Early March 2024 Newsletter


MORSE WANTS STEADY GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION FUNDING
State money for community violence intervention programs designed to cut down on shootings in problem areas would be reduced in the Governor’s proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget proposal, but the chair of a key House subcommittee is pushing back.

According to Everytown For Gun Safety, community violence intervention (CIV) programs have been shown to reduce gunshot injuries and deaths in neighborhoods most impacted by gun violence by taking more of a public health approach to fighting violence.

Rep. Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo), chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, said after several years getting the state Office of CVI off the ground, the funding should be maintained for some time.

“(Gun violence) is not a problem that is two or three years in the making,” Morse said. 

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2025, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed allocating a total $5.5 million towards CPI in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) budget, maintaining the $5 million in one-time federal funding for CVI grants, but bumping ongoing funding down to $500,000 from the General Fund for the state Office of CVI’s expenses.  

Morse said after town halls in east Detroit with Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit), Saginaw with Rep. Amos ONEAL (D-Saginaw), south Lansing with Rep. Kara Hope (D-Lansing), Kalamazoo and Kent County, she has a better understanding of individual community interventions and what those communities need.

“We wanted to go and talk to the communities that are especially hard hit by community violence, to find out, what are those community orbs and governmental orbs that are working in the space. What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Is it evidence-based? Is it not? Have they gotten funding from any source?” she said. 

Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) senior deputy director of public health administration, presented this week on past and current funding for the state office, starting with Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, when the office of CVI was established. 

In FY ‘23, the budget included an $800,000 appropriation to get the office up and running, combined with a one-time $5 million appropriation for grants, and in FY ‘24, the office was again allocated $5.8 million. 

Lyon-Callo said $2.5 million was used to strengthen existing CVI programs, like expanded specialized case management, workforce development, increased street outreach, mentorship, geographic data mapping and “transformational healing for people at the center of violence.” 

Funding was also used to support existing Wayne County programs specifically, which Lyon-Callo said was necessary due to Wayne County attaining the highest homicide crude death rate in Michigan in 2020, with 19.3 deaths per 100,000 people. 


HOEKSTRA: ESTABLISHMENT DONORS WILL RETURN, BUT PARTY MUST PLAY CATCH UP
(GRAND RAPIDS) – Newly recognized Michigan Republican Party Chair Pete Hoekstra said today he’s confident that establishment donors who stepped away from the party will return, but they all must now play catch up. When asked about conversations with establishment donors, like the DeVos family, Hoekstra said conversations have been ongoing, and “they have not stepped away" from Republican politics.

“They stepped away from giving to the Michigan Republican Party,” he said. “But they’ve been very active in forming other groups to carry out the functions that they normally would have expected the MI GOP to do.

“The good thing is, the work didn’t stop,” he said. “It just went through other vehicles.” 

Now, his faction of the party is beginning to plan for the next eight months ahead, and on how to best bring the GOP back into that network, Hoekstra said. 

But, he believes his faction’s recent track record is going to be a big point of attraction for these donors, including an initial win in court, an endorsement by former President Donald Trump, who won nearly 98 percent of the vote at today’s nominating convention and a Republican National Committee (RNC) certification of the state committee’s action to remove former Chair Kristina Karamo. 

“A lot of these major donors are business people,” he said. “They would look at this track record and say, ‘Yeah, we think it’s probably pretty likely that this is the Michigan GOP that we’re going to see through the election.’” 

When asked about fundraising efforts so far, and if he believes the party has begun to “catch up,” Hoekstra responded, “Are you kidding me? I just got the court order on Tuesday.” 

“The donors that sat on the sidelines, they want(ed) to make sure that if they wrote a check to the MI GOP, that there was no possibility it…might go back to the old MI GOP," he said, explaining how the party has since begun to fundraise. 

Hoekstra said his faction of the party has set up an alternate process to collect funds, because until 5:30 p.m. Friday, they didn’t have access to the bank. 

“So we’re making progress,” he said, though he added that he does not yet have access to all the party’s bank accounts, due to the state party’s lawsuit with the owners of the trust. 

Hoekstra said former Congressman and legal counsel Mike Bishop filed the paperwork this week to “establish himself as attorney of record for those lawsuits. 

“As soon as the judge rules on that, then we will . . . work with Comerica and the trust to remove those lawsuits, and then, you know, we still need to get access to some social media accounts and those types of things.” 

For now, he said, “We’re just going to come back on Monday morning and go back to work, putting in place the plans and the organization and the money to run a successful campaign in November."

For her part, Karamo fired off a couple of shots on social media today. On Hoekstra’s post on X that he was looking at ways to credential some delegates because rules weren’t followed, Karamo wrote, “Rules . . . what a joke. They did follow the rules and submitted their delegate list to the elected party secretary. Additionally the Call to Convention filed with the county clerk per Michigan law listed the purpose as being a convention at the Huntington Place in Detroit. What about that law!"

Karamo also responded to a tweet from reporter Jonathan Oosting about the lawsuit regarding MRP Party headquarters where she wrote, “Really . . . we never said our objective for the lawsuit was to sell the building. That was the talking point the corruption-club had to put out as a straw man, to distract people from the merits of the lawsuit. We want clarification over who owns assets and liabilities. Asking for a friend, how can an LLC, DBA as a political party? They would be conducting business, for example potentially taking out loans in the party’s name without our knowledge. I think that’s a problem. However I guess if a former congressman tells us it’s ok, and that our concerns are “insane”, we should stop asking questions!”


CONSUMERS GIVEN PSC APPROVAL FOR $92M RATE HIKE
Consumers Energy Company residential ratepayers will later this month see a rate increase of 1.6 percent on their monthly bills following the approval of a $92 million rate increase Friday by the Public Service Commission .

The rate hike approved by regulators is less than half of the $216 million originally requested by the utility, although that figure was reduced to a requested $170.8 million during the review process.

A key part of what the utility sought with the rate increase, its first since a $155 million hike approved in January 2023 as part of a settlement agreement, was to cover spending related to reliability improvements, a release from the PSC said.

Items the increase would cover, according to the PSC, include spending on generation distribution assets, safety and legal compliance, enhanced technology, increased operations and maintenance expenses along with rising costs for financing.

The average residential customer using 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would see a monthly bill increase of $1.53, or 1.6 percent.

Within Friday’s order, there were several equity-related items to be put in place by Consumers.

