Publications for Municipal Law
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?
Several municipalities in the state of Michigan (and nationwide) have filed lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors alleging deceptive marketing in the sale of opioids, including OxyContin and Fentanyl
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.
As I discussed in the first article in this series addressing property tax exemption issues in Michigan, property taxes account for billions of dollars for essential community services such as schools, public safety departments, transportation, infrastructure, and governance for local residents and businesses.
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.
On February 6, 2018, Governor Snyder signed Public Act 16 of 2018, which creates a Uniform Commercial Real Estate Receivership Act (the “Act”) in Michigan. The bill was sponsored by State Representative Brandt Iden, of the 61st District. PA 16 can be viewed here.
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.
Across the state of Michigan, local property tax revenue is being drained by the property tax appeals filed by "Big Box" retail stores.
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.
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.
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.
Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the issue of how freedom of speech impacts the municipal regulation of signs. Review your regulations in light of this new Supreme Court decision.
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?
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?
The Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion which will make it more difficult for employers to defeat whistleblower claims before trial. Debano-Griffin v Lake County and Lake County Board of Commissioners.
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.
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.
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?
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.
A municipality may not condition providing utility services to tax-foreclosed property by demanding that a buyer of tax-foreclosed property pay delinquent utility-service charges that the former owners of the foreclosed property incurred.
On June 4, 2011, a federal district court ruled that the Michigan Department of Community Health must give over documents that the federal drug enforcement agency asked for involving 7 persons who applied for medical marijuana caregiver and patient cards.
GINA prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions, restricts employers from asking for, requiring, or buying genetic information, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information.
Answer to an intriguing question that involves the intersection of employer rights and medical marijuana patient rights.
Municipalities should take note of a recent federal agency decision to levy a large fine – just over $4.3 million dollars.
Most employers, including municipalities, recognize that once an employee is hired, there are many factors to consider before terminating even an at-will employee.
Attorney General Bill Schuette has chimed in to support a county prosecutor’s decision to prosecute a medical marijuana user for driving with the presence of marijuana in the user’s system.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found that a municipal employer did not violate its employees’ legal rights by requiring workers returning from sick leave or restricted duty to submit a doctor’s note disclosing the "nature of the illness" to their immediate supervisors.
Municipalities should note a new law just passed that might provide for a workable, creative option to help get funding for public projects.
In his State of the State address January 19th, Governor Rick Snyder called for legislative changes to the statute governing the appointment and powers of emergency financial managers for financially distressed Michigan local governments and school districts.
Another month, another flurry of activity on the Medical Marijuana Act front.
There are two noteworthy developments in February 2011 regarding a possible revival of the federal Build America Bonds (BABs) program, as anticipated in our January 2011 Bond Counsel Corner article, "Updates on Federal Tax Laws Affecting Municipal Bonds."
Many municipalities employ drivers to perform safety-sensitive functions. What if one of these drivers arrives at work and appears to be under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance?
Unions can demonstrate majority status either through voluntary recognition or an election.
For decades, Michigan courts have held that a zoning ordinance that prevents extraction of natural resources is invalid unless "very serious consequences" would result from the proposed extraction.
The bill encountered controversy, did not progress, and died in the 2009-2010 session of the Legislature that ended in December.
The Court of Appeals rejected a claim that a township was excluding commercial uses where there are many commercial uses in the neighboring city and some of those uses were formerly in the township before the city annexed the land on which they exist.
Michigan’s recently enacted Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Act made Michigan one of the 22 states that allow municipal units to fund loans to commercial and industrial property owners for energy efficiency projects.
A new law signed by Governor Granholm in December 2010 – Public Act 321 – may provide some relief for Michigan municipalities facing severe budgetary challenges meeting their payment obligations on outstanding bonds.
Municipalities frequently are asked to determine if a landowner is eligible for a hardship or poverty exemption from property taxes.
A listing of noteworthy federal income tax-related bond provisions that were enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) or other past federal tax legislation.
In late November, Governor Granholm approved of HB 6224 making it law.
Municipal boards, commissions, Zoning Board of Appeals and many municipal committees are subject to the Open Meetings Act.
Many Michigan municipalities with outstanding bonds are subject to continuing disclosure agreements (CDAs) they entered into at the closing of their bond issues.
Michigan’s new "Super Drunk" law takes effect October 31, 2010.
Municipalities across the state are considering how, if at all, they can – or should – regulate marijuana use and distribution centers.
The USERRA applies to all public and private employers in the United States. So it applies to counties, cities, townships, and villages.
