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Oct. 22 | This Week In Government: Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Decreased Slightly In September; Detroit Dump Site Limits The Focus During Hearing On Trash Dumping Bill

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. Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Decreased Slightly In September
  2. Detroit Dump Site Limits The Focus During Hearing On Trash Dumping Bill
  3. Timeline Still Unclear On Moving $2.5B Water Infrastructure Supplemental
  4. A Redistricting Unknown: The Court Of Appeals
  5. EPA Plans To Regulate PFAS; Moving To Set Drinking Water Limits

Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Decreased Slightly In September

Michigan’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate declined by 0.1 percentage point, to 4.6 percent, in September, date from the Department of Technology, Management and Budget data released Wednesday showed.

Statewide employment grew by 16,000, while the number of unemployed inched down by 4,000. Michigan’s labor force increased by 12,000 over the month.

“Michigan’s labor market was stable in September,” Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. “The unemployment rate and payroll job counts both showed minimal change over the month.”

The state’s total employment level inched up by 0.4 percentage point over the month, similar to the national rate of growth, while it – and the country at large – saw a significant total unemployment decline since September 2020 as individuals returned from pandemic-related layoffs.

Michigan’s September 2021 unemployment rate remained above pre-pandemic levels, however, with total unemployment in the state being 36,000 – 19.4 percent higher than in February 2020. The September 2021 jobless rate of 4.6 percent was above the pre-pandemic rate of 3.7 percent.

DTMB’s data also showed that the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area’s seasonally adjusted September jobless rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point to 3.9 percent. The Detroit region employment level increased by 12,000, while unemployment receded by 4,000, resulting in a workforce gain of 8,000 since August. Joblessness in the Detroit metro area has declined significantly since last September.

As for nonfarm jobs, the monthly survey of employers indicated that total payroll employment rose slightly by 8,000 in September – up 0.2 percent – resulting in a September job level of about 4.2 million. The state’s leisure and hospitality sector had the largest monthly job gain, and though this industry historically sees some decline in September, the drop in September 2021 was smaller than usual.

September was the fifth month in a row to exhibit an over-the-month payroll employment increase, although job gains in the last two months have been modest. Statewide payroll employment moved up by 99,000, or 2.4 percent, over the year. Michigan nonfarm jobs were 272,000, or 6.1 percent, below the February 2020 pre-pandemic level.

The statewide education and health services sector, however, exhibited the largest over-the-month job decline – down by 6,000, or 0.9 percent. Manufacturing jobs, though, edged up slightly for the second consecutive month.

Michigan’s professional and business services sector exhibited the largest over-the-year numeric job growth, adding 30,000 positions since the prior September.


Detroit Dump Site Limits The Focus During Hearing On Trash Dumping Bill

Dumping limitations at a municipal trash site in Detroit and the inaccessibility of a second site within the city are partly to blame for the city’s trash and illegal dumping problem, which Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) told the House Judiciary Committee is worsening by the day.

Johnson said her HB 4048, reintroduced from last session, would provide stiffer criminal penalties and civil fines for unlawful dumping by amending the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

Johnson said her bill has support from city officials and was inspired by the city’s growing trash problem. She said trash is piling up on the sides or roadways and highways, in neighborhoods and sometimes in residents’ front or back yards, and is attracting rats. The representative said Tuesday that she’s even seen dead rats outside of her own home, one of which she said she ran over recently while driving.

She added that it appears a large portion of the trash problem isn’t being generated by city residents but rather companies like construction contractors and in some cases non-residents.

Johnson legislative director Chris Wardell said that he has also seen trash piling up in and around Kalamazoo.

Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), a member of the committee, said he’s seen trash dumped along roadways and nature trails on which he runs and hikes. While he acknowledged the problem and the need to stop it, Johnson wondered how many individuals were actually caught dumping. He said the bill would not help if violators were not being prosecuted.

Johnson said she did not have figures on prosecutions in front of her but did say those who have attempted to clean illegal dump sites, whether city employees or good Samaritans, have taken to digging through trash bags to find addressed envelopes that are then turned over to law enforcement.