The utility was told to provide in upcoming rate cases and other items before the commission environmental justice and equity-related information, to develop with PSC staff a way for interested parties to request and use geographic information system data, and the provide regression analysis in support of reliability spending on its distribution system in future filings.

Consumers must also provide a full summary of environmental justice and equity considerations as part of its next rate case.

More information was also directed to be provided on people having contact with electric lines as well as to work with the commission, other utilities and interested parties on identifying methods for energy security and the prevention of heat-related illnesses and deaths.

Consumers was directed to propose a pilot program in which it would work with a third party to provide a resource for medically vulnerable residential customers that meet low-income requirements to work toward maximizing the use of various utility and government incentives for household energy waste reduction, solar and energy storage.

The company was also told to engage with affected parties and communities when getting feedback for future distribution plans so their concerns and needs can be weighed in designing distribution system programs, projects and sites.

Under Friday’s order, Consumers was given partial approval for its proposed investment recovery mechanism for efforts to improve electric distribution system reliability. Its distribution spending plans must be shared with the PSC and interested parties as soon as possible for year one of its plans and by November 1, 2024, for year two of its plans.

Consumers must also file information in its next general electric rate case connecting performance in operational metrics to proposed incentive compensation. The PSC said operational metrics will be reviewed more rigorously in future cases.

A transportation electrification plan must also be filed by July 1, 2024, and include updated projections on the costs of electric vehicle adoption and the effects on its plans. At least two public hearings are to be scheduled on its plans.

The utility is also to study penetration levels for direct current fast charging EV chargers as well as a study on the chargers and Level 2 EV chargers to see whether the chargers should have separate tariffs. Consumers is expected to include the results of these studies in its next general electric rate case.

An analysis was also ordered on line-clearing cycles, to include data on the customer costs of outages, the costs of restoring service and the costs of line clearing. This analysis is due to be filed with the PSC by September 3, 2024.

Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement said her department was an intervenor in the case and had pushed back on several of the Consumers proposals and projections as being unreasonable.

"Today the commission saw fit to slash Consumers Energy’s requested rate hike by more than half," Nessel said. "My department will continue to advocate for Michigan consumers at every opportunity, and we will intervene to defend ratepayers as appropriate based on our careful study of these corporate filings and consultation with industry experts."


DCD IS A FULL-SERVICE, BI-PARTISAN, MULTI-CLIENT LOBBYING FIRM

REMEMBER ALL OF DCD’S SERVICES:

***Talk to us about REFERENDUMS & BALLOT INITATIVES***

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***CAMPAIGN SIGNATURE GATHERING***

***ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUNDING: GRANTS – CDBG’S – BROWNFIELD – TIF’S***

***FEDERAL, STATE, & LOCAL REGULATORY CHALLENGES***

OUR TEAM LEVERAGES OUR MUNICIPAL CONTACTS AND ASSETS AND HELPS INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANIES NAVIGATE THROUGH ANY REGULATORY ISSUES!  WE SPEAK THE DUAL LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS & GOVERNMENT THAT HELP YOU TRANSLATE YOUR VISION INTO REALITY!


DCD OUT AND ABOUT:

DCD’s Jake German joined the Common Ground Leadership Team at their new East Lansing Resiliency Center with Senator Sam Singh, Rep. Julie Brixie, Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou, and Rep. Emily Dievendorf for a tour and Q & A Session to create awareness of Common Ground’s continued commitment to support those impacted by the February 2023 shooting on the MSU campus. Common Ground has been in business for over 50 years serving the State of Michigan wherever crises turns to hope.

Jake German was happy to join Hazel Park City Manager Edward Klobucher at the annual Hazel Park Promise Dinner in Warren on February 27th.  Ed has been a longtime client and friend and DCD is happy to support the Promise Zone in their lofty mission to help provide educational scholarships for local high school graduates.


ARTICLES OF POLITICAL INTEREST:

MSU Board Asks Whitmer to Weigh Removal of Two Board Members

Trump Dominates MI Caucuses Over the Weekend, Builds Delegate Lead

Gotion Submits Site Plan to Mecosta County for EV Battery Factory

Justin Amash Seeking GOP Nomination for Michigan Senate Seat

Michigan Presidential Primaries Offer Warning Signs for Both Trump & Biden


Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest

THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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!


ARTICLES OF CANNABIS INTEREST:

Michigan Local Governments Getting $87M From Marijuana Sales

Michigan Wants to Study Marijuana’s Health Benefits.  It’s Not Easy.

Can You Buy Recreational Marijuana in Michigan and Bring It Back to Ohio?

The Top Ten Michigan Marijuana Tax Revenue Recipients By City, County

Study: Marijuana Legalization Linked To ‘Decline In Beer Sales,’ Indicating Substitution Effect


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 February 2024 Newsletter

 


TENSIONS HIGH AS POST-EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS CHANGES TO BE DEBATED
There will be tension as lawmakers and stakeholders debate a proposal from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to redirect payments previously used to prefund retiree health care for public school employees, Sen. Sarah Anthony said in an interview this week.

Anthony (D-Lansing), appearing on “MichMash,” the podcast partnership between Gongwer News Service and WDET Detroit Public Radio, also said lawmakers remain committed and motivated to take more action on gun violence prevention following the slew of bills passed last year after a mass shooting on Michigan State University’s campus.

“This is going to be a debate this year,” said Anthony, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee , of the administration’s proposal to redirect some of the payments for public school employee retiree health care for other K-12 programs.

Whitmer’s office said the unfunded liability for retiree health care, also known as other post-employment benefits, is set to be paid off this fiscal year, so it is no longer required to continue putting the same amount of money into that component of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. A bill to effectuate the change is needed, however.

Anthony noted Republicans before her were aggressive in paying down debt, which is a benefit now.

“I do feel like there is this tension around that if we have paid down significant debt, how can we start to invest now in critical areas we know need help now,” she said. “We can’t afford to wait. There is going to be a tension there. I do see both angles. But ultimately, I do believe that we can find a middle ground there that we can ensure that we are still responsible in paying down debt and we’re not neglecting current and urgent needs we need to address now.”

With the one-year anniversary of the MSU mass shooting and the gun control efforts already passed by the Legislature taking effect this week, Anthony said there is more work to be done but reflected on the last year.

“Gun violence prevention was going to be part of the Democratic majority’s plan to try to address, I tell you that moment just jump started the caucuses to act quicker and to really listen to student voice,” she said. “And when kids came to our office, they were not looking for political talking points. They weren’t looking to take a selfie with me and make it a political comment. … But I have reminded those same young people that their voices mattered. And because of the sense of urgency after that tragedy, they created space for us to say ‘we have to do something.'”

