still in a House committee, so it is unclear if the House will make moves to give them approval. This is a top Whitmer priority and the subject of a huge lobbying battle with the pharmaceutical industry opposed and insurers and various health care groups in favor.

With the House passing its siting package, HB 5120 and 5121, and its research and development tax credit package, HB 5099 , HB 5100 , HB 5101 , HB 5102 and HB 4368 , the Senate could take action on them next week. The research and development tax credit package passed the House with bipartisan support and the Senate put them directly to the floor rather than committee.

SB 410 would repeal a 1990s law that provides immunity for prescription drug manufacturers. The House Judiciary Committee  reported the bill earlier this week with bipartisan support.

The Senate has also voted on no-fault auto legislation, but it seems unlikely that the House will act on those bills before it can introduce its own legislation. Last month, Rep. Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), who chairs the House Insurance and Financial Services Committee , sent out a press release saying she intended to continue the committee process of hearing presentations on aspects of the state’s auto no-fault law.

"We can’t afford to get this wrong again. I am deeply committed to making sure we hear from a variety of stakeholders on all sides. Auto no-fault reform is a very complex issue with a number of nuances," Carter said in a statement. "We’re doing our due diligence as a committee to seek long-term solutions that will ultimately make our auto insurance system more sustainable. We don’t want to end up back at the drawing board every couple of years."

Both chambers have already moved significant juvenile justice packages that could be finalized this week. The Senate package – SB 418 , SB 421 , SB 425 , SB 426 , SB 428 , SB 429 , SB 432 , SB 435 , SB 436 – is sitting in the House. The House package – HB 4625 , HB 4626 , HB 4627 , HB 4628 , HB 4629 , HB 4630 , HB 4636 , HB 4637 , HB 4639 and HB 4640 – is sitting on the Senate floor.

Other Senate bills pending on the House floor include SB 22 , which would clarify state statute on the legality of carrying a firearm or ammunition past airport security, SB 169 , which would require public employers to provide their employees’ contact information to collective bargaining representatives, and SB 185 , which would classify grad students as public employees.

The House could also vote on the Senate’s version of the bills which would eliminate the Environmental Science Advisory Board and the Environmental Permit Review Commission , SB 394 and SB 395 . The House has its own legislation that would eliminate the Environmental Rules Review Committee , but it did not pass this week so isn’t up for final approval.

A bill that would require high school students to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid to graduate, SB 463 , passed the Senate on Thursday and is a key priority for some members there.

The Senate also has bills from the House awaiting action.

The Michigan Hate Crime Act – which contains HB 4474 , HB 4475 , HB 4476 and HB 4477 – could be taken up by the Senate. The legislation passed the House in the spring, but only HB 4476 and HB 4477 have been taken up by a Senate committee.

Bills to provide driver’s licenses and state identification cards to paroles passed the House in June. But HB 4192 , HB 4193 and HB 4194 are still sitting in the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee .

The Senate also could vote on a bill package which would distribute money from sales tax revenue to local units of government. HB 4274 and HB 4275 passed the House overwhelmingly earlier this week, 106-4. This could be a good candidate to wait until 2024 given its bipartisan support and likelihood to get immediate effect.

Last week, the House passed bills that would require certification of guardians and conservators and would establish procedures that aim to protect elderly Michigan residents. HB 4090 , HB 4910 , HB 4911 , and HB 4912 are awaiting action in the Senate.

HB 5021 , which would change the default retirement fund option for public school teachers from a 401(k) plan to a pension, is also pending on the Senate floor.

Deep Divide On Energy Legislation As It Nears Governor’s Desk 
A wide gulf opened Friday on the potential effect of state energy policy in the wake of the House passing sweeping legislation Thursday night to set a state renewable energy standard and move renewable energy siting decisions to the Public Service Commission .

Although there have been divisions over the feasibility of the proposals and concerns over local control prior to the Democratic-controlled Legislature’s movement on the bills, groups didn’t mince words in their support or displeasure after the House concluded party-line votes.

The angst from opponents and praise from supporters came after the House made sudden and drastic changes late Thursday to its siting legislation to corral the needed votes.

Two dozen amendments were adopted in the House on the main siting bill. Provisions included allowing the option of local control if municipal governments adopt a renewable energy ordinance no stricter than the legislation, expanding required setbacks , defining "project labor agreements" and outlining the public comment process.

The state’s two largest investor-owned utilities praised the proposals.

Consumers Energy Company spokesperson Katie Carey said the utility is reviewing the bills and that their priority during the legislative process is to balance energy affordability and reliability.

"We are pleased with the progress that has been made with this legislation," Carey said. "We are in the process of reviewing the final versions of the legislation and will continue to work with the Legislature and all stakeholders to update Michigan’s energy law. If the bills are enacted into law, we will work to implement the targets in a way that ensures reliability and holds costs down for all customers."

DTE Energy Company spokesperson Peter Ternes said DTE worked during the process to keep the focus on balancing movement toward renewable energy with affordability and reliability.

"The legislation will push the pace of decarbonization and deployment of renewable in the state in a way that generally aligns with DTE’s targets," Ternes said. "Importantly, the clean energy standard is technology-neutral, and provides flexibility for how we can meet the ambitious targets, which is critical. The legislation’s off-ramps are also an important feature that protects the interests of our customers. These off-ramps allow for pace adjustments should the utilities encounter challenges due to affordability, supply chain or other issues."

Local government groups remained opposed to the siting legislation in statements outlining concerns about local control in which they voiced their displeasure with the final product.

"Despite the amendments, this legislation continues to disregard the local efforts of townships and their residents who have already created ordinances allowing the placement of renewable energy facilities on tens of thousands of acres around the state," Michigan Townships Association Executive Director Neil Sheridan said.

Michigan Association of Counties Executive Director Steve Currie agreed.

"Michigan Association of Counties opposes this legislation as it ignores the unique geographic needs of the counties and doesn’t allow for local variances on site plans," Currie said. "Local officials are elected to make these decisions for their communities and these bills strip them of that authority."

Andrea Brown, Michigan Association of Planning executive director, echoed the local groups.

"As written, and if passed by the Senate, the bills would have negative consequences, most particularly on Michigan’s rural communities," Brown said. "The Senate should pause the rapid advancement of the bills and convene stakeholders in a transparent approach that could fix bill deficiencies."

The Michigan Agri-Business Association also was displeased, citing local control and agricultural concerns.

"This legislation will effectively silence small town voices on an issue with major implications for the future of rural Michigan, and the last-minute amendments to these bills do not change that impact," MABA President Chuck Lapstreak said. "Renewable energy siting needs to be deliberate, thoughtful and inclusive of input from local leaders and community members, and we oppose these bills because they disregard the perspectives of rural, agricultural communities in our state."

But there was jubilation among many environmental groups as long-sought policy nears the cusp of becoming law.

