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Lame Duck — 5 Things That Fly, 5 That Die, 5 That May & 5 That Stay

November 28, 2018

The bird state Capitol folks are thinking about these days isn’t turkey.

It’s lame duck, that special time when difficult policies are shoved through under the cover of Yule-time joy and out-going legislators feeling free to support bills with reduced fear of political consequences.

In the 2018 version of this biennial tradition, the No. 1 issue on the minds of legislators isn’t the No. 1 issue in Gov. Rick Snyder’s mind.

The term-limited Republican governor wants to hike the 36-cent-per-cubic-ton landfill tipping fee to $4.75 to raise money to clean up the toxic sites of long-gone polluters.

The bonding money Michigan once used to cover this expense came from the Clean Michigan Fund. That ran out more than a year ago and Snyder wants a permanent revenue stream. The CPA Governor hates bonding so he’s pitching a pay-as-you-go, fee-based system to cover the costs.

Republican legislators like the smell of a tax increase about as much as they like inhaling landfill stench. But realizing that bumping up folks’ garbage bills is more palatable than Snyder’s other desired fee increase — a $5-a-person “water tax” to pay for $110 million in underground infrastructure improvements — the Legislature may be willing to go there, but something significantly less than $4.75.

Sources tell MIRS current negotiations are in the $3 range. On the “water tax” portion, the list of asks from the Senate and House Republicans would be so long, it’s hard to imagine it getting done. But the House and Senate have scheduled four weeks of lame duck and leadership is willing to use every day of it if needed.

Meanwhile, the Christmas wish list for both outgoing Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) and outgoing Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) is surprisingly short. Two items. Both the same. 

– Eliminate tipped workers from an eventual $12 minimum wage

– Give business more flexibility on the new paid sick leave policy.

The list of unfinished business from other outgoing legislators, however, is long. The following is a list of other outstanding issues and the likelihood they’ll get done in lame duck based on interviews with numerous inside sources.

Put It In The Bank — 5 That Fly

-Line 5. Snyder and Republicans hope to legally button up a utility tunnel under the Mackinac Straits before Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel takes office and tries to shut down Enbridge’s 65-year-old tunnel. Codifying SB 1197, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), helps with that goal. 

Also, the Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) package, which forces Enbridge to file contingency plans with the state and sets 2-year, $10,000 penalties for ship operators who drag an anchor across the Mackinac Straits, is expected to fly through, as well.

-Small Cell Standardization. SB 0637 and SB 0894 lets AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other providers build out their 5G network with “small cells” attached to utility poles, buildings and other structures without having to cut special deals with individual municipalities. This could be among the first things the House gets done.

-Supplemental. Did someone say there’s money to spend? Lawmakers are already lining up with their ornament to hang on what undoubtedly will be at least a $371.5 million General Fund Christmas tree, particularly if Snyder needs votes for his “Renew and Rebuild” package.

-Proposal 3 Codification. The constitution was amended earlier this month to call for same-day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting. Do you think Republicans are going to let incoming Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson be in charge of writing the administrative rules around this substantive change in policy? A bill or substitute on this one is coming.

-Nassar Response Legislation. With Michigan State University (MSU) cutting their deal with survivors and sexual assailant Larry Nassar solidly behind bars, the Senate will pick apart whichever pieces of the House’s 24-bill package it doesn’t like. The supplemental includes $1 million for survivors.

No Way — 5 That Die

-Private Policing Bill. Meekhof-backed SB 0594 and SB 0595 is running into problems with police groups, Republican members and a skeptical House. This one is a dead duck.

-Utility PPT Exemption Bill. Sen. John Proos’ (R-St. Joseph) SB 1301 that exempts DTE Energy and Consumers Energy from paying personal property taxes (PPT) isn’t far enough along. Turn off the lights on that one.

-National Popular Vote. Sen. Dave Hildenbrand’s (R-Lowell) bill to let Michigan join the interstate compact to elect the president by popular vote is toxic among the conservative grassroots. Leonard declared it dead weeks ago. Franco is still dead.

-Public-Private Partnership (P3). Sen. Mike Kowall’s (R-White Lake) bill to allow state departments to contract with the private sector for various infrastructure projects is going unloved in the House. It’s helplessly buried somewhere in the middle of the Governor’s to-do list. It’s been abandoned, left alone to die.

-Sanctuary City Ban. Why pass HB 4104 and HB 4334 this term when both Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.) and Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) could throw this bill on Gov. Whitmer’s desk next term?

Anything Is Possible — 5 That May

-A-F Grading Scale. Creating an A-F grading scale for public school buildings (HB 5526) is the last of Snyder’s original legislative wish list. It only happens if House Education Committee Chair Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp.) rounds up the votes in the lower chamber. Speaker Leonard is agnostic on the subject.

-Non-profit Donor Disclosure. No lame duck is complete without Republicans pushing through elections-related reforms progressives find repugnant. This year’s version is Shirkey’s SB 1176 that makes it harder to track “soft money.” From Shirkey’s perspective, he doesn’t want non-profits to be forced to reveal their donors.

History is on the side of this bill moving with maybe a late substitute that adds in additional reforms. Keep an eye on that and another bill that will allow Senators to use money leftover in their Senate campaign accounts to settle up personal debts in their House accounts (SB 1022).

Now is the Republicans’ last chance to fiddle with election law for at least four more years.

-School Safety Package. The House and Senate need to cut the deal with the Governor on what’s going in the final package, if there’s enough interest in getting it done. Nassar has seemed to push school shootings off the radar in favor of sexual assault response. The House has their bills. The Senate as their bills.

-No PIP Coverage For Seniors. A comprehensive auto insurance reform is much too hard of a lift for lame duck, but one piece that could survive if legislators feel reform under future Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn’t going to happen is Sen. Rick Jones’ (R-Grand Ledge) SB 0787. This allows those on Medicare 65 and older to get out of buying unlimited lifetime personal coverage on their auto insurance. It’s up to the House at this point.

-Gaming Reform. Meekhof’s grand vision of roping in on-line gaming, a sports book and fantasy sports reforms make sense in concept, but the Senate Majority Leader was out of the loop for a month and has some catching up to do.

One Chamber Victory? — 5 That Stay

-Raise The Age. The Rep. Pete Lucido-driven bill package to raise the age of those automatically criminally charged as adults to 18 can clear the House. Whether the Shelby Township Republican’s idea is too big of a change to push through the Senate may be the question. The counties still need to sign off and right now they are losers under this.

-Teacher Prep Legislation. The Rep. Daniela Garcia-led package (HB 5598) to standardize teacher preparation requirements fell victim to politics in the spring and now would be a new subject for the Senate to take up even if the Holland Republican rounds up the House votes.

-50/50 Joint Custody Bill. Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) is coming back to the Senate next term. He can pick back up the idea that joint child custody should be the default judgment in divorce cases at that time (HB 4691). There’s just too much opposition to it.

-Civil Asset Forfeitures. The Senate likes Runestad’s HB 5702 to require county prosecutors to immediately review seizures to determine whether the property should be returned. Police groups, prosecutors, the ACLU and the Mackinac Center like it, too.

But the House sent over Lucido’s HB 4158, which ties civil asset forfeiture to a criminal conviction. That isn’t going to fly in the upper chamber.

-Dental Therapists Bill. Shirkey will give it the ol’ college try, but the Michigan Dental Association isn’t going to budge in opposing SB 0541 allowing for the creation of mid-level dental providers. Unless the House uses it for leverage, Shirkey will need to come back with this idea when he’s the majority leader.

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