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May 5 | This Week in Government: Mackinac Conference to Focus on Civic Role During Polarizing Times; Senate Moves Most Budget Bills

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Mackinac Conference to Focus on Civic Role During Polarizing Times
  2. Senate Moves Most Budget Bills, Many Along Party Lines
  3. DTMB Predicts Teens Will Enter Favorable Labor Market for Summer Jobs
  4. Administration Seeking 75,000+ New, Rehabbed Housing Units
  5. Report: MI Roads Rated Poor Condition to Be Nearly 50% by 2033

Mackinac Conference to Focus on Civic Role During Polarizing Times

Organizers of the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference told reporters Tuesday it will focus on the business community’s changing civic role in polarizing times, looking at key areas where the business community can be an example.

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy K. Baruah and Arn Tellem, 2022 conference chair and vice chairman of Pistons Sports & Entertainment discussed the agenda and key speakers expected during the conference running from May 31 to June 3.

The conference will also feature a Republican gubernatorial debate which will be offered to non-conference goers as well for an admission fee of $250. Unlike the other events at the conference, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test will not be required because the event is expected to take place outdoors.

When asked by a reporter if this was a request made by the Michigan Republican Party, Baruah said all COVID-19 protocols were determined by the Detroit Regional Chamber, as well as the decision to hold the event outdoors.

Baruah also said the chamber has not yet begun discussions with the MIGOP to choose which candidates will be on the debate stage. Currently, there are 10 Republican gubernatorial candidates.

The remainder of the conference will focus on ways the business community can set an example, including advancing diversity as a strength, using civility and facts in public discourse, building a culture of empathy, and advocating for the fundamental elements of democracy.

“This conference is sort of a significant intersection of business and political and social issues at this point in time and more than ever why I think it should be discussed,” Tellem said.

Tellem discussed how sports play a significant role in communities, especially as a microcosm or mirror of current events and social issues. He said the pre-conference events on Tuesday will include a celebrity golf experience and dinner that will allow for convening and discussion.

Several sports athletes, coaches, and entertainers are expected to be in attendance for a panel discussion, including Michigan State University Men’s Basketball coach Tom Izzo, NBA champion Isaiah Thomas and two-time Olympic gold medalist for women’s soccer Mia Hamm.

NBA Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, who is also a Detroit native, is slated to speak as well.

Two panels of discussion featuring congressional leaders will also occur, one with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and the other panel with U.S. representatives. So far, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), and U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) confirmed they would appear on the panel.

President and CEO of CMS and Consumers Energy Garrick Rochow, President and CEO of ITC Holdings Corporation Linda Apsey, and President and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions Cindy Pasky will also attend this year’s conference.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation president and CEO Quentin Messer Jr. is also expected to be there.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the traditional keynote address and will close out the hotel programming of the conference on Thursday. The remaining events will be held outdoors including the Republican gubernatorial debate.

Related: [Chamber Invites Top 5 Candidates To Participate In GOP Gubernatorial Debate]


Senate Moves Most Budget Bills, Many Along Party Lines

Members of the Senate slogged through a lengthy session Tuesday to vote through 14 of 17 budget bills, with several floor amendments adopted including a ban on COVID-19 vaccine requirements at colleges and universities, increases in higher education funding, and rail grade separation projects.

A slew of proposed Democratic amendments also failed, largely along party lines. The Democrats tried to restore or increase funding for various priorities in several budgets largely to no avail. These programs are needed to help underserved and minority communities over the Republican focus on keeping monies set aside for a tax cut deal with the governor’s administration, members have said.

GOP subcommittee chairs offered a repeated refrain throughout the day’s proceedings that many of the items proposed by Democrats but rejected could be discussed as budget negotiations continue.

Republicans praised the budget bills as a strong start in the process which they said targets key state priorities.

Prior to the budget votes, Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee praised the slate of bills, highlighting what he said was a good balancing act in funding key needs.

“Record funding for K-12, a scholarship program to help our children in higher ed, community colleges, trade schools and to reduce their debt. Cutting taxes for Michigan families, paying down long-term debt for our state,” Stamas said of key features of the complete budget bill package.

One bipartisan budget vote Tuesday was for SB 841, the Department of Transportation budget. The bill passed 35-0 following the adoption of four-floor amendments.

An amendment providing $150 million for local road and bridge projects was introduced by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Township). Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor) also had a floor amendment adopted, this one providing $140 million for local rail grade separation projects.

A $100 placeholder introduced by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) was adopted for a proposed Lake Michigan car ferry. Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) had language adopted requiring a report for the department detailing its obligations for programs related to public transportation development.

