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Letter from the President

November 4, 2019

By Brian Calley

So much is happening at SBAM right now, so I thought I’d give you a rundown of some of the bigger items that have been on our plate.

MI Hidden Talent Workshop

On Monday, October 28th, the fourth annual MI Hidden Talent Workshop was held in East Lansing. Back in 2015, Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein and I started a disability employment awareness campaign, making the case for why employers might want to consider intentionally hiring more employees with disabilities. People with disabilities tend to have enhanced innovation and creativity capabilities because they have to in order to do many of the things most of us take for granted. They tend to be hard workers, and persevere when things are difficult because they know a life struggle. And time after time, employers who hire people with disabilities report that they are more loyal and stay longer than the pool of applicants they typically hire from. 

SBAM picked up and built upon the MI Hidden Talent Workshop this year and it was a huge success. The workshop was offered at no cost to attendees because of the generous support of our sponsors, including title sponsor Delta Dental of Michigan. And we had a capacity audience! What made this seminar better than those that Richard and I did in the past is that there was a stronger connection made between employers and the service agencies that help people with disabilities prepare and onboard for employment. I am so proud of how well this effort came together and look forward to sharing some of the employment success stories with you in the future. To review some photos of the event, click here

Anti-Small Business Public Policy

We are working harder than ever for you in the public policy arena. It might not be obvious in the headlines because political fighting so often just sounds like noise coming from Washington, D.C. or Lansing, but there is a very troubling trend happening in state level policy making. More and more often, unilateral executive action is being taken to ramp up regulations in tandem with court actions and an anti-small business legislative agenda. Here are some examples:

  • We have seen two small business targeted tax increase proposals – one presented with the budget and the other proposed as an alternative to the gas tax to fund roads. Both put an inordinately higher burden of the cost of state government on small business.

  • A “payroll fraud unit” was launched by the Attorney General and the next day, House Democrats introduced a related legislative package. Aside from expanding penalties for and criminalizing mistakes made in the payroll process, the proposed legislation severely restricts the definition of an independent contractor. This would make the use of independent contractors much more legally risky and be especially costly for small businesses.

  • The Governor just directed her Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director to draft administrative rules to increase the threshold for mandatory overtime to all employees earning under $51,000, which would surely impact management level employees in small businesses. This would make Michigan one of the most expensive overtime states in the nation. The Governor is moving to bypass the legislative process to do this with administrative action.

  • An emergency declaration was used to implement a ban on flavored vaping products with no hearings or public input. Regardless of how you feel about vaping, the use of an emergency declaration to implement a new regulation of any kind outside of the transparency required of the normal process should be a concern to business owners. We do not expect every issue to go our way, but the process for making laws and rules must be transparent and small business owners (and all the people of Michigan) should be entitled to a way to voice their opinion in the process.

  • An Attorney General opinion and related Executive Directive from the Governor was issued to try and undo properly-passed legislation regarding decommissioning the Enbridge-owned Line 5 pipeline in favor of replacing it with a tunnel. That tunnel would be through the bedrock 100 feet below the lake bed in the Straits of Mackinac. Aside from this affecting any small business owner who uses propane or gasoline for heating or transportation, there are also thousands of small oil and gas producers in northern Michigan. This fits into a more troubling trend toward the use of legal technicalities in court to try and overturn properly passed legislation.

  • The Attorney General is attempting to get the compromised minimum wage and paid leave time legislation passed late last year thrown out in court. If successful, the law would default back to the much more costly and economically damaging citizens initiative, which was heavily funded by out of state special interest groups.

I wish I could say that this was an exhaustive list. Sadly, it is not. But our team is very good at what we do. And we are looking out for you in every branch of government. I am confident that we will come out on top here because small businesses rightfully have a lot of goodwill built up in every single community in our state.

If you haven’t already, please follow this link and sign up to join our advocacy efforts: I promise we won’t spam you. Once a week you get an email regarding some of the bigger issues before us, and from time to time, we will ask that you make a call or send an email to voice support or opposition to action taken in Lansing. We will not ask unless it is important.

Economic Development

On a much more positive note, the SBAM-supported Entrepreneurship Led Economic Development legislation was approved by the first legislative committee. Regardless of how you feel about state supported economic development, we think it is important that small business owners have a formal seat at the table when those programs are developed. Michigan is blessed to have many big businesses, but small businesses create most of the jobs. The Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will be better for having small businesses more represented at their table.

As always, thank you for what you do. SBAM is growing like crazy and every team member here is honored to serve you.

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