Several environmental groups and renewable energy organizations said they saw the changes as an important step in addressing climate change and growing the renewable energy sector.

Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council, said residents have seen the effects of climate change and the state’s aging electrical grid in recent years.

"This bold climate legislation will help mitigate the worse impacts from climate change all while saving us money on utility bills and protecting our kids from dangerous pollution," Jameson said. "They will cut climate pollution and establish Michigan as a leader in combating climate change."

A coalition of wind and solar energy industry groups in statements Friday praised both packages and urged them to be signed by the governor.

"The clean energy industry employs nearly 124,000 Michiganders – which is more than in any other state in the Midwest," Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council President Laura Sherman said. "Michigan EIBC applauds the House passage of this legislation, which will support our growing advanced energy workforce and communities across Michigan."

Trish Demeter, managing director of Advanced Energy United, agreed.

"These legislative packages offer solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing the energy transition," Demeter said. "With a 100 percent clean energy goal, and reduced barriers to building wind, solar and energy storage projects, Michigan affirms its place as a leader in the clean energy economy."

Leaders of some environmental organizations were more skeptical in their statements, saying the bills could be much stronger.

James Gignac, Midwest senior policy advisor at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the legislation is a step in the right direction but more can be done and urged the Legislature to continue working on energy policy.

"In the lead up to passage of this legislation, utility companies exerted their influence to protect their bottom-lines, and they need to be held accountable for profiting from dangerous pollution and holding Michigan back from the benefits that come with a just and equitable clean energy future," Gignac said. "We call on the state Legislature and the governor to continue the unfinished work and ensure that every person in Michigan has access to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity."

Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition Executive Director Ahmina Maxey said SB 271 , as passed, would delay the implementation of renewable energy projects and fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Further, it would still allow natural gas and carbon capture to be used among other technologies, which would continue to cause pollution and negative health effects on communities of color.

"Michigan legislators, and corporate polluters like DTE and Consumers Energy that funds their campaigns, have chosen to actively suppress the voices of environmental justice communities while claiming a victory on climate," Maxey said. "It is an outrage that our leaders seek to inflict further pollution on Black, brown, indigenous and frontline communities in Michigan who are already subject to its worst effects and call it ‘Clean Energy.’ If Governor Whitmer wants to maintain any pretense of standing for environmental justice, she will veto SB 271."

Several environmental groups recently pointed out concerns they have had with the renewable energy mandate package. They have said the bills contain loopholes for utilities, relax the timeline for meeting goals and the allowance of some carbon-based fuels and carbon capture.

Many of the concerns raised by groups were repeated in comments by John Delray, senior regional director of Vote Solar, on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes called the legislation a major step in combatting climate change and moving the economy forward.

"Republicans want to keep Michigan in the past and help only the wealthiest 1 percent, but Michigan Democrats are protecting the environment and making Michigan a national example of economic innovation," Barnes said. "With these bills, our Democratic leaders have protected Michigan’s middle-class workers, their jobs, and the environment."

In statements, multiple business and free market groups also expressed opposition by saying the Democrats’ policy changes would result in a severe hit to the pocketbooks of families and lead to job losses.

Michigan Freedom Fund Communications Director Mary Drabik said Democrats were pulling the plug on reliable and affordable energy in the state, pointing to a recent Mackinac Center for Public Policy study stating the legislation could increase energy costs by more than $2,700 yearly for residents.

"Thanks to Democrats, Michigan can look forward to a dark future unreliably powered by costly energy sources," Drabik said. "The Democrats’ ‘Green New Deal’ is turning out to be a ‘Big green Payout’ for utility providers who can increase profits on the backs of consumers; it’s also a slap in the face to municipalities and residents of this state who deserve control of their own backyards."

Americans for Prosperity Michigan State Director Annie Patnaude called the siting bills a power grab by the state and the governor’s administration.

"Once again, the Michigan Legislature kowtows to Governor Whitmer in her never-ending search to accumulate more power at the expense of hardworking Michiganders," Patnaude said. "This time, she’s giving the Michigan Public Service Commission  the power to radically change Michigan’s landscape to benefit special interests. It follows a pattern of Whitmer empowering her allies and ignoring the people she was elected to serve."

Amanda Fisher, Michigan state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the legislation, in conjunction with another bill that would create a worker transition office, favors union jobs at the expense of small businesses.

"Small businesses owners strive to be good stewards of our environment, however, massive shifts in energy policy with arbitrary dates and without proper infrastructure and technology to support these policies could not only have negative consequences for small businesses, but all Michiganders," Fisher said.

Our Home, Our Voice Inc. spokesperson Kevon Martis said the PSC siting legislation ignores the will of a huge majority of residents who back local control.

"Legislators need to wake up and represent what their communities want: local control," Martis said. "Our work here is not done. We will continue to advocate for the authority to make important zoning decisions at the local level, asserting that effective zoning should be crafted by communities, not developers. The fight is not over."

Minimum Wage Set To Increase In ’24
Michigan’s minimum wage will increase from $10.10 to $10.33 an hour starting January 1, 2024, the state announced Friday.

This increase is under the Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2018, the law that was amended during the 2018 session after the Legislature adopted an initiated law that would have increased the minimum wage – including for tipped workers – to $12 an hour.

In December, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case to determine if the adopt and amend strategy used by Republican in control of state government then was constitutional. The minimum wage could increase depending on what the court decides.

Under current law, besides the general wage increase, the 85 percent rate for minors aged 16 and 17 will increase to $8.78 per hour and the tipped employee rate of hourly pay will increase to $3.93 per hour.

Whitmer 2024?
Stay tuned in our next issue as we look at the very real possibility of a Whitmer 2024 presidential campaign




Left: DCD’s Jake German recently took part in Oakland County’s Community Showcase.  It was a fun morning of networking with representatives from various Oakland County communities, local developers, and deal makers.  Jake is pictured here with Robert Pliska, President of Sperry Commercial Global Affiliates (left) and Mark Nickita, President of Archive DS, a Detroit based urban design and architectural firm (center).

Right: Senator Mat Dunaskiss and his wife, Diane, are pictured here attending the annual DMAN Foundation Halloween Party. The D-MAN Foundation, Danny’s Miracle Angel Network, is dedicated to enriching the lives of families and individuals living with physical and mental disabilities.  Senator Mat is a long time board member of the DMAN Foundation.


Marijuana Sales, School Bonds, Mayoral Races On Michigan Ballots Today

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House Repeals Some Michigan Abortion Restrictions, Keeps 24-Hour Waiting Period

Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest


DCD continues to exist as the premier resource helping municipalities navigate the waters of cannabis policy. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding medical or recreational cannabis policy, procedure, and more. DCD is available for presentations to municipal boards, for one-on-one meetings, and for consultations.

