New technology requirements and sales tax on gas déjà vu

In this issue:

  • Summer-long legislative calendar released
  • Senate committee reports e-prescribing, telepharmacy bills
  • Legislature approves delayed 9-1-1 technology requirement
  • Governor signs ban on sales to e-cigarettes/vapor products to minors
  • Déjà vu: legislature talks removing sales tax on gas

Summer-long legislative calendar released

It’s going to be a long summer in Lansing. The House and Senate released updated session calendars last week that includes session days every single week through the first week in November. Many of these weeks are tentative and could be canceled but are preparation for a worst-case scenario as legislators continue work on the budget (that must be completed by Sept. 30), grapple with road funding, and wait to see if they’ll have to redraw legislative district boundaries by Aug. 1 (depending on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules in similar cases expected to be decided by the end of June).

What does that mean for retail? Typically, when the legislature is in town they continue to work on every aspect of legislation. This means if they stay to continue the budget process, other committees will also meet on legislation that could impact retail. That could be a positive in helping us get a few of our legislative priorities done earlier (our e-prescribing and marketplace bills) but also a negative as they look for items to keep them busy that might not normally get a hearing.

Senate committee reports e-prescribing, telepharmacy bills

Last Thursday, the Senate Health Policy Committee reported out amended versions of our e-prescribing bills SB 248 and SB 254. The committee also voted on legislation allowing the operation of telepharmacies in Michigan (SB 340), which MRA supported. The e-prescribing bill language was split among two bills, the controlled substance section is in SB 254 and the main language remains in SB 248. The committee also made a few additional revisions including:

  • Matching the federal Jan. 1, 2021 implementation date
  • Adding an exemption for doctors working on an unpaid/voluntary basis
  • Clarifying some of the items the department and board should consider when issuing waivers
  • Adding language allowing the department to push back the implementation date if the federal government changes its implementation date

We expect the full Senate will consider the legislation soon. The House has a similar bill, HB 4217, that the House Health Policy Committee may take up for a vote this week. Next steps: Senate floor/House Health Policy Committee vote. MRA Position: Support.

Legislature approves delayed 9-1-1 technology requirement

The legislature recently approved legislation 12 years in the making will require Multi Line Telephone System (MLTS) operators to install equipment and software enabling 9-1-1 calls to transmit specific locations inside their building. PA 165 of 2007, gave the Public Service Commission and the State 9-1-1 Committee the task of promulgating rules requiring certain phone systems to pinpoint the location of a caller when calling 9-1-1. Complications and confusion throughout the rule-making process caused the legislature to postpone the implementation twice (PA 271 of 2011 and PA 244 of 2016). HB 4249, if signed by the governor, will require all buildings over 7,000 square feet containing MLTSs to comply with this standard by Jan. 1, 2020. However, penalties for noncompliance ($500-5,000 per offense) will not start until Jan. 1, 2021. Systems must be capable of identifying the following items (if applicable): street address, building floor, unique building identifiers for separate buildings using a common street address, and specific location of each device (room or unit number, room name, or equivalent designation for a portion of a structure).

The following exemptions/delays to implement the systems that can identify the specific location of each communications device apply for certain types/sizes of properties:

  • Buildings with less than 7,000 square feet are exempt from the requirement.
  • Buildings that maintain an alternate method of notification to signal/respond to emergencies on a 24-hour basis (includes a building serviced by its own medical, fire, and security personnel) are exempt from the requirement.
  • Single or separate buildings with its own or a common street address, between 7,000-20,000 square feet with 20 or fewer communications devices all located on a single floor shall implement the specific location identification upon the installation of a new MLTS after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Separate buildings with a common street address, between 7,000-20,000 square feet with 20 or fewer communications devices all located on a single floor must identify the address, building floor, and unique building shall implement the specific location identification upon the installation of a new MLTS after Jan. 1, 2020.
  • Churches/houses of worship and farms upon the installation of a new MLTS after Jan. 1, 2020.

For more information, visit the most recently published guidelines/rules from the State 9-1-1 Committee and a FAQ pageNext steps: Governor’s signature. MRA Position: Neutral.

Governor signs ban on sales to e-cigarettes/vapor products to minors

Last week, in contrast to her predecessor, Gov. Whitmer signed legislation banning sales of e-cigarettes and vapor products to minors. The laws were met with strong opposition from the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Society who all want vapor products to be classified as tobacco. Former Gov. Snyder vetoed the bills following the advice of the Michigan Health and Human Services Department, which agreed with the aforementioned groups. Public Acts 1718 of 2019 increase the penalties for selling tobacco/e-cigarette/vapor products to minors to $100 for a first offense, up to $500 for a second offense and up to $2,500 for a third or subsequent offense. Minors are prohibited from purchasing, possessing or using vapor products and are subject to a $50 civil fine per incident. For a third violation a minor would receive a misdemeanor and be required to participate in a health and risk assessment program. The legislation also requires retailers sell liquid nicotine containers in child-resistant packaging and all vapor products must be behind the counter. Violating the packaging requirements is a $50 civil fine and not keeping the products behind the counter is a $500 civil fine. The new laws and subsequent penalties take effect Sept. 2, but federal requirements already prohibit the sale of these products to minors. Next steps: None. MRA Position: Support.

Déjà vu: legislature talks removing sales tax on gas

It’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day around here when it comes to road funding. For those of you who missed the reference, Groundhog Day was a 1993 movie where a TV weatherman finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. Legislative leaders are once again talking about removing the sales tax on gas, since it creates higher taxes at the pump that most Michiganders believe all go to roads. However, the sales tax has a constitutionally dedicated formula that mostly goes to schools and local governments – yes, even the sales tax on gasoline purchases. MRA members may remember the last time legislators went down this path was in 2014 when they passed a complicated and confusing mechanism to remove the sales tax on gas, increase registration fees, increase the gas tax, and back-fill the lost sales tax revenue with a one-cent sales tax increase. That proposal went on the ballot in May of 2015 as Proposal 1 and received the largest defeat of a constitutional amendment in Michigan’s history, with 80 percent voting no.

That wasn’t that long ago and we hope they’ve learned from the lesson that increasing the sales tax isn’t the answer. Rumors are that legislators may instead look at expanding the sales tax to services. Again, another unpopular proposal that was last attempted in 2007 and fell apart under the pressure to exempt certain services, like golf courses, but not others. Lawmakers passed it late in the night during a budget shutdown under Gov. Granholm but repealed it before it took effect. It’s hard to predict what the final 2019 proposal will look like, but we’ll keep you updated as it plays out.