Publications for Municipal & Public Entity
Public pension systems are increasingly underfunded. Data released in 2017 indicates that the median state funding ratio (the percentage of assets that a state has available for future payments to retirees) fell to 71.1 percent in 2016, down from 74.5 percent in 2015.
The other day I arrived home after a day at the office and noticed someone had delivered (i.e. tossed in my yard) a recent copy of the yellow book where you can turn the pages in search of businesses who sell products and services that you may need. You know … the phone book.
Generally, meetings of public bodies must be open to the public according to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act ("OMA"), 1976 PA 267. So, how can a public body maintain the confidentiality of attorney-client privileged information that must be discussed by the board, council or commission?
Foster Swift is a nationally recognized Bond Counsel and Disclosure Counsel firm. We advise and represent Michigan townships on all aspects of borrowing money and issuing bonds, and also public private partnership (P3) projects.
Property tax exemptions can have a big impact on local communities. Although exempt properties do not generate tax revenue for local units or tax-sharing units (like schools and libraries), exempt properties still use tax-funded services, like police and fire protection. An increase in tax-exempt properties can in turn increase the strain on local budgets.
Public libraries play an important academic, cultural, and social role in communities across Michigan. Public Libraries are governed by elected or appointed boards that meet regularly to make important decisions and provide oversight and direction for a library. The role of a board is to set policy, and to leave implementation of policy to the library’s director and staff.
After many months of new releases and public discussion of the Court of Appeals’ "big box" decision in Menard Inc. v City of Escanaba, 315 Mich App 512 (2016), the Michigan Supreme Court ended some of the speculation on October 20, 2017 by determining not to hear Menard Inc.’s appeal.
With the proliferation of online home rental resources like Airbnb and HomeAway, the business of renting homes on a short-term basis has grown significantly in Michigan and other states across the country.
Over the last decade, social media has evolved from a fun distraction for young people, to a pervasive part of people’s lives - regardless of age.
If you have an ordinance that regulates gun shops or the sale of firearms, it may be subject to scrutiny under the Second Amendment.
In the recent decade, governments have begun to utilize a public-private partnership (P3) which by its definition usually requires a design-build methodology of delivery. The design-build concept places the designer and contractor on one team in answer to the government’s request.
Michigan minors - at least those who sneak a drink from time to time - recently caught a break. In December, Governor Snyder signed bills that will reduce penalties for minors caught with alcohol starting in 2018.
Last September, Gov. Snyder signed HB 4209 (now called the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act). The relevant portion of the Act to townships is Section 205. Marijuana facilities may not operate in a township, and will not be able to obtain a license from the state, unless the township has adopted an ordinance (zoning or otherwise) that authorizes that type of facility.
The United States Supreme Court sent a case involving a Virginia transgender student who sued his high school over restroom access back to the lower appellate court for further consideration.
On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education withdrew two statements of policy and guidance, issued during President Obama’s administration, concerning transgender students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms.
Governor Snyder approved a new law on Tuesday that gives municipalities a stronger defense in sidewalk-injury lawsuits. PA 419 of 2016 amends Section 2a of the Governmental Liability for Negligence Act (Act 170 of 1964), which sets forth the extent of a municipality’s duties and liability in property and personal injury claims related to sidewalk maintenance.
A new law signed by Lt. Governor Brian Calley will prohibit counties, townships, cities and villages in Michigan from adopting or enforcing ordinances that regulate in any way the use, disposition or sale of certain containers, most notably, plastic bags.
In an opinion released December 15, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals (the “Court”) ruled that Michigan state law does not preempt policies created by a Michigan school district banning the possession of firearms in schools and at school sponsored events.
After devoting tremendous time, money, and effort to a political campaign, coming in second place - particularly by a close margin - is disappointing, to say the least. While the nation's eyes are on the race for the White House or any of the hotly contested Senate and House seats, candidates for local office, such as school board or library board candidates, may face even closer election results, where a mere handful of votes determine the outcome. This leads to the question: can I demand a recount?
The Michigan Supreme Court has rejected Gov. Snyder’s request to issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of Section 152b of 2016 PA 249, which allows general fund money (up to $2.5 million) to be allocated to nonpublic schools.
On September 21, Gov. Snyder signed HB 4209 (now called the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, Public Act 281 of 2016). The Act imposes a licensure mandate and authorizes a regulatory scheme for certain medical marijuana facilities including growers, transporters, processors and dispensaries.
