Governmental Affairs: January 17, 2014

Happy New Year!

The legislature began its regular session on January 8. MRA’s Government Affairs News will continue on a regular, biweekly basis until the summer break.

State of the State mostly a recap

Gov. Snyder delivered his fourth State of the State address last night and spent more time discussing the administration’s accomplishments over the last three years than announcing new projects. The biggest ask in Gov. Snyder’s speech was for “the single toughest issue,” that is, for the legislature to approve $1-1.2 billion in road funding. The governor had asked for road funding last year and was disappointed to see very little action in 2013. For the second time, he made the case that investing in our infrastructure today will save money and lives down the road. While he did not get into the details of his plan, he did allude to the same user-driven fees (increasing annual registration fees and modifying the taxes paid on fuel) proposed last year.

In his recap, Gov. Snyder touted Michigan’s economic growth since 2010. Michigan has seen a half-billion-dollar increase in tourism spending. The state has added 177,000 jobs since the lowest point in 2009 and income levels continue to improve; Michigan is the ninth fastest growing state in per capita income. Our housing market saw a 10 percent increase in home sales and a 5 percent increase in home prices. The governor said this economic growth was made possible by the tax reforms and financial liability reductions the state has made since 2011. The state also eliminated 1,000 regulatory rules last year, amounting to an elimination of 10 rules for every new rule added.

Other highlights from the governor’s speech and 2014 plans include: helping more kids become college-ready and investing more in early childhood education, reforming no-fault auto insurance and tackling insurance fraud, addressing mental health, strengthening communities and neighborhoods by addressing the problem of slum lords, increasing the number of state troopers, and implementing a next-generation 911 system. In the area of good government, the governor would like to eliminate the potential for unfunded mandates. This could be accomplished by requiring any legislation that needs an additional appropriation to be tie-barred to the funding mechanism. As an example, an education reform may require additional funding to implement, but the reform legislation often does not pass with a funding bill.

Coming up next, the governor will present his FY 14/15 budget to lawmakers on February 7 and plans to hold an economic development summit in March. The summit will focus on talent, skilled trades, increasing the number of engineers, and regional partnerships.

Senate Main Street Fairness bills to receive hearing

The Senate Economic Development Committee is planning to hold a hearing on our Main Street Fairness legislation (SB 658 – 659) on Wednesday, January 29. Chairman Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) is a strong supporter of the legislation (his wife, Rep. Eileen Kowall is one of the sponsors of the legislation in the House) and has committed to getting the ball rolling in the Senate. If we can get the legislation to the Senate floor, the House and Senate chambers can simply swap their versions of the bills, easing concerns that the bills may not be taken up in the other chamber. MRA is grateful to Sen. Kowall and his staff for their support and assistance on our most important issue.

Comprehensive recycling workgroup meets this afternoon

The Department of Environmental Quality and stakeholders interested in developing and adopting acomprehensive recycling plan will meet this afternoon. The workgroup plans to discuss methods to expand convenient access to residential recycling opportunities. MRA will report if there are any new developments or proposals in the efforts to get bottles and cans out of retail locations.

Other important items to note: