Capital Catch-Up: April 18, 2022
Reps. Rabhi and Aiyash Introduce Utility Accountability Bill Package
On Wednesday, at an event co-hosted by Michigan LCV and We the People Action Fund on the steps of the Michigan Capitol, Reps. Yousef Rahbi (D-Ann Arbor) and Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) announced the introduction of a five-bill package to require public utilities to pay customers by the hour for power outages. The legislation is part of a longstanding effort by the lawmakers and Michigan’s environmental and consumer advocate community to hold Michigan’s major utilities accountable for poor service and high costs.
The five bills would provide a number of protections for utility customers, including automatic bill credits when the power goes out repeatedly, escalating credits based on duration of outage, greater transparency on utility bills and requirements for distribution and grid investment plans to be reviewed by the Michigan Public Service Commission.
For years, Michigan residents have paid some of the highest utility costs in the region for some of the worst service. As DTE and Consumers have raised electricity rates to the tune of $775 million with little improvements to service in the last five years, Michiganders experienced the most amount of minutes out-of-power on average annually when compared to the Great Lakes region. Even on days without major storm events, DTE and Consumers have the second-worst restoration time per outage nationwide. The bill package introduced by Reps. Rabhi and Aiyash aim to reverse this long-standing trend.
This legislation is also supported by the following groups: Citizens Utility Board of Michigan, Ecology Center, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, We the People Action Fund, Soulardarity and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. More events are being planned in the coming months to educate and engage residents about the legislation and the need to hold monopoly utility companies accountable. We applaud Reps. Rabhi and Aiyash for their leadership, and prioritizing Michigan’s families above corporate profit.
Gov. Whitmer Set to Release Final MI Healthy Climate Plan
On Earth Day, Governor Whitmer is set to release the final version of the MI Healthy Climate Plan which would outline her plan for moving Michigan’s economy towards carbon neutrality by 2050. The draft plan, which was released to the public in January and underwent public comment and revision, outlines policy changes in energy production, transportation, building energy waste reduction, and natural working lands which would provide the roadmap to a clean economy.
The plan was informed by recommendations from the Council on Climate Solutions, which was established by Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-182. Throughout the past year, many environmental stakeholders, including Michigan LCV, collaborated with the Council across issue-specific subgroups and made recommendations which were considered in the drafting of the Plan.
While the contents of the final plan are still unknown, below are a few of the most important provisions included in the draft plan:
- Establish a 50% renewable portfolio standard by 2030; phase out all coal by 2035.
- Invest in electric vehicle infrastructure to accommodate 2 million electric vehicles by 2030.
- Adhere to the Justice 40 principles to ensure that 40% of climate-related spending will be directed to EJ communities which have been traditionally underserved.
- Triple the state’s recycling rate to 45% by 2030 and strengthen public and private-sector procurement programs to favor the use of low-carbon and circular-economy products.
EGLE House Appropriations Committee Debate Centers Around Contaminated Site Cleanup
On Tuesday, the House Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) Appropriations Subcommittee debated the funding for contaminated site cleanup in the 2023 budget. The Governor’s initial budget recommendations call for a combined $30 million for contaminated site cleanup, which the House of Representatives will likely revise during the appropriations process. Reps. Shri Thanedar (D-Detroit), Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) and Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) all expressed their desire for additional funding, with Rep. Thanedar offering up an amendment to that effect. While unsuccessful, Chairwoman Rep. Anette Glenn (R-Midland) promised additional discussion on the matter.
Kyra Harris Bolden Wins Democratic Endorsement for Michigan Supreme Court Election
On Saturday, April 9, Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield) and incumbent Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein won endorsement from the Michigan Democratic Party for election to the Michigan Supreme Court. While Supreme Court elections are officially non-partisan, major parties offer support. Rep. Bolden received her juris doctorate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law and worked as a civil litigator upon graduation. She is seeking the seat currently held by Justice Brian Zahra, a former Gov. Snyder appointee. If she wins in November, she would be the first Black female justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.
Promote the Vote 2022 Launches Petition Drive
On Monday, Promote the Vote 2022, the ballot initiative that would continue to allow voters to sign an affidavit instead of showing ID at the polls and prohibit national, state or local parties from auditing elections, officially launched its petition drive. The petition also seeks to allow military ballots to be counted if they were received within six days following the election and were postmarked on or before Election Day, and would require early voting sites to be open for nine days before the election. The coalition must gather 425,059 valid signatures from registered voters to be placed on the November 2022 ballot. Michigan LCV has partnered with Promote the Vote in support of their petition efforts.
Accountability Corner: Rep. Samantha Steckloff and Rep. Scott VanSingel
As part of the budget appropriations process, Michigan LCV has been tracking the ongoing status of all proposals which would impact conservation and pro-democracy issues. In this week’s lawmaker focus, we would like to elevate the important work of two lawmakers, Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills) and Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant) for their work on the House Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee to make Michigan’s mobility sector more climate conscious.
Rep. Steckloff introduced an amendment to the budget proposal to direct the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to conduct a study of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a basis for transportation funding related to electric vehicles. Her amendment passed with unanimous support. The subject of electric vehicle readiness and manufacturing has been a unifying issue between the Governor’s office and the legislature, and represents an important step towards carbon emissions reduction.
Rep. VanSingel offered up an amendment which would call for the earmarking of $5 million to help implement low impact development stormwater management practices. His, too, passed with unanimous support. Even with the passage of the transformational water infrastructure bill, SB 565, there is still a big need to invest in green infrastructure projects statewide. We applaud both Rep. Steckloff and Rep. VanSingel for their contributions to the FY2023 budget process and look forward to working with each of them to see their ideas implemented.
Important Bill Introductions
- HBs 6043-6047: Introduced by Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), this bill package would require public utilities to reimburse customers for power outages per hour.
- HR 272: Introduced by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights), this resolution calls on the House of Representatives to create a House select committee to study highway flooding and roadway climate resiliency.