Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy in Action > Sept. 23, 2022 | This Week in Government: Many Seats in Play as House Majority Could Be Up for Grabs

Sept. 23, 2022 | This Week in Government: Many Seats in Play as House Majority Could Be Up for Grabs

September 23, 2022
Detroit Regional Chamber Presents This Week in Government, powered by Gongwer, Michigan's home for Policy and Politics news since 1906

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides 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.

Many Seats in Play as House Majority Could Be Up for Grabs

Redistricting significantly changed the terrain in key areas of the state, creating a somewhat murky path to majority in the House for either the Democrats or the Republicans.

Given the map shows 20-plus seats potentially in play, there are a lot of unknowns. This is likely part of the reason the Senate is getting a strong focus as a flippable chamber: the path is simpler, and the players are well known.

Democrats and Republicans, though, feel they have a lot to be excited about in the House. Republicans have held a majority since 2010. They still have a strong grip on almost all of the districts north of Clare, regardless of redistricting. The GOP is also bullish on the Downriver area, where it has several seats under the new map.

However, Democrats have an unpacked Grand Rapids area and a changing Oakland County. They, too, won’t count out Downriver, even as that area changes in the GOP’s favor, and think their candidates are the better fit for those seats. The environment also has improved for Democrats, with abortion a top three issue and a GOP top-of-the ticket that is not drawing strong investment.

While the messages are mostly the same from Grand Rapids to Downriver, they might not hit the same. Voters Downriver are less able to handle price increases from inflation and business closure orders from the pandemic, while in Grand Rapids, they may not be as angry. Former President Donald Trump has also turned off some previously solid GOP voters in Grand Rapids.

Of the seats not listed below, Gongwer rates Republicans as favorites in 45 and Democrats as favorites in 41.

That means of the 24 below, Republicans would need to win 11 for 56 seats and majority while Democrats need 15.

When including seats Gongwer shows as on the radar but tilting one way, Republicans are favored in 49 and Democrats in 46, meaning Republicans would need to win seven of the 15 most competitive to get to 56 while Democrats need to win 10.

In either case, Republicans have a slightly easier path to 56, but it’s doable for both.

Here are the 15 seats Gongwer News Service rates as key to the House majority:

1. GARZA V. DESANA IN THE 29TH: Republicans are bullish about unseating Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor) in this key Downriver 29th House District. Garza has a much tougher district than he did before redistricting and is facing Republican James DeSana of Carleton.

Garza is putting in the work, and Taylor is still a Democratic stronghold, but the rest of the Downriver/Monroe County district is Republican-heavy. Of late, Garza has been slamming DeSana over not debating him. When an incumbent is clamoring for a debate, that’s generally ominous. Democrats privately say Garza is in serious trouble.

2. MILLER V. BINIECKI IN 31ST: Democrats have Van Buren Township Trustee Reggie Miller going up against Dale Biniecki of Monroe, a trucker, in the 31st House District. Democrats feel this is a good possibility. Republicans, though, are hot on Biniecki, who they have been working to recruit as a candidate for years. This is a large district geographically with varying GOP-heavy communities along with Dem-heavy ones.

3. ANDREWS V. WHITEFORD IN THE 38TH: Democrats feel this new Lake Michigan shoreline district is poised for a strong showing from their candidate, Joey Andrews of St. Joseph, a policy analyst for the AFL-CIO. Republicans are happy Kevin Whiteford of South Haven is a self-funder and knows how to work hard and win races, given his wife’s, Rep. Mary Whiteford, success. Both are said to be working hard. This is one of the true flip-a-coin seats in the House.

4. SCHMALTZ V. IMHOFF IN 46TH: Democrat Maurice Imhoff of Jackson is up against Republican Kathy Schmaltz in the 46th House District covering the Chelsea-Jackson area. This seat is a big one for the majority and the Democrats are bullish about Imhoff, who would be the youngest legislator ever if elected. Schmaltz is a former journalist with name recognition. The seat is purple in nature and will likely come down to the wire. There were Republican trackers recently following Imhoff.

5. SHANNON V. SMITH IN 58TH: Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) is no stranger to a tough district but has not truly been tested, given weaker GOP candidates during the last two cycles. Republican Michelle Smith of Sterling Heights, owner of a real estate appraisal company, appears different.

Democrats are confident Shannon is well-known and trusted in the district. Republicans think Smith is a strong candidate and that the new 58th House District is not good for Democrats. It’s no secret Sterling Heights is becoming more strongly Republican. Shannon faces a big test now that he’s up against a Republican who will have funding.

