Capital Catch-Up, March 26
ICYMI: Environmental Legislation This Week
Senate Republicans Release 39 Election bills – some making voting more difficult Overhaul, House Works on Moderate Reforms
In an effort led by former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (R – Holly), Senate Republicans dropped a massive, 39-bill package that would overhaul Michigan’s elections system this Wednesday. While the package contains some positive voting-rights reforms that will expand participation and lessen burdens on local clerks on election day, the majority of the bills would depress absentee voter participation and increase barriers to voting for Michiganders. Michigan LCV released a joint statement on the Senate package in collaboration with other pro-democracy groups, which you can read here.
By contrast, the House Elections Committee heard testimony on more modest, bi-partisan reforms, including bills to consolidate Michigan’s May and August elections into one June election (HB 4530-4533), establish training standards and procedures for local clerks and poll challengers (HB 4528), and streamline the process for deleting deceased voters from registration rolls (HB 4491). Michigan LCV supports HB 4530-4533 and HB 4491 because they decrease the burden on local clerks and streamline the election process. However, we are neutral on HB 4528 as introduced, because it does not yet establish strong enough guidelines ensuring for poll challenger education. A major driver of election confusion during Michigan’s count at the TCF center was a lack of training among partisan poll challengers – these challengers intimidated poll workers and made dozens of formal, unfounded assertions and complaints both during and after the count. Subsequently, these complaints have been shown to be groundless and reflect a severe lack of knowledge of the process.
MI Clean Water Plan, COVID-19 Water Bills, and Water Affordability
Senator Outman (R – Clare) and Senator Wojno (D – Clinton Township) introduced two bills to authorize funding for Governor Whitmer’s MI Clean Water Plan. The bills would allow local municipalities and residents to take out low to no interest loans for water infrastructure upgrades. Under Governor Whitmer’s $500M plan, these funds would be used to upgrade sewer and stormwater systems, replace aging drinking water infrastructure, and repair failing residential septic systems.
In a move to ensure statewide access to water during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Chang (D – Detroit) introduced a bill to extend the statewide moratorium on water shutoffs. SB 271 would extend the water shutoff moratorium until July, when a large portion of the state will have been vaccinated and more residents are able to work. The current water shutoff moratorium is set to expire on March 31, 2021.
Other Senate Democrats joined Senator Chang by introducing several bills this week seeking to address water affordability issues across the state. SB 342-348 would establish a right to safe, affordable drinking water, prescribe an affordable rate structure for storm and wastewater services, and require municipal water suppliers to give residents ample time to pay overdue water bills before imposing a shutoff.
Michigan LCV supports both Senator Chang’s COVID water shutoff moratorium bill and the Senate Democrats’ affordability package as part of a broader effort to ensure every Michigander has access to clean, safe drinking water, regardless of ability to pay. Check out this week’s edition of Three Things Thursday, where our executive director Lisa Wozniak explains what Michigan LCV is doing to support this legislation.
Distributed Generation Cap to See Action After Legislative Spring Break
Rep. Greg Markkanen’s (R – Hanover) bill to remove the 1% cap on distributed generation will likely receive a hearing and a vote in committee after the Legislature returns from break. The bill, which will increase opportunities for homeowners and small businesses to install rooftop solar panels on their properties, has received strong support from environmentalists and clean energy advocates. Michigan LCV looks forward to working with our partner organizations and the legislature to pass this modest, but critical reform in working towards Governor’s Whitmer’s Climate goals. Tell your lawmaker to support HB 4236 by sending them this prewritten message that we got started for you. Taking action on this legislation will take under a minute!
House Moves Recycling and Efficiency Bills Before Spring Break
In a flurry of legislative activity before the Legislature breaks from March 29 – April 12, both the House and the Senate moved on several bills that LCV is tracking:
HB 4454-4461, a bi-partisan bill package to rewrite and improve Michigan’s solid waste laws passed out of the House Natural Resources committee on Thursday. The package is now headed to the House floor.
HB 4123, introduced by Rep. Beth Griffin (R – Paw Paw), passed the full House and has been assigned to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. This piece of legislation would allow safe drinking water assistance funds to be used for energy efficiency upgrades and performance contracting at water treatment facilities, resulting in overall project cost savings.
SB 232 – 241, a package introduced by Sen Ed. McBroom (R – Vulcan) and Sen. Jeremy Moss (D – Detroit) would extend the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the legislature (LORA) and the governor. The package cleared the Senate Oversight committee and now heads to the full Senate where its fate largely resides in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Shirkey. A largely similar package of bills cleared the full House unanimously last week.
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.