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Round-Up of Legislative News: May 10 – 14

May 15, 2010

House Committee Debates New Tax

There is a new tax proposal that would allow local governments to assess up to a 50 cent per drink tax on alcoholic beverages.

The legislation, which was not reported from committee, would allow local units of government to submit ballot proposals that would allow the local community to vote on the liquor tax.

Much of the business community is opposed to the legislations as it could drive business to neighboring communities that would not assess the tax.

Local government groups support the proposal.  SBAM opposes the new tax scheme and we will keep you updated on its progress.

SBAM Opposes Bill That Would Crack Down on Mis-Classified Independent Contractors

The House Labor Committee is taking up bills that would institute harsh penalties for those in the construction and trucking industries who fail to properly classify independent contractors as employees.

The bill concerns an issue that has long been a concern of unions and business.  Even the sponsor of the bill admits that existing law in this area is vague.  The legislation doesn’t really address the ambiguity in the law but proposes heavy-handed penalties for violations.

For knowingly violating the law the business owner could be subject to a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 18 months or a fine of not more than $15,000, or both, for a first offense, and imprisonment for not more than seven years or a fine of not more than $30,000, or both, for a second or subsequent offense.

Those who unintentionally violate the law could face a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $2,500, or both, for a first offense, and imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both, for a second or subsequent offense.

In addition, the Director of the Worker’s Compensation Agency could issue a stop-work order requiring the cessation of all business operations within 72 hours should they determine that a violation had occurred.  The stop-work order would remain in effect until the director releases it or until the mis-classified employees are properly classified.

SBAM finds these proposed penalties extraordinarily harsh, especially for what could be an innocent mistake on the part of the employer.  We will continue to monitor these bills.

Alma Wheeler Smith Drops out of Governor’s Race

With the deadline for candidates to file with the Secretary of State’s office for inclusion on the ballot now past, the Democrats find themselves with only two candidates for this year’s gubernatorial election.

This week State Representative Alma Wheeler Smith withdrew her name from consideration.  That leaves Speaker of the House Andy Dillon and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero as the two candidates left standing to compete for the Democratic nomination for Governor. 

On the Republican side all of the announced candidates filed petition signatures to be included on the ballot.  They are Attorney General Mike Cox, Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Oakland County Sherriff Mike Bouchard, Ann Arbor business executive Rick Snyder, and State Senator Tom George.

A number of these candidates have confirmed that they will participate in a forum at SBAM’s annual meeting next month.  Go to for ticket information.

Election 2010

In other election news a record number of candidates have filed for election in the state’s legislative races.

In the House, 510 candidates filed for the 110 seats that are up for election this year.  Fifty-two of the 110 seats will be open because of term limits, House members running for higher office, early retirements and one death.

In the Senate, 168 candidates filed for the 38 seats up for election.  Twenty-nine of the 38 seats will be open in the Senate.

The result of this multitude of candidates and open seats will be many competitive races throughout the state in the August primary elections.  Likewise, control for both chambers will be up for grabs in the November general election.

SBAM’s Small Biz PAC will be reviewing the candidate’s records and qualifications in all 148 of these seats and making endorsement decisions in the coming weeks and months.

We review the candidates based on their past voting records and a questionnaire that we send out on issue important to small business.

As we make these endorsements, we will keep you informed of who we think are the best candidates for supporting the small business agenda and propelling a new economic direction for Michigan.  It will definitely be a busy and interesting summer and fall.

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