Anthony said she is a responsible gun owner and believes in the Second Amendment.

“I also believe that with all of our rights they also have limits,” she said. “I have been a vocal

advocate for comment sense reforms. And there are many of us who are still motivated to find commonsense solutions to these issues.”

Anthony said when she entered the Senate in 2023 and Democrats were celebrating their majorities, she was also mourning a friend who died due to gun violence. Anthony said she can see the spot where her friend was shot in Lansing from her Capitol office.

“This is pervasive in many of our communities. It’s not just a mass shooting we see on school campuses,” she said. “It is every day.”

On the budget, Anthony was particularly excited about the streamlining of higher education financial aid and housing resources. She also said transparency in the process improved during the last budget cycle, noting enhancement grants included sponsors for the first time.

“Many of the negotiations do happen in a room in the Capitol in which we kind of duke it out and get to the nitty gritty. But isn’t that what our citizens expect of us,” she said. “That they don’t have to worry about line by line by line, because they are literally paying a full-time salary to members of these committees to do just that.”

Anthony also said she wants to see the Legislature go as far as practically possible in its legislation to expand the Freedom of Information Act to include the governor’s office and Legislature.

“I am going to be pressing us to go further than most of some of the concepts we have seen in the past,” she said. “But also, we have to be practical. And we have to be sure we have the resources to implement these kinds of bills.”


DUELING MIGOP CONVENTIONS LOOM AS HOEKSTRA RAMPS UP
Pete Hoekstra is moving to assert power as the undisputed chair of the Michigan Republican Party, armed with the Republican National Committee’s decision that he, not Kristina Karamo, is the leader of the MIGOP.

Hoekstra told Bridge Michigan and The Detroit News on Friday he plans to announce a different location for the party’s March 2 convention to decide the allocation of most of the state’s presidential delegates to the Republican National Convention than the one Karamo had set for Huntington Place in Detroit.

Messages left with Hoekstra and a spokesperson on the possibility of a dueling convention were not returned prior to publication Friday night.

Having two separate conventions would raise the specter of each precinct delegate elected Thursday at county conventions across the state having to decide which one to attend. Given the RNC’s recognition of Hoekstra as chair, it seems likely it would recognize the convention he organizes as the legitimate one, but it will be another chapter to resolve in this dispute.

In an interview earlier Friday with Gongwer News Service, Hoekstra touted a letter from the state’s six Republican U.S. House members recognizing him as chair as the latest momentum toward extinguishing Karamo’s hold on the party.

Further, his team is talking with social media companies about having the official Michigan Republican Party accounts turned over to them.

Hoekstra said he’s in the process of hiring staff. Following the RNC’s ruling, there’s an agreement on who will come aboard as the party’s executive director, he said.

But the biggest issue Hoekstra said he continues to address is finances. While his team has established committees under state and federal campaign finance law, it also is working with banks to freeze the party’s official accounts under Karamo’s control, he said.

Next week could prove decisive.

Several hearings are scheduled at the Kent Circuit Court, where Hoekstra’s allies in the party have filed a lawsuit to have a judge declare Karamo was removed properly under party bylaws.

A hearing on Karamo’s motion to dismiss is set for Tuesday. Then there are hearings Wednesday and Thursday on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction declaring Karamo was properly removed. Should the judge rule for the plaintiffs on that motion, it could resolve the dispute. Karamo told Bridge she would abide by a court order.

“It’s always hard to predict what the courts are going to do but that’s why we’re in the courts,” Hoekstra said. “We’re in the courts, and we’re pushing this aggressively to try to get them to move as quickly as possible.”

Hoekstra has scheduled fundraisers for the accounts supporting party activities his team has created for February 25 and 26.

Asked if the party’s traditional funders have agreed to write big checks, Hoekstra said they are becoming more engaged.

“They’re businesspeople. They’re saying, ‘Pete what are going to do? Where are you and what are you going to do?'” he said. “As soon as I get ahold of the books, I’ve told them you are more than welcome to come take a look at the books. I’m going to be totally transparent.”

Hoekstra said he has told the party’s traditional donors, who have refused to support the party under Karamo, to help him design the plan for the next eight months.

“As soon as they feel ownership and they feel good about a plan, at that point in time I expect they’ll help fund the plan that we jointly developed and put in place,” he said.

Karamo, meanwhile, continues to accuse traditional forces in the party of conspiring to undermine her.

She posted a 10-minute video Thursday night mainly devoted to slamming the Warner Norcross + Judd law firm that has worked with the plaintiffs seeking a court order confirming her ouster.

After a kerfuffle at the Oakland County Republican Party convention Thursday over her appearance, she posted on X that it’s comical people feared her speaking.

“The Grey Poupon Good Ole’ boys club hate that they can’t control me, and that we’ve disrupted their corruption club,” she said in a separate post that night. “Our movement isn’t going away. We are bringing a Righteous Renaissance to the Republican Party. We are Constitutional-Conservatives on a mission to save our Republic. It’s a reason the majority of our State Committee want me to continue as chair. They know the stakes are too high to let the political oligarchy push us out.”

Oakland GOP Chair Vance Patrick fired back that she improperly entered the 9th District caucus when she’s a precinct delegate in the 11th District.

“Your improper intrusion was disruptive to the normal business of our county convention,” he said in a post on X.


OPTIMISM FALLS AMONG MICHIGAN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS
Michigan small business owners aren’t as optimistic about the next six months as they once were, according to a survey conducted by the Small Business Association of Michigan.

About half of the 400 association members surveyed said they’re somewhat or very optimistic about their prospects during the next six months, but that’s down from 57 percent a year ago.

Business owners feel better about their long-term prospects, though, with 66 percent of those surveyed saying they feel somewhat or very optimistic about the survival of their business.

“Small business owners tend to be optimistic people. This survey suggests that while they are experiencing many challenges today, most expect improved conditions in the future,” Brian Calley, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in a statement. “Inflation, availability of labor and the economy remain top concerns for small businesses. Their biggest concerns center around cost pressures and underscore the strong opposition small businesses have expressed in recent surveys against new, costly government mandates.”

Of the business owners surveyed, about 28 percent are pessimistic about the next six months and about 20 percent are pessimistic about their long-term survival.

Small business owners are feeling more pessimistic on a national scale, according to the latest report from the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index.

January was the 25th consecutive month where the optimism index score was below the 50-year average of 98. Last month’s score was 89.9.

