January 2021
Advocacy in 2021

As we move forward into 2021, we look forward to advocating on behalf of the Bay Area and Saginaw County business communities.

You will see a guest article regarding polycrystalline silicon below. This is the major product produced by Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) in Saginaw County. The difference between them and companies that produce the same product in China? HSC only uses well-compensated workers.

We are advocating for HSC because of the ethical way they do business. That isn’t the case outside of the United States. This is critical in terms of human rights and it’s time to give them priority in selling their product globally.

In addition, you can learn more about the successful bipartisan effort to privatize Bay City’s Independence and Liberty Bridges.

Other areas in which we are advocating include:

Encouraging the Governor and her administration to reopen restaurants to at least ½ capacity. The COVID response in our state has been haphazard and inconsistent. We must expect more. Our small businesses are smart. They know how to operate, keeping their employees and the public safe.

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is working with the Saginaw County Health Department and the Saginaw County Medical Society to encourage our members to sign up for the COVID vaccination, while the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce continues to work with the Bay County Health Department on similar vaccination issues. We need to get vaccinated in order to get ahead of this virus and get our economy back on track. This will take all of us, working together.

Both Chambers of Commerce will be developing our public policy statements for 2021/2022. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to the president of your respective Chamber.. Let’s get back to work Bay and Saginaw Counties!
Ryan Tarrant, President/CEO
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
989-893-4567
Veronica Horn, President/CEO
Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce
989-752-7161
Bay County Updates
Bay City Bridges

Michigan’s economic competitiveness, job creation and the health and safety of citizens depends on the implementation of effective strategies to construct and maintain safe, reliable and affordable infrastructure. Unfortunately, Michigan’s infrastructure repair needs greatly exceed the available public funding at all levels of government. Now more than ever, many cities in Michigan have limited resources and few options for critical infrastructure needs when state or federal funding is not available. In many cases, cities are forced to close or restrict access to infrastructure when financing options are not available.

In late 2020, we were joined by the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and numerous other organizations in advocating for Senate Bills 1215-1218. This bipartisan bill package, introduced by State Senators Ken Horn, Jeremy Moss and Wayne Schmidt, passed both the House and Senate in December and were signed into law by the Governor. This paves the way for more than $100 million in private investment in Bay County, creating over 300 new jobs!

Below, you will find details on the four-bill package.

SB 1218 PROPERTY TAX, Assessments,
Include a public bridge facility used by a concessionaire in exceptions to taxation of lessees or users of tax-exempt real property.
TIE BAR WITH: SB 1217'20, SB 1215'20 (Schmidt, Wayne A. (R), 11/12/20)

AN ACT to amend 1953 PA 189, entitled “An act to provide for the taxation of lessees and users of tax-exempt property,” by amending section 1 (MCL 211.181), as amended by 1998 PA 244.

SB 1217 PROPERTY TAX, Exemptions,
Create property tax exemption for real and personal property constituting certain public bridge facilities.
TIE BAR WITH: SB 1218'20, SB 1215'20 (Moss, Jeremy (D), 11/12/20)

AN ACT to amend 1893 PA 206, entitled “An act to provide for the assessment of rights and interests, including leasehold interests, in property and the levy and collection of taxes on property, and for the collection of taxes levied; making those taxes a lien on the property taxed, establishing and continuing the lien, providing for the sale or forfeiture and conveyance of property delinquent for taxes, and for the inspection and disposition of lands bid off to the state and not redeemed or purchased; to provide for the establishment of a delinquent tax revolving fund and the borrowing of money by counties and the issuance of notes; to define and limit the jurisdiction of the courts in proceedings in connection with property delinquent for taxes; to limit the time within which actions may be brought; to prescribe certain limitations with respect to rates of taxation; to prescribe certain powers and duties of certain officers, departments, agencies, and political subdivisions of this state; to provide for certain reimbursements of certain expenses incurred by units of local government; to provide penalties for the violation of this act; and to repeal acts and parts of acts,”
(MCL 211.1 to 211.155) by adding section 7xx.

SB 1216 COUNTIES, Boards and Commissions,
Modify approval for construction of bridges.(Horn, Ken (R), 11/12/20)

AN ACT to amend 1851 PA 156, entitled “An act to define the powers and duties of the county boards of commissioners of the several counties, and to confer upon them certain local, administrative and legislative powers; and to prescribe penalties for the violation of the provisions of this act,”
(MCL 46.1 to 46.32) by adding section 23a.

