Now that Gov. Whitmer has had a chance to sign or veto all of the legislation presented to her during Michigan’s 2020 lame duck session, below is a recap of the bills MRA was following and how they fared. A year-end recap, 2021 preview and bill table will be included in MRA’s 2020 Year-End Legislative Report that should be distributed in early February.
PASSED/SIGNED INTO LAW:
- Unemployment benefits extension – SB 748 (appropriations supplemental) and SB 604 (Public Acts 257-258 of 2020), SUPPORT
Legislation that continues the extended six extra weeks of state pandemic benefits while also holding employers harmless for any COVID-related claims. The benefits continue through March 31 and also allow domestic violence victims to be temporarily eligible for unemployment. The bill included a requirement the benefits be funded through a supplemental appropriations bill. The supplemental bill was also signed into law but Gov. Whitmer vetoed the specific $220 million in funding designed to cover the extra benefits, claiming it was a tax break for big businesses.The governor claims the benefits were still extended through March but legislators disagree and feel the intent of the bill language was clear. The Unemployment Trust Fund, which employers pay into to cover benefits for their employees, has nearly been drained and the extension could force the state to borrow money from the federal government, creating a higher unemployment tax burden for employers in the future when the loan must be repaid. A similar situation occurred in 2009, prompting MRA and other groups to insist that the funding be included.
- Pharmacy flexibilities/90-day refills – SB 920 & 879 (P.A. 324 and 322, respectively, of 2020), SUPPORT
MRA worked with lawmakers and the administration to ensure legislation codifying previous executive orders granting pharmacies additional flexibility were approved before the end of the year. The bills reflect those flexibilities included in previous executive orders that were needed again this fall but could not be accomplished via an epidemic order. The flexibilities include allowing for emergency refills of up to a sixty (60) day supply of any maintenance medication, operation in an area not normally designated as a pharmacy, therapeutic substitutions of generic drugs, remote supervision of pharmacy staff (including students and technicians) and out-of-state license reciprocity. SB 879, requires insurers to provide coverage for the emergency 60-day refills. The legislation codifies these activities through March 31, 2021 and could be extended further with additional legislation. The bills took effect on Dec. 29, 2020.
- Personal property tax location for COVID – SB 1203 (P.A. 352 of 2020), SUPPORT
This legislation simplified personal property taxes for 2020 by assuming the location of that property in 2020 was the same as it was in 2019. This means if employees are working remotely, businesses will not have to account for where business property that is being used in employees’ homes is and file personal property taxes in those additional jurisdictions. The bill was signed into law and took effect on Dec. 30, 2020.
- Youth employee work permits during an emergency – SB 910 (Public Act 323 of 2020), SUPPORT
A bill to allow more flexibility in granting youth employee work permits during a declared state of emergency was signed into law on Dec. 29. Specifically, the legislation deleted a reference to only allowing work permit applications to be made in person. The change takes effect on Mar. 24, 2021.
- Marketable title revisions – HB 5611 (Public Act 294 of 2020), SUPPORT
The legislation extended the time window during which an interest, claim or charge in a marketable title can be preserved and kept effective by filing a notice from two years to five years from March 29, 2019. The bill was signed into law and took effect on Dec. 29, 2020.
- Third party delivery limitations – HB 5770 (Public Act 296 of 2020), NEUTRAL
Legislation designed primarily to protect restaurants from third party apps or websites from using their likeness without permission was signed into law on Dec. 29. The legislation was introduced in response to third party delivery services making claims about helping restaurants by ordering through them during the first COVID-related shutdown. In reality, restaurants earned more if diners ordered from them directly. The legislation references marketplaces and requires third party delivery services to register with the state. It’s uncertain if the application of the changes in the Consumer Protection Act can be or will be applied to other delivery services. The legislation will take effect on April 1, 2021.
- Tobacco excise tax parity – SB 970 (Public Act 326 of 2020), SUPPORT
SB 970 seeks to ensure tobacco excise taxes are paid on products shipped into Michigan, similar to the Wayfair decision’s impact on sales and use taxes. The legislation accomplishes this by only allowing out-of-state sales to be made into Michigan by wholesalers or unclassified acquirers. The Michigan Department of Treasury states this will have no impact or change on retailers being able to purchase tobacco products directly from manufacturers. The change will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
- Data breach notifications – HB 4186–4187, NEUTRAL
Bills MRA has been following for several years were approved by lawmakers at the tail end of the 2020 session with language that allowed MRA to be neutral but was pocket vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Jan. 5. The legislation would have changed the timeline for notification to occur after a data breach has happened, and set a 45-day clock once it is confirmed a breach has occurred and the data has been secured. Under Michigan’s current Identity Theft Protection Act, the notification standard is “without unreasonable delay.” The bills also included more specific requirements for investigations when a breach happens and at MRA’s insistence include language allowing a business to recover costs if the breach happened through a third-party vendor. It’s believed the governor vetoed the bills partly because the bills included an exemption for financial institutions (added at the financial institutions request since they follow federal regulations).
- Epidemic order limitations – SB 1253, SUPPORT
Legislation that sought to limit the administration’s authority to perpetually issue epidemic orders closing businesses was vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Dec. 30. The bill would have allowed epidemic orders to be issued for a period of up to 28 days. After 28 days had passed, the legislature would have to approve an extension by passing a resolution in each chamber. Gov. Whitmer has stated several times she will not approve any legislative efforts that seek to limit her or her administration’s power.
- Property tax payment deferral – SB 943, SUPPORT
A revised effort from this summer to extend property tax deferral relief to mostly closed businesses like restaurants and entertainment facilities was pocket vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Jan. 4. A pocket veto means the governor took no action on the bill within the allotted 14-day period after the bill was presented.
- Sales/Use/PPT tax exemption on automated systems – SB 1149–1150, SB 1153 SUPPORT
Legislation that would have treated retail warehouses that use automated systems similar to manufacturing property was also pocket vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Jan. 4. The bills sought to remove sales, use and personal property tax obligations from equipment that if used in manufacturing would already be exempt, but because it’s housed in a “commercial” business is subject to tax. Local governments objected to any loss in revenue the bills would cause. Expect this legislation to return for consideration again in 2021.
- Alcohol delivery – SB 1138, MONITORING
Part of a bill package designed to allow distilleries to directly ship mixed drinks to retailers would have also made a few other pertinent changes to definitions of direct shippers and qualified retailers, potentially impacting retailers. The legislation, pocket-vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Jan. 5, would have modified the term “qualified retailer” to one that is open to the public for face-to-face sales, holds a retail food establishment license or extended retail food establishment license and makes at least 25% of its annual sales in person (this would not apply to retailers under 15,000 square feet).
- Unattended gas stations – HB 4792, MONITORING
A bill pushed by a state representative in the Upper Peninsula to allow gas stations to operate overnight without an attendant present was vetoed by Gov. Whitmer on Dec. 30. Lawmakers argued the regulations imposed by the state prohibiting these operations put residents in rural areas in potential jeopardy if stranded overnight, especially in the winter. Gas station operators appeared torn on the proposed change, some believing it wouldn’t be safe without very strict safety measures to prevent a fire/explosion while others said those same safety measures were cost prohibitive to operate an unattended station.