“Small business job creators continue to be discouraged about their ability to find and keep qualified employees and to afford the necessary goods they need to operate,” NFIB Michigan State Director Amanda Fisher said in a statement. “As the election season ramps up across Michigan and candidates claim to stand up for small business, it is well to remember the votes of lawmakers that make Main Street business owners’ jobs harder and harder.”

Fisher went on to cite policies including the repeal of Michigan’s right-to-work laws and restoration of prevailing wage, which recently went into effect.

The most pressing issue for business owners in Michigan is the state of the economy, according to the Small Business Association of Michigan survey. Of those surveyed, 23 percent ranked the economy as their primary challenge. Inflation was the next biggest problem, at 21 percent, followed by availability of labor at 19 percent.

More than half of the small businesses surveyed reported that the new restrictions from the U.S. Department of Labor, which limit independent contractors, will have a substantial or moderate impact on their business.

About a third of small businesses say that they’ll benefit from the research and development tax credit currently being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

Regarding new technology, 26 percent of small businesses reported they’re using artificial intelligence for marketing, data analytics, virtual assistants and business operations. Those tools could be cut back though, as 44 percent of small business owners say they’re preparing for a possible recession by reducing expenses.


 

DCD IS A FULL-SERVICE, BI-PARTISAN, MULTI-CLIENT LOBBYING FIRM

REMEMBER ALL OF DCD’S SERVICES:

***Talk to us about REFERENDUMS & BALLOT INITATIVES***

**WORK WITH US ON LOCAL LOBBYING & DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS**

***CAMPAIGN SIGNATURE GATHERING***

***ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUNDING: GRANTS – CDBG’S – BROWNFIELD – TIF’S***

***FEDERAL, STATE, & LOCAL REGULATORY CHALLENGES***

OUR TEAM LEVERAGES OUR MUNICIPAL CONTACTS AND ASSETS AND HELPS INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANIES NAVIGATE THROUGH ANY REGULATORY ISSUES!  WE SPEAK THE DUAL LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS & GOVERNMENT THAT HELP YOU TRANSLATE YOUR VISION INTO REALITY!


ARTICLES OF POLITICAL INTEREST:
Early Voting in Michigan a ‘Significant Challenge’ for Clerks
Trump Rallies Supporters:  “If we win Michigan, we win the election.”
Michigan Cord Cutting Accelerates; Cable Customers Fall 13% in 2023
Tax Return Scam Sparks Warning from Michigan AG
Tlaib Endorses Protest Vote Against Biden in Michigan 


Senator Mat was happy to take part in one of the remembrance ceremonies last week at the new Common Ground East Lansing Resiliency Center. As we all remember the horrible events that occured at MSU one year ago, it is great to know that Common Ground and their Director of Victim Services, Jamie Ayers, is there to help!

For more on the new resiliency center click here.


Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest
THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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!


ARTICLES OF CANNABIS INTEREST:

Marijuana Dispensary Broken Into by Masked Men in Tekonsha Township

More Than A Dozen Michigan Marijuana Shops Faced Disciplinary Actions in January

Michigan’s Cannabis Industry Turns Five This Year:  What to Expect?

Hookah Shop Shut Down for Selling Marijuana to Minor’s, Police Say

Wisconsin GOP Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill Dead For Now


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 February 2024 Newsletter


EARLY PAYDOWN OF MPSERS DEBT FREES UP $670M FOR UPCOMING BUDGET
The anticipated 100 percent funding of retiree health care obligations for the state’s public school employees means the state can reduce its required annual contribution to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System by $670 million in the upcoming 2024-25 fiscal year.

This newly available $670 million gives Governor Gretchen Whitmer additional flexibility in the proposed 2024-25 fiscal year budget her administration will present to a joint meeting next Wednesday of the House Appropriations Committee  and the Senate Appropriations Committee .

Whitmer’s plans to reduce Michigan’s payments from $3.28 billion to $2.62 billion brought praise from supporters of traditional public schools and sharp criticism from Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton).

The governor in her State of the State speech called for speeding up the full phase-in of making all four-year-olds eligible for the Great Start Readiness Program by two years. Currently only children whose household income is up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level qualify. These additional funds will surely help cover the cost of speeding up the phase-in of that program to all four-year-olds.

"Since I took office, we have enacted five balanced, bipartisan budgets and paid down billions in debt while making strategic investments to save money for a rainy day," Whitmer said in a statement. "In this year’s budget, we will pay down more debt early, freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars for students now while shoring up the retirements of our educators."

The Public School Employees Retirement Act requires annual contributions for other post-employment benefits, like retiree health care, be no less than the prior year unless it is 100 percent funded. The state has determined that based on the most recent valuation of system assets in 2022, the retiree health care portion was 99 percent funded and is forecast to reach 100 percent.

Under the Public School Employees Retirement Act, employers are required to pay no more than 20.96 percent of payroll for the unfunded actuarial accrued liability in combined pension and other post-employment benefits. The Whitmer administration has calculated the amount necessary for the state to cover its payment will drop by $669.4 million.

Chandra Madafferi, president of the Michigan Education Association, praised the announcement.

"Governor Whitmer’s proposed budget pays down MPSERS liabilities early, securing the retirements of countless educators and freeing up more funds to invest in students," she said in a statement distributed by the governor’s communications office. "We are grateful for the governor’s commitment to Michigan’s students and the public school employees who serve them every day."

Peter Spadafore, executive director of the Michigan Alliance for Student Opportunity, a coalition of urban school districts, said the budget proposal will continue to pay down debt and free up money to support students, teachers and schools.

Republicans placed a big emphasis on paying down the unfunded liability in MPSERS in the 2010s.

Nesbitt called Whitmer’s proposal a "raid" on the fund that pays for teacher retirement benefits.

"The state has an obligation to taxpayers to use their dollars appropriately – that includes responsibly paying down our burdensome debts in order to free up future resources and ensure the prosperity of our state," he said.

The MPSERS pension unfunded liability remains high and is nowhere close to full funding. As of the 2021-22 fiscal year, it was 63.8 percent funded, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency.

What the Whitmer administration is proposing would not affect the pension component (subscribers please note: a Midday Update incorrectly stated both pension and retiree health care would be affected, but it is just retiree health care, or other post-employment benefits, where the Whitmer administration plans to propose reducing payments).

The unfunded liability on retiree health care fell from $27.6 billion in the 2009-10 fiscal year to $88.6 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Jase Bolger, policy advisor for the West Michigan Policy Forum, called the move risky.

