Snyder signs dozens of bills, vetoes others

Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed legislation boosting Michigan’s economy and helping local businesses by requiring shoppers to pay sales tax when purchasing items online from websites with a physical presence in the state.

“This Main Street Fairness legislation levels the playing field for local businesses, helping Michigan job providers better compete with online retailers,” Snyder said. “Local, brick-and-mortar businesses drive our economy and without implementing this fix, they will continue to serve as showrooms for online retailers.”

Senate Bills 658 and 659, sponsored by state Sen. Jim Ananich, makes Michigan’s tax code more fair and efficient by allowing the state to collect sales tax for purchases made through online retailers that have a physical presence in Michigan. This legislation, which has been enacted in 22 other states, is expected to bring in an additional $60 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The bills help to reduce the competitive disadvantage brick- and-mortar retailers face against online competitors; however federal action is needed to completely solve this issue. The bills are now Public Acts 553 and 554 of 2014.

Snyder also signed 18 other bills:

SB 423, sponsored by former state Sen. John Pappageorge, which requires the state within one year to conduct a study determining if per-pupil educational funding is sufficient for Michigan students. The study, under the direction of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, would include an examination of the impact of all costs schools face including food service, transportation, building construction and maintenance. The governor issued a signing letter that provides clarification regarding legislative intent language. It is now PA 555.

SB 493, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Jones, creates standards for the height of antennas related to amateur radio service stations in Michigan to prevent inconsistent restrictions of these structures by local municipalities. It is now PA 556.

SBs 623, 624 and 929, sponsored by state Sens. Mike Kowall, Rick Jones and Steve Bieda, respectively, update the Nonprofit Corporation Act to align with current definitions and business practices, while changing requirements for a nonprofit to dissolve. They are now PAs 557-559.

SB 947, sponsored by Jones, removes the mandatory biennial audit requirement for collection agencies, and instead provides for audits to be performed at the discretion of the Director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). It is now PA 560.

SB 1007, sponsored by former state Sen. John Pappageorge, gives homeowners increased flexibility when dealing with special assessment liens. Homeowners wanting to sell or refinance their homes will no longer be required to pay off the entire lien in a large lump sum payment, but in annual installments. It is a companion bill to HB 5202, signed by Snyder on Dec. 30, 2014. It is now PA 561.

SB 1055, sponsored by state Sen. Tom Casperson, loosens restrictions regarding where state-paid printing is performed, allowing the state to save money by expanding the field of bidders for state print jobs. It is now PA 562.

HB 4001, sponsored by former state Rep. and current Sen. Mike Shirkey, changes Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to specify procedures and limits related to submitted requests. The bill sets fee limits and criteria for determining fees, establishes procedures for responding and declining requests, and establishes a process for appealing fees. It is now PA 563.

House Bill 4237, sponsored by former state Rep. Gail Haines, allows for expansion of telecommunication services using Michigan Public Safety Communications Systems towers in rural, underserved areas of the state including the Upper Peninsula. It is now PA 564.

HB 4290, sponsored by former state Rep. Bob Genetski, requires the Michigan Department of Treasury to help Michigan residents comply with state tax laws by providing certain materials in printed and electronic formats. These materials include internal policy directives, audit standards, sampling manuals, cash basis sales tax audit overview, industrial processing sales and use tax manual, and other deductions sales and use tax manual. It is now PA 565.

HB 4576, sponsored by former state Rep. Hugh Crawford, allows for the certification of individuals wanting to serve as Affordable Care Act navigators or certified application counselors. The bill allows the director of the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services to create a Michigan-specific certification and training program if needed, to ensure that Michigan consumers have access to accurate information regarding health insurance coverage under the ACA. It is now PA 566.

HB 5141, sponsored by former state Rep. and current Sen. Peter MacGregor, transfers the ownership of 26 acres of recreation land in Kent County from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to the Kent County Parks and Recreation Authority. The bill will reduce the DNR’s ownership and management responsibilities in Kent County, while specifying that the land must still be open for public recreation purposes, or it will revert to the DNR. It is now PA 567.

