Lawmakers have returned to Lansing and are expected to have a busy fall. Here is a glimpse of the issues the Michigan Chamber expects them to tackle in the coming months.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud
The Michigan Chamber is actively engaged with the Michigan House and Senate to develop reforms to Michigan’s 100 percent employer-financed unemployment insurance (UI) program specifically targeted at identity theft and imposter claims. Chamber members and businesses across the state are reporting a sharp uptick in the number of identity theft claims being filed. Identity thieves are using worker data to apply for and receive unemployment benefits. While it is important that employers pay close attention to their accounts and protest any fraudulent claims to avoid charges to their UI account and a subsequent increase in their UI tax rate, the state needs to do more to prevent these claims from being filed on the front-end. The Michigan Chamber will be pushing legislation this fall to require the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) to do more to check the identities of claimants by implementing procedures like those used by financial institutions. We are also pushing legislation to put procedures and safeguards in place to support employers and employees who find themselves victims of identity theft.
Hands Off the Interview Process
Legislation is pending in the State Senate that would prohibit local units of government from passing laws to restrict what private sector employers can ask in the interview process. This legislation is being pursued by the Chamber after several large cities, including Philadelphia and New York City, passed ordinances prohibiting employers from asking an interviewee about his or her salary history. Senate Bill 353 (Sen. Proos, R-St. Joseph) would expand Michigan’s local preemption legislation, which was pursued by the Chamber and passed into law in 2015. This legislation specified that local units of government cannot adopt aggressive new laws or ordinances governing employers’ relations with their employees, things like local minimum wage, paid sick leave or other workplace or HR mandates. SB 353, which seeks to clarify that local governments cannot restrict what employers can ask in the interview process (beyond existing state and federal laws), is now on the Senate floor. It is consistent with the intent of the 2015 law. This legislation makes good sense and we are urging the Senate to take prompt action.
Health Insurance Mandates
The Michigan Chamber is opposed to legislation being pushed by Senate Republicans to add another mandated health insurance benefit to the books, a la Obamacare. Senate Bill 492 would mandate "cost parity" for chemotherapy treatments and place an artificial $100 cap on out-of-pocket expenses for high-cost, specialty drugs. Although we are sympathetic to those with challenging medical conditions, all chemotherapy treatments in Michigan are already covered by private health insurance plans. This ill-conceived proposal is amounts to government price controls and interference in private contracts and does nothing to control the overall costs of these rapidly rising treatments. We will be urging the Senate to reject this government mandate.
The Legislature will begin working on a series of actions and recommendations by the Governor to give students better access to career pathways to close Michigan’s talent gap. Proposals being considered include expanding and strengthening career technical education statewide through a series of approaches, including curriculum changes, increased collaboration between educators and employers, and added resources for students to discover and prepare for potential opportunities. The Michigan Chamber supports the Governor’s recommendations as they address many of the challenges and concerns Chamber members have raised regarding job readiness and the talent pipeline.
Commercial Property Tax Assessments
Legislation has been introduced that would turn the assessment of certain property on its head. This drastic attempt by local governments to circumvent long-standing property valuation practices to increase revenues is nothing more than a money grab. The Michigan Chamber will fight hard to maintain the rights of businesses to appeal over-assessments and ensure taxpayers have a fair, predictable, and just process to air their grievances.
Essential Services Assessment Tax
Michigan’s personal property tax (PPT) has long been viewed as a tax that discourages capital investment and business expansion. Since the Chamber’s founding, we have strived to eliminate the PPT and have been successful in advancing significant policy changes towards that end. The biggest reforms took place in 2015 when a dramatic portion of property taxes began to be phased out. Unfortunately, these reforms became unnecessarily complicated and, as certain equipment became exempt from the PPT, they became subject to a new tax – the Essential Services Assessment (ESA). This tax is still a tax on business investment and expansion. And so, this fall, the Chamber is leading the charge to eliminate the ESA.
Sales Tax on Dental Prosthetics
The Michigan Chamber will be pursuing legislation this fall that will "re-exempt" dental prosthetics from the sales tax. Healthcare costs are already a significant expense and any attempt by government to inflate this problem will be met with the strongest opposition from the Chamber.