SB 1215 CITIES, Home Rule,
Modify public-private agreements for public bridge facilities.
TIE BAR WITH: SB 1218'20, SB 1217'20 (Horn, Ken (R), 11/12/20)

AN ACT to amend 1909 PA 279, entitled “An act to provide for the incorporation of cities and for revising and amending their charters; to provide for certain powers and duties; to provide for the levy and collection of taxes by cities, borrowing of money, and issuance of bonds or other evidences of indebtedness; to validate actions taken, bonds issued, and obligations heretofore incurred; to prescribe penalties and provide remedies; and to repeal acts and parts of acts on specific dates,”
(MCL 117.1 to 117.38) by adding section 5k.
Small Business Legislation:

Newly elected State Representative Timothy Beson’s first legislation, HB 4047, moved through the committee process. As a small business owner, it is fitting that his bill works to assist small businesses as they begin their economic recovery.

HB 4047 (Beson) – Economic Supplemental

This bill would appropriate $565.5 million of GF/GP as follows:

This bill would deposit $150 million into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to cover the state’s share of payouts of fraudulent claims that were due to a lack of oversight by the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

An “afflicted business grant program,” totaling $415.5 million would be created to support afflicted businesses that saw lost revenue from closure in compliance with the Governor’s and DHHS’s Emergency Orders.

  • Afflicted businesses would be eligible to have up to 100 percent reimbursement of property taxes (or property tax equivalent) paid by that business in 2020, and $300 million has been set aside for this purpose. 

  • Afflicted businesses would also be eligible for a “License & Fee Reimbursement Grant,” totaling $38.5 million, which would reimburse afflicted businesses the costs for liquor licenses and for local health department inspection fees. 

  • Additionally, a “Property Tax Penalty & Interest Reimbursement” program totaling $22 million for all afflicted businesses that had to pay any penalty or interest fines for the Summer and/or Winter 2020 property taxes. 

  • Finally, afflicted businesses can receive a reimbursement for two quarters of unemployment taxes that have been paid, totaling $55 million.

We will continue to monitor HB 4047 as it moves through the legislative process.
Saginaw County Updates
Guest Article
Bloomberg Opinion - The Dark Side of Going Solar
China's efforts to corner the market in solar panels will complicate Biden's clean-energy plans
by Eli Lake

In an energy sector dominated for more than a century by polluters, the relatively small solar-power industry has been the good guy. Now it has a darker side.

To be clear, using silicone cells to trap the sun’s rays and turn them into fuel is still better for the climate than burning fossil fuels. But this simple point is complicated by China’s efforts to dominate the market for the polysilicon used to make those cells.

A new report from a geopolitical consulting firm called Horizon Advisory has found signs that major Chinese polysilicon manufacturers are using forced labor from the Uighur Muslim minority in Xinjiang Province. According to a New York Times article about the report, the Chinese government denies the use of forced labor, which is not surprising since this government also denies the very existence of forced labor in China.

Nonetheless, the report adds to growing concerns over the issue. Over the summer, the State Department released a report that highlighted the risks of forced labor in supply chains that run through Xinjiang or other Chinese factories. In September, the House passed legislation that sought to block the import of any goods produced with forced labor in Xinjiang. And in October, the Solar Energy Industries Association said it would not tolerate suppliers that relied on forced labor from Xinjiang. (The association said it found last week’s Times report “deeply troubling.”)

That’s all promising. The problem is that almost all polysilicon in the world today is produced in China. And most industry analysts believe that half of all Chinese polysilicon is produced in Xinjiang province.

According to John Smirnow, a vice president and general counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association, a decade ago the U.S. sought to protect the U.S. solar industry by closing a loophole whereby Chinese manufacturers used Taiwanese cells in their finished solar panels. China retaliated by closing its market to U.S.-produced polysilicon. The result was that the U.S. industry was hobbled.

“Over the past decade China has made considerable investment in its solar manufacturers,” Smirnow said. “U.S. polysilicon companies have been the victim of the U.S.-China trade conflict and have unfairly been blocked from selling polysilicon to China.”

During the presidential campaign, President-elect Joe Biden promised to unveil a $2 trillion initiative to create a new clean energy economy. A portion of that money will be for federal subsidies to purchase solar panels. Will Biden ignore the supply-chain risk posed by China on solar energy, or will he also invest in reviving U.S. companies that dominated the polysilicon market before the 2010s?

