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 email@example.com to see how you can be an advocate today!
In September 2018, Michigan legislators passed two initiatives that put employers on the edge of their seat. Suddenly, there were two new mandates for job providers to grapple with. One, an increase to the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour that also removed the tip earner wage. The second, a mandate for all employers to provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave to all employees – full-time, part-time, interns, etc.
A series of significant changes to both proposals were enacted in December during the lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature. The Chamber partners in the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance strongly urged lawmakers to consider a series of amendments that were more palatable for small business owners in rural Michigan. The Chamber also supported the efforts of statewide business organizations like the Michigan Chamber and SBAM in making general changes that were good for businesses and employers across the state.
Those efforts were successful, and below is a recap and information on the changes and timelines that employers should know.
Paid Sick Leave Mandate
Need To Know: Read the Analysis
Legislators approved massive changes to the very punitive initiative language that was passed in September, including most of the Chamber Alliance’s suggested changes. Perhaps the most significant change was amending the mandate for all employers and going instead with companies employing over 50 people – meaning all small businesses and employers less than 50 will no longer be subject to the mandate.
Employment attorney Janis Adams (a board member of the Traverse City Area Chamber) published an informative article in the January edition of the Traverse City Business News.
The Michigan Chamber also released a FAQ on the new paid sick leave law. Click here to Read FAQ.
Need To Know: Read the Analysis
The legislature slowed the increase from $10.00 to $9.45 per hour in 2019, increasing incrementally to $12.05 per hour by 2030. Lawmakers also reinstated the special wage for tip earners (up to $4.58 by 2030) that restaurant owners and restaurant service workers alike were clamoring for. They believed that getting rid of the special wage would have a chilling effect on the amount of tips servers would bring in from restaurant patrons. Most of the time, when tips are included, servers make well above even the proposed $15 minimum wage.
What Does The Future Hold?
The saga may not be over, however. In January, organizers announced they would relaunch the ballot initiatives with the goal of putting them on the 2020 statewide ballot. Organizers believe new Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will veto any future attempts at the legislature to amend the initiative language should the ballot proposal become law. While successful in these attempts to soften the blow for northern Michigan employers, this is a topic the Alliance will continue to follow.
The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is having an impact on more than a few priorities
during the month of December’s legislative session, often referred to as “Lame Duck” session.
Earned Sick Time Amendments (Amend & Support) (SB 1175)
Update: 12/17/18 – SIGNED BY GOV. SNYDER. The House (H-4) version passed on 12/4, was concurred by the Senate, and signed by the Governor. The changes include most of the amendments recommended by the Chamber Alliance. More to come on this as proponents of the initiated law have vowed to put the issue on the ballot again in 2020. If so, they are confident Governor-elect Whitmer would not sign amendments that go as far as those in SB 1175.
Minimum Wage Amendments (Amend & Support) (SB 1171)
Update: 12/17/18 – SIGNED BY GOV. SNYDER. Minimum wage amendments passed alongside the amendments to the Earned Sick Time Act, SB 1175. Michigan will still see the minimum wage rise to $12 over time, but the tip credit beloved by restaurant service workers was restored.
Salt Bill (Oppose) (SB 363)
Update: 12/21/18 – This bill, which could threaten dock and trucking jobs in northern Michigan, officially died. It is likely we will see it again next session.
Large Special events fund (Amend) (SB 1065)
Update: 12/21/18 – While SB 1065 did not advance, $1.5 million dollars was included in the budget supplemental passed early morning on 12/21 for Large Special Events. It is likely this funding gets used up for large Detroit events only.
Small Cell/5G wireless bill (Support) (SB 637)
Update: 12/14/18 -SIGNED BY GOV. SNYDER.
Brownfield Funding – Tipping Fees (SB 943)
Update: 12/21/18 -While this bill and a tipping fee increase was scrapped, the legislature passed other legislation to shift new sales tax coming in from online sales to environmental clean up projects.
CVB Bills (SBs 703-707)
Update: 12/20/18 – The package was passed overwhelmingly by the House and now goes to Snyder’s desk.
Line 5 Tunnel (SB 1197)
Update: 12/12/18 – (Gov. Snyder signed SB 1197 on 12/12). The House made quick work of this legislation in an afternoon. They took it up and passed it out of committee, passed it on the floor, sent it to the Senate who concurred with changes, and then sent it on to Governor Snyder who likely to sign it immediately. SB 1197 authorizes a utility tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac that would house Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, among other potential future utility uses. The tunnel deal with Enbridge and this legislation has been Governor Snyder’s number 1 priority in Lame Duck.
Stay tuned for more information and updates on these priorities.