Gov’t Affairs News: Welcome back, fall session begins

Welcome back!

Legislators returned from summer break this week and session will continue into mid-late December. The legislature will take its normal 2-week hunting break over the Thanksgiving holiday. All indications point to the fall session being fairly light. There are a few big issues the legislature would like to tackle – including reforms to no-fault auto insurance and public employee retirement benefits – but both will be a challenge.

Overtime rule invalidated

On August 31, Judge Mazzant in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled against the Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule, which would have doubled the salary threshold that would trigger overtime payments from $23,660 to $47,476. The Texas judge found that the rule was not consistent with congressional intent, which prescribed the duties test (what primary functions and tasks an employee performs) to be the primary focus of the exemption from overtime payments, not salary. Judge Mazzant invalidated the rule after the DOL indicated in July it may seek to revise the previous overtime rule.

MRA members may recall the overtime rule was scheduled to go into effect last December but was stopped after a temporary injunction was placed on the rule in late November. MRA joined with other business groups and our federal partners to share concerns about the rule with congress and the department last year. Next step: DOL may consider smaller updates to the salary level. | MRA Position: MRA opposed the changes that would have taken effect last year.

Family Meals Month

September is National Family Meals Month and the Michigan legislature recently approved resolutions, SR 83 and HR 148, to formally designate the month and encourage Michigan families to share more meals together. The resolutions received a tremendous amount of bipartisan support from legislators. MRA would like to thank the resolution sponsors, Senator Goeff Hansen and Representative Curt VanderWall, as well as the 30 state senators and 37 state representatives who cosponsored the resolutions.

Regular family meals are linked to educational and professional success in kids as well as a decrease in the likelihood of violence, depression, abuse of drugs, and other risky behaviors. It also promotes healthier eating habits. Ninety percent of supermarkets offer fresh, prepared foods, 95 percent offer cooking demos, 86 percent offer cooking classes, and 100 percent offer recipes and meal ideas.

MLCC/Senate discuss half-mile rule

The proposed rescission of a rule that prohibits liquor licenses at locations that are located within a half mile of another licensed business has drawn a lot of attention over the last two weeks. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC), which recommended rescinding the rule, held a hearing last week that drew hundreds of interested parties. After receiving comments from members, MRA submitted comments in support of rescinding the rule to the commission. MRA members have traditionally supported open markets and fair competition.

This week, the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee held a hearing on legislation, SB 501, that would codify the rule. MRA submitted similar comments to the committee in opposition of the legislation. The Senate committee did not vote on the legislation and it is uncertain whether the committee will take additional testimony or take a vote on the bill. Next step: MLCC decision and Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. | MRA Position: Support MLCC rescinding rule 33. Oppose SB 501.

Other important items to note: 

  • Alcohol reforms: The House reported legislation that modifies the delivery and sign requirements allowed for beer, wine, and spirits as SB 356358 on Sept. 13. On Aug. 16, Gov. Snyder signed several reforms into law that the Senate had approved in June. HB 45564559 were approved as Public Acts 83, and 86-88 and take effect on Oct. 10, 2017. Next step: SB 356-358 head to the House floor. | MRA Position: Support SB 357, no position on the other bills. 
  • Gas station skimmers: As MRA expected, SB 415, legislation that would require certain security measures to combat credit card skimmers on motor fuel pumps was overwhelmingly approved by the Michigan Senate in late June. Next step: House Commerce and Trade Committee. | MRA Position: Neutral.
  • Taxes on E-cigarettes: Legislation that would categorize e-cigarettes as smokeless tobacco and tax them at 32% of the wholesale price beginning Oct. 1, 2018 was introduced as HB 4893 on Aug. 16. The bill would also clarify that the current rules for cigarette sales via the Internet applies to all tobacco products. Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.

  • 90-day prescriptions: The House Health Policy Committee plans to discuss legislation next week that would allow pharmacists to dispense a 90-day supply of medication so long as the prescription allows for enough refills to fill a 90-day timespan. The bill, SB 360 ensures that pharmacists will not have to call the prescriber for approval as currently required by some insurance plans. Next step: Hearing in the House Health Policy Committee Wednesday, Sept. 20. | MRA Position: Support.
  • Opioid prevention: The Senate Health Policy Committee heard testimony on HB 4403, 4405, 4408 on Sept. 12. The House bills would allow Medicaid to cover addiction treatment, require licensing of pain management clinics (in an attempt to shut down “pill mills”), give pharmacists greater legal immunity on refusing to fill questionable prescriptions, require appropriate grade-level education for students about opioid abuse as part of school health education programs, and require parental consent for opioid prescriptions for minors. Next step: Senate Health Policy Committee vote. | MRA Position: Support HB 4405, neutral on the other bills.