6. HAADSMA V. MORGAN IN 44TH: Democratic Rep. Jim Haadsma of Battle Creek is facing a third challenge from Republican Dave Morgan of Battle Creek in the 44th House District. Democrats see this as yet another failed attempt from Morgan, who has spent little in the past. Republicans have a different view: Morgan has almost won without the GOP doing much. Both sides are eyeing this, but so far Haadsma’s fundraising numbers have swamped Morgan’s. Calhoun County is trending Republican, and even Battle Creek doesn’t churn out the Democratic margins it once did.

7. CONLIN V. WOOLFORD IN 48TH: Jennifer Conlin of Ann Arbor is going up against Republican Jason Woolford of Genoa Township in this 48th House District that combines Washtenaw and Livingston counties. Democrats are excited Conlin is one of their best fundraisers and believe Woolford is too conservative for the district. Woolford is working. This could still be tough for the GOP, but this is a new district with a set of communities never before grouped together.

8. MARTINI V. STEELE IN 54TH: Democrats have Shadia Martini of Bloomfield Township, an immigrant from Syria who they think has a compelling story. Republicans have Orion Township Trustee Donni Steele, whom they think is the perfect Republican for the district. Both sides are excited about their respective candidates here. This is a big test for what matters more, inflation or the Dobbs decision ending the federal right to an abortion.

9. BERNARD V. TISDEL IN 55TH: Democrats want to unseat Rep. Mark Tisdel in this Rochester Hills-based 55th House District. Republicans think, like Steele in the 54th, he is the perfect Republican for this seat. Patricia Bernard of Rochester Hills is running for the Democrats. This is one area where abortion could be key. Dems are attacking Tisdel for comments he made about the 1931 law, but it is unclear if they have gotten traction. Tisdel won in 2020 even as President Joe Biden carried this seat. He has a base from his time on the Rochester Hills City Council. This is another one where the potency of the Dobbs decision will be tested.

10. FITZGERALD V. DEKRYGER IN 83RD: This Grand Rapids area contest between Republican Lisa DeKryger of Wyoming, co-owner of a building company, and Democratic Wyoming City Councilmember John Fitzgerald will be key. Republicans are really into DeKryger, who is said to be working. Democrats are also confident and like the environment for them in Grand Rapids.

Still, Wyoming, while it has changed enormously politically – having once elected social conservative firebrands like the Voorheeses – is purple. This is a key barometer of where Kent County stands.

11. KULL V. THOMPSON IN 28TH: Another Downriver seat, the 28th House District pits Democrat Robert Kull of Newport, a veteran, against Republican Jamie Thompson of Brownstown Township, a nurse. Thompson is said to be outgoing and working hard but also supports things like a so-called forensic audit of the 2020 election. On paper, this district should favor a Republican and is trending GOP, but candidate to candidate, Democrats might have an edge.

12. HOOD V. AFENDOULIS IN 81ST: In a race that is expected to be a bitter battle to the end, Democratic Rep. Rachel Hood of Grand Rapids is seeking reelection with a challenge from former Rep. Lynn Afendoulis of Grand Rapids. Republicans love Afendoulis and feel Hood is rebranding herself as less liberal. Democrats feel confident here and think Afendoulis’ side is pretty quiet. Sources in both parties say the Dobbs decision is a big boost to Hood here.

13. GLANVILLE V. MILANOWSKI IN 84TH: Rep. Carol Glanville of Walker is seeking reelection in a friendlier district than the one she won in a special election against a controversial Republican candidate. Republican Mike Milanowski of Walker ran a write-in campaign in the special and has some name recognition. Democrats, though, feel they are positioned strongly here. Republicans question an incumbent advantage for Glanville, given she has not been in office for very long.

14. CHURCHES V. HOWEY IN 27TH: This Downriver seat is the friendliest for the Democrats from their perspective. Jaime Churches of Grosse Isle, a teacher, is running for the Democrats and Robert Howey of Trenton for the GOP. Howey has run before. Republicans questioned his name ID in the primary, and another candidate got much of the outside support. Now, the GOP is warming back up to Howey. Democrats are confident here.

