Session’s out for summer
Lawmakers wrapped up a whirlwind spring session last week after they approved budgets, but the legislature failed to take any decisive action on transportation funding. None is expected before fall. While there are several scheduled session days this summer, most are seen as a formality and no legislative business will occur. Lawmakers return in September for a few weeks of regular business before heading back out on the campaign trail.
Over the summer, our government affairs newsletters will be sent out on an as-needed basis. We will resume our bi-weekly schedule when lawmakers return in September. Have a safe and enjoyable summer!
Road funding solution still up for grabs
Senators desperate to come up with a road funding solution before the summer break threw multiple proposals up for votes last week and saw every single plan shot down.
First the Senate tried a vote on a sales tax increase (SJR A) with revenue dedicated to road funding. The plan failed by a resounding 14-24 vote. MRA worked hard to ensure the vote would fail, since a sales tax increase would be extremely harmful to Michigan retailers.
Next up were the various gas tax increase proposals. Senators started with a full funding approach in HB 5477. A 7% tax on the wholesale price of gasoline, eventually rising to 15.5%, failed on several attempts. The Senate modified the proposal several times by lowering the wholesale tax rates, but each new attempt failed to receive a majority vote. Senators then took a vote on the House’s original plan to replace the current 19 cents per gallon gas tax with a 6% tax on the wholesale price and tie the rate to inflation, but it did not receive enough support to pass.
A last ditch effort to maintain the current 19 cents per gallon gasoline tax but tie the rate to inflation also was defeated, 17-20. While that would not have generated any new revenue this year, it would allow the rate to slowly increase in the future. After its defeat, lawmakers finally threw in the towel and headed home. Legislative leaders attempted to put a positive spin on the outcome by reminding residents this money would be for construction next year, and there is still time for a workgroup to hammer out a plan this summer.
Other important items to note:
- Legislation that exempts the transfer of a vehicle from the use tax act if the transfer occurs between immediate family members (HB 5261) passed both chambers and was presented to the governor on Thursday. Currently, a vehicle sale between immediate family members is exempt from Michigan’s sales tax.
- Regulations on interior designers will be repealed if Gov. Snyder signs SB 479, which was enrolled last week.
- Legislation that seeks to exempt employers of temporary workers from paying into the unemployment security fund (HB 4958) was enrolled and presented to the governor on Tuesday.
- Legislation extending protections under MIOSHA to unpaid workers, including interns and volunteers, was introduced last week as HB 5691.
- A bill that would provide an exemption from becoming disqualified for unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence was introduced as HB 5655.
- Legislators approved a bill that would require utility companies to provide the Public Service Commission with its cost allocation information and rate design methods (HB 5476). The bill was enrolled and will be presented to the governor.
- The Senate approved legislation (SB 910) last week that would prevent the Department of Natural Resources from enforcing the new federal emissions standards on woodstoves. The chamber also adopted a resolution (SR 127) and reported a concurrent resolution (SCR 14) that ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the new standards. The House will need to approve both SB 910 and SCR 14.
- “Anti-smurfing” legislation (HB 5089, 5090, 5363, SB 535, and 756) that cracks down on meth abuse by prohibiting individuals convicted of a meth-related offense from purchasing pseudoephedrine without a prescription and makes it a crime to purchase or solicit someone to purchase pseudoephedrine with the intention to make meth passed the Senate and the bills were enrolled and presented to the governor this week.
- SB 656, the MAC price reconsideration bill, was signed into law as Public Act 167 of 2014. The bill takes effect March 2015.
- The HICA shortfall fix, which includes a return to a HMO tax (SB 893) and a new, reduced HICA rate, SB 913 was signed into law as Public Acts 161 & 162 of 2014. The HICA rate received immediate effect, the HMO tax is retroactive to April.
- Legislation regulating compounding pharmacies and designating a pharmacist-in-charge for those pharmacies (SB 704 & 904) was passed by the legislature and now awaits the governor’s signature.
- Legislation to repeal licensure of dietitians and nutritionists (HB 4688) was approved by the legislature and is now before the governor.
- SB 853, which requires that all contacts and corrective glasses made for use by a single individual, moved through both chambers and is now before the governor.
- Legislation creating new requirements for Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) was introduced last week as SB 999–1002.
- A package of bills (HB 4534, 4755, 5061–5062) that seek to reduce animal abuse, by requiring animal control agencies to check to see if a customer has been convicted of animal abuse before adopting pets, passed the House on June 12.
- Legislation cracking down on puppy mills by setting standards for large kennels and organizations that adopt pets (HB 5095) was reported by the House Regulatory Reform Committee last week. MRA was successful in getting an amendment added that clarifies that pet shops that host adoption events are not considered animal control agencies or animal protection agencies. The bill creates additional record-keeping requirements, health standards and living conditions for dogs, cats and ferrets.