Gov’t Affairs News: Bill headed to Governor keeps food tax free

A busy two weeks of false starts

It’s football season, and the penalty call of a false start, where one player crosses the line before the play begins, could just as easily apply to a number of bills. The good news is the penalties were mostly against the other team and not MRA.

A last-minute amendment was added to a bill that would exempt pharmacists from any liability or possible civil suits for refusing to fill a prescription they believe is illegitimate. The unfavorable amendment would have required pharmacists to notify the prescriber. It almost got a vote, but thankfully the Senate Health Policy Chairman, Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), heard our concerns and the bill was pulled from the agenda for further discussion.

Similarly, last week the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee kicked out a bad bill that writes a half mile legal monopoly into law with a very flawed amendment. Proponents of the bill inaccurately claimed MRA supports the bill with the amendment. MRA opposes the bill and no amendment will improve its content. We’ve been told the bill will not receive a vote on the floor.

Meanwhile, the legislature continues to grapple with reforming no-fault auto insurance but has not made any progress down the field. As your watchdogs, we’re pleased to report we’ve maintained our good field position and will keep pushing forward.

Bill preventing local taxes on food heads to governor

The Legislature was quick to give HB 4999 its final approval and sent the bill to the governor’s desk on Oct. 11. The legislation flew through the legislative process and lands on the governor’s desk in just over three weeks’ time. It prevents a patchwork of local taxes or fees from being applied to food for immediate or non-immediate consumption, keeping food and beverages tax-free for Michigan residents. Michigan is a leader on this issue. Illinois’ Cook County (Chicago) voted to rescind its recently enacted tax on sugar sweetened beverages this week after public outrage and mass confusion on how to implement the tax. HB 4999 received strong bipartisan support, passing the House 101-7 and the Senate 30-5. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his approval. Next step: HB 4999 heads to the governor’s desk for his approval. | MRA Position: Support.

Other important items to note:

  • Gas station skimmers: SB 415, legislation that would require certain security measures to combat credit card skimmers on motor fuel pumps received a hearing in the House Commerce and Trade Committee. Next step: House Commerce and Trade Committee vote. | MRA Position: Neutral.
  • Half-mile rule: The House and Senate both took up legislation that seeks to codify an anti-competitive rule referred to as the “half-mile rule.” The House Regulatory Reform Committee heard testimony on HB 4505 on Oct. 4 and the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee reported SB 501 with the aforementioned troubling amendment, also on Oct. 4. The bills would prohibit liquor licenses at locations that are located within a half mile of another licensed business. At this time, it seems both bills are stalled but MRA will continue monitoring them closely. Next step: HB 4504 House Regulatory Reform Committee vote. SB 501 is on the Senate Floor. | MRA Position: Oppose.
  • Liquor license transfer prorated fees: HB 4507, legislation that would allow the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to prorate licensing and transfer fees on a quarterly basis, received a hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Oct. 11. Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee vote. | MRA Position: Support.

  • “Ban the box”: Legislation that would prohibit the inquiry by employers about whether an applicant has a felony conviction on an initial application for employment was introduced as HB 5067 on Oct. 5. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past and has not received a hearing. Employers argue that prohibiting this question can waste both the employer and applicants’ time, particularly when a felony conviction may lawfully prevent a candidate from being eligible for a job. Next step: House Commerce Committee. | MRA Position: Oppose.

  • Opioids: The various opioid bills continue to weave their way through the legislative process. The House Health Policy Committee reported SB 47, SB 166167, SB 270, SB 273, and SB 274 on Oct. 4. MRA is seeking an amendment to SB 274 on the House floor to bring it in line with federal requirements. The House and bill sponsor have agreed to that amendment. In the Senate, HB 4408, a bill that requires patients sign a consent form before being prescribed an opioid, was approved by the Senate Health Policy Committee on Oct. 10. Next step: House floor for SB 47, 166-167, 270, 273 and 274. Senate floor for HB 4408. | MRA Position: Under Review.