We are here to help you with: municipal lobbying, license application writing and assistance, business plans, state required operations manuals and compliance, facility design, corporate structure, and design and branding. 

We are experts in both medical and recreational cannabis policy and have been in the space for over ten years.  We welcome any opportunity to work with you in the future!


Judge Orders Three Marijuana Shops To Close In UP

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Canadian Cannabis Industry On Track For Record Number Of Licensee Exits

Hemp Derived Cannabinoids Aren’t Controlled Substances, GA Court Says

Doing Things Differently

DCD is rebranding, and our bottom line is your bottom line. We are striving to create and foster strong relationships with clients and lawmakers, deliver results with strong ethics and class, but above all else, out-hustle and out-smart our competition every day to be the very best. We’re making chess moves while others are playing checkers. Everything we do is with you in mind, we’re doing things we’ve never done before and aggressively pursuing opportunities. The time is now. DCD has taken our firm to the next level and your involvement and investment paired with our knowledge and expertise is going to launch the great state of Michigan forward.

Dunaskiss.biz | 248.693.1391

Late-October 2023 Newsletter

Auto No Fault Bills See Bipartisan Support in Senate As DIFS Opposes
Significant changes to the state’s 2019 auto no-fault law cleared the Senate Thursday with some bipartisan support as the Department of Insurance and Financial Services is raising concerns about the potential for increased costs for drivers as a result.

Supporters said the catastrophically injured need their coverage restored as many specialized providers for those injured in car accidents have decried the reimbursement changes as making it impossible for them to provide care.

Those opposing the bills referenced the state still having among the highest auto insurance premiums nationally and the hit to pocketbooks of families already stung by inflation if the bills were signed into law. A reduction in the auto insurance marketplace was also cited as a result that could further increase premiums.

Indeed, the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, which opposes the legislation, provided testimony Wednesday to that effect to a Senate committee as it reported the bills.

A department’s position usually – but not always – indicates the governor’s position on the bills.

Senators voted 23-14 for the three bills (SB 530 , SB 531 and SB 575 ) following debate over the merits and effect of the policy changes, with crossover from both sides of the aisle. The legislation affects those catastrophically injured since the 2019 law took effect. Those injured before the new law saw their health benefits restored in the Michigan Supreme Court’s Andary ruling earlier this year.

The bills would reverse the 45 percent cut to traumatic injury clinics and restore pay for family members providing attendant care.

Four Republicans voted in favor of the bills: Sen. Jon Bumstead of North Muskegon, Sen. John Damoose of Harbor Springs, Sen. Ruth Johnson of Groveland Township and Sen. Rick Outman of Six Lakes. One Democrat, Sen. Sylvia Santana of Detroit, voted against the package. One member, Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), did not vote on any of the bills.

Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township), chair of the Senate Finance, Insurance and Consumer Protection Committee from which the bills were reported Wednesday, said the package would help address what she called unintended consequences of the 2019 law.

"These bills seek to answer the uncertainty these survivors have faced for far too long," Cavanagh said. "Adjusting the reimbursement system for specialized care and supporting facility, at-home care or specialized treatment by those we love and trust ensures sustainability, quality and access to medically necessary care and improves quality of life for Michigan auto accident survivors who are adjusting to their new normal."

Cavanagh said the legislation would ensure access to care, something all drivers pay into.

Damoose spoke of beginning to listen to individual stories of the catastrophically injured who came regularly to the Capitol over the past few years to share their issues with the law changes. He said he refused to wait another year or legislative session to do nothing and see those whose lives have been turned upside down suffer.

"Even if we fix this today some of the damage is permanent and cannot be undone," Damoose added.

Opponents were not convinced that the positives touted by supporters would outweigh the fiscal hit by large numbers of insured motorists.

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township), who sponsored the auto no-fault rewrite (PA 21 of 2019 ), said Michigan has created a more competitive market with the 2019 law’s enactment with additional providers entering the state to offer coverage.

"Since that time Michigan drivers have seen cost savings," Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt, who cited the DIFS letter to committee members this week, said if the legislation is passed and signed by the governor, costs will increase for policyholders.

"The director made it quite clear, that if the bill passes, drivers can count on the following: an increase in auto insurance premiums, an increase in the catastrophic claims for vehicle assessment, less coverage for lower PIP levels, increased rates leading to more uninsured drivers and less competition in the marketplace," Nesbitt said.

Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) called the bills "a wholesale overhaul of the no-fault fee schedule, one of the key cost-saving provisions of the 2019 reform."

Theis urged members to review the content of the bills and consider the cost increases the proposed changes could trigger for millions of drivers in the state including those who have lower incomes.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said a key responsibility for the Legislature is to revisit laws that need improvements.

"For me, it is about what we can do to ensure that people who are disabled by catastrophic accidents are simply able to live with dignity," Brinks said. "By passing these bills we can better serve the people of our state, especially those who have been in life-changing accidents."

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) spoke against the proposed changes, saying the directive his constituents gave him on auto insurance is to reduce costs.

"It’s too expensive. It’s ridiculously expensive. It is insanely expensive in this state," McBroom said.

McBroom added in the Upper Peninsula it is noticeable every with people with far lower rates in bordering states. He then unloaded in remarks on the proposals before the body.

"How can it be that 49 other states in this country can do so much better than we do? It’s not excusable and now we’re dealing with this pile of junk," McBroom said.

Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) urged passage of the package, referring to the stories of those who have been catastrophically injured and have lost or had reductions in their care when the 2019 law became effective.

"These people did not ask to be in auto accidents. They did not ask to have politicians, regardless of their motives, make decisions that would impact their lives forever," Anthony said.

Anthony said the Legislature can both lower rates and ensure coverage for those with catastrophic injuries.

The bills were reported Wednesday from committee with changes to SB 530 that would reinstate the Medicare reimbursement tiers, with hospitals receiving the 2021 agreed upon rates and the indigent care tiers being reevaluated every three years.

The Medicare reimbursement rate in the original version of SB 530 would have been increased to 250 percent for all hospitals and change the existing four-tier system for Medicare reimbursement to a single tier.

Under the existing no-fault law, hospitals receive 200 percent of the Medicare reimbursement rate while those with indigent populations of 30 percent or more receive 250 percent of the Medicare reimbursement rate.

Cavanagh told reporters about the catastrophically injured she would see while working as a direct care worker, saying now she and other members find themselves in a unique position to make a difference.

"I’m excited to really give some of these individuals and these families some relief where we can also make sure that premiums are at a low cost for other Michiganders," Cavanagh said.

Anthony told reporters some members have been wanting to address the 2019 law changes since they were passed, and it was up to the majority to follow through on campaign promises to make auto no-fault a priority.

"This is a part of the majority is actually leading," Anthony said. "It’s not just about cost savings; it’s about saving people’s lives. People have actually lost their lives because we’ve got politicians in the House and the Senate, have done nothing."