HB 5160, sponsored by state Rep. Amanda Price, gives cities, townships or villages the option to enter into an agreement with the county treasurer to administer its municipal tax functions. The bill allows local governments to work together to save money. Before taking effect, an agreement would have to be approved by the local unit’s governing body and by the county’s board of commissioners. It is now PA 568.

HB 5812, sponsored by state Rep. Ken Yonker, changes meeting requirements for the Michigan Electronic Recording Commission. To reduce costs to the state, the commission is now only required to meet annually instead of quarterly. It is now PA 569.

HB 5868, sponsored by state Rep. Amanda Price, ensures that a district library may continue its operations even if participation by local municipalities changes. It is now PA 570.
HB 5932, sponsored by former state Rep. Pete Lund, revises life insurance regulations to allow insurers to use a principal-based method to calculate the amount of reserves needed to cover future benefits. It is PA 571.

HB 5952, sponsored by state Rep. Klint Kesto, allows Commerce Township to build a library on land designated for a public park that was transferred to the township in 1985. It is now PA 572.

The governor also vetoed HB 4485, sponsored by state Rep. Bruce Rendon, which would exempt operators of self-storage facilities that sell “stored property insurance” from licensure as insurance agents. In his veto letter, the governor wrote that the bill significantly weakens consumer protections and consumers need to be assured that their property is protected, just as it is in their homes. In addition, Snyder expressed concern that exempting certain individuals from licensure as insurance agents based solely on the point of sale of the product may create an inequitable regulatory environment.

Snyder signed further legislation last week to help homeowners meet their tax obligations, prevent foreclosure and encourage fair and honest purchase of previously foreclosed properties.

The bills aim to reduce the foreclosure rate in Wayne County which is foreclosing on more than 76,000 residential, commercial, and industrial properties throughout the county with 62,000 located in Detroit.

“Helping homeowners overcome financial hardship and meet their legal responsibilities will help keep families in their homes in a responsible way, lessen the number of vacant buildings and improve public safety while generating tax dollars to provide vital services to city and county residents,” Snyder said. “Developing a more transparent foreclosure system also ensures previously foreclosed property does not return to the hands of delinquent taxpayers.”

House Bills 4882 and 5421, sponsored by former state Reps. Phil Cavanaugh and John Walsh, respectively, allow homeowners facing financial hardship to use a payment plan to meet tax responsibilities and avoid foreclosure. The payment plan will be created by the foreclosing governmental unit and agreed upon by the landowner. The bills also allow county treasurers to waive additional monthly interest accrued in delinquent tax cases once the payment plan is completed, allowing individuals to maintain ownership of their property.

“Thanks to this collaborative effort between Governor Snyder, the legislature, Mayor Duggan, and our office; we will be able to assist distressed taxpayers, stabilize communities, and address blight in a manner never before possible.  This is a great day for Detroit, Wayne County, and Michigan,” said Wayne County Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz.

Senate Bill 295, sponsored by former state Sen. Tupac Hunter, requires people interested in bidding on foreclosed property to register with the government unit holding the property at least 14 days before a property sale. The requirement prevents bidders from purchasing homes and buildings if they are found to have outstanding tax payments, unpaid blight fines or a history of financial negligence. A foreclosing governmental unit cannot accept purchasing bids from a person who did not register or does not meet sale requirements.

"With the Governor enacting this important legislation today, more than 20,000 Detroit homeowners now have the ability to restructure their property tax debts to avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. We will be working closely with the Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz and the Detroit Land Bank to make sure Detroiters facing possible foreclosure are aware of this important opportunity,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

HB 5398, sponsored by state Rep. Jon Bumstead, allows a foreclosing governmental unit for a county (other than the State) to acquire property owned by the State, the Federal government, a land bank fast track authority, or another governmental entity, to facilitate the sale of tax-reverted property.

The bills are now Public Acts 499-502 of 2014, respectively.

The governor also signed 12 other bills:

HB 4480, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Leonard, and SBs 269-272, sponsored by state Sens. Mike Kowall, Judy Emmons and Virgil Smith, are part of a package of bills updating the requirements for use of the 21st Century Jobs fund allowing businesses and communities to receive support needed to grow and thrive in Michigan. The bills ensure continued funding for the Pure Michigan advertising campaign, business development, and job training and revitalization programs. The other two bills in this package, HBs 4481 and 4482, sponsored by state Reps. Harvey Santana and Frank Foster were signed by the governor earlier this month. The bills are now PAs 503-507.