Townships have a state constitutional right to "reasonable control" over roads. Townships also have the statutory right to adopt truck route ordinances. What happens if one township’s truck route ordinance effectively pushes commercial traffic into a neighboring township?
Article includes easy and straightforward practices that make negotiating contracts via e-mail more efficient.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has issued recent opinions on the "motor vehicle exception" to governmental immunity. These cases will be of interest to any municipality that owns vehicles.
A selection of new cases, legislation, and regulations from the last quarter which may affect Michigan's road commissions both as governmental entities and as employers.
Employment related issues can be sensitive. How do municipalities balance the requirements of the OMA and handling difficult personnel matters?
In 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded that domestic partnership policies intended to provide health care benefits to same sex couples violated Michigan law. Recently, in Attorney General v Civil Service Commission, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a policy providing health care benefits to state employees and "other eligible adult individuals."
Michigan has been struggling with the issue of how to eliminate the personal property tax and recently has passed a package of legislation in an attempt to solve this issue. The legislature’s tentative solution is to create a Metropolitan Area Metropolitan Authority.
An overview of important legislation, issues, and cases from 2012 that affect Michigan county road commissions.
Effective on March 28, 2013, 2012 PA 529 amends the Motor Vehicle Code to state that an authorized agent of a county road commission (e.g. a weigh master) may act as a police officer.
A new Michigan law allows some municipalities to issue bonds to fund unfunded pension liabilities or unfunded liabilities for retiree health care benefits. Before, Michigan municipalities had no power to issue bonds for those purposes.
Governor Snyder signed into law right-to-work legislation covering both private and public sector employment in Michigan. Employees will have the right to refrain from paying any portion of assessed dues or an agency fee.
Municipalities often put great care and effort into deciding whether to amend their zoning or regulatory ordinances. While the substance of those amendments is important, so too is the form of the amendments.
A federal court in Michigan struck down part of the Michigan Liquor Control Act that requires the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and local municipal approval to get a dance-entertainment permit for dancing and live entertainment at an on-premises liquor-licensed business.
With March Board of Reviews quickly approaching, it is an important time for a municipality to review its poverty exemption guidelines in light of the State Tax Commission’s latest guidance on the subject.
The Michigan Court of Appeals struck down a district library’s policy which banned weapons from library premises. The Court stated that the Library's "no weapons" policy was preempted by the state law.
Some businesses have begun offering “fixed wireless” cellular services-which allow a consumer to obtain high-speed Internet service via a fixed wireless antenna on their home or office. For townships, it means they will probably receive more and more requests involving wireless telecommunications equipment.
Any public body, especially those maintaining a website, should be aware of the amendment to the Michigan Open Meetings Act that became effective on December 31, 2012.
In Kalkman, the Court found in favor of a property owner who relied on a building permit issued by the City of the Village of Douglas, even though the building permit was improperly issued.
Michigan law has long criminalized "begging in a public place." Recently, however, a federal court struck down Michigan’s anti-begging law, and another federal court struck down an Ohio city’s anti-solicitation policy.
The Legislature has changed the rules on how receiving boards are established.
Summary of the proposed changes that HB 5879 would make to the Freedom of Information Act, 1976 PA 442, if enacted. Many of these changes would directly impact litigation fees and costs for defending FOIA violations.
Every employer should understand and appreciate the value of having a handbook that is tailored to its operations, as well as having policies that reflect their current circumstances, and current law.
Effective July 1, 2012, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission changed its procedure for submitting applications to the Commission and obtaining approvals for certain licenses.
The Michigan Supreme Court recently confirmed, and expanded, Michigan’s rule that an entity who submits a bid on a municipal project but who does not receive the award may not sue over that award decision.
Our June 2012 Municipal Law News noted that the Michigan Public Service Commission was investigating electric utility’s intent to deploy "smart meters." This article provides an update on that investigation.
In our January 2012 Municipal Law News, we notified you of the then-pending fight between Comcast and the City of Detroit over the validity of Michigan’s 2006 Uniform Video Services Local Franchise Act. The parties argued their positions in December 2011, and the Court issued its decision on July 10, 2012.