"Using the governor’s apparent appreciation for ’80s song lyrics, you could say she’s playing ‘Footloose’ with the facts again, leading the state of Michigan into the ‘Danger Zone’ when it comes to paying off our debt," said Bolger, a former House speaker who was at the helm when the state began committing large sums to paying down the unfunded liability at the beginning of the former Governor Rick Snyder era.


RNC COMMITTEE FORMING ‘SOON’ TO DETERMINE MIGOP LEADER
The Republican National Committee is forming a committee to review the situation within the Michigan Republican Party and determine whom it will recognize as chair.

During the last several months, the MIGOP has been plagued with infighting. Kristina Karamo, who was elected chair last February, was ousted by a group of state committee members who conducted a meeting in December 2023.

Karamo has repeatedly asserted that meeting was invalid, and she and her allies were not properly removed. To prove her point, she held a state committee meeting in January where members voted to double down on her position as chair and to dispute the actions of the other group.

In the meantime, though, two separate factions of the MIGOP have been operating the organization as if they were in charge. The anti-Karamo group has selected former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra as chair and attempted to take legal action.

While the RNC has signaled Karamo was properly removed, it hasn’t taken a formal position. Its website currently doesn’t list anyone as chair of the MIGOP.

On Friday, it took another step toward finalizing its position.

A source speaking on background with direct knowledge of the situation said a committee will be formed "very soon," and will include members of the RNC’s Contests Committee along with two chair appointments.

This panel will hear from both sides before making a recommendation to the RNC. Along with determining who the Michigan chair should be, the panel is also reviewing leadership in the Virgin Islands.

Karamo has attacked RNC leadership as biased.


MANUFACTURED HOMES A PARTIAL SOLUTION TO HOUSING SHORTAGE, LEADER SAYS
Amid the push from Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other state leaders to increase the state’s supply of housing stock, the leader of the state’s association on manufactured housing is calling for the Legislature and Whitmer administration to include manufactured housing as part of the solution.

John Lindley, president and CEO of the Michigan Manufactured Housing, RV and Campground Association, said in an interview this week that manufactured housing leaders are looking for greater parity in programs operated by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and changes to zoning laws. He’s also warning against the Legislature passing bills that would deter new housing.

Local governments tend to want neighborhoods of houses selling for $300,000 and up, Lindley said. And he concurred the state needs more site-built homes.

"We need more of everything," he said. "We also need multifamily housing. We also need manufactured housing."

One concern Lindley voiced is the ineligibility of manufactured housing MSHDA programs like Michigan Downpayment Assistance, the Mortgage Credit Certificate program and the MI Home Loan program.

Lindley said he is putting "a lot of my energy right now" into trying to persuade the state to include manufactured housing in those programs.

MSHDA spokesperson Josh Pugh said Director Amy Hovey agrees "all kinds of different housing" are necessary to surpass the goals the organization has set to meet the housing demand.

The three programs Lindley mentioned are ineligible under federal tax rules because they are considered personal property, and MSHDA is limited in what financing assistance it can offer. The issue is the split in ownership of the lot and the land, Pugh said.

Lindley acknowledged federal rules constrain the state in some instances.

To Lindley’s larger point, Pugh said MSHDA is committed to innovation. He mentioned a program called MSHDA Mod that finances modular home builds. MSHDA also invested in the state’s first 3D-printed home that just went up for sale in Detroit, he said.

"We are all about innovation here at MSHDA," he said. "We need these kinds of creative solutions and different kinds of housing to be sure we’re meeting people’s needs."

Home prices in traditionally affordable Michigan have escalated rapidly in the past couple years.

Lindley noted the average price for a site-built home in Michigan in 2022 was $237,000.

"You can buy a brand new beautiful, manufactured home today, three bedrooms, two baths, that’s rolling off of the assembly line for less than $80,000, probably less than $70,000, today," he said.

Lindley said he recently looked at a listing in Mason, southeast of Lansing, for a 1,400 square foot manufactured home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms for $55,000.

"Go on MLS for any of the surrounding communities and find me a home that’s for sale for $55,000," he said.

Something needs to be done about zoning laws in Michigan, Lindley said, though he cautioned against a broad-brush answer.

"Until all housing options are viewed as a solution and until the not in my backyard, the NIMBY-ism that local units of government and residents is met head on, we’re going to see some of the discriminatory zoning is going to continue to exist," he said.

Particularly concerning when it comes to the overall discussion about housing, not just manufactured housing, are what Lindley called the "dozens of antidevelopment proposals" circulating in the Legislature, like rent controls and tax increases.

He said he’s tracking 55 bills currently.

"As an organization, we’re opposed to 49 of them. That’s not the message that those we want to build baby build should be hearing from those in the state Capitol," he said.


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OUR TEAM LEVERAGES OUR MUNICIPAL CONTACTS AND ASSETS AND HELPS INDIVIDUALS AND COMPANIES NAVIGATE THROUGH ANY REGULATORY ISSUES!  WE SPEAK THE DUAL LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS & GOVERNMENT THAT HELP YOU TRANSLATE YOUR VISION INTO REALITY!


ARTICLES OF POLITICAL INTEREST:

Enrollment Dropping, Covid Relief Over. Will More Michigan Schools Close?

Moving Truck Data Again Ranks Michigan As Among Worst States For Migration

Biden Meets With UAW, Black Faith Leaders During Michigan Visit

Redistricting Commission Seeks Input From Those Impacted By Redraw

Cash Strapped Michigan Republicans Get $120K Boost From Trump, Other Presidential Hopefuls


Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest

THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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!


ARTICLES OF CANNABIS INTEREST:

Michigan Marijuana Company Buys 11 Stores From In State Competitor

Suburbanites Are Fighting Commercial Developments–And Sometimes Winning

New Music Venue In West Michigan To Offer Cannabis & Alcohol

Local Dispensaries Reminded About Proper Disposal After Weed Taken By Dumpster Divers

Is Government Finally Abandoning Its ‘Flat Earth’ Marijuana Policies?


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 -January 2024 Newsletter


HOEKSTRA NAMED NEW CHAIR OF ANTI-KARAMO MICHIGAN GOP FACTION
The faction of the Michigan Republican Party (MRP) State Committee that voted today to remove Kristina KARAMO from the chairmanship on Jan. 6 has elected former Congressman and U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands Pete HOEKSTRA to lead the party.