Broad agreement was also found on the higher education and community colleges budgets, SB 842 and SB 843, respectively. Of the two, SB 842 passed 31-4 and SB 843 passed 33-2. The agreement in the Senate largely stemmed from last week’s agreement to concur with the governor’s proposal for 5% one-time and 5% ongoing increases in funding for operations to the state’s universities and community colleges.

Amendments to the higher education and community college budgets from Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Niles) were adopted that insert language banning universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination for enrollment, attending in-person instruction, or residing in on-campus housing. The amendment would also ban the issuance of fines or penalties for failure to test for COVID-19 due to not being vaccinated, while also withholding a university’s monthly payments from the state for violations of the language.

Republicans have said between the vaccinated and COVID recovered population, the situation is different than the pre-vaccine stage of the pandemic. Democrats have said university boards have autonomy under the Constitution, so such language is unenforceable and would be expected to be rejected by the governor.

Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) had an amendment adopted for SB 842 that provided funding increases totaling $15.2 million spread between the state’s public universities. Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) introduced a similar amendment for SB 843 providing additional funding totaling $3.24 million spread between the state’s community colleges.

One other amendment, introduced by Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes), inserted language into SB 842 with multiple references to a “qualified private training institution.”

The general government budget, SB 831, passed 22-13 along party lines.

A key point of contention for Democrats in this budget was the addition of a $2 billion carveout in the bill, half in one-time and half in ongoing funding, for an as-yet-unspecified tax cut for residents that is still in negotiations.

Republicans have said the move ensures the Legislature has a pot of money ready for any potential tax deal while avoiding any need to make budget cuts later to find the funding for a tax cut. Democrats have questioned the need for carving out substantial revenues for tax cuts at the expense of numerous priorities within budgets they would like to see funded at larger levels.

A floor amendment introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) was rejected. It would have provided $500 million in pay for essential workers who were left out of previous rounds of payments during the pandemic. Victory said prior to rejection of the amendment that a tax cut would be a better broad-based option to assist residents.

The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity budget, SB 834, passed 21-14, with Runestad siding with the Democrats in opposition.

Prior to passage of the LEO budget, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) offered a floor amendment that was adopted to provide $2.5 million for the Tri-Share Child Care program.

The Department of State Police budget, SB 837, passed 24-11, with Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) and Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren) siding with Republicans on the budget.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs budget, SB 838, passed by a 35-0 vote.

Two amendments were adopted prior to final passage. The first, introduced by Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb Township), provided for an additional $6.1 million for the Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) successfully introduced the second, an amendment providing a $100 placeholder for construction of new veterans’ homes in Detroit and Marquette.

Other Senate budgets passing along party-line votes of 22-13 on Tuesday were those for departments of Agriculture and Rural Development (SB 827), Insurance and Financial Services (SB 835), Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (SB 836), Natural Resources (SB 839), and Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (SB 840). The judiciary branch budget (SB 830) also passed 22-13.

The vote on SB 829, the Department of Corrections budget, was 20-15, with Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), and Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) joining Democrats in voting no.),

“Budgets are a statement of priorities. I think there’s still a lot of things missing in these budgets,” Hertel told reporters following session. “I think the governor had better proposals to move Michigan forward, so we voted no on a majority of the budget.”

Hertel said he believed the proposed increases in operations funding for higher education and community colleges was the highest in his lifetime, which he considered a huge positive.

Negatives he saw in the budget was a reduction in job training program funding and the lack of funding for several environmental programs and proposed initiatives.

“There needs to be a continued investment in Michigan families,” Hertel said. “I’m glad we got some of our amendments today, but I think that real discussions have to happen.”

Three budget bills remain for the Senate to take up on Wednesday. Those are the Department of Health and Human Services (SB 828), the School Aid budget (SB 832), and the Department of Education (SB 833).

Related: [Advocacy In Action Update: Chamber Supports Term Limit Reforms]


DTMB Predicts Teens Will Enter Favorable Labor Market for Summer Jobs

Entry-level positions requiring little experience or training will have a strong demand for workers during the summer months, with the Department of Technology, Management and Budget releasing Monday its summer 2022 job market forecast for teenagers aged 16 to 19 years of age.

The department said in its release as the state’s labor market continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic the demand for workers remains high and teenagers looking for a summer job will greatly benefit.

“An additional 35,000 to 40,000 teenagers are forecasted to join Michigan’s workforce this summer,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “If the current demand for workers remains strong, many of these teens will find a job. In 2022, Michigan can expect high participation and low unemployment for teenagers compared to previous summers.”

There are little more than 500,000 teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 in Michigan and DTMB predicts nearly half of them are expected to participate in the labor market this summer, suggesting 214,400 will be actively employed. It predicts 238,500 teenagers will join the labor force.