The MDEQ lacks the power to require a township to install a sanitary sewer system where there is widespread failure of private septic systems resulting in contamination of lake waters.
Public employee unions have existed in Michigan since the 1930s, but beginning in 1947, were prohibited from striking upon passage of the Hutchinson Act, which imposed serious penalties on strikers.
As you may know, Michigan’s new texting ban went into effect July 1, 2010.
A pending bill in the Michigan Legislature may offer some relief to municipalities with outstanding bonds payable from special assessments that have not been paid.
A zoning ordinance that merely lists uses eligible for a special use permit (SUP) generally does not comply with Michigan zoning laws.
Michigan’s smoking ban became effective on May 1, 2010...this new law will impact municipalities directly.
A very small section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) makes some major changes in Form W-2 reporting which will impact employers in the near future.
Bankruptcies involving individuals and companies are up in 2010. Though some economic indicators show improvement, data suggests more private bankruptcy filings will occur in 2010 than in 2009.
Build America Bonds (BABs) are taxable municipal bonds, authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on February 17, 2009.
In Robinson v City of Lansing, __ NW2d __ (2010), the Michigan Supreme Court examined the issue of whether MCL 691.1402a(2)...applies to sidewalks adjacent to state highways or only to sidewalks adjacent to county highways.
In Briggs Tax Serv, LLC v Detroit Public Sch, __ NW2d __; __ Mich __ (2010), the Michigan Supreme Court examined the meaning of MCL 211.53a.
Effective May 1, 2010, smoking will be banned in all public places, including places of employment.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) just set new rules that directly impact how a municipality can act on a request to locate wireless cellular facilities in the municipality.
In a recent published opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a condominium project developer’s convertible property (property that the developer retained the right to convert, contract, or otherwise develop for a six year period) could not be separately valued and assessed for taxation purposes.
For the first time in Michigan, the Court addressed whether e-mails sent by public employees on the public body’s e-mail systems were automatically considered "public records" under the FOIA.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be great ways to promote a public body’s activities, inform about services offered, connect with the community and share information.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed a trial court's denial of a landlord's motion for summary disposition, holding that black ice on an apartment complex stairway created a question of fact whether the landlord breached its statutory duty to keep the premises fit for their intended use.
A recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision further explained the meaning of "transfer of ownership" within the context of a joint tenancy.
The Michigan Department of Treasury’s Michigan Municipal Bond Authority (MMBA) offers a variety of financing programs to Michigan municipalities.
The Michigan Tax Tribunal recently addressed the issue of whether it was proper for an appraiser to use Internet sources to determine the value of personal property.
In a case of significance handled by this firm on behalf of Leelanau Township, the Court of Appeals recently affirmed an opinion of the Tax Tribunal regarding the valuation of real property encumbered by a conservation easement.
The Department of Treasury (State Tax Commission) has begun the filing of nearly 10,000 appeals with the Michigan Tax Tribunal to address the issue of property that is improperly classified as Industrial Real or Industrial Personal.
The proposed new rule would amend R436.1107 to grant authority to MLCC to extend the period that a liquor license may be held in escrow beyond the 5-year period currently allowed.
Most Michigan employers pay a 6.2% Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) on the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages during a calendar year.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently struck down a city ordinance that required a person suspected of being a minor who has possessed or consumed alcohol (MIP) to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT) upon request of a police officer.
Under the new rule, R 436.1107, a licensee who wishes to keep a liquor license in escrow for longer than 5 years may now ask the Liquor Control Commission for an extension.
The State Tax Commission has announced that the inflation rate to be used in calculating the 2010 taxable value for property tax purposes will be a negative .03%.
One municipality adopted an ordinance to require secondhand merchants to electronically report transactions involving secondhand or used personal property to the chief of police within 48 hours, and to pay a $2 fee per transaction reported.
In this case, a township ZBA denied a variance request to build a single-family home on a lot within a critical dune zone.
As many of you know, the Michigan Township Association (MTA) has issued a Memorandum regarding the employment versus possible independent contractor status of township assessors who are individuals and not entities.
The Supreme Court’s December 2008 decision in Chambers determined that an internal incident report that a municipality’s employee prepares – without more – does not satisfy the plaintiff’s duty to give notice of its upcoming lawsuit.
Recently, the Liquor Control Commission has issued a “Request for Rulemaking.”
It has long been the case that cities would force township residents to pay more for water service than city residents, despite the fact that it may not cost any more to provide the service.
