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Legislative Update May 2021

May 12, 2021

By Craig Ryan, MLC
MLTA Lobbyist

Budget Update

The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees began reporting budgets within their purview over the last couple of weeks. Most notably, several House subcommittees chose to appropriate on a quarterly basis, instead of the traditional method of appropriating for the entire fiscal year.
State Budget Director Dave Massaron spoke out against this untraditional method. Both chambers are expected to move their respective budgets out of the full appropriations committees the first week of May. Floor votes will follow shortly thereafter as both chambers seek to get their priorities over to the other side of the capitol before the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference in late May.

Governor Whitmer announced her funding priorities for the $18 billion the state is set to receive through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Of those funds, state government is expected to receive $5.7 billion. Her priorities include funding for small businesses, addressing infrastructure needs such as broadband and drinking water, expanding behavioral health services, and aid for schools.

The House and Senate will continue to work on the state budget within their purview. While technically it doesn’t need to be completed and signed by the governor until the new Fiscal Year begins on October 1, 2021, the goal is to complete the budget before breaking for summer at the end of June.

Policy Update

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (D-Farwell) and House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) recently announced a series of reforms their caucuses are working on collaboratively making changes to state ethics and transparency laws. Reforms include creating a bipartisan ethics committee to investigate complaints, a prohibition on legislators and department heads lobbying for two years after the end of their term or tenure, and new financial disclosure requirements for lawmakers and state officers.

Additionally, under legislation moving in the House, Michigan’s primary and school election dates would change to a combined date on the third Tuesday in June, beginning in 2023.

In late March, the Senate introduced a 39 bill elections reform package. They are currently holding hearings on many of those bills in their Elections Committee with the goal of holding floor votes prior to the end of June – before they break for summer. The package includes reforms for absentee ballot applications and delivery, as well as prohibiting the secretary of state from sending unsolicited mass mailings of absentee ballot applications. Also included would be the allowance of am early voting day and the ability to pre-tabulate (not count) the ballots that are received before election day.

Governor’s Office Update

In mid-April, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration extended its emergency workplace rules until October 14, 2021. This includes requiring remote work for employees where it is feasible. The directive required businesses that seek to resume in-person work to have a written preparedness and response plan and provide training for employees, among other requirements.

However, on April 29, the governor released her metrics to set the state on a pathway to return to normal by unveiling the ‘MI Vacc to Normal’ plan as the state continues to push toward its goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 years or older. To facilitate this goal, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will base future epidemic order actions on four vaccination-based milestones that, once achieved, will enable Michigan to take a step toward normalcy. Those milestones are as follows:

• Step One: two weeks after 4.5 million Michiganders, or 55% of those eligible, have received their first shot, MDHHS will lift the requirement for employers to require remote work when feasible.

• Step Two: two weeks after 4.9 million Michiganders, or 60% of those eligible, have received their first shot MDHHS will:
o Increase indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls, and funeral homes to 25%.
o Increase capacity limits at gyms to 50%.
o Lift the curfew on bars and restaurants.

• Step Three: two weeks after 5.3 million Michiganders, or 65% of those eligible, have received their first shot MDHHS will:
o Lift all indoor capacity limits, only requiring social distancing between parties.
o Relax the limits on residential social gatherings.

• Step Four: two weeks after 5.67 million Michiganders, or 70% of those eligible, have received their first shot MDHHS will:
o Lift the gatherings and face masks order and no longer impose mitigation measures of that kind unless the virus threatens to overwhelm the medical system or some other unanticipated circumstance arises.

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