15. O’MALLEY V. COFFIA IN 103RD: Rep. Jack O’Malley (R-Lake Ann) could have a tough fight on his hands in the 103rd House District, which is trending more Democratic. Grand Traverse County Commissioner Betsy Coffia is running for the Democrats and has raised a huge amount of money. It’s also her fourth try for the House, albeit in a more Democratic district than her previous bids that at times frustrated state Democrats.

O’Malley is no slouch either and is said to be working hard even as he lost most of his previous district. Democrats are pointing to O’Malley’s record on abortion and other things, arguing he is too extreme. Republicans, though, think he is the perfect candidate for a Democrat-leaning district and are happy with his positive name ID from his days as a popular radio show host.

ON THE RADAR

DEM INCUMBENTS IN 21st, 22nd, 76th: Rep. Angela Witwer is seeking reelection in the 76th House District, Rep. Kelly Breen in the 21st House District, and Rep. Matt Koleszar in the 22nd House District.

Republicans have Eaton County Commissioner Jeremy Whittum against Witwer of Delta Township, but Witwer has done all the right things in this seat rich with GOP voters. There likely won’t be much of a GOP push here.

Against Breen of Novi, Republicans have Novi City Councilmember David Staudt. While a strong candidate on paper, this is another one where Democrats aren’t seeing much of a push against them.

Koleszar of Plymouth has Cathryn Neracher, a small business owner from Northville, as an opponent. This one looks like the best opportunity for the GOP, but Koleszar is a strong incumbent.

57TH: Democrat Aisha Farooqi, a Sterling Heights Zoning Board of Appeals member, is up against Republican Oakland County Commissioner Thomas Kuhn in the 57th House District. Republicans really like Kuhn. Democrats think it is tough but could come into play.

62ND: Republican Alicia St. Germaine of Harrison Township is up against Michael Brooks of Clinton Township in the 62nd House District covering parts of Macomb County. Both sides are watching this one, but it is GOP advantage here.

80TH: Republican Jeff Johnson of Ada is up against Democrat Kent County Commissioner Philip Skaggs in the 80th House District. Democrats feel the fundamentals are the strongest for them here of the Kent County seats up for grabs. Republicans are watching, and Johnson is spending large sums of his own money.

GOP INCUMBENTS IN 68TH, 96TH: Republicans are confident about Rep. David Martin (R-Davison) in the 68th House District and Rep. Timmy Beson of Bay City in the 96th House District.

Democrats have Cheri Hardmon, a weekend anchor in the district, against Martin. Against Beson, they have Bay County Commissioner Kim Coonan. Democrats are more bullish about the 68th and say don’t count it out. 96th would be tougher where Bay County is rapidly trending Republican.

109TH: Democrats are making the 109th House District in Marquette a key priority. They have Marquette City Commissioner Jenn Hill, and Republicans have Melody Wagner of Gwinn, a police officer who lost to current Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) twice. Republicans will make a play here, but Democrats are confident.

SOAR Fund Package Reported by Senate Panel

Bills that would allow for the capturing of taxes from sites where major projects have been approved under a large state economic development incentive program were reported by a Senate panel Tuesday, with the chair’s hope being it can see further movement by the end of the year.

Members of the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee reported SB 981SB 982, and SB 983 without debate. The vote on SB 982 was 9-0, while the votes on the other two bills were 8-0, with Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) abstaining.

Committee Chair Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) told reporters he is hoping to at least get them to the Senate floor in the next week or so, acknowledging time is limited to make progress with few session days left this year.

“I’d like to … at least get them on to the Senate floor, to draw attention to them,” Horn said.

He added that he has spoken with the budget director about the proposal.

State officials were moved to create the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund that lawmakers passed in late 2021, a new program and a pair of other funds following an announcement by Ford Motor Company last fall signaling that the manufacturer was building two electric vehicle battery plants totaling $11 billion in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Under SB 981, qualified businesses would have to report construction period tax capture revenue, withholding tax capture revenue, and income tax capture revenue as it relates to the improvement and use of qualified projects.

For SB 982, monies exceeding $2.5 billion within the SOAR Fund would, at the end of each fiscal year, be placed into the General Fund, except for money in the SOAR Fund that is already committed or obligated.

As for SB 983, statute would be changed to require an amount equal to the construction period tax capture revenue, withholding tax capture revenue, and income tax capture revenue for qualified projects to be deposited each year into the SOAR Fund.

Horn said some of the logistics of how the bills would work still need to be finalized.

A previous hearing on the package in June produced divided testimony. Supporters have said the Legislature’s passage late last year of an economic development incentive package and the $1 billion fund was a strong start and that this package would provide ongoing cash in the fund and maintain momentum for development.