Insurance Alliance of Michigan Executive Director Erin McDonough in a statement said the proposed changes will result in a hit to Michigan family’s wallets.

"While we urged caution and careful consideration to the consequences this legislation would have on Michigan’s 7.2 million drivers, the Senate today steamed ahead with a plan that could cost drivers at least $865 million and potentially over $1 billion every year," McDonough said. "More than 2 million Michigan drivers have chosen personal injury protection coverage other than unlimited, which means the unchecked medical costs included in the Senate bills will eat away at those policies faster. We urge the Michigan House to slow down and consider these consequences more fully."

Groups who have supported amending the 2019 law in statements urged to keep moving on getting the bills before the governor as soon as possible.

"For over two years, crash survivors, their family members and support systems, providers of essential rehabilitation services and care, and disability advocates at the state and federal levels have pleaded for a narrow fix to the auto no-fault law so that crash victims have access to the care they need," Michigan Brain Injury Provider Council Executive Director Tom Judd said. "This solution is well overdue, but it is never too late to save lives and restore the promise of recovery and care drivers are promised."

Whitmer Signs 8 Health Care Bills Guaranteeing ACA in Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed eight bills today that sponsors say made it harder for the federal government or Supreme Court to repeal the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” in Michigan. 
Whitmer signed HB 4619, HB 4620, HB 4621, HB 4622, HB 4623, SB 356, SB 357, and SB 358 which each tackle a specific portion of the ACA, signed into law by former President Barack OBAMA in 2010, to codify into state law.

“The ACA includes critical provisions that protect people with pre-existing conditions from being charged more, allows kids to stay on their parent’s insurance until they turn 26, and guarantees essential services in all health insurance plans,” Whitmer said.

Reps. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) and Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe) sponsored the bills to prevent denying coverage because of discrimination or pre-existing conditions. 

Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming) sponsored the bill to require coverage of dependents until age 26.

Rep. Reggie Miller (D-Belleville) sponsored the bill to ban institution of annual or lifetime funding limits from insurers.

“Prior to the implementation of the federal ACA, insurance providers had every right to implement annual and lifetime caps on health care coverage,” Miller said. “These providers had the freedom to decide that coverage for things like cancer were too expensive, and people could be hit with an annual cap on their coverage.”

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) sponsored the legislation to require insurance coverage of hospitalization, pregnancy and emergency services.

Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp.)’s bill prohibited insurance providers from pulling coverage.

Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores) sponsored a bill to require a summary of a health insurance policy and coverage.

Sen. Veronica Klinefelt (D-Eastpointe) backed the bill that requires how much coverage insurance providers had to give Michiganders.

“Before the ACA’s passage, too many Michiganders were denied access to health insurance due to pre-existing conditions,” Klinefelt said. “Since its implementation, Michigan residents have enjoyed increased access to quality coverage – including access to lifesaving preventative care such as cancer screening.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes thanked Whitmer and all of the legislators who championed the legislation. She said she believes Michigan law would lower health care costs.

“Michigan Democrats are committed to putting the health of Michiganders before the profits of the drug companies by banning discrimination and removing lifetime care caps,” Barnes said.

Changes Coming for Senate Economic Development Bills
A Senate committee panel last Thursday discussed ongoing changes to bills that supporters say would improve the state’s economic outlook and provide businesses and Michigan residents with more opportunities.

The Senate Economic and Community Development Committee  heard more testimony on the Good Jobs bills, SB 579 , SB 580 and SB 581 , and the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund bills, SB 559 , SB 560 , SB 561 and SB 562 . The first set of bills would revive the Good Jobs for Michigan program and modify the program’s qualifications for an eligible business and certified new jobs, increase the wage requirements, decrease the required number of jobs and require those jobs to be permanent, full-time positions.

Committee members were provided with pages of substitutes, and Chair Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) said she would allow members and stakeholders to have time to read and review the bills. Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township), sponsor of SB 580, said the substitutes allowed for more inclusivity of novelty and smaller businesses.

Jennifer Hayes, senior vice present of operations and public policy for Invest Detroit, said one of the organization’s big goals is to revitalize the city and these bills would be a good step forward.

There was mixed testimony during the committee for SB 559, SB 560, SB 561 and SB 562. The bills would rename the SOAR Fund to the Make it in Michigan Fund and would require the Michigan Strategic Fund to operate the Michigan 360 program and modify the scope of the Michigan Strategic Site Readiness program.

Tim Bartik, senior economist with the Upjohn Institute, testified in support of the bills. He said states should be shifting their mix of what they do to include a greater emphasis on various customized business services, like infrastructure, customized job training and business advice programs.

Bartik said the Make It In Michigan Fund proposes 20 percent of the fund goes into these types of services which is a step in the right direction.

"An absolutely key thing to do is to make sure that you don’t just create jobs and don’t just create good jobs, but to make sure that Michigan residents…who are unemployed, underemployed can get those jobs," Bartik said, saying targeting the stress counties versus targeting the booming counties ensures more unemployed people have access to those jobs.

The state can tie a job creation program to job training programs and other neighborhood programs so that people can get into the hiring queue, Bartik added.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin Messer, Jr, said the bills would attract financial and human capital, saying several times throughout his testimony that Michigan needs to cultivate and revitalize places to attract people and projects.

Smaller businesses, Messer said, can take advantage of the community revitalization grants the state provides.

Sen. Jonathan Lindsey (R-Coldwater) asked about the "very long list" of criteria a company must meet to receive funding from MEDC. One of the criteria requires the consideration of the amount of local community and financial support for the project. What does it mean, Linsey asked.

Messer said many projects come from local and regional economic development partners. By coming through that door, they are pre-vetted for local support, Messer said.

There are also site selectors who advise companies where they should allocate their funds. Coming from either a site selector or a local economic development partner, Messer said that particular criteria about local support has been satisfied.

Mike Johnston, the executive vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said they were concerned the proposals do not meet the standard for competitiveness. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of considerations under the Critical Industry Program and the Michigan Strategic Site Readiness Program, he said.

"We just think the list is getting long and probably not competitive in the marketplace compared to the offerings of other states," Johnston said.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) asked if the list of considerations had gotten longer, how would that make the state less competitive if there are more opportunities to qualify.

Johnston said if there are 32 considerations under the Critical Industry Program and the applicant must meet the majority of them. McMorrow, one of the bill sponsors, said they are working to clarify that language and recognize the different sizes and types of projects within both programs.

Lindsey Case Palsrok, vice president of government affairs for the Business Leaders of Michigan, said her organization shares some of the same concerns as MMA. She said talent was the number one way to attract businesses and there needs to be a continued investment in K-12 outcomes.

The state is below the national average for labor force participation and getting people to fill new jobs is ultimately the goal.

