October 2020
Bay County and Saginaw County Advocacy Collaboration

The Bay Area and Saginaw County Chambers partnered with many of our regional chambers across Michigan as well as SBAM and MMA to urge the Governor for business clarity, consistency and transparency on decisions made regarding safely reopening and operating during the COVID outbreak. We must use informed data, be precise on how we control outbreaks, and enable all industries to open with proper safety protocols.

Bay County Updates
State and Federal Officials Visit Bay County

The Bay Area agricultural community was recently highlighted during a visit by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist. LG Gilchrist visited G&R Van Driessche Farms, which provided him the opportunity to ride in a harvester and learn about our community’s agricultural heritage.

This visit was facilitated by Michigan Sugar Company, Bay County’s second largest employer, which has a direct annual economic impact of $50 million. LG Gilchrist was joined on his visit by Congressman Dan Kildee and State Representative Brian Elder.
Bay Chamber Partners with Saginaw Chamber on Virtual Candidate Forum

On Wednesday, October 21st, the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Saginaw County Chamber to present a virtual Candidate Forum to give members an opportunity to hear from several candidates seeking to win voter approval in the upcoming election.

The event included opening and closing remarks from each candidate and moderated questions chosen depending on the office each was seeking. Invitations to participate in the forum were issued to both incumbents and new candidates for the same office.

The following candidates were able to participate in the forum which was moderated by John Boothroyd, Manager of Government Relations for Michigan Sugar Company.


Senate
  • John James, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate


U.S. House
  • Congressman John Moolenaar, Republican incumbent seeking reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives
  • Congressman Dan Kildee, Democrat incumbent seeking reelection to the U.S., House of Representatives
  • Tim Kelly, Republican candidate for U.S. House of Representatives seeking to unseat incumbent Dan Kildee


State House
  • Representative Ben Frederick, Incumbent (R-85th)
  • Representative Rodney Wakeman, Incumbent (R-94th)
  • Representative Brian Elder, Incumbent (D-96th)
  • Timmy Beson, Candidate (R-96th)
  • Representative Annette Glenn, Incumbent (R-98th)


Saginaw County Updates
Saginaw Chamber Supports -

The Saginaw Chamber supported a package of bills recently passed and signed into law including ensured continuity of unemployment agency benefits for eligible claimants and liability protections to government entities, individuals, schools, businesses, and employees from COVID claims.

Descriptions of the individual bills are included below in the State Government Updates section of this newsletter.
Health Care Op-Ed by
Veronica Horn

Health care is one of the most pressing issues for Michigan businesses and workers.

While there is a very real need to lower costs and expand access to care, government-controlled health care “solutions” like the public option or Medicare for All will not solve these problems. In fact, they will only create new ones for Michigan job creators and workers.

If we were to move toward a top-down approach to health care such as the public option, it could increase costs for businesses while reducing options and flexibility for employees who rely on their employer-sponsored health care plans to access the services and treatments they need to live healthier, happier lives.

Moreover, the cost of a public option is extraordinarily high, with some projections suggesting that it would take a massive payroll tax increase of more than $2,000 for the average worker in America to fund.

Now is not the time to increase taxes on hardworking Michiganders or cost burdens on local businesses. For Michigan, the public option is not an option at all.
Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce 2020 Election Endorsements

CANDIDATES
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce endorses a YES vote for –

MICHIGAN HOUSE
  • Rodney Wakeman – (R) 94th District House of Representatives

  • Ben Frederick – (R)) 85th District House of Representatives

SAGINAW COUNTY COMMISSION
  • Michael Webster – (D) Saginaw County Commission

  • Jack Tany – (D) Saginaw County Commission

  • Christopher Boyd – (D) Saginaw County Commission

ISSUES
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce endorses a YES vote for –

  • Saginaw County Department of Public Health Millage

  • Saginaw Public Schools Bond Proposal

  • Delta College Millage Renewal
Ryan Tarrant, President/CEO
Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
989-893-4567
Veronica Horn, President/CEO
Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce
989-752-7161
STATE GOVERNMENT UPDATES
Coronavirus Liability Protections for Businesses and Healthcare Workers
Governor Signs Bipartisan Bills into Law

On Thursday, October 22, 2020, Governor Whitmer signed bipartisan House Bills 6030-6032 protecting Michigan workers from the spread of COVID-19 and protecting businesses that implement strict safety measures to keep workers, customers, and their families safe.

The bills require employers to allow workers who are exposed to COVID-19 or exhibit the symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home, and prohibit retaliation against employees for staying home when sick or exposed to the virus. The bills also provide a minimum damages award of $5,000 for violations. Awards may be higher than that in the event of more serious conduct or injuries.

House Bills 6030-6032 protect Michigan businesses that comply with relevant COVID-19-related laws, including epidemic orders and rules. HB 6030 make clears that when a business complies with all relevant COVID-19 related statutes, orders, and rules issued by federal, state, and local authorities, they cannot be held liable for a person becoming sick at the business. HB 6031 makes clear that when an employer complies with all relevant COVID-19 related statutes, orders, and rules issued by federal, state, and local authorities, they cannot be held liable under the Michigan Occupational Health and Safety Act for a worker becoming sick at work.

