Historic Lame Duck Session Includes More Money For Roads

This year’s lame duck session saw more bills passed than any previous lame duck period in Michigan’s history.  As the state prepares to swear in a new Governor on January 1st, Republicans in the legislature feverishly passed legislation that has been on their wish lists for years, before the new Democratic governor can stop any of the measures.  It is typical for a controlling party to pass controversial measures during a lame duck session, but not at this pace.

Within the cluster of bills that flew through the legislature there were a handful of items that MITA worked on.  An authorization of a new tunnel for energy lines under the Straits of Mackinac was approved, regulations on paid sick leave were amended and more money was approved for roads from sales tax on internet sales.  All in all, lame duck was a successful one for the heavy construction industry.

As Enbridge’s Line 5 sits at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac and continues to operate beyond its life expectancy, the company, in partnership with the state of Michigan, has decided to build a tunnel under 100 feet of bedrock beneath the straits to protect the environment.  Line 5 has come under scrutiny and controversy in recent years, so passing legislation to authorize a new tunnel was difficult.  Eventually legislation was passed and signed into law.  Shortly after that the three panel authority was named.  Governor Rick Snyder appointed MITA Executive Vice President Mike Nystrom earlier this week and the Senate quickly confirmed his nomination.  On Wednesday, the authority met and signed the final agreement with Enbridge to start a long process before construction.

The legislature also changed some requirements that were passed earlier in the year dealing with the minimum wage and sick leave for employees.  Many of our non-union members were concerned about the paid sick leave requirements, as many of the employee allowances would be detrimental to their businesses.  Under the earlier proposal, employers would be prohibited from requiring a doctor’s note or even a call in to the office from their employees.  It also doubled the amount of paid sick leave an employee would be given.  During the lame duck session, however, the legislature passed minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements that reflected the federal standards already put into place.

Finally, as state revenues continue to be better than estimated, pressure to put more money into roads has mounted.  Because of a recent Supreme Court case, Michigan is now collecting sales tax on internet sales from companies out of state selling products to people in the state.  It is estimated that internet sales tax collection will be around $200 million annually and will continue to increase as consumers are buying more online.  For fiscal year 2019, roads will see an additional $114 million and $143 million in fiscal year 2020.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Mike Nystrom, Executive Vice President, at mikenystrom@thinkmita.org, or Lance Binoniemi, Vice President of Government Affairs, at lancebinoniemi@thinkmita.org.  They both can be reached at 517-347-8336.