"We just want to encourage you to keep the criteria for qualifying as simple as possible," Palsrok said.


Left: Senator Mat and Diane Dunaskiss were joined by Sheriff Michael Bouchard and his wife, Pamela, at the Common Ground Celebration of Hope Gala last weekend

Right: Also joining Senator Mat and his wife at the Common Ground Celebration of Hope were State Representative Tom Kuhn and his wife, Sherry; as well as Randy Carter and State Representative Brenda Carter.


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Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest


DCD continues to exist as the premier resource helping municipalities navigate the waters of cannabis policy. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding medical or recreational cannabis policy, procedure, and more. DCD is available for presentations to municipal boards, for one-on-one meetings, and for consultations.

We are here to help you with: municipal lobbying, license application writing and assistance, business plans, state required operations manuals and compliance, facility design, corporate structure, and design and branding. 

We are experts in both medical and recreational cannabis policy and have been in the space for over ten years.  We welcome any opportunity to work with you in the future!


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What Ohio Could Learn From Michigan’s Recreational Marijuana Experience

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8 Quick Hits of Cannabis News From Across Michigan

Doing Things Differently

DCD is rebranding, and our bottom line is your bottom line. We are striving to create and foster strong relationships with clients and lawmakers, deliver results with strong ethics and class, but above all else, out-hustle and out-smart our competition every day to be the very best. We’re making chess moves while others are playing checkers. Everything we do is with you in mind, we’re doing things we’ve never done before and aggressively pursuing opportunities. The time is now. DCD has taken our firm to the next level and your involvement and investment paired with our knowledge and expertise is going to launch the great state of Michigan forward.

Dunaskiss.biz | 248.693.1391

Early-October 2023 Newsletter

House Panel Discusses Bills to Codify Telemedicine Access
A package of bills to make telemedicine services more accessible and expand it for Medicaid and Healthy Michigan program recipients was discussed last Thursday by the House Health Policy Committee .

The lead bill, HB 4131 , sponsored by Rep. Tullio Liberati (D-Allen Park), would prohibit health insurance policies in Michigan from denying or restricting coverage for telemedicine services and to require that telemedicine services be treated the same as in-person medical care.

Another focus of the bill would codify federal mandates allowing for wider telehealth services during the pandemic that have either ended or are set to expire.

Sponsored by Christine Morse (D-Texas Township), HB 4213 would revise language concerning the coverage of telemedicine services under Medicaid and the Healthy Michigan program. It would add that those services are also covered under the programs if provided at or contracted through a distant site allowed by the Medicaid Provider Manual.

The pair of HB 4579 and HB 4580 , sponsored by Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley) and Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield Township), would require an insurer or the Department of Health and Human Services to provide the same coverage for services provided through telemedicine as if the service was in person.

All four bill sponsors testified on Thursday before the panel. Price took the lead and explained her bill does not impair an insurer’s ability to negotiate prices for services.

"It also isn’t the intent of this legislation to replace necessary in person services with telemedicine," Price said. "This legislation is about expanding access to quality health care, which may not otherwise be able to be provided because of lower telemedicine reimbursement rates, or complete lack of coverage for services delivered in this way."

She went on to say that parity between telemedicine and in-person visits would be most important for uninsured people, those seeking behavioral health and addiction treatment services, and patients who have lost their access to care.

Liberati said that his bill places restrictions on insurance policies so insurers cannot dictate how service is provided, whether that was through in-person visits or telehealth.

Morse said the main issue facing patients or would-be patients who have eschewed seeking care is access to a health provider, and by offering these services over the phone or through video conferencing, that issue could be alleviated.

"We don’t have enough providers. People have transportation issues. People have difficulty obtaining insurance in the first place, or they live in a rural community where they have to drive really far to even get to the doctor if they have a vehicle to do it," Morse said. "So, giving people this opportunity, which is so present in our society, in how we communicate period, just makes sense."

She said her bill would also allow medical providers to offer more care to as many people and as efficiently as possible.

Brabec, who is a clinical psychologist with her own private practice, shared her support of the package through the lens of a provider.

"With that uptick in telehealth use during the pandemic, it’s fair to say that folks became accustomed to that and it was a mode of communication and treatment that was more appropriate for some," she said. "Part of what helps make that accessible is the fact that people are comfortable. There’s a stigma issue that folks have to manage all the time. If we can do things to be able to mitigate some of that, this is a way to do that, and I think that we should."

The bills received supportive testimony from Phillip Bergquist, CEO of the Michigan Primary Care Association; Nick Hemady, the chief medical officer for Honor Health; and Kevin Bonsack, with the Michigan State Medical Society, and several others.

A multitude of associations and physicians submitted cards, all in support of the package. There was no testimony nor cards signaling opposition to the bills.

Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) asked about how the state and insurers could control costs, asking if there was a way to justify any additional costs if, for example, it was recommended that several telemedicine appointments in a month occur instead of just one in-person visit every month or several months apart.

Price, speaking from the lens of addiction treatment services, said it was not up to the Legislature to decide whether a certain number of visits were necessary as means of controlling costs. She said that was up to the provider and more so the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and the accrediting boards, which promulgate rules on the matter.

Morse also said that there are national standards of care that providers need to follow, and in addition to licensing, there was always the threat of malpractice if a doctor was not providing necessary services. She echoed Price in saying that it was not the Legislature’s job to dictate how those providers practice medicine.

The committee did not report the bills but adopted substitutes for HB 4131 and HB 4580. The first substitute to HB 4131 would add that insurers are prohibited from requiring a health care professional to provide services for a patient through telemedicine. Current law provides the same prohibition for requiring face-to-face contact where they might determine telemedicine works well.

The substitute for HB 4580 was not published online at the time of publication, nor was it discussed during the meeting. Brabec did not respond to messages seeking additional clarity.

Senate Health Policy Tees Up Behavioral Health Parity Bill
Legislation that would require insurers to have similar financial requirements between behavioral and physical health coverage is likely to move to the Senate floor next week.

The Senate Health Policy Committee  adopted an S-2 substitute for SB 27 last Wednesday but held off on reporting the bill, which would bring Michigan law into line with federal law that requires parity in behavioral and physical health coverage.

One change in the substitute adopted Wednesday says insurers must follow whatever requirements are more stringent, state or federal law.

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), a committee member, asked where state law might be more expansive than federal law now.

Joseph Sullivan, legislative liaison for the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, said the bill mirrors the federal parity law but noted the continuing discussions in Congress about health care law.

"There’s always volatility at the federal level," he said.

Should federal law change, the bill would assure insurers in Michigan must observe parity in coverage, Sullivan said.

As for now, the idea is to cover any gaps that might exist between federal and state law, though Sullivan said that’s unlikely.

