These are the big issues we are currently monitoring in the current Lame Duck session of the 2015/16 Michigan Legislature. Please follow the links after the bill summaries to contact your lawmakers and GET INVOLVED.
1) The so-called ‘Energy Reform’ package: The Michigan House of Representatives is currently considering a package of what the lobbyists and politicians are calling ‘Energy Reform’ bills. Last week the Michigan Senate voted to pass SB 437 and SB 438, as did members of the House Energy Subcommittee. Why should you be concerned? When we hear the word ‘reform,’ we generally think of changing something negative into something positive, or improving something. This package doesn’t do that. Passage of this new set of “energy reform” laws will drive down energy competition in Michigan, while at the same time driving up the overall cost of energy production.
First, SB 437 essentially reestablishes an unhealthy monopoly for the state’s two largest electricity producers, Consumers Energy and DTE by re-asserting a 10% cap on electric choice. In other words, SB 437 requires that 90% of electrical energy consumption must come from DTE and Consumers and only 10% of the market will be allowed to choose their electrical provider. While this isn’t new—Michigan moved away from a more competitive model of electric choice in 2008—it wreaks of crony capitalism at its worst. Our legislators shouldn’t be mandating the continuation of a monopoly. Instead, they should be insisting on a return to a more open electric choice model.
SB 438 will increase the renewable energy mandate for Michigan utilities from 10% to 15% of their electrical production coming from renewable sources (in other words, not coal plants) by 2021. Proponents of the bill say that this is necessary to bring Michigan into compliance with recent changes to renewable energy policy by the Obama administration. However, opponents of the bill say that the mandates (which were already goals for the utilities prior to the introduction of this bill) will substantially increase utility companies’ cost of operations. Additionally, Donald Trump’s recent election to the White House has added another wrinkle to the debate about the cost-versus-benefits of renewable mandates. President-elect Trump said on the campaign trail that he would reverse many of President Obama’s recent renewable energy mandates to get skyrocketing energy costs under control. In light of this, we believe it makes the most sense to wait and see what the new president’s administration will do on energy policy, instead of increasing regulations at the state level that continue to drive up electricity consumers’ bills.
2) $88 million in new debt for unneeded Capitol Building project:
This week the House passed out of committee House Bills 6047 and 6048, two of the most important bills during the lame duck legislature that no one is talking about. The House Bills will create a new Michigan Capitol building visitor center which could cost upwards of $88 million dollars.
Under the plan announced Tuesday by the Michigan State Capitol Commission, all visitors to the Capitol — there are some 150,000 tourists and schoolchildren who come every year — will enter through the west side of the Capitol off North Walnut Street. They’ll enter a new facility that will include a cafeteria, a large committee room, new “education briefing rooms” and enhanced security measures, according to a news release from the commission, which oversees the building.
The parking lot on the statehouse’s west side will be moved underground and replaced by a park, as envisioned by the 135-year-old statehouse’s architect, Elijah Myers.
This bill will allow for the state capitol committee to go into debt to pay for the project as they see fit. The specific proposal calls for $88 million in new debt, but the cost may end up being more than the original amount. This bill also radically gives this agency the ability to take on debt without legislative oversight. Is our state in a position to spend $88 million dollars on underground parking for legislators? Most would say no.
Contact us at the Michigan Prosperity on the ways to fight back against this legislation.
3) Local Government Employee Post-Retirement Healthcare Reform:
“How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!” – Thomas Jefferson
While you are busy at work, your legislatures are attempting to grant unelected bureaucrats with the power to raise money from toll roads. The bill before the Senate to allow this to happen, Senate Bill 627, will accord, “certain public authorities to develop certain eligible products and to enter into certain agreements.” Essentially, an unnamed bureaucrat can develop a toll road and enter into a private contract with the government.
Although the government does not do many things well, they allow for free travel on highways throughout the state. A toll road ran by an unelected bureaucrat would line their pockets while hurting the average citizen. Furthermore, the wealthy will choose to drive on the toll roads because they can afford to do so, but the middle-class man will be forced to drive on them because of a lack of competition.
The worst part of SB 627, is that the toll roads will not replace the nearly $1.9 billion dollars that are being allocated to fixing Michigan’s roads, and you can bet that will increase. MDOT has stated that the $1.9 billion dollars is not enough to fix Michigan roads, and if the legislators do not listen to the will of the people there will be another tax raise in the near future.  Simply stated, Michiganders will have to foot the bill for road work, as well as pay a new toll while driving under this bill. That is simply immoral and unfair.
Furthermore, SB 627 does not mention the upkeep of the roads. Some of us Michiganders may be willing to pay the toll if the roads are among the best in the nation. Instead, the bill will allow for the private ownership of a toll with no regulations placed upon them.
If a toll road is broken and expensive how is that beneficial to the state?
Advocates may argue that toll road owners will fix their roads or else people will drive on other roads, regardless of its effect on their duration and time of travel. However, SB 627 does nothing to address the harms of public-private partnerships. Your local village could work together with a private company to build a toll road, without any input from the community.
Michiganders deserve better from the Senate. We will always advocate for new innovations from the private sector, but we must realize that we the people are in possession of the freedom to travel, and not the government!
Please click here to join us in sending a message to your lawmakers supporting legislation that opposes new toll roads.