TitleBytes News & Happenings

The Lansing Report

Aug 24, 2020

By Patti Tremblay, Michigan Legislative Consultants

I have worked in politics in Lansing since the 1990s. In my experience, this summer was unlike most summers that end in an even number. That is not surprising considering everything is different during this time of COVID-19. However, it still shocked me a bit that as much work transpired in the summer of an election year as it did. Typically, work during the summer of an election is done in the district. This year was unusual as it was Lansing work that took center stage.

Thorough the month of June, policy work in the Legislature went into high gear. With little work being done in the spring, items had piled up. House Bill 5611, which was introduced in mid-March, around the same time the state was shutting down, got new life in June. The bill received a hearing and moved just a bit in the process. House Bill 5611 would amend the Marketable Record Title Act to extend the amount of time under which a claim against a marketable record title, during the 20- or 40-year period, could be filed from March 29, 2021 to until March 29, 2024. Also, House Bill 5260, received a hearing and moved one step in the legislative process. House Bill 5260 would amend the Marketable Title Act to prohibit the Act from being used to bar the enforcement of any provision contained in or referred to in a recorded master deed for a condominium and its recorded amendments. Although both bills moved a bit, there are many steps that must be taken in the next few months if either of these bills will become law.

Also, on the policy front, there are many discussions with stakeholders about changes to the remote notarization process. These discussions have yet to materialize into a bill, but discussions continue. As you may know, there have been a number of Executive Orders (EO) issued by the Governor. I have spent this spring and summer following these orders. Likely the most professionally important order to you is the EO which encourages the use of electronic signatures and remote notarization, witnessing, and visitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first EO that was released that allowed for this practice was Executive Order 41 that was issued last spring. A number of extension EOs have since been issued with Executive Order 158 being the most recent. EO 158 expires on August 31, 2020. I fully expect an extension EO to be issued by August 31, 2020 with similar language to the current EO.

Additionally, in July, a large budget deal came together with the Legislature and the Governor. The Pandemic blew a giant hole in the 2019/2020 state budget. Lawmakers worked feverishly to come up with a plan to eliminate the $2.2 billion deficit projected in the 2019/2020 fiscal year. There were departmental spending reductions, state employee layoffs, federal dollars moved around, and other measures implemented to close the gap. The 2019/2020 budget was balanced.

However, the 2020/2021 budget has yet to be completed. With the start of a new state fiscal year beginning at the end of September, there is a pile of work to be done in Lansing and no decision on what dollars will be available for a state budget. In May there was thought to be roughly a $3 billion deficit for the 2020/2021 fiscal year. However, that estimate may change. Michigan Law requires a Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC) to occur in January and May of each year to predict the dollars available on what to base a state budget. The conference principals are the Senate, House of Representative and Governor’s Office.  This year, in another atypical move, these principals scheduled another conference at the end of August with the belief that there is little chance the May numbers will be accurate. The hope is a clearer picture will emerge in August as opposed to May. I agree but that means a very busy workload for legislators.

I expect the month of September in Lansing to be filled with policy and appropriation work. The Legislature said it would like to complete its work by mid-September. I believe that is optimistic. However, I do not believe much work will be done in Lansing in October. It is still an election year, and they will be home in their districts. That is one fact that even Covid-19 will probably not change.

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