A wide array of health groups voiced support for the bill: the Mental Health Association in Michigan, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Disability Network of Michigan, the Michigan Nurses Association and the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan.

Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), the committee chair, said he anticipated a vote to report the bill next week.

RESTRAINT/SECLUSION: On a different bill dealing with behavioral health, the committee adopted a substitute but did not report legislation that would allow children’s therapeutic group homes to restrain or seclude children provided they follow statute and administrative rules.

A children’s therapeutic group home is a child caring institution for up to six children, usually on a 24-hour basis, who are diagnosed with a developmental disability or a serious emotional disturbance.

Current law bars these group homes from using restraint and seclusion .

SB 227 would allow them to do so.

Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), the bill sponsor, said these homes could help address the lack of inpatient psychiatric beds for children in need but the homes need provisions to protect their staff and other patients.

Heidi Fogarty, assistant director for child and family services at St. Clair County Community Mental Health, said the bill would allow the agency to operate a therapeutic home safely.

"(It) will foster a sense of hope and security among families who have been desperately seeking help for their children," she said.

Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel told the committee these homes could serve as a step up or a step down from other care options. Seclusion and restraint are a last resort and only acceptable in emergencies, she said.

"Staff need the appropriate tools to respond in a safe way," she said.

The bill will likely be voted out to the Senate floor this week, Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), the committee chair, said.

Drivers Could Be Ticketed For Staying To Close To A Snowplow
Michigan drivers traveling closer than 200 feet from a snowplow on streets in which the speed limit is faster than 35 miles per hour could be ticketed, under legislation by Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). 

A report titled: "Defensive Driving for Snowplow Operators," affiliated with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), documented 1,354 vehicle crashes with snowplows from 2012 to 2017. 

Among those crashes, 38.4% were reportedly due to inattention or misjudgment by the snowplow operator, 23.2% were because of "loss of control" and 22.8% were linked to inattention or misjudgment by the other driver. 

"This legislation is asking to make a small change to Michigan laws that will hopefully reduce the growing number of traffic accidents that we are seeing between snow plows and personal automobiles," Singh said earlier this week in testimony before the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee concerning his SB 465. "It’s really when you’re in the same lane, and that’s where we’re seeing some of those accidents, where people don’t realize how close they are to a snowplow." 

Singh said the legislation would not affect a driver’s ability to pass a snowplow in another lane. 

The legislation also details that if a driver is approaching a stopped snowplow, like one waiting at an intersection, they must stop at least 20 feet away from the snowplow and must continue to be stopped until the snowplow is moving again and exits an intersection. 

Singh said the legislation mirrors present-day law in Wisconsin, where the statute has existed for around 20 years. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 17 snowplow-involved crashes were fatal between 1984 and 2004. Although the department says that no snowplow crash information has been gathered since 2004, Singh said Wisconsin’s statute has made a significant impact. 

On Oct. 3, when the Senate panel heard testimony on the legislation, Adam TOUNTAS of the Michigan County Road Commission Self Insurance Pool said he doesn’t have a hard number regarding the degree to which snow plow crashes have increased on local and county roads in Michigan, "but I will tell you that it’s a significant (enough) uptick that we got together and said we should do something about it." 

"If someone’s out plowing the road, we’re in an inclement weather situation, and you have all of the hallmarks of that. You have poor visibility, you have bad traction with your tires, ice, slush, snow . . . and the space cushion that we’re asking for is actually, I don’t want to say it’s the bare minimum, but we think it is the least intrusive," said Tountas, adding how the legislation deals with municipal, government-owned snowplows. 


Left: DCD’s Jake German was happy to host the Hazel Park Leadership Team last week in Lansing to create awareness around the myriad issues facing local governments. Pictured here left to right: Police Chief Brian Buchholz, City Manager Ed Klobucher, State Representative Mike McFall, Deputy City Manager & Treasurer Laci Christiansen, City Attorney Amanda Mason, and lobbyist Jake German.

Right: Senator Mat Dunaskiss fires up the crowd at an event supporting Mark Gunn for Troy City Council at the home of Rocky Raczkowski in Troy.

Jake German joins Mark & Mary Gunn and supporters at his Troy fundraiser last Friday evening.


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Virtually Anyone Can Be A Sheriff In Michigan. That May Change Soon.

Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest


DCD continues to exist as the premier resource helping municipalities navigate the waters of cannabis policy. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding medical or recreational cannabis policy, procedure, and more. DCD is available for presentations to municipal boards, for one-on-one meetings, and for consultations.

We are here to help you with: municipal lobbying, license application writing and assistance, business plans, state required operations manuals and compliance, facility design, corporate structure, and design and branding. 

We are experts in both medical and recreational cannabis policy and have been in the space for over ten years.  We welcome any opportunity to work with you in the future!


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Doing Things Differently

DCD is rebranding, and our bottom line is your bottom line. We are striving to create and foster strong relationships with clients and lawmakers, deliver results with strong ethics and class, but above all else, out-hustle and out-smart our competition every day to be the very best. We’re making chess moves while others are playing checkers. Everything we do is with you in mind, we’re doing things we’ve never done before and aggressively pursuing opportunities. The time is now. DCD has taken our firm to the next level and your involvement and investment paired with our knowledge and expertise is going to launch the great state of Michigan forward.

Dunaskiss.biz | 248.693.1391

Late-September 2023 Newsletter

Loads of New Fees Rammed Through House
Legislation that would extend sunsets for multiple fees and increase others passed the House last Wednesday on mostly party-line votes.

Republicans voted against a series of bills that mostly extend sunsets for existing fees in various state agencies, though some of the bills increase fees, including a $4 increase for record look-up fees within the Department of State.

The fees maintained or increased through the bills passed on Wednesday are already built into the 2023-24 budget, which will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year on October 1. The current sunsets are set to expire at the end of September or in early October.

HB 4988 , HB 4989 , HB 4990 , HB 4991 , HB 4993 , HB 4994 , HB 4995 , HB 4996 , HB 4997 , HB 5003 , HB 5004 and HB 5007 passed the House 56-54 after clearing the House Appropriations Committee  on party-line votes earlier in the morning.

HB 5000 passed 79-31. The bill extends the sunset for fees charged by the Department of State Police to conduct fingerprints and run background checks.

Republicans argued that with a record budget passed for the 2023-24 fiscal year, those paying the fees should get a break.

Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) noted the budget is several billions more than the previous year’s budget and asked if fees have been increased or extended in a similar fashion during other times when the state had more revenue than expected. That question wasn’t answered directly, however many of the fees have been extended by the Legislature multiple times.

Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion) during committee offered a substitute to HB 5004 to set the fees at their 1978 level, saying business owners bringing jobs and tax money to the state are paying too much.

"I’m worried about the government having an insatiable appetite to spend tax dollars," she said.

Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richmond) called the fees the result of "wasteful" budget spending in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

"After funding pointless and political projects over Michiganders’ biggest priorities, Democrats are hiking fees to pay for their lavish spending spree," he said. "They rammed through a wasteful budget that blew through our state’s $9 billion surplus for pork while underfunding local infrastructure, public safety, and other needs. They knew they didn’t have enough taxpayer money to pay their bill, so now they’re raising fees and planning to raise the income tax early next year. Michigan residents shouldn’t have to pay higher fees and taxes just because Democrats got too careless with the state credit card."

Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) noted many of the fees addressed in the bills haven’t increased over the years.

"Unfortunately, term limits has created an environment where people want to just kick the can down the road, and nobody wants to do the right thing," she said. "We are experiencing inflation, which means that things cost more for us as well as for everyone else. And it’s fiscally responsible to adjust our fees in accordance with inflation."

HB 4990 and HB 4991 would increase the record look up fee for the Department of State from $11 to $15. This would bring in $18.5 million in additional funding to the Transportation Administration Collection Fund.

A House Fiscal Agency analysis said the fund has been experiencing shortfalls in recent years. In the last three fiscal years, the state has provided additional dollars through the budget process to address the shortfall.

HB 5007 would increase the groundwater discharge permit fee from between $200 to $3,650 to between $240 to $7,500. This increase is projected to generate an additional $680,000 for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, EGLE said.

HB 5003 and HB 5004 would extend sunsets for the annual license and license renewal fee for psychiatric hospitals and units to October 1, 2027. The $500 per license and $10 per bed fee is maintained. It also updates the definition of a child with special health care needs to someone under 26 years old, which is an item already funded in the budget.

HB 5004 also increases eight radiation fees by 20 percent of the current amounts, which would generate an additional $500,000 for the Department of Labor and Economic Development.

Finally, the bill would implement an additional fee for homes for the aged. Currently, they are subject to an annual fee of $6.27 per bed. HB 5004 adds a $500 per facility fee in addition to the per-bed fee. This would generate $167,500 for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The rest of the bills extend sunsets that are set to mature later this month or on October 1 until 2027 for fees collected under the Uniform Securities Act, the Michigan Limited Liability Company Act, the Nonprofit Corporation Act, the Business Corporation Act and the State License Fee Act. Fees collected under the state’s Food Law and for licensing of livestock dealers would also be extended.

Reproductive Health Act in Limbo with Whitsett Opposition
A key Democratic priority to repeal various abortion regulations hit a snag Wednesday when a caucus member voted no on advancing the bills to the floor though House leadership said more work on the Reproductive Health Act could get the legislation to the 56 votes it needs to pass.

Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit) shocked several of her colleagues Wednesday when she voted in opposition to the Reproductive Health Act bill package during the House Health Policy Committee .

Whitsett told Gongwer News Service she is "1,000 percent in support" of Proposal 3 and reproductive care, but there were still some provisions in the bills that she could not fully support.

"When we’re talking about Medicaid funding, if there’s any extra funds that are going to be spent somewhere, I think they should be spent towards seniors," Whitsett said. "We have people who are living, you know, from pillar to post, they are barely making ends meet. They have their prescription drugs … they’re still making choices between their prescription drugs and eating. Those choices are real and they’re still happening. So, if there’s extra funding that can be spent somewhere I would like for it to be spent with them."

Getting the Reproductive Health Act to the governor’s desk is a major fall priority for Democrats. Several of the bills in the package – HB 4949 , 4950, HB 4953 , HB 4955 , and HB 4956 – were reported out of the committee with all Republicans and Whitsett voting no.

Democrats have a slim majority in the House. They likely need every Democrat to vote yes on the bills to pass with the minimum 56 votes needed. Whitsett’s opposition could be a significant roadblock to legislation with strong support from House leadership.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement this was an important step forward for the "commonsense legislation." She did not directly address Whitsett’s opposition.

"Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to put abortion rights in our state constitution back in November. We must ensure that they can access the reproductive health care they need without delay, without paying high costs out of pocket, and without fear of prosecution for experiencing a miscarriage or a stillbirth," Whitmer said. "Michiganders support the Reproductive Health Act. I urge the Legislature to pass it."

After the committee hearing, Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), chair of the committee, told reporters she was aware Whitsett had concerns with some of the bills but didn’t know she was planning to vote no on the entire package.

Amber McCann, spokesperson for House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit), told reporters that Whitsett was "known to change her mind," and it was a matter of working on issues with her.

"I would say it’s a false choice to assume that extending full health care to one group of people somehow then diminishes the ability to care for another group of people," McCann said. "There have been many issues that have come before the House that the speaker has been successful in getting 56 votes for, and I don’t doubt his ability to do that on any item that we bring on the board."

Whether or not Whitsett receives pressure from the governor and her Democratic colleagues to support the package does not seem to be a concern for the representative.

"The Democratic Party didn’t elect me, my district did and that’s who I represent. I am their voice in Lansing, first and foremost," Whitsett said. "As far as the pressure, I want this to be where we can work together and come to this agreement and to be able to get these issues resolved because we’re talking about women and we’re talking about safe abortions that are accessible. We’re working for the people and that’s what should be priority and first and foremost on everyone’s mind."

It’s not the first time Whitsett has been at odds with Democrats in her caucus or around the state. Whitsett came under criticism for praising President Donald Trump during the coronavirus pandemic, sued Whitmer (though quickly dropped that lawsuit), called former House Minority Leader Christine Greig a racist and often voted with Republicans on legislation mostly opposed by her party when the GOP controlled the House.

Whitsett told Gongwer that in a perfect world, she would like to see seniors on assistance receive more benefits, saying there are seniors receiving only $20-$40 on their EBT cards. She also said she would like to see extra funding for certain prescription drugs, especially for those who are diabetic.

As for abortion access and reproductive rights, Whitsett said she herself has had her own experience with needing reproductive health care. That said, she still had reservations around some of the changes outside of Medicaid funding.

"I know what it’s like, I’ve lived it," Whitsett said. "My issue with RHA is that I do not think that it is too much to ask for someone to take a 24-hour pause when you’re making a decision like that. I do not think 24-hours is too much to wait. I do not think that the facilities should not have safety measures in place. I think that’s extremely important, these things are things that are in place right now."

She emphasized that reproductive health is all about abortions that are accessible and safe.

"I don’t think that’s too much to ask," she said, adding that she is not the only person in the House who feels this way.

Under HB 4950 , the requirement to provide a patient with specific visual materials and information at least 24 hours before a scheduled abortion would be repealed. Currently, those seeking an abortion are required to print out a time stamped form found on the Department of Health and Human Services webpage to bring to their appointment or go visit the clinic to view the materials (See Gongwer Michigan Report, September 14, 2023).

