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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Senate also has bills from the House awaiting action.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan Association of Counties Executive Director Steve Currie agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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