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Legislative Update: DPS Reform, Skilled Trades Funding Among Top Issues This Month in Lansing

The Detroit Regional Chamber continues to work closely with state legislators on several bills focused on ensuring Southeast Michigan maintains a pro-economic growth environment. Read more about the latest issues, including proposed reforms for Detroit Public Schools, property rehabilitation tax credits and increased funding for the Skilled Trades Training Fund.

Supporting DPS Reform Legislation

Legislation to reform Detroit Public Schools was introduced by Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-Hart) in January and recently received its first week of hearings in the Senate Government Operations Committee. The Chamber supports the debt relief mechanisms in Hansen’s legislation, as well as other responsible reforms such as returning control of DPS back to an elected school board and the creation of a Detroit Education Commission. The Chamber will continue to advocate for proactive reform that ensures the financial stability of DPS and the educational success of all Detroit schoolchildren.

Senate Bills 07100711 are the result of years of discussion and negotiation among stakeholders, in which the Chamber played an active role. Last year, Chamber President Sandy Baruah, along with Chamber Board members Richard DeVore and John Rakolta Jr., joined a diverse cohort of 36 community leaders as part of the Coalition for the Future of Detroit Schoolchildren to develop comprehensive recommendations for the district’s future, some of which is reflected in Hansen’s proposed legislation.

Proposed Fiscal Year Executive Budget Promotes Job Training Opportunities

In his recently released fiscal year 2017 budget recommendation, Gov. Snyder recommended another increase to the Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF), totaling $35 million. Similar programs, such as the Community Ventures program and the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program, are maintained at current levels. The Chamber supports the continued investment in Michigan’s workforce.

Last year, the Chamber advocated for increased investment in the STTF, focused on high-skill, high-demand jobs and addressing Michigan’s skills gap through incumbent worker training. In 2016, state allocation for the program increased from $10 million to $25 million in order to accommodate increased demand.

Obsolete Property Rehab Act Extension Sees Swift Movement in Senate

The Chamber supports the continuation of effective economic development programs, and in 2015 advocated for the successful extension of the Commercial Rehabilitation Act, a local abatement program designed for redeveloping old and vacant commercial buildings. As 2016 begins, the Legislature is acting swiftly to extend a similar bill focused on core communities, the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act. Senate Bill 673, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R- Frankenmuth), passed the Senate earlier this month and is awaiting a hearing in the House Tax Policy Committee.

Chamber Advocacy Committees: Upcoming Meetings

The Chamber’s Tax Committee will meet on Monday, Feb. 22, and will host Glenn White, state deputy treasurer, to discuss the Department of Treasury’s efforts to increase Detroit income tax collection rates. The Chamber will also provide updates on other relevant state issues and solicit member feedback. The Tax Committee is chaired by Gregory Nowak, principal at Miller Canfield.

The Energy and Environment Committee will meet on Monday, March 21. The committee will host staff from the Department of Environmental Quality to discuss 2016 priorities. The committee will also discuss the city of Detroit’s proposed bulk materials ordinance. The Energy and Environment Committee is chaired by Abed Houssari, director of environmental engineering at DTE Energy.

Members interested in joining a Chamber advocacy committee can contact Jason Puscas at jpuscas@detroitchamber.com.