36 – 2 in the Senate: Bills Now Move to House Committee
Last Wednesday marked a significant victory for Michigan libraries. The Michigan Senate and Senate leadership recognized the importance of supporting the funding structure for Michigan’s libraries and voted 36- 2 to pass the seven-bill package allowing libraries to protect their dedicated special millages. The bills, SB 579 and SB 619-624, will now move to the House Tax Policy Committee.
MLA has been working on the tax capture issue for more than two decades. When I came on board as executive director a little over three years ago, it became a priority for MLA. Over the past eight months it has been an intensive campaign to get legislation introduced that would enable libraries to choose participation in tax captures. We know many of these locally dedicated taxes currently are being withheld against the libraries’ choice and in many cases without the voting taxpayer’s knowledge or approval. In some districts up to 47 percent of the library’s dedicated annual operating budget has been netted by tax capture districts.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Jack Brandenburg was instrumental in seeing the bills were heard in Senate Finance Committee and passed out to the Senate floor. The Senator understands these bills validate the voters who go to the polls and overwhelmingly choose to support their libraries by approving a dedicated library millage.
On average, nearly 80 percent of library funding comes from locally dedicated special library millages. The library community conservatively estimates that more than $8 million per year is lost to tax capture. We see these bills as a step toward taxpayer accountability, tax capture transparency and ensure dedicated library millages go to support the voters’ choice.
Thank you to the MLA Legislative Committee and Committee Chair Lance Werner, our GCSI lobbyists Gary Owen and Chris Iannuzzi and all of you who engaged with your legislators to let them know how important it is to keep our libraries funded. Public policy is a team effort and I encourage you to connect with your elected officials. If you have not yet emailed your Senator to thank them for supporting library funding, visit www.milibraries.org to see how your Senator voted, then find their email address here.
Read Michigan Library Association's official News Release.
PA 269/ SB571 Ballot Proposal Education
The Public Act 269 impacting libraries’ and others ability to inform voters about the facts around ballot proposals is currently not enforceable due to a federal court injunction. A motion for immediate injunctive relief was approved and sets aside the law until a judge decides the outcome of the legal challenge. Librarians voiced strong opinions on SB 571 and we were hugely disappointed that the Governor chose to sign the legislation.
The legal challenge to the constitutionality of the act remains underway and we are optimistic for a resolution soon. MLA is supporting the legal challenge and has signed on to an amicus brief in support as well.
Several versions of a trailer bill to resolve some of the most egregious issues of the new legislation have arisen. However, the Senate has yet to hold a hearing on any of the bills. After legislators return from spring break in two weeks, it is likely at least one of the bills will be considered.
New Dark Stores Legislation in the Works
A new bill would impact highest and best use and restrictive covenants, two of the most controversial and potentially harmful features in the tax tribunal's practice of lowering assessments for big box stores and utilities across the state. Sen. Dave Maturen (R-Kalamazoo County) has been working with a group to find a solution as the Michigan Tax Tribunal continues to reduce tax obligations allowing thriving big box stores to be taxed at the same rate as closed-down, abandoned stores.
Some libraries have been forced to pay back thousands of dollars in tax revenue causing extensive hardship for a number of libraries. MLA is still reviewing the new legislation and it looks promising.