One group that has an interest in this question will be a new lobbying association calling itself the American Clean Power Association. Its CEO, Heather Zichal, worked as legislative director for then-Senator John Kerry, who will be Biden’s new climate czar. The new association is made up of some of the world’s largest energy companies, including the world’s largest solar wafer manufacturer, the Chinese firm LONGi. Another board member is NextEra Energy, which has purchased solar panels from JinkoSolar, which has subsidiaries in Xinjiang Province.

Zichal declined to be interviewed for this column. But the association provided a statement that noted its support for the Biden administration’s “recognition that both strong domestic deployment of clean energy resources and international collaboration are essential for the U.S. and the world to achieve the carbon reduction levels necessary to combat climate change.” Notably, the statement also included this sentence: “American Clean Power is fundamentally opposed to forced labor practices and our members are committed to ethical operations.” The statement made no mention of China.

Biden’s administration will soon have to explain how it plans to go green without enriching what are widely viewed as the instruments of Uighur repression. And even if no polysilicon was made with forced labor in China, it’s still dangerous for the U.S. to be reliant on an adversary for a cleaner energy grid.

The question is not so much whether the U.S. should subsidize more purchases of solar panels for public and private use. It’s whether the U.S. government can also help revive American polysilicon manufacturers and encourage allies to find alternatives to China’s solar-industry supply chain. If it does the former without the latter, it will be helping to solve a climate problem by exacerbating a human rights crisis.

Contact the author of this article, Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.net
Saginaw County Board of Commissioners Develops Criteria for Selecting Builder for New Animal Control Project

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is working closely with our County Board of Commissioners to use the best criteria available in order to select a construction firm to build the new Animal Control Center.

Currently, we do not feel that the point system used was a fair method to select a contractor and urged Commissioners to revisit the issue. We thank those County Commissioners who voted to return the bid to committee for further review.

Two of the companies bidding provided a lower bid than the winning company; a company from Ingham County.

The two local companies are well qualified, well respected and hire locally in their own workers and sub contractors.

We believe that being a "local Saginaw County Company" should be worth additional points in the scoring.

We will keep you apprised of this situation.
STATE GOVERNMENT UPDATES
Michigan Prescription Drug Task Force Releases Report and Recommendations

The Prescription Drug Task Force originally announced during the 2020 State of the State Address has released their report and recommendations. Housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Task Force was tasked to work with bipartisan legislators, health policy experts and stakeholders to discuss legislative and administrative solutions to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Michigan families. The report outlines key policy solutions and offers recommendations on four key areas: Transparency, Affordability, Accountability, and Accessibility.

Some of these recommendations include:
  • Requiring Drug Manufacturer and Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Reports
  • Copay Cap for Insureds
  • Drug Rebate Application to Cost Sharing
  • International Reference Rates
  • Price Gouging Prohibition
  • Pharmacy Benefit Manager Licensure
  • Copay Clawback Prohibition
  • Penalizing Unsupported Price Increases
  • Restricting Gag Clauses

Many task force recommendations align with legislation that was proposed in 2020. In the report, they also proposed further discussion and consideration of additional policy proposals that include rate setting and spending targets; value-based contracting, prescription drug tax credits, and others.

Regional Legislator Committee Assignments
State Representative Timothy Beson (R) District 96

Vice Chair - Agriculture & Rural Development/Natural Resources Subcommittee
Member: House Appropriations Committee, Health & Human Services, Licensing & Regulatory Affairs/Insurance & Financial Services, and School Aid & Department of Education Subcommittees
State Representative Ben Frederick (R) District 85

Vice Chair - Health Policy Committee
Member: Energy, Insurance, and Regulatory Reform Committees
Appointed to Select Committee on Reducing Car Insurance Rates
State Representative Anette Glenn (R) District 98

Chair - Environment, Great Lakes & Energy Subcommittee
Vice Chair - School Aid & Department of Education Subcommittee
Member: House Appropriations Committee, Health & Human Services and Military & Veterans Affairs & State Police Subcommittees
Representative Amos O'Neal (D) District 95

Democratic Vice Chair, Joint Capital Outlay Committee
Member: General Government, School Aid & Department of Education, Appropriations, Workforce, Trades & Talent
Representative Rodney Wakeman (R) District 94

Vice Chair, Natural Resources & Outdoor Recreation Committee
Member: Commerce & Tourism, Education, and Financial Services
On behalf of our members, the Bay Area and Saginaw County Chambers of Commerce will continue to monitor public policy that impacts our region, our communities and most importantly, your business!