House Bill 6159 codifies protections for medical providers and facilities provided by Executive Order 2020-30 and 2020-61. The bills will apply retroactively on or after March 29, 2020 and before July 14, 2020.

Additional bills signed today include:

House Bills 4459-4460 and 4990-4991 together protect consumers against surprise medical billing. Instead of a consumer potentially being stuck with a bill they can’t pay when they receive care at an in-network hospital but see an out-of-network doctor, their insurance company will pay the doctor according to a formula specified in the bill. The bills also provide for certain good-faith cost estimate disclosures in nonemergency situations and other consumer protections. Additionally, the bills limit the ability of an out-of-network provider to bill a patient directly for certain emergency costs, rather the provider and the insurer will now settle the disputed charge. These bills put Michigan among the states leading the charge for consumer protection when it comes to surprise medical billing.

House Bill 6192 provides extensions for the validity of certain permits, licenses, and registrations issued by the Secretary of State. Many of these permits were extended once already to September 30, 2020. This second extension makes many permits, licenses, and registrations valid until December 11, 2020.
 
Senate Bill 1094 requires the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to evaluate the operation, efficacy, clinical outcomes, and performance of nursing homes throughout the state during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also creates a series of requirements surround the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policy. DHHS, in consultation with LARA, will work to provide a statewide visitation policy, implement plans concerning COVID-19 laboratory testing, a process to approve care and recovery facilities among other key goals before November 15, 2020.
Bipartisan Bills Extend Unemployment Benefits to 26 Weeks + Additional Bills Signed in October

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bills 886 and 991 codifying part of her executive orders expanding unemployment benefits to Michiganders. The bills will extend unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work, because they have or are caring for someone with COVID-19, from 20 to 26 weeks until the end of the year. Coverage was also expanded to include workers who need to quarantine due to being exposed to someone who had tested positive. Senate Bills 886 and 991 were both sponsored by Senator Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth).

Additional Bills signed this month include -

House Bill 5336 expands Michigan’s adoption of the Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (henceforth the “Receivership Act”) to depart from the uniform system of rules. This bill would expand Michigan’s Receivership Act to apply to commercial personal property and fixtures in addition to the commercial real property to which it already applies. The bill was sponsored by Representative Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township.

House Bill 5490 and 5491 together amend the Michigan Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act to require the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) to extend the court-ordered receivership process to Michigan’s marijuana industry. The bills provide a state-level remedy for those in the marijuana industry that are unable to take advantage of federal bankruptcy courts. Under the new law, the MRA is required to promulgate rules and establish procedures for approving a receiver to operate a medical marijuana facility or a marijuana establishment. The bills were sponsored by Representative Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township.

Senate Bill 432 amends the Michigan Strategic Fund Act to revise an exemption of certain property from taxes collected under the General Property Tax Act. The bill also adds to the exception for certain nonprofit entities supporting research and development in present and emerging technology for qualifying purposes until December 31, 2024. The bill was sponsored by Senator Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth.

Senate Bill 493 amends the Commercial Rehabilitation Act to extend, from December 31, 2020, to December 31, 2025, the sunset date after which a new commercial rehabilitation certificate may not be granted. The Commercial Rehabilitation Act provides for the establishment of commercial rehabilitation districts. Certain qualified buildings in these districts are subject to property tax exemptions. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland.

Senate Bill 494 amends the Commercial Redevelopment Act to extend, from December 31, 2020, to December 31, 2025, the sunset date after which a new certificate may not be granted. The Commercial Redevelopment Act allows a local governmental unit to establish a commercial redevelopment district. Certain qualified buildings in these districts are subject to property tax exemptions. The bill was sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas, R-Midland.
Bipartisan "Clean Slate" Criminal Justice Reform Bills Expand Opportunities for Expungement, Breaking Barriers to Employment and Housing Opportunities
Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders could be eligible to have their records expunged after governor signs bills

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 reforming Michigan’s criminal expungement laws making it easier for people who have committed certain felonies and misdemeanors to have their record expunged. Changes in the bills include allowing a person to set aside one or more marijuana offenses if the offense would not have been a crime if committed after December 6, 2018 when recreational marijuana use by adults became legal in the state.

Research conducted by the University of Michigan law school, which was recently published by the Harvard Law Review, found that people who receive expungements see a 23% increase in income within a year. This means more resources for families and communities, and a broader tax base, without any negative impact on public safety.

Changes included in House Bills 4980-4985 and 5120 include the following:

  • Creates an automatic process for setting aside eligible misdemeanors after seven years and eligible non-assaultive felonies after 10 years.  
  • Expands the number and revises the types of felonies and misdemeanors eligible to be set aside by application.  
  • Revises the waiting periods before being eligible to apply. 
  • Treats multiple felonies or misdemeanor offenses arising from the same transaction as a single felony or misdemeanor conviction, provided the offenses happened within 24 hours of one another and are not assaultive crimes, or involves possession or use of a dangerous weapon, or is a crime that carries penalty of 10 or more years in prison.  
  • Expands expungement eligibility to various traffic offenses.  
  • Allows a person to petition to set aside one or more marijuana offenses if the offense would not have been a crime if committed after the use of recreational marijuana by adults became legal in the state.