Opponents have countered that large-scale economic development incentives do not stimulate growth and, if fiscal benefits to the state and public are realized, it would take several years for those benefits to materialize.

Having the mechanisms in place for the fund to be a successful incentive over the long term is a key goal in his remaining time in office, Horn has previously said.

Horn has also said he would support having another $500 million put into the fund.

Supreme Court Candidates Discuss Qualifications, Philosophy in Forum

Candidates seeking one of two available seats on the Michigan Supreme Court shared their views and reasons why they should be elected as an associate justice to the bench on Wednesday evening in a candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

Those in attendance included Supreme Court incumbents Justice Richard Bernstein and Justice Brian Zahra, and challengers Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield), appellate attorney Paul Hudson and Kerry Morgan. Supreme Court justices appear in the nonpartisan section of the ballot but are nominated by political parties. Both Bernstein and Bolden were nominated by the Michigan Democratic Party, whereas Zahra and Hudson were nominated by the Michigan Republican Party at their respective summer nominating conventions.

The Libertarian Party of Michigan nominated Morgan.

A key feature of the high court election is whether the balance of power will remain with Democratic Party-nominated justices or if the GOP can swing back by getting a fourth member on the bench. The former scenario would necessitate a reelection win for Bernstein or a win for Bolden, while the latter scenario would require a clean GOP sweep with Zahra returning and Hudson joining him in the top two. A Democratic sweep would mean a 5-2 majority for their party.

The candidates answered questions pertaining to their qualifications, their inspirations for joining the legal profession, and – most importantly to some voters – whether they consider themselves politicians or impartial arbiters of the law.

From the outset, candidates were asked why they began practicing law. Bernstein started and said that originally, he wanted to serve in the military but because he’s blind, he couldn’t.

“I dedicated my legal experience to representing people, veterans, who had been wounded in service to the country and making sure that they had accessibility to stadiums, airports, aviation, job placement, education,” he said. “And ultimately, that was my focus. I was trying to help veterans have a better life. Since I wasn’t able to serve in uniform, I felt that I could serve them in a legal capacity.”

Bolden, who, if elected, would be the first Black woman justice on the state high court, was inspired to begin her career in law by her great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Bond. He was lynched in Tennessee in 1939 for asking a store clerk for a receipt. She learned about him through her great-grandmother, who died while Bolden was still attending college.

“He was being castrated and thrown into the local river, and the coroner deemed it an accidental drowning. That changed the trajectory of my life, to go to law school and find my place in the law,” she said. “To find what justice means in our society. And it is my hope that from injustice, a justice can be born. It is important to me to not only have done the work as a judicial law clerk, but to make laws and to run for this position to equal justice under law is protected.”

Hudson said he came into the profession with service in mind. He leads the appeals group at the Miller Canfield firm and has focused his practice on issues that have risen to the Court of Appeals and the high court bench, which includes more than 150 cases. He also clerked for a federal appellate judge on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and served on his firm’s pro-bono committee.

“I’ve dedicated my time to providing free legal services to folks who need representation on appeal,” he said. “And what that experience has given me is a really practical perspective on the law. This will never be an academic exercise to me. As a justice on the Supreme Court, I will always remember that these cases make a real difference in real people’s lives.”

Morgan also said he entered the profession 40 years ago with service in mind, but his practice has shown him that there are some bounds to the law that are unable to resolve certain questions or dilemmas in a legal setting.

“I think also that, specifically, I’ve been able to help … parents that want to control the education of their children, and do so free from state interference and regulation,” he said. “And most recently, I’ve been able to help many people seek vaccine exemptions based on their religious beliefs.”

Zahra touched on the fact that his parents were immigrants from Malta and that his upbringing was one of love for the United States and respect for the U.S. Constitution – all from an immigrant’s perspective.

“My father wanted to go to law school, and I came around too quickly for him to make that happen, but he encouraged me,” the incumbent justice said. “Initially, I was in business to pay my way through my undergraduate education, but when it was all done, I thought, ‘you know, maybe let’s give law school a try.’ I took a little time off in the business, and after one semester of studying law, I absolutely loved it. I love every aspect of it, and that passion has never left me.”

