Long Week of Budget Passage Looms
As the Legislature approaches its end-of-the-month deadline to pass a budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year, this week is set to be busy.

The House plans to meet at 10 a.m. next week on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tentative session days have been added for Thursday and Friday, according to an email sent out to members and staff on Friday that was shared with Gongwer News Service. If session is held on Thursday and Friday, it also will start at 10 a.m.

Originally, the chamber wasn’t scheduled to meet on Thursday or Friday of next week. Fridays are not a usual session day.

There isn’t an expectation that work will go past Wednesday, though, said Amber McCann, press secretary for House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit).

"We’re doing it just because we felt it was better to be posted and prepared," McCann said.

Budget bills won’t be the only focus. The House will continue to advance policy bills next week, as several bills were put on second reading Thursday of this week, McCann said.

Long days are expected for the House on Tuesday and Wednesday, with conference committee work expected to take place on Tuesday.

By statute, the Legislature is required to pass a budget by June 30, although there are no penalties for failing to do so.

The Senate calendar posted to its website lists its normal 10 a.m. session for Tuesday through Thursday.

Whether the Senate will need all three session days next week to complete its budget work and any policy bills it may choose to move through the chamber was not clear as of Friday.

Jeremy Frazee, spokesperson for Senate Appropriations Committee  Chair Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), said in a Friday email the chair had "no updated comment" on next week’s schedule for budget passage or whether it will be passed through individual budget bills or large omnibus bills for education and other agencies as has been the practice in recent years.

Bills To Use Cameras To Cut Speeding In Work Zones Pass House
Construction zone speed limits would be enforced by traffic cameras under legislation passed by the House last Thursday.

The House approved HB 4132 and HB 4133 , which would allow the Department of State Police and the Department of Transportation to install and use automated speed enforcement systems in work zones on highways or streets under MDOT’s jurisdiction. The bill also would create a unit within the Department of State Police to oversee the use of the system and create the Work Zone Safety Fund, which would be used to support the program. HB 4133 would make complementary changes to the Revised Judicature Act.

Both bills passed with bipartisan support. HB 4132, sponsored by Rep. Will Snyder (D-Muskegon), passed 67-42, and HB 4133, sponsored by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden), passed 68-41.

The House was expected to vote on the legislation in early May, but members of the Democratic caucus had concerns about the policy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan opposed the legislation because of concerns about how data would be stored.

Those concerns were addressed prior to the bills’ passing. Floor amendments were also approved for HB 4132 to clarify that a scanning lidar system would be used to track speeds and that the system would not be used in areas where work zones are separated from traffic by barriers.

The Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association praised lawmakers for passing the bills.

"We appreciate the House taking action on this commonsense bipartisan legislation that would ensure our construction workers are protected while they’re hard at work fixing Michigan’s roads. Construction sites are dangerous places, especially when working on the side of highways with traffic moving at high rates of speed and distracted driving," a statement from the association said. "By adding automated speed cameras to construction zones, we can help protect our construction workers by strictly enforcing work zone speed limits."

Last year, there were 4,393 work zone crashes that resulted in 16 fatalities and 862 injuries, according to the association, which urged the Senate to act quickly.

"MITA works tirelessly to make sure the safety of our work zones is a top priority, and this legislation is a part of that effort," the statement said. "Let’s put the lives and safety of our construction workers first and make sure they are protected while on the job site."

Senate Panel Holds First Hearing On Dems’ Renewable Energy Package
Testimony was largely positive last Thursday for Democratic bills that would phase out fossil fuels as an energy source in the state within 15 years, with some comments hinting at concerns over the affect the legislation could have on utilities, energy sector employees and municipalities.

Members of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee took testimony only on the seven-bill package which includes provisions for phasing out the use of coal-fired power plants in the state for energy production by 2030 and to create a 100 percent renewable energy standard by 2035.

Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), one of the bill sponsors, said the legislation would build on the state’s 2008 and 2016 state energy laws, which he said had some strong policies contained within them.

"The bills that you have in front of you … is not a rewrite of our energy policy," Singh said. "We’re just wanting to put some pieces together that would extend and help support the Public Service Commission  as they meet the governor’s goals from the climate plan … but also help our utilities meet their carbon neutrality plans." Singh said.

Since the introduction of the bills in April, Singh said he has had more than 40 meetings in his office with environmental groups, municipal utilities, labor groups and other stakeholders.

In the coming months he said he would expect potential changes based on feedback and testimony from Thursday’s hearing.

The proposed changes would be a significant increase over the requirements outlined in the state’s 2016 energy law, in which electricity providers were required to produce 15 percent of their energy through renewable energy sources by the end of 2021.

