The state Capitol may shut down today with unfinished business

December 11, 2012
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When newly elected Gov. Rick Snyder cautioned his fellow Republicans two years ago that a right-to-work bill would be a divisive measure for the state, he was being prophetic.

Snyder, though, did a 180 late last week when he said he would sign such legislation. That turned his warning into a self-fulfilling prophecy, because after state Republicans ratify right-to-work today their work may be done for the year — and divisiveness will be at the forefront.

The Capitol Building may shut down today, even with more session days on the calendar and key issues on the agenda, due to concerns over the lawmakers’ personal safety.

“There are some safety concerns the State Police have expressed to them,” said Becky Bechler of Public Affairs Associates to the county’s Legislative Committee this morning. “As of 7:30, there were probably 2,000 people in Lansing.”

If the Legislature shuts down immediately following today’s right-to-work legislation, then other key bills such as the Personal Property Tax will likely have to be re-introduced next year when lawmakers convene on Jan. 8.

Local government officials are concerned about that particular legislation, because many depend on the revenue to pay for police, fire and ambulance services. If the tax is eliminated, which is likely to happen sometime, they’re not certain where the replacement revenue will come from and how much it will be.

The Senate passed its version of the PPT in May. But the House waited until late last week to ratify its packet that was inspired by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. It hasn’t gotten rave reviews.

“There is a lot of concern about this (House) packet,” said Bechler. “It’s a shell of a bill. It’s missing key ingredients. We still need to see what the final details look like.”

Bechler indicated that the House legislation reimburses local governments for 80 percent of the PPT lost revenue.

“It’s very difficult to determine how it works. It’s so complicated and it’s so important,” she said.

“The Legislature is rushing through this without looking at the consequences,” said Daryl Delabbio, county administrator and controller.

“It would probably be better if they took more time to look at it,” added Bechler.

Besides PPT, another key piece of legislation that won’t get done if the Capitol Building closes today is an extension of the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act. The act was enacted in 1996 and has been largely responsible for the redevelopment of urban areas, most notably downtown Grand Rapids. The city is second statewide in brownfield projects. The brownfield act sunsets at the end of this year.

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