  • Fireworks: HB 4924, introduced on Sept. 12, would require fireworks retailers to display signs describing the limitations on use of fireworks under Michigan law. MRA traditionally opposes any signage or posting requirements. HB 4925 would prohibit minors from igniting, using, or discharging consumer fireworks without adult supervision. Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee.| MRA Position: Oppose HB 4924. HB 4925 no position.
  • Late reports filing penalty: Legislation that would modify the late filing penalty for both LLCs and corporations filing annual reports with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs was introduced as HB 49164917 on Sept. 12. The bills lower the fees from a flat $50 fee to $10/month or $50, whichever is less. Next step: House Commerce and Trade Committee.| MRA Position: Support.
  • Marijuana facilities: HB 4837, introduced on July 12, would prohibit a marijuana dispensary from locating within 500 feet of a school, church, child care center or youth organization. The bill would also prohibit licensing of a facility if its location is in violation of a local ordinance related to distance requirements. Next step: House Law and Justice Committee | MRA Position: No position.
  • Silent fireworks: Legislation that would only allow the sale of “silent” fireworks was introduced on Sept. 6 as HB 4902. “Silent” fireworks are defined as fireworks that are designed to minimize the audible effect of their discharge of use. Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee | MRA Position: Under review.

  • Unemployment benefits: Legislation that seeks to reform and increase unemployment benefits was introduced as SB 531539 on Sept. 7. The bills would increase benefits from $362 a week to $603 beginning Oct. 1, 2017 and indexed to inflation each year after. It would also increase the benefit for individuals receiving benefits with dependents, reduce the percentage of wages that can be garnished, provide an appeals process for individuals, increase the penalty for deficient contributions, and exempt unemployment benefits from the state’s income tax. The bills also seek to prevent false fraud accusations like the nearly 48,000 discovered recently. Based on the referral to the Senate Government Operations Committee it is unlikely the bills will be seriously considered by the legislature. Next step: Senate Government Operations Committee. | MRA Position: Oppose.
  • Unemployed veterans tax credit: Under HB 4819, introduced on July 12, businesses with 50 or fewer employees would be able to claim a $1,000 tax credit for hiring an unemployed veteran for a full-time position. Next step: House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. | MRA Position: Support.
  • Prohibit nonresident city income taxes: Legislation introduced on Sept. 14 as HB 4952 would prohibit cities from levying and collecting income taxes on nonresidents. Currently 22 cities implement an income tax varying from 0.5-1.2% on nonresidents. The legislation seeks to prohibit income taxes on nonresidents beginning January 1, 2019. Next step: House Tax Policy Committee. | MRA Position: Support.
  • Taxpayer Bill of Rights: A joint resolution to amend Michigan’s Constitution that would limit state spending in an effort to protect taxpayers was introduced as House Joint Resolution T on July 12. The constitutional amendment would limit the state from spending more than it had the previous year plus an adjustment for inflation and population growth as measured by the census conducted every decade. Next step: House Appropriations Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.

  • Campaign finance: The Senate approved legislation on Sept. 13, SB 335336, that in part, seeks to clarify that a contribution to a super PAC does not require the contributor to also register as a Super PAC. The confusion stems from a recent, retroactive Secretary of State interpretation that contributors to Super PACs must also register individually. Contributors would be on the hook for retroactive campaign finance violations resulting in thousands of dollars in fines. Next step: House Elections and Ethics Committee. | MRA Position: Support.
  • Federal balanced budget amendment: The House Government Operations Committee reported House Joint Resolution V on Sept. 13. The joint resolution proposes that the United States Congress should call a constitutional convention. The amendments to the United States Constitution that could be offered would be limited only to items that would impose fiscal restraints on the federal government. Next step: House floor. | MRA Position: No position.
  • Internet gaming: Legislation that would make internet gambling legal was introduced as HB 49264928 on Sept. 12. Next step: House Regulatory Reform Committee. | MRA Position: Under review.