The city has also begun installing cameras at frequently flagged illegal dump sites in an attempt to catch violators in the act.

When Johnson asked whether the dumping was a product of laziness by individuals and companies or a problem with waste management within the city, Johnson said it was a bit of both. She said Detroit has two dump sites for residents, one of which is free and one managed by a third-party contractor. The free site indicates that it can take up to 1,000 pounds of acceptable waste from any city resident per day, but Johnson said the actual amount it can take was far less. The second site charges a fee, which she said discourages its use.

Jon Cool, president of the Michigan Railroads Association, testifying in support of the bill Tuesday, said the trash problem harms rail operations, and debris blocking rail yard entry points could pose problems if medical or law enforcement first responders need access during an emergency.

Johnson said a planned substitute would allow rail companies – which are experiencing the brunt of illegal dumping across the state, rail officials said – to seek reimbursement for the cost of cleanup from the offenders. Rail company officials Tuesday said it would not be safe for violators to clean areas like electrified tracks that service rail cars in both directions.

Johnson suggested allowing any company, not just railroads, to be reimbursed for costs incurred during clean-up, which Ms. Johnson said she was willing to entertain.

OTHER BUSINESS: The committee reported a package of bills aimed at protecting residents against sexual abuse from physicians by increasing penalties and ensuring the protection of medical records referencing any supposed treatment involving vaginal or anal penetration. The package, inspired by the fallout from the Larry Nassar abuse scandal, includes HB 4853, HB 4855, HB 4857and HB 4858, each of which was the subject of previous testimony.

The committee also reported HB 5368, after adopting a substitute, that would make birth dates publicly accessible information in court proceedings. Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), committee chair and the bill sponsor, said the substitute makes two minor but important language changes – swapping the word “defendant” with “individual” so that only a defendant’s name and date of birth is prohibited from redaction and striking the phrase, “all court documents must be open to the public” from the bill.


Timeline Still Unclear On Moving $2.5B Water Infrastructure Supplemental

Initial testimony on a multibillion-dollar water infrastructure supplemental appropriations package was unanimously positive Wednesday but the timeline for movement and what an amended formula for a lead line replacement component might look like were not immediately clear.

The $2.5 billion supplemental, SB 565, before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, provides for extensive investments in water infrastructure including lead line replacements and dam repairs.

There has been no opposition to the proposal thus far, with supporters saying using the once in a generation infusion of federal funding, via the federal coronavirus relief package, would be a significant long-term investment in the state’s infrastructure needs.

Of the $2.5 billion the bill contains, $2.21 billion is federal relief funds and $290 million is state restricted funds. That funds would also break down to $2.485 billion for the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and $15 million for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“I believe SB 565 is a huge step in ensuring that our state water infrastructure undergoes transformational improvements that will benefit every Michigander for generations to come,” Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), the bill’s sponsor, told the committee.

Included in the bill is $650 million for a dam risk reduction revolving loan fund, $600 million for lead line replacements, $400 million for the state’s drinking water program, $235 million for clean water infrastructure and $200 million for wastewater-clean water infrastructure grants.

Another $100 million would go toward the PFAS remediation program, with $100 million allocated for stormwater, asset management and wastewater program grants.

Bumstead said a substitute is being crafted to make changes to the proposed lead line replacement formula.

Under the original bill, EGLE would be able to approve grants for costs related to service line replacement to water suppliers that meet the state’s lead and copper rule standards. Applicants would be required to put up a 50 percent match. A total of 25 percent of the annual grants would be required to be spent in rural communities with a population of less than 10,000 people.

What the formula for the lead line replacements funding might look like is still being discussed, Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), the committee chair, told reporters after the hearing.

“We want to find the right balance,” Stamas said. “That’s going to come with our ability to work with our stakeholders.”

When asked about the timeline for getting the money out the door, he said the issue was, again, finding the right balance as well as identifying the right targeted investments.