The candidates were then asked who inspired them to be a judge. Bolden said Judge Johnny Murphy of the Wayne Circuit Court, citing his mentorship when she was his clerk; Hudson pointed to 6th Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge due to his time clerking for him; Zahra noted his clerkship under former U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff of the Eastern District of Michigan but also two others who taught him about judicial interpretation; and Bernstein said he idolized former U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman of the Eastern District, who was appointed to the bench by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Morgan said he couldn’t point to one judge and did not bring up any prior experience of clerkship. That said, Morgan late noted inspiration from Herbert Titus, a law professor he studied under when he received his master’s degree and one who wrote extensively on the foundations of law and the importance of the Declaration of Independence.

When asked what, apart from her law degree, qualified her to serve on the high court, Bolden said as a lawyer, she provided the presiding judge with well-reasoned research and opinions and ensured her clients were taken care of in civil litigation. That experience translated to her time in office as the state’s representative in a key portion of southeast Michigan.

“I believe that I’m uniquely qualified, because if elected, I will be the only justice that has made laws,” Bolden said. “And so, putting all that together, I have seen aspects of the law in various situations, and I’m excited to bring that experience and that perspective to the court.”

Hudson said that a good judge, in his view, comes to the court treating each person with dignity and respect. He noted the influence of his famous grandfather, former Michigan State University football coach Duffy Daugherty, whom he noted was a pioneer of racially integrated collegiate sports in the 1950s and 1960s.

“One thing I learned from him is that you treat everyone in your life with dignity and respect,” Hudson said. “That’s something that I would carry with me to the Michigan Supreme Court.”

Morgan said that beyond a law degree, a good judge or justice needs to have an innate concern for people.

“According to the law, I think you also have to have an appreciation of the hard work of the trial courts. They’re the ones that are out slogging it out every day. …You have to have an appreciation for what the trial court does and develop into the record,” Morgan said. “But I think probably the biggest attribute beyond a law degree is fidelity to the law itself and knowing the real incomparable differences between those who make the law in the Legislature, and those who are never make the law in the judicial branch.”

The candidates were then asked if they consider themselves to be politicians and to explain their judicial philosophies. Each of the candidates said they did not consider themselves to be political animals in a judicial setting.

Bernstein said the most important thing about being a good judge is always staying in your lane.

“I’m just going to quote the old verse that, you know, you go from playing the game, as I did as a litigator for 15 years, to basically refereeing the game. But a person in my situation who is the first blind Supreme Court justice here in the state of Michigan? You’ve got to show that you’re going to do a good job,” he said. “People are looking to you to say, does this work? Can he do this, and ultimately, the way that you do this is by being the absolute best judge possible.”

Zahra agreed, noting that he views himself as a public servant, first and foremost.

“And how do I serve the public? By respecting the separation of powers, by having a reverence for the Constitution, by exercising judicial restraint, by being hardworking and humble,” he said. “And remember that justice is my job, it’s not my name. Do I have a judicial philosophy? Absolutely. I believe every judge should have a judicial philosophy. Judicial philosophy tells us how it is a judge goes about their work. And I believe the proper role of the judiciary is to simply say what the law is and not what they think the law ought to be. This is the only way to achieve equal justice under law. It’s justice, but it’s equal, and it’s under law.”

Bolden said she has never considered herself a politician, even as she worked in the halls of the Legislature.

“I consider myself a public servant. What we do in the community, I go way beyond my job as far as voting. When we had a global pandemic, it’s passing out PPE to my constituents and to our public safety. It’s helping people with unemployment, it’s being in the communities and letting people know what you have done on their behalf,” she said. “And I think that’s important as a justice, as well. The education does not stop. The need to be in the community and to help the community should not end just because you are a judge or a justice. So, I want to take my community service and my public service to the Michigan Supreme Court.”

She did not identify a specific judicial philosophy other than taking all the evidence presented and making a well-reasoned decision on a case-by-case basis. She also said that a judge or justice should not be pigeonholed into a particular judicial philosophy.

Hudson stated that it was his belief that politics and politicians needed to stay out of the state’s courts, especially its uppermost bench.

“We need our judges to be fair minded, neutral, nonpartisan umpires, who just call balls and strikes. And to me, judicial philosophy isn’t even the right term. That makes it sound like something you can kind of pick and choose, like being a Spartan fan or Red Wings fan,” he said. “The proper judicial role is compelled by our Constitution. Judges apply the law as written, the Legislature makes the laws, the executive enforces them, the judges only role is limited in our system, and that’s to apply the law as written. And so, I think we need to make sure that our judges stay in their own constitutional lane and not make laws, and we need to keep the politics well clear of our courtrooms.”