Since Karamo’s removal vote, her Co-Chair Malinda PEGO was acting as interim chair and scheduled today’s vote.

Karamo holds that her removal vote and any business not conducted by her since then has not been legitimate.

Hoekstra was elected in the second round of run-off voting, getting 50 votes to Lena Epstein’s 22.

Vance Patrick, the chair of the Oakland County Republican Party didn’t make it to the second round of voting. He announced during the second round that he received a call from Mar-a-Lago endorsing Hoekstra.

During last year’s election in which Karamo took over as chair, Epstein had also run but later endorsed Karamo after the first round of voting. 

The divergent faction, including Pego and administrative vice chair Ali Hossein, coalitions vice chair Hassan Nehme, Anne Delisle, Jessica Barefield, Norm Shinkle and Oakland County businessman Warren Carpenter are named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Karamo to recognize their vote to remove her on Jan. 6 in Commerce Township. 

That used proxies to establish a quorum, but only state committee members could vote on issues such as the bylaw amendment that lowered the required number of votes to remove an officer from 75% of the whole committee (regardless of attendance at that meeting) to 60% of those present.

Karamo’s administration also issued three cease and desist letters this week to various state committee and district committee members: Anne Delisle, Matt Deperno, JD Glaser, Dan Lawless, Bree Moeggenberg, Pego, Tim Ross and Andy Sebolt, though Sabot’s name was spelled incorrectly.

Eighty-eight percent of the state committee members that were present voted to remove Karamo. 

The following Saturday, Karamo put several issues up for a vote at her own meeting: her removal, which failed; Pego’s removal, which passed; and the removal of several state committee members, which passed. 

On Thursday, Karamo’s faction said they were issuing cease and desist letters to the three candidates and members of the party that voted on Jan. 6 to remove her.

Bree Moeggenberg, Second Congressional District state committee member, said she still has not received the letter, nor a formal notice that she had been removed from the state committee. She added that the vote to remove her on Jan. 13 didn’t follow bylaws. 

The candidate forum did not conduct any official business of the MRP. State committee members were invited and a list of questions were given to candidates and they gave their answers under a time constraint of a few minutes each. The forum lasted just under an hour and a half, Moeggenberg said.

At a First Congressional District meeting Thursday night, Chair Sue Allor was removed, which would potentially impact the appointment of proxies for the first district since Article III, Section I of the party laws state that a member’s district chairman may select a registered voter from that district as a proxy in voting.

Moeggenberg said Allor’s removal will be disputed.

On Karamo’s Friday Lunch with Chair Karamo podcast, she questioned why (If the faction that allegedly removed her was so confident that they removed her, hadn’t legal paperwork to force her to hand the keys of the party over been filed?) That lawsuit came later in the day (see related story).

It’s a reasonable assessment to say when one faction conducts business they say is in accordance with the bylaws, the other faction argues that it is illegitimate. 

BENSON SOUNDING INCREASINGLY INTERESTED IN ’26 GOVERNOR BID
It’s widely anticipated Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson will run for governor in 2026, and it sounds like a job she would like to have.

Benson, appearing on this week’s episode of "MichMash," a podcast co-hosted by Gongwer News Service and WDET Detroit Public Radio, was asked about her plans once her term as secretary of state expires after 2026. Term limits prevent both Benson and Governor Gretchen Whitmer from seeking reelection to their current positions.

Benson said it’s hard to think about 2026 when she’s in the middle over overseeing the 2024 election with the presidential primary in five weeks, the statewide primary in August and general election in November – all with taking place for the first time with new election rules allowing for early voting and other access changes. And she said she loves her job.

But she spoke of successes at the Department of State and said she would like to bring those kinds of changes to all of state government.

"We have completely transformed this agency and made it one that touches every single citizen and resident in this state and ensures they’re getting the type of customer service and efficient government services they deserve," she said. "My vision for state government is that that is what we should be seeing across the board, in DHHS, in the delivery of unemployment benefits and so many different ways, helping businesses get started. Government should work well, it should be efficient and then it should get out of the way."

Benson said the Department of State has embodied that way of thinking. She said she has had constituents approach her across the state, complimenting the ease of renewing tabs or their driver’s license.

"That’s what we’ve demonstrated is possible with the changes we’ve made in our department and so that’s certainly on my mind as we look to how can I continue to serve and what can I continue to help improve for our state," she said. "I love the idea of continuing to do that more throughout our state and throughout all of state government."

A wide array of Democrats are likely considering the governor’s race in 2026, among them Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist.

Looking ahead to the February 27 presidential primary, Benson said she has no issues with the election mechanics needed with the earlier primary, which was moved up by two weeks.

"It’s the Legislature’s prerogative to set the date," she said. "Our job as election administrators is to build the infrastructure to make it happen. And so, we looked at it, other than wanting clarity as to what the date was going to be, because that’s also what we have to provide for voters, my audience are the voters in this state. And so my goal is to give them as much clarity as I can about how to cast their vote and when to do it."

The big change is the presidential primary will mark the first statewide election with nine days of early voting as required under Proposal 2022-2, Benson said.

"The date of the election, frankly, is the least of our worries," she said. "The bigger challenges are making sure we are doing everything our clerks need and our voters need to implement all of these new election laws as well as the older ones like no-reason absentee voting and election day registration smoothly."

Another feature of Proposal 2022-2 is the requirement for the state to prepay for postage so when voters return an absentee ballot, they do not need to pay for a stamp.

Benson said the state has set up prepaid accounts with the U.S. Postal Service so every city and township clerk’s office just needs to let the postal service know how many stamps are needed and then the postal service charges that cost to the state.

Benson acknowledged having three statewide elections this year plus two special legislative elections is a challenge for election administrators.

"Challenge is our middle name in the election industry. We embrace these challenges," she said. "We define ourselves by our ability to meet these challenges."

REPORT: HOUSING, INFRASTRUCTURE, WORKFORCE KEY TO REVIVING RURAL MICHIGAN
For rural Michigan to reverse a long-term trend of decline and instead grow and thrive, affordable housing, quality infrastructure and an enlarged and diverse workforce are among the region’s most critical needs, a new report showed.

Improving resident health and wellbeing, improvements in the delivery of services and enhancing regional economic development efforts were also highlighted in the findings of a Michigan Roadmap to Rural Prosperity report issued Friday by the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Rural Prosperity.

Data in the report was gathered from meetings across the state in 2022, a 2023 survey with feedback from all 83 counties in the state as well as roundtables and discussions between office staff and stakeholders.

