Governmental Affairs: Friday, September 26, 2014

House Tourism hears Buy Nearby update

The House Tourism Committee welcomed MRA on September 18 for an update of our statewide Buy Nearby campaign. Committee members heard about the success of last year’s Get Caught Blue-Handed Day, saw photos and videos of the new Buy Nearby Guy mascot at numerous community events, and heard first-hand from Brighton retailer Mark Binkley about the positive impact Buy Nearby has made on his family-owned stores. Legislators in both chambers were given materials to share with their constituents to get people excited about the upcoming Get Caught Blue-Handed Day on October 4, and they had an opportunity to get a photo taken with Buy Nearby Guy on the Capitol steps. Once again, the committee was very receptive of the positive message Buy Nearby promotes and expressed excitement about the future success and great potential of the program.

House passes ban on powdered alcohol sales

Legislation banning sales of powdered alcohol was approved by the full House on September 24 after being introduced only last week. HB 5798 passed committee the same afternoon it was introduced. Some lawmakers raised concerns that it might prevent sales of food items such as rum cakes, but supporters said that is not the intent of the legislation. In addition to adding “powder” to the definition of alcoholic liquor, the legislation requires an individual applying for a conditional liquor license at a location where a license transfer is also in process must include any existing permits and approvals held in connection with that license.

Opponents of the new substance believe it is dangerous and could lead to reckless behavior by underage drinkers and others. Powdered alcohol creators claim it has numerous purposes, including lightweight travel and outdoor recreational use as well as industrial uses for medical treatments and as a fuel source. A powdered alcohol product created by Palcohol was initially approved by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau this past spring but has not been distributed after the Bureau rescinded approval following public concerns. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) asked the FDA to ban powdered alcohol and is pursuing federal legislation to ban the substance.

Revisions to DDA Act introduced

Downtown Development Authorities (DDA) would operate under new transparency and accountability standards and be subject to new restrictions and limitations under HB 5856 introduced on September 23. The bill quickly received a hearing in the House Commerce Committee on September 24 and is on a fast track. The legislation is the product of a yearlong workgroup on the issue of Tax Increment Financing (TIF).

HB 5856 is the first step in a larger effort to consolidate and simplify tax-capture entities. The legislation incorporates many of the items downtowns and retailers hoped to see included, particularly much needed definitions that add clarity to the act. MRA will continue to work with the Michigan Downtown Association to ensure that any reforms made to the DDA act will allow for collaboration, growth and promotion of downtowns and downtown shops.

Other important items to note:


  • Federal Emissions Standards – The House Energy and Technology Committee held a hearing on legislation (SB 910) on September 23 that would prevent the Department of Natural Resources from enforcing the new federal emissions standards on woodstoves. The committee also took testimony on SCR 14, which asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the new standards. MRA supported the legislation, since the new standards could impact both retailers that sell woodstoves and their customers.


  • Critical Violation Penalty Increases – Legislation to increase the penalties and licensing sanctions for liquor license violations received a hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on September 23. Critical violations include selling to minors, illegal sale or delivery, entertainment on premises, and Sunday sales. The bills did not receive a vote and are not scheduled to come up before the election.
  • SDD License Locations – The Liquor Control Commission could waive the requirement that a new Specially Designated Distributor License or a transfer of an SDD license be located a certain distance form an existing SDD license, under SB 1067 introduced on September 16. The bill was referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.


  • Opioid Antagonists – The Senate passed House Bills 5404, 5405 and 5407 on September 24. The bills allow pharmacists to dispense opioid antagonists to schools and emergency medical responders. The bills were enrolled and will likely be approved by the governor.
  • Pharmacy Tech Licensure – Gov. Snyder signed SB 92, legislation that licenses and regulates pharmacy technicians, into law as Public Act 285 of 2014 on September 23. The legislation has a December 22, 2014, effective date.
  • EpiPens – Legislation allowing doctors to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense EpiPens to schools, restaurants, camps and other places where certain allergens may be present (HB 5668) received a hearing in House Health Policy on September 23. The bill sets storage and documentation requirements for locations that do choose to store EpiPens, but does not require locations to stock EpiPens.


  • Commercial Vehicle Information – The House passed legislation (SB 277) on September 23 that would no longer require commercial vehicles weighing over 5,000 pounds but less than 26,000 pounds to display the vehicle owner’s information on the truck. The bill was enrolled but did not receive immediate effect. If signed by the governor it will take effect 90 days after sine die (end of March 2015). 
  • Food Allergies – The Senate passed legislation (SB 730) that would require training on food allergies by at least one managerial employee in a food service establishment, extended retail food establishments, or an establishment operated within a grocery store. The bill passed the Senate 31-7 and was referred to the House Commerce Committee.
  • Hunting Drone Ban – The Senate approved legislation on September 24 to ban the use of drones for hunting or hunter harassment (SB 926 & 927). The bills could have an impact on retailers who sell or were considering selling drones for hunting. SB 926 and 927 were referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.
  • Microbeads – Legislation that would prohibit the sale of products containing plastic microbeads used in many body-wash products beginning in 2019 was introduced in the Senate on September 16 as SB 1057 and referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations. Similar legislation has been introduced this session and has not received a hearing.
  • Secondhand Dealer Legislation – HB 5836, which would create an annual registration fee and database fee for secondhand dealers, was introduced on September 18. The bill is part of a package addressing pawnbrokers and jewelry dealers and adds several new tracking and reporting categories. While it is unlikely the legislation will move this session, the bills are being teed up for next year.
  • Sky Lantern Ban – Legislation that would ban the sale or use of sky lanterns (HB 5810) was introduced in the House on September 16. Presumably, the intent is to prevent an unintended fire or injury from the open flame.


  • Tobacco Stamps Update – The House passed SB 1017, a bill that would ensure cigarette wholesalers are reimbursed for the costs of converting to new digital stamps, on September 24. The bill was enrolled with immediate effect.


  • Auto Dealer Fees – The House passed HB 5606, a bill to amend the state’s automobile franchise law to prohibit any attempts by auto manufacturers to prevent auto dealers from charging consumers a legal fee or charge, on September 24 by a vote of 103-6 with immediate effect.