HB 5418, sponsored by former state Rep. and current Sen. David Knezek, allows private employers to give preference to veterans when hiring, offering promotions and retaining talent. It is now PA 508.

HB 5862, sponsored by state Rep. Amanda Price, amends the act that provides local governments the ability to use fire insurance proceeds to demolish fire damaged property to demolish fire damaged property. The bill increases the fire insurance withholdings cap to $12,000 and allows withholdings to be used for cleanup purposes. It is now PA 509.
SB 427, sponsored by former state Sen. Howard Walker, excludes wages from taxes for employers hiring jobs to J-1 or H-B2 visa holders. The update is a technical fix to the Michigan Employer Security Act. It is now PA 510.

SBs 786 and 787, sponsored by former state Sen. Bruce Caswell, modernizes the tax code for hydroponic and aquaculture production facilities by eliminating the general property tax and instead charging these facilities 25 percent of what the general tax would have been. The bill aligns Michigan policy with practices of neighboring states and Ontario and will help grow these parts of the agriculture sector. They are now PA 511 and 512.

SBs 852 and 962, sponsored by state Sens. Bert Johnson and David Robertson, respectively, correct tax abatement filing errors made by the cities of Hamtramck and Flint. The legislation builds on previous updates, ensuring facility owners who have made land and building improvements are taxed correctly. The bills are now PAs 513 and 514.

Snyder vetoed two bills last week that would substantially change the state’s process for issuing a license to carry a concealed pistol, saying the measures include some reforms he supports, but include changes that might inadvertently increase the risk of violence and intimidation faced by domestic abuse victims who seek court protection.

Snyder said there are a number of reforms in Senate Bills 789 and 790 that he supports, and said he wants to work with the Legislature on new bills that could make the necessary changes without putting domestic abuse victims at risk.

“We simply can’t and won’t take the chance of exposing domestic abuse victims to additional violence or intimidation,” Snyder said. “There are certainly some reforms that can improve the way Michigan issues concealed pistol licenses and we support the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, but it’s crucial that we leave in place protections for people who already have endured challenges and abuse.”

The bills, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Green, would have eliminated the 83-county level boards for issuing concealed pistol licenses. The Michigan State Police and county clerks would have assumed administrative functions.

Snyder, in his veto letter, said he was concerned by the fact that SB 789 would have allowed a person who is the subject of a personal protection order to obtain a concealed pistol license. Under current law, no person who is subject to such an order may obtain such a license. The bill would have amended the restriction, preventing the issuance only if the prohibition was specifically spelled out by the court.

Snyder also vetoed three bills relating to electronic cigarettes, saying the measures do not go far enough to regulate the devices, which pose significant health risks.

House Bill 4997, Senate Bills 667 and 668 — sponsored by state Rep. Rick Outman, former state Sen. Glenn Anderson and state Sen. Rick Jones, respectively — would have excluded alternative nicotine products including e-cigarettes from the definition of tobacco products and prohibit them from being regulated as tobacco products under Michigan law.

The devices resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes and share a common ingredient, which is the highly addictive chemical nicotine that is derived from tobacco.

“We need to make sure that e-cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices are regulated in the best interest of public health,” Snyder said. “It’s important that these devices be treated like tobacco products and help people become aware of the dangers e-cigarettes pose.”

The legislation would have gone against the position taken by 40 state attorneys general, including Michigan’s Bill Schuette, who believe that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should regulate e-cigarettes pursuant to its tobacco product authority.

Snyder, in his veto letter, said he believes the preferred way to ensure that e-cigarettes are regulated in the interest of public health is to revise the existing definition of a tobacco product to make clear that e-cigarettes — and other novel nicotine-containing vapor products — are tobacco products subject to any restrictions generally applied to tobacco products under the Youth Tobacco Act, including the minimum age law.

Medical community leaders said they support the governor’s actions.

The governor has now considered all bills presented from the 2013-2014 legislative session. For more information on this and other legislation, visit