"Rural communities have experienced sustained and gradual shifts in their populations and economies for decades," the report stated. "Rural Michigan generally lacks a sustainable or balanced population – a population that is diverse in age, experience, and backgrounds – making it more challenging to meet current and evolving needs of rural residents, businesses and communities."

It was pointed out that many of the challenges facing rural Michigan are not that different than those facing urban areas. However, their challenges involve smaller populations spread throughout much larger spaces.

"Solutions must account for those geographic, economic, and demographic realities as well as the specific assets and resources available – or not available – to different communities and regions," the report stated.

Demographic challenges are significant in rural areas, with those age 65 and older being the largest part of the population, with racial and ethnic diversity also being lacking as more than 80 percent of rural county residents are white.

Other barriers in rural areas include low incomes and poverty as well as lower rates of degree achievement at the college level. It was found that in 2021, more than 45 percent of working residents’ earnings were too low to afford the minimal cost of household necessities in 24 Michigan counties. All 24 counties, except for Wayne County, were rural counties. Rates of college degree attainment among rural residents are lower than urban residents.

Survey results from those working in rural areas showed housing is the biggest challenge in their communities over the next 10 years. The second largest challenge among those surveyed was the ability to attract a larger working-age population to their communities.

Local leaders in rural areas told the Office of Rural Prosperity of concerns over their ability to deliver services and plan for projects that can help preserve and grow their communities.

To address the workforce shortage, it will take efforts to expand the workforce pool in multiple sectors including healthcare, construction trades, education, service workers and in public service.

"These occupations are critical lynchpins in any thriving rural economy and rapid, targeted talent attraction and development strategies are needed to address these shortages," the report stated.

Lowering barriers for joining the rural Michigan workforce will be needed, including funding rural K-12 education, expanding child care opportunities as well as spending more on rural residency programs. Increased collaboration between higher education institutions and employers and boosting regional planning efforts to help schools, employers and workforce development partners is also needed, the report said.

In addressing health and economic wellbeing, the report listed several items to consider.

Prioritizing the growth of the workforce connected to provide quality healthcare and education services, spending on improving housing opportunities and the expansion of high-speed internet access in rural areas was recommended.

Working to improve access to child care services was recommended, as was strengthening the ability for organizations to provide community services including behavioral health, emergency response and food access.

Efforts to continue statewide efforts to increase school funding for rural districts was recommended along with prioritizing post-secondary training opportunities.

To address the capacity for rural communities to deliver services, the report stated one option is to make policy changes to increase or sustain revenue and more efficiently distribute resources for local governments and counties.

Recommendations also included the development of grant program requirements that accommodate the realities on the ground in rural areas, pushing for additional technical assistance for planning and building in rural communities and pushing for private sector and philanthropist matching of funds in rural areas for projects.

Pushing for spending on rural housing, the report stated, is critical. Access to additional funding for programs including for regional housing partnerships and gap financing are necessary, as is the providing of technical assistance to communities and the attraction of housing developers to rural areas.

Infrastructure improvements can be attained through funding for high-speed internet and supporting local efforts to develop high-speed internet plans. Strengthening state and local coordination of transportation and infrastructure planning is also important, the report stated.

For regional economic development, recommendations included funding for the development of areas such as commercial corridors, workforce development, revitalization efforts and supports for agricultural or small business ownership.


DCD CELEBRATES THE HONOR RESIDENCY PROGRAM!!

Last Friday Senator Mat Dunaskiss and Jake German were in attendance for the celebration of Honor Health’s new Residency Program.  Mat, Jake, and the DCD Team were instrumental in securing $3 million dollars in the State budget for this new pilot program, which will train and graduate six new residents each and every year who are committed to working and practicing right here in Oakland County.

We were happy to have Madiha Tariq from Oakland County, Representatives Brenda Carter and Donni Steele and Senators Rosemary Bayer and Sylvia Santana in attendance at the ceremony.  Their hard work made all of this possible!


ARTICLES OF POLITICAL INTEREST:

Study: ‘Informal Quota’ Fuels Racial Disparity of Michigan State Police Stops

State Board OKs Petition to Repeal Michigan Renewable Energy Siting Law

Detroit Area Redistricting Efforts Continues: Five Things To Know

$5,000 Caregiver Tax Credit Proposal Could Help Michigan Seniors, Parents

Michigan Republicans Plan March 2 Presidential Caucus In Detroit


Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest

THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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!


ARTICLES OF CANNABIS INTEREST:

Michigan Marijuana Sales Surpass $3 Billion in 2023

Judge Tosses Lawsuit Stemming From Michigan’s Largest Ever Marijuana Recall

MI Chamber of Commerce Urges Congress to Pass Marijuana Banking Bill Amidst Retail Break-Ins

Pleasantrees Cannabis Company Smack Talks Tampa Bay with Lions Billboard

What Biden’s Sweeping Pardons for Federal Marijuana Use Convictions Mean for 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-January 2024 Newsletter


WHITMER TO GIVE 6TH STATE OF THE STATE JANUARY 24TH
Gov. Gretchen WHITMER announced last week that she would deliver her sixth State of the State address at 7 p.m. Jan. 24 in front of a joint session of the House and the Senate. 

The 2024 State of the State would include her comments on what was done by the first Democratic-led Legislature. She will also be talking about education and her Michigan Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) department, her continued push for affordable housing expansion, protection of seniors and how to boost the economy. 

“After one of the most successful years in our state’s history, we’ve delivered on our promises to Michiganders, ranging from record tax cuts for families and free school meals for students to safer communities and more personal freedoms under the law,” Whitmer said. 

Whitmer previously mentioned she would be sharing her expectations for what could be done with a 54-54 split in the House, and what legislation she would like to see worked on while the special election was rolled out. 

“I look forward to sharing my vision for how we continue getting things done so everyone can build a brighter future in Michigan,” Whitmer said. 

She also didn’t mention the Growing Michigan Together Council recommendations that she put together to help inform her policy decisions on how to attract more people to Michigan. 

“Michigan’s story can be seen in our people’s stories,” Whitmer said. “We are a state of humble, hardworking people with simple dreams for themselves and their families.” 

GROUP FILES BALLOT INITITAIVE TO RETURN SITING OF SOLAR ENERGY TO LOCALS
A ballot initiative seeking to return siting of large-scale wind and solar energy projects to local governments was submitted Friday to the Bureau of Elections.