More than $17.8 million awarded to Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to connect Michiganders to Opportunity 

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) has been awarded $17,827,178.11 million in a U.S. Department of Education competitive grant to respond to the economic impact of COVID-19 in the state. These federal funds will help Michigan jobseekers make the jump from education and training to employment by delivering short- and mid-term customized training solutions.

LEO’s Office of Employment and Training will implement the Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program (MiLEAP) with the new grant award. MiLEAP will provide funds to subgrantees to assist jobseekers in transitioning from short- and mid-term education and training programs to high-skill, high-wage career pathways, resulting in industry-recognized credential attainment and reduced educational debt.

Michigan employers will be engaged in MiLEAP by joining multi-employer consortia to address regional workforce needs and advance existing employees through re- and upskilling.
MiLEAP will intentionally target services to individuals who are dislocated, underemployed, serving as essential workers, living in distressed rural and urban communities and economically disadvantaged.
Additionally, the program will create MiLEAP Navigators who will provide jobseekers with assistance in assessing and overcoming barriers, identifying resources and providing guidance and support. MiLEAP participants will receive individualized competency-based assessments and learning plans that include skills assessments, remote learning opportunities, high school and industry credential attainment and contextual learning opportunities.
MIOHSA Issues New Emergency Rules Regulating Workplace Safety

In an effort to clarify workplace safety requirements in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling that rendered Michigan’s pandemic-related executive orders invalid, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) promulgated emergency rules that now regulate the safety requirements employers must follow to protect their employees from COVID-19.

Effective immediately and in place for up to six months, the Emergency Rules work to mirror the requirements in previously issued executive orders on workplace safety.

Under the emergency rules, businesses that resume in-person work must, among other things, have a written COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and provide thorough training to their employees that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE), steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and how to report unsafe working conditions.  As it relates to returning workers to the office or the business, these emergency rules specify the “employer shall create a policy prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.”

MIOSHA’s emergency rules implement workplace safeguards for all Michigan businesses and specific requirements for industries including manufacturing, construction, retail, health care, exercise facilities, restaurants and bars.  Industries that were previously required to provide mandatory temperature checks, including the manufacturing sector, are no longer required to do so and instead required to “conduct a daily entry self-screening protocol for all employees or contractors entering the workplace, including, at a minimum, a questionnaire covering symptoms and suspected or confirmed exposure to people with possible COVID-19, together with, if possible, a temperature screening.”

The emergency rules establish workplace safety requirements and employers should coordinate these requirements with the Emergency Order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limitations on stores, bars and other public venues and providing safer workplaces.

The state has issued a new set of online resources at Michigan.gov/COVIDWorkplaceSafety which provides businesses with the guidelines they and their employees must follow and includes a sample COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and a reopening checklist to help businesses put safeguards in place. In addition, the state has launched a new MIOSHA Ambassador Program to offer education and support to businesses, with a focus on workplaces with a higher risk of community transmission. To request consultation, education and training services, call 517-284-7720 or online at MIOSHA Request for Consultative Assistance.
Federal Government Updates
SBA Provides Simplified Process for PPP Forgiveness for Loans of $50,000 or Less

The U.S. Small Business Administration released a simplified loan forgiveness application for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less. This action streamlines the PPP forgiveness process to provide financial and administrative relief to the more than 100,000 small businesses here in Michigan that have received PPP loans to date.

Borrowers with loans of $50,000 or less are also now exempt from reductions in loan forgiveness amounts based on reductions in full-time equivalent (FTE) employees or in salaries or wages.

Information on new instructions for PPP borrowers of $50,000 or less can be found here, with the new, simpler form for PPP forgiveness available here.

Justice Department files antitrust complaint against Google, alleging monopoly power
Attorneys general from 11 states join the government in a lawsuit over Google dominance of online search and advertising by Dean DeChiarao for Roll Call

The Department of Justice and eleven states filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google on Tuesday accusing the company of unlawfully using anticompetitive tactics to preserve its dominance in online search and advertising.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., maintains monopoly power in both internet search and advertising through a network of contracts requiring its products to be the default -- and sometimes undeletable -- online search features on millions of mobile devices in the United States.

Republicans on Board

The department is joined in its suit by the state attorneys general of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina and Texas, all of whom are Republicans. The partisan nature of the suit had raised questions about its integrity, given that the investigation began with a coalition involving AGs from both parties.

But New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who helped form that coalition, said in a joint statement with a bipartisan group of other state attorneys general that coordination with DOJ is ongoing and aspects of a separate investigation of Google would conclude “in the coming weeks."

Google is far from the only large technology company currently in the antitrust hot seat. Facebook and Amazon are also the subjects of investigations by federal or state antitrust enforcers, and all three companies plus Apple were the targets of a 16-month investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.

A report released by Democrats on that committee concluded that all four companies exercise monopoly power in their unique markets, including Google in online search and advertising. The report urged Congress to pass new antitrust laws and force the companies to separate parts of their business and limit the markets in which they can simultaneously do business.

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!