The 2017-2018 legislative session wrapped up in torrid, historic fashion. Over 400 bills, a state record, were passed and signed into law by the time the Lame Duck session concluded and the 2017-18 Legislature came to a close on December 31st.
The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance had a beefed-up presence during the 2018 Lame Duck session, with more staff time in Lansing, and the addition of Alliance lobbying partner Acuitas, LLC. “The presence in Lansing has an impact,” said Kent Wood, the Alliance’s Director of Government Relations. “It is so important when engaging in and leading on issues to have a presence in Lansing; to be seen. We spent more hours in Lansing during Lame Duck this year than ever before, and the results were evident.”
The increased presence impacted issues such as the amendments and passage of key business-friendly changes to the Paid Sick Leave Mandate, stopping a bill to increase road salt prices and cost regional trucking and dock jobs, and passing legislation to strengthen the impact and transparency for CVBs in the region. Chamber efforts also were important in bringing $20 million for rural broadband grants, and $10 million for a regional sports commission to infuse sports and recreation infrastructure in the northern lower and upper peninsula.
Alliance advocacy over the last two years also led to significant changes in the Transformational Brownfield program legislation for small and rural communities. The legislation as originally introduced would not have been very usable in smaller communities because the job thresholds were too high. Alliance intervention and continued support led to pro-rural changes.
Alliance efforts over the past year also led to adding a rural business-centric voice and tone to ongoing issues. Alliance partners formally met with and engaged MSHDA leadership during the Agency’s Qualified Allocation Plan process, which determines the structure and rules for state housing incentives on a bi-annual basis. The Alliance did not get everything it asked for, but made progress and changing the tone of MSHDA leadership, and made progress on smaller requirement changes.
Our testimony and intervention also slowed down the direction of legislation to create a large special events fund that would have catered to large metro areas. This will allow the region to be in a better place to work with lawmakers on changes that will allow rural areas to compete for funding to help attract new events to the region, especially in the slower shoulder seasons and winter months.
There was a lot for northern Michigan business advocates to be proud of in 2018, but also much to improve in the 2019-2020 session. We hope you will contact the Alliance’s Government Relations Director at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can be an advocate today!