The use of e-mail has also caused additional issues with respect to recordkeeping and responding to the Freedom of Information Act requests.
In 2008, Michigan became the 13th state to legalize medical marijuana.
A township is generally immune from tort (i.e., negligence) liability when engaged in a governmental function. But under MCL 691.1406, that immunity does not apply to cases alleging failure to maintain or repair a public building.
Municipalities have been permitted by statute for many years to purchase real and personal property through installment purchase agreements (“IPAs”).
As most of you know, the Michigan Supreme Court recently held that when determining whether a medical facility is exempt from property tax assessment pursuant to the charitable exemption provided by MCL 211.7o...
The State Tax Commission has recently issued a notice informing assessors of various issues relating to 2009 Personal Property Statements filed by taxpayers.
For the first year of construction, the assessor determined the improvement to be 50% complete and determined the assessed value and taxable value of the property on that basis
The Michigan Legislature has enacted Public Act 496 to revise the rules on dissolving a park commission.
In December 2007, the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA).
The Michigan Department of Treasury has recently announced a program to assist municipalities in defending appeals of public utility property assessments.
Generally, meetings of public bodies must be open to the public pursuant to the requirements of the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”), MCL 15.261 et seq.
At long last, the United States Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division has issued its final rule under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The Michigan Court of Appeals denied summary disposition for Defendant in a premises liability case, holding without dissent that it was a question of fact whether the "black ice" on which Plaintiff slipped and fell was an open and obvious danger.
In early October, the Michigan Court of Appeals struck down a township zoning ordinance that regulated the sale and distribution of agricultural pesticides and fertilizers.
Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld a township’s decision to reject an application by a religious organization for a variance to construct a building for worship purposes – even though that building would be used for other uses
It has recently come to our attention that many municipalities are unaware of the requirements of the Michigan Contractor’s Bond for Public Buildings or Works Act.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a statement announcing that it will delay enforcement of the Red Flag Rules for those entities under the FTC’s jurisdiction by six months.
The FACT Act stands for the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003.
At their September meeting, the State Tax Commission adopted the position that every city and township should levy and collect the one percent administration fee as authorized under Michigan statute.
In a very significant March 31, 2008 opinion, a divided Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in Thompson v North American Stainless, LP, expanded the class of persons protected from retaliation under Title VII.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently struck down an attempt by voters to dissolve by local election a township parks commission that township voters previously created.
On July 3, 2008 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that ordinance enforcement officers conducting warrantless searches may face personal liability under the Civil Rights Act for violating the Fourth Amendment.
On March 13, 2008, Governor Granholm signed into law Senate Bill 206, creating the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, which takes effect on September 1, 2008.
In May 2008, the Court of Appeals for the State of Michigan allowed a plaintiff to override a township zoning ordinance prohibiting gravel mining on the plaintiff’s property.
In June 2008, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a county must comply with a township’s ordinances when the county sited an outdoor shooting range...
The Michigan Court of Appeals very recently issued a perhaps-controversial opinion that highlights the importance of municipalities identifying sound rationales when enacting new zoning ordinances so as to avoid infringing citizens’ Constitutional rights.
Earlier this month, the Governor signed into law a series of bills, the purpose of which is to improve the efficiency, accessibility and effectiveness of the Michigan Tax Tribunal.
A recent Michigan Supreme Court decision has held as unconstitutional a provision of Michigan statute which allowed assessors to treat public-service improvements, such as water, sewer or utility services, as "additions" for purposes of calculating taxable value.
The Governor recently signed Senate Bill 206 unifying the three current planning acts for municipalities, townships, and counties into a single Michigan Planning Enabling Act.
In a recent case before the Michigan Supreme Court, Houdini Properties, LLC v City of Romulus, a landowner had requested a use variance to erect a billboard on its property.
Last month, the State Legislature enacted Public Act 12 of 2008, which amended the Zoning Enabling Act.
In January, 2008, a series of three bills were introduced that would substantially change the means by which a township could establish certain special assessment districts.
A recent published Michigan Court of Appeals case narrowed the State Tax Commission’s interpretation of when the transfer of a joint tenancy ownership interest results in the uncapping of a property’s taxable value.
With a Presidential election occurring this year, many Townships are in the process of determining whether to ask voters to approve extra-voted millages or bond proposals.
The Joint Municipal Planning Act allows Townships and other municipalities to engage in joint planning.
The Michigan Legislature recently adopted the Public Employees Health Benefit Act...
The Copyright Act generally provides that the person who creates the software initially owns its copyright.