Capital Catch-Up, Feb. 12
ICYMI: Legislative Action in Michigan This Week
Amidst COVID economic downturn Rep. Markkanen (HD 110) introduces bi-partisan bill to support rooftop solar; grow jobs
A bi-partisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would remove barriers for Michigan’s growing solar industry on Thursday. HB 4236 would eliminate the 1% cap on the amount of energy produced from non-utility owned sources (mainly rooftop solar installations and bio-digesters) in each utility district. A wide variety of stakeholders, including free-market, clean energy advocates and climate activists, support the bill because it will provide stability in the solar market, lower carbon emissions, and create jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sponsors: The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Greg Markkanen, a House member with an Upper Peninsula district facing sky-high energy rates. A bi-partisan group of co-sponsored signed on as well, including Reps. Rabhi, Roth, Kuppa, Paquette, Wozniak, Howell, Hoitenga, Reilly, Damoose, and Steve Johnson. Disappointingly, no Democratic members of the House Energy Committee signed on as co-sponsors for the bill, though it is expected to be heard in the committee sometime in the next few weeks. The House Energy Committee met for the first time this week and heard a presentation from the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Additional Legislation Introduced This Week:
Other legislation introduced this week includes:
- A package introduced by Sens. Chang, Bayer, and Geiss on commercial dock collapses (SB 122-124) Read more on this bill package in our press release here.
- A bill sponsored by Rep. Sowerby that requires public hearings for proposed fracking projects (HB 4169)
- A bill sponsored by Rep. Sowerby that raises fines for oil spills in the Great Lakes (HB 4170)
Other Action in Lansing This Week:
Majority Leader Shirkey Takes Responsibility for Key 2020 Elections Issues
A video surfaced this week of a meeting between representatives from the Hillsdale County GOP and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. In the meeting, a portion of which centered around the handling of the 2020 election (minute 26). Sen. Shirkey took responsibility for a major reason why there was so much doubt in Michigan around the election, stating that “[clerks] were not ready for the onslaught of early and mail in votes” and that many ballots “could not be processed in time because [he] would not allow [clerks] to process them early.”
When asked about the 200+ affidavits that Republican poll watchers at the TCF Center filed as evidence of voter fraud, Shirkey commented that “many [poll watchers] misunderstood what they actually saw. Everyone who was working there was undertrained”.
Early processing of absentee ballots and mandatory training standards for poll challengers and poll watchers are both mentioned in a set of election reforms proposed last week by Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson. The legislature has not yet introduced bills that would address these issues, but Michigan LCV stands poised to work with elected officials and stakeholders on those areas of broad agreement.
Governor Whitmer Releases FY2022 Budget Plan
As the unofficial kickoff of the budget cycle, Governor Gretchen Whitmer revealed her executive recommendations on the state budget for the next fiscal year. Speaking to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Budget Director Dave Massaron presented a number of items that should be funded in the state’s $67 billion budget, including a number of critical Michigan LCV priorities.
We released a news release detailing what issues we will be advocating for in 2022’s budget. Some of the most important priorities we are tracking include:
- $290M towards the MI Clean Water plan for clean drinking water infrastructure upgrades
- $55M to the Filter First Plan so schools can provide safe, lead-free drinking water to children as they begin to go back to school
- $20M towards EGLE’s contaminated site cleanup fund
- $25M for advanced mobility, including electric vehicle charging infrastructure
- $15M total for building energy efficiency upgrades
Gov. Whitmer Announces Mackinac Tunnel Authority Appointment
After the seat on the Mackinac Corridor Authority Board went vacant for six months after James Richardson resigned in June after being appointed to the Natural Resources Commission, it was finally filled on Wednesday with the appointment Paul Novak, an attorney and Detroit resident. The board hasn’t met too frequently in recent months, but remains a critical oversight body for construction and operation of the Line 5 tunnel underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Mr. Novak’s appointment is subject to approval by the Senate Advice & Consent Committee.
Michigan LCV Keeping Connected With Lawmakers
Our Government Affairs team has been keeping in close contact with our state legislators despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the start of the new session, we have met with 38 lawmakers, including Reps. Garza, Anthony, and Puri this week, and we have several more scheduled throughout the rest of the month. Special thanks to all the legislators and staff that have taken the time to meet with us!
Check your Legislator’s Work with the Digital Accountability Suite:
We’re keeping our eye on what goes on in Lansing so we can keep you informed. Track your lawmaker’s progress on environmental legislation by using our accountability suite. Learn who values and acts to protect our land, air and water in our state government; hold elected officials accountable for their actions; and track decisions and legislation that impacts our natural resources and communities.