The number of teenagers expected to be working is an improvement from 2020 and 2021, however DTMB said the numbers are not as high as years prior. This can be credited to the shrinking population of teenagers in this age group, which has declined every year since its peak of 614,000 in 2008.

The unemployment rate for teenagers will most likely rest at 10.1%. This is similar to the past four years with the exception of 2020 when the unemployment rates were between 10 and 12%.


Administration Seeking 75,000+ New, Rehabbed Housing Units

Building or rehabilitating at least 75,000 housing units, stabilizing 100,000 households’ housing, and increasing energy efficiency for at least 15,000 households are at the core of a series of goals unveiled as part of the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide housing plan.

Soaring rental costs combined with the aging of the state’s housing stock and lack of equal opportunity to home ownership were among the reasons cited in the plan from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority unveiled Wednesday.

A broad series of goals were unveiled as part of the plan. Implementation and a path to achieve those goals were less clear.

The plan said a new statewide housing partnership and regional groups would work in tandem with Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness to meet the plan’s goals. The statewide partnership also will create an action plan focused on the goals and strategies.


Report: MI Roads Rated Poor Condition to Be Nearly 50% by 2033

One-third of the state’s paved federal aid roads are rated as being in poor condition and that number is projected to increase to nearly 50% by 2033, a report released Thursday by a transportation organization detailed.

In its 2021 roads and bridges report, the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council listed 33% of the state’s paved federal aid roads as being in poor condition. This was a decrease from an estimated 42% in 2020.

For 2021, about 25% of federal aid roads were rated in good condition and 42% in fair condition.

“The 2021 improvement in road surface condition may be due in part to a number of factors including a mix of fixes of road surface treatments and increased revenue and types of investment,” the report said. “However, the paved federal-aid roads are expected to deteriorate, outpacing potential funding available to maintain the network.”

Influxes of federal funding, such as coronavirus relief monies, were listed as reasons for costly reconstruction projects maintaining the quality of roads into at least 2023. Fewer road miles are addressed when there is an influx of cash, but those dollars are typically spent on projects to repair or replace the poorest condition stretches of road, the report stated. Cost increases for materials and labor were listed as major factors in fewer miles of road repairs.

It was forecast that the percent of federal aid roads rated as being in poor condition would rise from 33% in 2021 to 35% in 2023. From there it would rise to 40% by 2027 and reach 48% in 2033.

The 42% of federal aid roads rated in fair condition is projected to decline to 40% in 2023 and decline to 33% by 2033. For roads rated as being in good condition, the 25% in 2021 is projected to remain the same in 2023. From there, a slower decline is expected over the coming decade to only 19% being rated as being in good condition by 2033.

“Without additional and consistent long-term investment in the billions of dollars, the percent of roads in poor condition will continue to increase, as the increasing cost outpaces the ability to fix them,” the report stated.

The 2021 figure of 67% of federal aid roads being either in good or fair condition is the highest percentage the group recorded within the decade it has produced yearly reports.

Deterioration of the quality of bridges was also projected in the report.

Fifty-three percent of bridges were rated in fair condition in 2021, with another 36% rated as being in good condition. Another 7% were rated poor, and the remaining 4% rated as being in severe condition.

The report said 60 bridges that are overseen by local agencies or governments were closed due to their condition.

“Over 1,250 bridges, or 11.2% of NBI (National Bridge Inventory) structures in Michigan are in poor condition,” the report said. “All the gains in reduction of poor bridges over the last 10 years have now been lost. Given the current rate of bridge deterioration, the percent of bridges in poor condition will continue to rise until significant increases in investment are made.”

To that end, the report projects the 11% combined poor and severe condition bridges to rise to 19% overall by 2033.

For the state’s more than 165,000 miles of non-federal aid roads, or local roads, 45% were rated as being in poor shape. Another 35% of roads were rated as being in fair condition and only 25% in good condition.

Further, Michigan lags the surrounding Great Lakes states by having more bridges rated as being in poor or severe condition.

The 11% of Michigan bridges rated as being in poor condition in 2021 is ahead of those in Illinois (9%), Wisconsin (6.9%), Indiana (5.6%), Ohio (4.9%), and Minnesota (4.6%). Michigan was above both the regional and national averages of between 6 and 8% in this category.

For bridges rated in severe condition in 2021, Michigan’s 3.9% was higher than all the states, with Illinois having 2.9% rated as low, 1.4% in Wisconsin, 1.2% in Ohio, 1% in Indiana, and 0.8% in Minnesota. Michigan was above the national and regional averages of less than 2% in this category.