Citizens for Local Choice are looking to repeal a portion of Public Act 233 of 2023 that moved siting authority to the Public Service Commission . In a statement Wednesday, Norm Stephens, Citizens for Local Choice committee member, said the groups refuses to "sit on the sidelines as local control gets stripped from our communities."

The group provided this summary to the Bureau of Elections:

"A proposed initiated law to allow local units of government to retain authority to regulate the development of solar, wind, or energy storage facilities in their jurisdictions by repealing laws that mandate statewide standards for energy facilities and permit the Michigan Public Service Commission  to override local energy facility development decisions. If enacted, this proposal will allow local units of government to continue to determine their own standards regarding setback distance, structure height, and the amount of light and sound emitted by energy facilities, and to exercise final authority over the construction of energy facilities within their jurisdictions."

The group needs to collect at least 356,958 valid signatures. To be placed on the November 2024 ballot, they will need to collect the signatures by May 29.

The Board of State Canvassers  posted a notice Friday for a January 19, 2024, meeting at 10 a.m. An agenda was not immediately posted.

NCSL FORECASTS TRENDING LEGISLATIVE TOPICS FOR 2024
The National Conference of State Legislatures is anticipating lawmakers across the country will spend much of 2024 debating bills related to a host of topics like workforce, families, justice, artificial intelligence, taxes and more.

That is according to its recently issued forecast of 12 overarching issues expected to trend this year based on recent proposals considered or enacted by states in 2023, as well as new federal laws and investments, advancing technologies and the global landscape.

For example, last year, state legislators introduced more than 23,000 bills on health policy, not including resolutions and budget bills.

"Health policy will continue to be a focus in legislatures in 2024 as states grapple with health workforce shortages and increased behavioral health challenges," NCSL wrote. "Perennial topics such as Medicaid, which takes about 30 percent of state budgets will continue across the country.

The conference expects lawmakers to take a look at a number of health-related issues including expanding behavioral health care, decriminalizing fentanyl test strips and covering community health workers and doulas under Medicaid. Doulas are covered by Michigan’s Medicaid program.

States may also consider adding innovative services to Medicaid coverage such as prescription digital therapeutics and biomarker testing.

Given initial federal funding has run out for the federally mandated 988 service, states will also likely be discussing how to permanently fund the mental health help line.

In another category, NCSL projects several states will discuss workforce issues specific to the military and veteran community. This could come in the form of licensure compacts, other licensure expansion programs, support for military installations and expanded benefits for National Guard members.

Bills focusing on cleaner, on-demand energy are also on the horizon, NCSL experts said, particularly given the rise of extreme weather events that have highlighted the need for reliable and resilient grids and federal funding opportunities that can accelerate electric vehicle infrastructure programs.

Along those same lines, NCSL predicts continued discussions of gas tax alternatives.

One option is taxing electricity consumed at public EV charging stations as has been done in Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Utah.

Another is implementing road usage charges that require drivers to pay based on miles driven instead of gallons of fuel consumed, which has been implemented in Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Virginia.

Also trending in on-the-road topics, according NCSL, is a crackdown on impaired driving, particularly as states continue legalize cannabis.

NCSL noted that Alabama and Indiana have permanent oral fluid roadside screening programs while Michigan and Minnesota have authorized pilot programs.

The forecast also predicts that more states will consider legislation requiring impaired drivers convicted of vehicular homicide to pay child support for victims’ surviving children, a law that has already been enacted in Tennessee, Kentucky, Maine and Texas.

State-level changes to the justice system could be coming, NCSL said.

"From battling the fentanyl crisis to dealing with ongoing catalytic converter thefts, lawmakers continue to rethink criminal justice policy," it wrote. "Legislatures are focusing resources on community-oriented approaches that prioritize public safety and prevent people from becoming more deeply involved with the justice system."

NCSL said states may also consider mandating participation in the National Decertification Index, the role of money in the pretrial process, expanding deflection programs and sealing criminal records to ease reentry.

Artificial intelligence is likely to be a topic, NCSL said, given its potential implications on elections and other state operations.

Some states have already prohibited the use of AI to influence elections by generating fake content using candidates’ images and voices, while others have mandated disclosures on political communications using AI-generated content. Michigan has required disclosures.

"In 2024, more states may enact these or other as-yet unimaginable AI policies," NCSL wrote.

Meanwhile, 15 states and Puerto Rico have already adopted resolutions or enacted legislation creating task forces or commissions to study and inventory state government use of AI.

"The technology raises issues of accuracy and bias in generated educational content, the use of disinformation and misinformation, copyright and intellectual property infringement, and the vulnerability of employment and financial services, to name but a few," it wrote. "Few technologies have been as widely or quickly adopted as generative AI without a full understanding of the risks."

Some of NCSL’s other trending topics include:

  • Improvements to literacy and math.
  • Supporting educators.
  • Easing licensure requirements.
  • Requiring pay transparency.
  • Establishing portable benefit programs.
  • Ensuring consumer data privacy.
  • Lowering taxes.
  • Sorting out the tax implications of remote work.
  • Making courts more child friendly.
  • Increasing affordable housing.
  • Reducing food insecurity.
  • Increasing access to child care.
  • Regulating "forever chemicals."
  • Protecting wetlands

ARTICLES OF POLITICAL INTEREST:

Michigan Republicans Oust Karamo. Court Battles Next?

Detroit Legislative Districts Could Be Redrawn By Spring, Court Suggests

Detroit Agency Launches Mobile Mental Health Unit. Can It Slow a Revolving Door?

New Year, New Drama: Your Guide to Michigan Politics

Cybersecurity: Man Charged With Widescale Fraud of Meijer mPerks Accounts


Marijuana News, Updates, & Articles of Interest

THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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!


ARTICLES OF CANNABIS INTEREST:

Marijuana Shop Closed and Didn’t Pay It’s Weed Bill, Lawsuit Claims. It’s Not The First.

The Risk of Buying Weed Along the Michigan-Wisconsin Border

CRA Announces New Social Equity Grant Program

7 Predictions For the Cannabis Industry in 2024

Canada Destroyed 3.7 Million Pounds of Unsold, Unpackaged Cannabis Since 2018


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-December 2023 Newsletter


BIG DTE HIKE MEANS $6.51 MORE MONTHLY!
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."

FUNDING GAPS, INFRASTRUCTURE AMONG POPULATION GROWTH NEXT STEPS
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.

FILLING BUS DRIVER OPENINGS SLOWED BY DRUG TESTING
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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THE DCD MARIJUANA TEAM:  YOUR COMPETITIVE EDGE!

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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