Morgan echoed Hudson’s remarks, saying judges should never consider themselves political animals. He said the true litmus test for that is by looking at judges’ or justices’ opinions and comparing them to the text of statute or the language of the Constitution.

Evans Slams Claims I-375 Changes Right Wrongs

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans tore into attempts to frame the conversion of the I-375 freeway in Detroit into a boulevard incorporated into the city as somehow making amends for the move in the late 1950s to demolish a thriving Black neighborhood and business district for the spur connecting I-75 to Jefferson Avenue.

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and others held a celebratory news conference in Detroit, hailing the federal grant to help convert the freeway into a boulevard.

Most of the officials present did not frame the conversion of I-375, which runs below ground and divides downtown Detroit from the areas immediately to the east, as making up for the damage the project wrought on the city’s Black residents. Buttigieg said the residents cut off from the city or displaced may never fully be made whole, but he also said the project would address “the damage done to a mainly Black community.”

Evans did not call out anyone by name in a Detroit Free Press column published Sunday, but he castigated the event.

He criticized the “celebratory mood” among those “trying hard to convince the rest of us” that the federal grant will retroactively heal the racial division ignited by the freeway.

“It boggles the mind that anyone could have the audacity to say this project will in any way rectify what happened to the families and business owners of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley all those years ago – especially when you consider that many of them were only given 30 days to relocate once the decision had been made to demolish their homes,” he wrote.

Evans said his office was not involved in the plan for dismantling I-375.

And he said the plan is not a fair trade considering what was lost when Black residents and Black-owned businesses, particularly in the Paradise Valley district, were forced out.

“How about giving some of this land that was snatched from the root of what could have spawned a prosperous Black economy to modern day Black businesses to help them succeed? Or possibly giving priority to those Black businesses that managed to survive the destruction green-lit by Detroit’s notoriously racist Mayor Albert Cobo, whose efforts to destroy a community were rewarded by having Cobo Hall named after him?” Evans wrote. “If you want to rectify the sins of the past, I believe those measures could be an honest way to repair the breach. Because all I heard on Thursday was a well-produced show, as good as any you may have seen at a club in Paradise Valley, designed to gain support for a project that somebody already knows is being built over a nest of PR land mines.”

Evans said he does not oppose the project but opposes the “disrespectful narrative used to promote it.”

House Regulatory Reform Advances Car Sharing Bill

After clarifying who would and who would not be taxed under a bill regulating the renting of personal cars, the House Regulatory Reform Committee unanimously sent the bill to the House floor Wednesday.

Rep. Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes) introduced HB 6376 last week, and the committee heard testimony on it Tuesday. The bill seeks to regulate people renting their personal cars for a limited amount of time, similar to short-term home rentals through companies like Airbnb.

A substitute adopted by the committee added language clarifying who the lessor of the vehicle is, per the discussion of committee members on Tuesday and the recommendation of the Department of Treasury (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Sept. 21, 2022).

“This sub addresses what everyone was talking about yesterday to make it more clear in the definition of the bill,” Committee Chair Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mount Pleasant) said.

Officials from the Department of Treasury told the committee Tuesday that despite criticism from groups including Americans for Tax Reform and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the bill wouldn’t introduce a double tax on vehicle owners who choose to rent their car.

Outman said the bill was important to prevent peer-to-peer car renting from operating in a “gray area.”

“Right now, we’re just trying to codify everything that needs to be necessary for them to operate in Michigan,” he said. “At some point, we’re going to have to address it, and this is what we’re doing here.”

The committee also reported HB 4575 and HB 5393, both with changes.

HB 4575, sponsored by Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton), would regulate energy-efficient ordinances and prohibit local governments from enacting an ordinance prohibiting the use of energy-efficient appliances in new or existing residential buildings. The committee heard testimony on the bill last year, and the revised version of the bill introduces language to include commercial properties. The bill was reported in an 11-3 vote, with Rep. Kevin Hertel (D-Saint Clair Shores), Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D- Harper Woods), and Rep. Richard Steenland (D-Roseville) voting against it. Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor) abstained.

HB 5393, which allows the operation of online raffle games by certain charitable organizations, was also approved by the committee. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Bradly Slagh (R-Zeeland), and the changes to the bill would increase the licensing fee, limit the price, and limit qualified organizations to two online raffles per year. The bill was reported 14-1, with Yancey voting against it.

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