Advocates say the information is not specific to patients, and even those who are getting an abortion because their fetus is not viable have to view information about adoption and see images of fetuses before having the procedure. Providers also said it is easy to print out the wrong form and then someone must delay the appointment, even if they have traveled hours.

During Health Policy, Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown) introduced an amendment to HB 4950 that would remove the repeal of the 24-hour waiting period and required receipt of documentation, saying that women should be able to weigh the risks and benefits of a decision affecting them mentally and physically.

Whitsett voted in support of the amendment, joining the seven other Republicans on the committee. It ultimately failed 8-11.

When asked if she would have supported the bill if the 24-hour wait period remained intact, Whitsett said "absolutely," saying that she would have preferred a more realistic conversation about the bills and the amendments offered up.

She also said there are several other Democrats who feel the same way that she felt. They’re not okay with these provisions being removed and they’re not okay with Medicaid-funded abortions, Whitsett said.

Whitsett said that her vote in the committee "absolutely" reflected the will of her constituents. She said she has received calls and messages of support for her decision.

"This is not something I did on a whim. I’ve had these conversations within my community since these first came up and they were brought to my attention," Whitsett said.

She emphasized again that she is doing this for women and their safety.

Paula Thornton Greear, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan president and CEO, said in a statement that Whitsett’s opposition felt like a betrayal to her constituents who supported abortion access and Proposal 3.

"If Rep. Whitsett votes in opposition, she will be solely responsible for the continued enforcement of dozens of anti-abortion restrictions that disproportionately harm women of color and people who are struggling to make ends meet," Thornton said. "Every time a patient is forced to drive 7 hours to access abortion, has to reschedule their appointment over a timestamp, or worries over how they will afford care, Rep. Whitsett will be responsible. We urge Rep. Whitsett to listen to her constituents and pass the Reproductive Health Act."

The Michigan Catholic Conference said in a statement that the bills were some of the "most extreme policies in the recent history of the Legislature due to their blatant prioritization of the abortion industry over women’s health and safety."

"The majority of Michiganders support and expect longstanding regulations and limitations on abortion to remain in place, limits that were legal under Roe v. Wade," said Rebecca Mastee, policy advocate for the Michigan Catholic Conference, in a statement. "All human life, including the life of a woman seeking an abortion, has inherent value and is worthy of legal protection. We call on members of the Michigan Legislature to turn to their consciences and oppose the Reproductive Health Act."

Loren Khogali, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, praised the passage of the bills out of the committee hearing. In a statement, Khogali said the ACLU would ensure the constitutional right to abortion is protected and will continue to advocate for measures like the removal of the Medicaid abortion ban.

"Failure to pass the Reproductive Health Act will have devastating consequences on the health of people already facing systemic barriers to health care, including Black and Indigenous people and other people of color, people on low incomes, people with disabilities and rural residents," Khogali wrote. "Abortion is health care, and everyone is entitled to access no matter where they live, who they are or how much money they earn."

Consumers Energy: Dems’ Clean Energy Plan is Off Balance
Consumers Energy announced last week that the three key bills in the Senate Democrats’ "Clean Energy Future Plan" do not currently "balance reliability, affordability or achievability." 

Last Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Environment Committee took more than three hours and 40 minutes of testimony on SB 271, SB 273 and SB 502. The legislation would mandate electricity providers develop a 100% carbon-free energy standard by 2040, and to file clean energy plans demonstrating progress toward building an 80% carbon-free energy portfolio starting in 2035. 

Also, SB 502 would mandate the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) – the board supervising the state’s public utilities and probing their Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) for future operations – to make renewable energy priorities and equity standards part of their regulatory duties.

Although SB 271, SB 273and SB 502 are being widely discussed around the Capitol, there are ongoing drafts being made for the legislation. 

"We will continue working with policymakers on a solution that balances that framework,"  Brian Wheeler, Consumers Energy’s media relations manager told MIRS. "Our aggressive Clean Energy Plan would make us one of the first in the nation to go coal-free, with a significant buildout of solar, storage, and energy efficiency investment without sacrificing reliability or customer affordability." 

On Thursday morning, Consumers Energy announced details of a proposed add-on to its Clean Energy Plan, already consisting of the planned closure of all of its coal-fired generating units by the end of 2025. 

The new plan focuses on Consumers Energy’s "Solar Gardens" program, with current projects operating in Cadillac, at Western Michigan University and at Grand Valley State University. Households acquiring energy through the program, without needing to install their own rooftop solar panels, will see their $8 monthly subscription fee drop to $4 under the proposal. 

"What we’re really doing is taking away any sort of limits in terms of how many customers can be part of these programs," Wheeler said. "Essentially, we’re going to be combining our residential (and) our business programs all together under one umbrella, and we’ll be able to reach thresholds faster. We’ll be able to reach the point faster where we can say: ‘now we’ve got enough demand, let’s go build the next project.’" 

The proposal was officially submitted to the MPSC today, and the commission will have until later next year to approve it. 

Wheeler summarized how the proposal will remove Consumers Energy from limitations on how much clean energy that customers can elect to receive, with ambitions of driving prices down through building demand. 

Additionally, it calls for creation of a giving program, where a party can purchase a "Solar Gardens" subscription on someone else’s behalf, which Wheeler said could assist low-income customers and get nonprofits involved. 

"More solar projects faster," Wheeler said. "As we have customers who show interest and subscribe to these programs, if they’re approved, that creates a pathway for us to develop more projects on a faster timetable."  

Senate Majority Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) told Michigan’s Big Show last week that the goal of Senate Democrats is to get carbon out of the environment in a responsible way that doesn’t impact the reliability of the grid. 

“We want to make sure that cost is also a driving factor as we make some of these decisions,” he said. “We want to continue to push for more renewables in a quick fashion, but we also want to be cognizant that there are some parts of the state where that might not be always feasible,” Singh said.


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DCD continues to exist as the premier resource helping municipalities navigate the waters of cannabis policy. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding medical or recreational cannabis policy, procedure, and more. DCD is available for presentations to municipal boards, for one-on-one meetings, and for consultations.

We are here to help you with: municipal lobbying, license application writing and assistance, business plans, state required operations manuals and compliance, facility design, corporate structure, and design and branding. 

We are experts in both medical and recreational cannabis policy and have been in the space for over ten years.  We welcome any opportunity to work with you in the future!


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Doing Things Differently

DCD is rebranding, and our bottom line is your bottom line. We are striving to create and foster strong relationships with clients and lawmakers, deliver results with strong ethics and class, but above all else, out-hustle and out-smart our competition every day to be the very best. We’re making chess moves while others are playing checkers. Everything we do is with you in mind, we’re doing things we’ve never done before and aggressively pursuing opportunities. The time is now. DCD has taken our firm to the next level and your involvement and investment paired with our knowledge and expertise is going to launch the great state of Michigan forward.

Dunaskiss.biz | 248.693.1391