  • 911 fees: A senate committee heard testimony on the need to increase 911 fees on Oct. 5. SB 400 would allow counties to convert to upgraded 911 services statewide. It would increase the monthly 911 charge from 19 cents to 25 cents and allow county commissions to increase their charge from 42 cents to 55 cents. Prepaid wireless 911 surcharges would increase from 1.92 percent to 4.19 percent per transaction. The bill was stalled while the 911 commission prepares a more detailed description of where the funds will go and how exactly they’ll be used. Next step: Senate Energy and Technology Committee vote. | MRA Position: Oppose.
  • Interview questions: Legislation to add the interview process to the list of labor and benefit issues local governments cannot regulate was approved by the Senate on Oct. 5. SB 353 would prohibit local units of government from adopting, enforcing, or administering local ordinances, policies, or resolutions regulating the information an employer must request, require, or exclude during the interview process. Next step: House Commerce and Trade Committee. | MRA Position: Support.
  • MIOSHA contact: HB 5088, introduced on Oct. 11, would require that an employer register an individual as the designated contact for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee. | MRA Position: Under Review.
  • Prohibit stricter state rules: The Senate Oversight Committee reported legislation, HB 4205, that would prohibit state agencies and departments from adopting rules stricter than federal regulations on Oct. 5. Instead, only the legislature would have the authority to make decisions that set stricter laws beyond federal law. A state department could create rules that are stricter only if the director could demonstrate evidence of a need to do so. This explanation must be included in the department’s regulatory impact statement. Next step: Senate floor. | MRA Position: Support.

  • Alternative resolution: The House approved on Oct. 11 legislation, HB 4976, that would allow taxpayers and the Michigan Department of Treasury to use new methods to resolve tax disputes. Next step: Senate Finance Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.
  • Business improvement zone: Under legislation introduced on Oct. 10 as SB 621, a business improvement zone in a city or village that will impose and collect assessments may only impose an assessment for a qualifying period for seven to 10 years. Next step: Senate Economic Development Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.
  • Income tax reporting: Legislation introduced as HB 5091 on Oct. 12 would modify the employer reporting deadline for income taxes to comply with federal deadlines. The current deadline to report an employee’s income taxes to the Department of Treasury on an annual reconciliation return (MI-W3) in Michigan is Feb. 28. HB 5091 would move that deadline up to Jan. 31, which is the same as the federal deadline for employers. Next step: House Tax Policy Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.
  • Mosquito abatement: Legislation that would grant townships the same authority cities have to create a mosquito abatement special assessment district was approved by the House on Oct. 11 as HB 4573. The township would need voter approval to adopt the special assessment. The legislation codifies current practice. Next step: Senate Local Government Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.
  • Tax Increment Financing roll-up: Legislation introduced on Oct. 10 as HB 5070 would roll all existing tax increment finance (TIF) authorities into one act. MRA has been cautious on similar legislation in the past, since rolling all of the TIF authorities into one act makes it easier to repeal or add burdensome requirements to them in the future. TIF authorities, among other things, can be used to fund downtown development projects. Next step: House Local Government Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.

  • Buy Nearby Weekend: The House and Senate approved resolutions last week, HR 169 and SR 102, declaring Oct. 7-8 as Buy Nearby Weekend in Michigan. Gov. Snyder also issued a proclamation in honor of Buy Nearby Weekend. MRA appreciates Rep. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township), Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage), and Gov. Snyder for their strong support of the Buy Nearby Program. Next step: None. | MRA Position: Support.
  • Credit freeze: Legislation that would prohibit a consumer reporting agency from assessing fees to place or remove a credit freeze was introduced on Oct. 3 as HB 5055 and a similar bill was introduced on Oct. 12 as HB 5094. The bill is in response to the Equifax data breach and subsequent fees that are assessed to freeze or unfreeze credit reports. Next step: House Financial Services Committee. | MRA Position: Neutral.