Michigan Legislature Cites Road Repairs and Employer Rights as Priorities During Session

Each year Michigan’s legislators introduce hundreds of bills affecting businesses. Some are significant, others are aimed at special interests and many never become law.

The Mackinac Center, which tracks bills, their sponsors and the legislative outcomes, in mid-October reported 102 business bills in its online “Michigan Votes” searchable database (michiganvotes.org). It identified 29 bills targeted at economic development, 39 about energy, 10 on government regulations, 79 dealing with licensing, 86 on labor, 189 on taxes and 171 on transportation.

“The challenge is to pick out the ones that have genuine broad application to business,” said Jack McHugh, the Center’s senior legislative analyst. “Here’s the bottom line for our business climate. It means for a potential investor looking to invest in Michigan, ‘Can I make money here and will the state drive me nuts if I try? Will they regulate me into insanity? Will they tax me into the poor house?’”

The Mackinac Center identifies itself as a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. It focuses on issues where it has expertise, McHugh said. He identified its specialties as taxation and spending, labor and education.

It’s an agenda that is often reflected in the legislative priorities promoted each year by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber, which represents approximately 6,800 employers, trade associations and local chambers of commerce, mobilizes six lobbyists who work the legislature to promote its agenda. For the 2015-2016 session, the Chamber has identified bills dealing with employer rights, health care, legal reform and tax policy as significant issues, which it broadly identifies as either “pro jobs” or “job killers.”

With a Republican legislature, Governor, Attorney General and Supreme Court, Michigan’s government generally supports measures identified as pro-business. For the Chamber, support for laws and tax policies it supports has helped the state’s economy recover.

“Overall the business climate is good. It is important to remember that we are a very large and diverse state in terms of geography. Our three leading industries — manufacturing, agri-business and tourism — are all more competitive today than a few years ago,” said Rich Studley, the Chamber’s president and chief executive officer.

He identified roads as one of the Chamber’s top priorities.

“We’ve been strongly committed to fixing the roads and improving public transit for a long time. For the next few weeks we will be pushing very hard for transportation funding,” Studley said, adding that the Chamber believes there is a need for additional road-related revenue, like user taxes and
registration fees.

Studley identified the other critically important infrastructure issue as energy policy, which he said should be decided at the state level, not nationally.

While the Chamber’s key labor initiatives — banning non-compete agreements, opposing mandatory paid sick leave and repeal of the prevailing wage — are framed as employer rights issues, it aligns with more worker-friendly interests in supporting the need for better education and training.

“Every year we do regional meetings across the state and hear from a growing number of members who are concerned about talent and workforce development,” Studley said.

Talent and workforce development is an issue for Lansing Senator Curtis Hertel Jr., who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee.

“I think we need to make some major investments there. Michigan has done a lot on one side of the equation by cutting business taxes and regulation. We’re not doing much on the other side which is creating and keeping talent in the state,” said Hertel.

Hertel has sponsored a bill to allow a five-year state tax credit for interest on student loans. He noted that during the early years of loans, almost all of the payment is interest.

“For some of these problems we have to invest. It will cost the state some money, but if we can get young people to stay here and spend money here, it’s worth it.”

Michigan’s Legislative Priorities

These are the key bills identified as legislative priorities by Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Additional information is available at michamber.com/key-bills.

EMPLOYER RIGHTS

Ban Non-Compete Agreements With Employees: House Bill 4198 (Job Killer)

Garnishment Reform: House Bills 4119 and 4120 (Pro Jobs)

Mandatory Paid Sick Leave: Senate Bill 101 and House Bill 4167 (Job Killer)

Preempt Adoption of Local Labor Laws: House Bill 4052 (Pro Jobs)

Repeal Prevailing Wage: Senate Bills 1, 2 and 3; House Bills 4001, 4002 and 4003 (Pro Jobs)

HEALTH CARE

Increase Taxes on Health Insurance Claims: House Bill 4114 (Job Killer)

LEGAL REFORM

Reform Michigan’s Auto No-Fault Insurance System: Senate Bill 248 (Pro Jobs)

TAX POLICY

Eliminate “Pay-to-Play” to Use Michigan Court of Claims: Senate Bill 100 (Pro Jobs)

Eliminate Michigan’s Ineffective Film Subsidy: House Bill 4122 (Pro Jobs)

End Michigan’s Use of Incentive-based Auditing: House Bill 4090 and Senate Bill 122 (Pro Jobs)

Impose a Graduated Income Tax: House Joint Resolution K and House Bill 4341 (Job Killer)

Stop Union-Led Effort to Hike CIT by 83 percent (Job Killer)

Petition drive for a statutory initiative (Job Killer)

Stop Unlawful Taxation of Software Services: Senate Bills 82 and 83; House Bills 4018 and 4019 (Pro Jobs)

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