The City of Wyoming, like many Michigan municipalities, adopted a zoning ordinance that barred any land uses that are contrary to federal law. A medical marijuana patient sued to have the court declare that the ordinance is invalid as conflicting with the Act.
It is unclear at this point whether the revamped Michigan Fireworks Safety Act preempts a municipality's ability to regulate traditional concerns such as noise and public safety.
A recent decision addressed the validity of the Michigan Public Service Commission's (MPSC) decision to allow Detroit Edison to increase its rates to pay for smart meters. There, the MPSC approved funding for Detroit Edison to pursue a plan to upgrade its meters.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled in Coloma Emergency Medical Service, Inc v Dep't of Community Health, that damages against a governmental entity may be pursued despite governmental immunity laws.
Michigan has revamped its fireworks law by adopting Public Act 256 of 2011, which amends the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act. The Act allows consumers to legally buy and use more powerful "consumer fireworks" without obtaining a permit.
With an election year comes questions on municipal election matters. This month, we answer a few commonly asked questions about municipal elections, qualifications for office, events that disqualify one from running for office, and receipt of donations.
The Michigan Legislature has moved forward on a new bill that would pre-empt local zoning when it comes to handling request to co-locate wireless telecommunications equipment on an existing tower.
The Michigan Liquor Control Commission has recently issued an official notice about the "local approval" part of the liquor license application process.
On February 17, 2012, Congress passed the "Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012." Though most of the attention given the Act highlights its extension of unemployment benefits and tax cuts, the Act also impacts municipalities.
On February 28, 2012, the House passed HB 5335, an amendment that will change an over 25 year old Open Meetings Act interpretation by the Michigan Court of Appeals about telephone participation at public meetings.
In February, 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that allows Michigan cities, townships, and villages to prosecute "super drunk drivers"—drivers whose blood alcohol levels exceed .17. Generally, local ordinances may not impose penalties beyond 93 days in jail or a $500 fine.
Michigan Medical Marijuana case of People v Koon involves the intersection of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and laws against driving with marijuana in one's system.
Many municipalities in Michigan have recently received requests from their cable operators to start formal cable franchise renewal procedures under the Federal Cable Act, 47 USC § 521 et seq. Although federal law sets renewal procedures that provide for extensive local review of franchise agreements, Michigan law prohibits such local review.
Governor Snyder recently signed into law several new laws, 2011 PA 258 to 263, that aim to remove confusion some felt existed in the current inter-governmental agreement laws and streamline how municipalities can work together to share services. They are designed to give municipal officials improved options when deciding how to spend their limited resources and in collaborating to provide desired services.
A summary of Foster Swift's events in 2011
Verizon Wireless sued the Town of Irondequoit (New York) in federal court in Buffalo over alleged inaction and unreasonable delays in deciding a wireless facilities application.
The Michigan legislature was active in 2011, passing or amending several laws that will impact public sector labor relations.
Cities and villages have the power to legislate—that is, to make laws. Cities and villages exercise their legislative power by adopting or amending ordinances.
There have been recent developments on SB 34 – and it’s good news for municipalities. But watch out for SB 618.
The Michigan House Judiciary Committee approved a package of bills that would allow cities, townships, and villages to enforce the 2010 Super Drunk Law.
Bond issuers should be aware that activities in the U.S. Congress may limit the value of tax-exempt interest to bondholders, with significant ramifications for municipal issuers.
Many municipalities rely heavily on personal property taxes for operating purposes. This bill would exempt all personal property from tax collection under the General Property Tax Act.
Is Social Media a viable substitute for a municipality having an official website?
The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Michigan Department of Education lacks authority to promulgate the State Aid Rules, which impose new conditions on public libraries' eligibility to receive critical state funding.
Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become commonplace – not only on employees’ personal computers, but also on employers’ computers.
On July 20, 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that changes the arbitration process and should result in more realistic agreements.
The Michigan Legislature has legislatively overruled Kyser and reinstated the "very serious consequences" rule.
Foster Swift is pleased to announce our new "PA 4 Team." - a team focused on helping financially challenged municipalities and school districts, emergency managers, bond trustees, and others understand and use Michigan’s recently enacted Public Act 4.
Another month, another slew of activity on the medical marijuana front across Michigan. This article highlights two recent events from the Michigan Attorney General’s office.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently handed down a decision that is important for any municipality that holds special meetings or goes into closed session to discuss pending litigation.