“I do feel that there is a pressure to move something forward, but we want to make sure that we get this right,” Stamas said, and that involves working with stakeholders and the governor’s administration.

He emphasized the need to not move too quickly and make sure the state gets it right when it comes to a generational opportunity for investment.

Beyond the match in the original language for the lead line replacements, there are other stipulations for some of the pots of money within the bill.

For the $200 million in wastewater-clean water infrastructure grants, at least $40 million would be for communities of 5,000 or fewer people.

The $100 million in PFAS mitigation grants would have to be awarded by EGLE for remediation projects with no identified responsible party and would be meant to address drinking water, groundwater or surface water contamination.

Another $85 million in the bill would be for a healthy hydration program to provide grants to schools to install filtered drinking water stations. Applicants would have to provide a 30 percent match and the funds would be contingent on the passage of SB 184 and SB 185.

Members of the committee were all on board with the bill and the need for major investments, although multiple members suggested that further discussions may be needed on provisions such as the local matches, especially for the lead line funding.


A Redistricting Unknown: The Court Of Appeals

Proposal 2 of 2018 left the Legislature and governor still in charge of one aspect of redistricting: the reapportionment of the four state Court of Appeals districts.

However, it has been quiet in the House and Senate on starting work on a bill to redraw the lines.

The 25 judges of the Court of Appeals are elected from four different districts.

Under the 2011 map, the first district has judges from Branch, Hillsdale, Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Monroe, St. Joseph, and Wayne. The second district has judges from Genesee, Oakland and Macomb counties. The third district has judges from Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, Eaton, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, Mason, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Ottawa, Van Buren, and Washtenaw. All other counties are in the fourth district.

Of particular interest in 2022 is that Judge David Sawyer of East Grand Rapids in the third district cannot seek reelection because of the age limit on judicial candidates. That creates a rare open seat on the court.

Another aspect to watch is that two of the judges up for reelection in 2022 (Judge Michael Gadola of Lansing and Judge Brock Swartzle of Okemos) are from a smaller county – Ingham – which could conceivably be moved away from the large number of northern, smaller counties into something closer and then potentially shake up who is running where.

House Republican spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro, asked when the Legislature would begin work on redistricting, said with the census data having come in later, the House is “still collecting input on the population shifts and whether changes are needed.”

He said the court redistricting is not on the same strict timeline as the U.S. House and Legislature, which now is constitutionally mandated under Proposal 2.

Messages left with the Senate Republican Caucus were not returned.


EPA Plans To Regulate PFAS; Moving To Set Drinking Water Limits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced they are moving to set enforceable drinking water limits on PFAS, chemicals which do not break down naturally and often end up in water supplies in communities all around the country.

This is the first time the EPA is attempting to address PFAS. The chemicals can be found in cosmetics, dental floss and cleaning supplies. Several companies, including 3M, are facing lawsuits for contamination. The U.S. Department of Defense has also faced public outcry and military leaders have begun assessing the problems caused by military bases.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has dedicated MPART, the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team, to handle the situation in the state. Hugh McDiarmid Jr., EGLE communications manager, said in a statement that the department is aware of the EPA announcement, and staff is reviewing its potential impact on Michigan.

John Dulmes, Michigan Chemistry Council executive director, said in a statement the council looks forward to reviewing the EPA’s PFAS Roadmap and continuing to work with regulatory agencies on science-based policies.

“We have long held that the federal government – rather than individual states – is best-positioned to develop consistent and comprehensive regulations,” Dulmes said in a statement. “Still, many of the proposals outlined in the EPA PFAS Roadmap, including drinking water and cleanup standards, have already been undertaken by Michigan EGLE, so we will have to see how EGLE and EPA harmonize their approaches.”

Dulmes told Gongwer News Service that the Department of Defense hasn’t conformed to Michigan’s standards and with the EPA’s announcement, it would potentially be the most affected in the state.

“Michigan has been pretty aggressive and conservative in setting those standards,” he said. “It will impact other states probably more so than Michigan because Michigan has already taken those steps.”