Sen. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Township) has two bills within the package. The first (SB 272 ) would allow the Public Service Commission  to consider climate, health, equity and affordability when it is considering Integrated Resource Plans submitted by utilities. The other (SB 274 ) would seek to reduce emissions from buildings by 17 percent by 2030 and to develop a Michigan Construction Decarbonization Strategic Plan.

"This is practical legislation in which everyone wins," Shink said. "I am committed to working with the governor, state departments and industry stakeholders along with my colleagues to ensure that this package is representative of the need of our great state as we navigate climate change."

Other policies in the bills include setting a 100 percent renewable energy standard for 2035 (SB 271 ), requiring an electric provider to achieve a yearly energy waste reduction standard of 2 percent (SB 273 ), reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels by 25 percent by the end of 2035 (SB 275 ), phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2030 (SB 276 ) and allowing farmers to rent their land for use in producing solar energy while being able to preserve farmland enrolled under the Farmland Preservation Program (SB 277 ).

The Senate legislation comes as DTE Energy Company and Consumers Energy Company in recent years have made multiple announcements of plans to phase out its coal-fired power plants and produce their electricity through renewables.

Consumers announced a goal of ending its use of coal by 2025. DTE has announced it is seeking to phase out its coal plants by 2035. Consumers has set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2040 and DTE by 2050.

Officials with both utilities testified Thursday, saying they are supportive of the transition away from fossil fuels and in working with members.

Utility officials also urged lawmakers to find a broad bipartisan consensus on the final policy, adding that the state’s existing policies already are strong and should be weighed before making significant changes.

"The 2016 energy law is working really well," Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president of sustainability and external affairs for Consumers, said. "It’s working to achieve clean energy goals. It’s worth listening to key stakeholders while balancing affordability and reliability, and so we agree with Senator Singh that a wholesale rewrite of the energy law is not necessary at this time."

Hofmeister did not get into specifics but said Consumers does have some concerns with the bill package as to how they balance affordability, adaptability and reliability. He added the utility stands ready for providing more details in future meetings with members and working to improve the bills.

Andy Coulouris, vice president of corporate and government affairs with DTE, said climate change is "a defining issue of our time."

"Public policy has played an important role in allowing DTE to continue to accelerate its journey to net zero," Coulouris said. "Public policy, when it helps with affordability and provides some flexibility in achieving net zero is helpful."

One key to reaching carbon neutrality is being technology-neutral, which would allow utilities flexibility to achieve their goals. He said there also needs to be consensus on how to get there.

Conservation groups were also on board with the plan, saying Michigan needs to take advantage of the billions in federal funding available for renewable energy projects to aid the transition.

"We need energy laws that move Michigan forward into this century," said Tim Minotas, with the Sierra Club of Michigan. "We no longer need to import fossil fuels from out of state when we can be investing in wind, solar and storage technologies that will allow us to be self-sufficient and to keep the costs down."

He said utilities can do more, pointing out that the 15 percent goal was surpassed years ago.

"There is a very narrow path of mitigating the impacts of climate change, and that path is rapidly closing," Minotas said. "We are out of time, and we must act now, and as the Great Lakes State, we have a special responsibility to do that."

Ryan Sebolt, director of legislative affairs for the Michigan AFL-CIO, said the changes to energy standards are coming regardless of passage of the bills.

"These bills as written would impact thousands if not tens of thousands of jobs currently being done in Michigan," Sebolt said.

Sebolt expressed two key concerns he said will need to be addressed: the effects of the changes on the workforce and the potential for reduced tax revenues to local governments.

"All green energy jobs that are created should be good quality union jobs that pay workers a living wage," Sebolt said. "It does not serve our state to eliminate good quality jobs and replace them with poverty level or low-wage jobs."

Committee Chair Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) told reporters he expects there to be additional hearings and far more input from stakeholders which he said could factor into potential changes to the proposals.

"There’s still a lot of work to do and we’re going to do that very deliberately and see what the best product is that we can craft when we would probably come back in the fall," McCann said.

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Senator Mat Dunaskiss and Jake German were happy to host an intimate breakfast gathering for their clients to meet one-on-one with Congresswoman Lisa McClain to discuss concerns directly with her and members of her staff.

Left: Senator Mat was able to catch up with his long time friend, the Honorable Lisa L. Asadoorian at a recent event.
Right: Jake German attended a fundraiser for State Representative Dale Zorn in Tipton, Michigan at the home of Anthony Gusumano with Rocky and Amalia Raczowski.


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