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Advocacy Corner: Week of 12/14/18 Bookmark

Advocacy Corner: Week of 12/14/18

With one week remaining in the Lame Duck session, the legislature continued to take up action on a number of bills including Michigan school grading systems, the right of the legislature to litigate, citizen-initiated bills, and more. The U.S. House and Senate also passed significant revisions to nonprofit fringe benefits and donor disclosure rules.


Michigan House Approves A-F School Grading System

Early into the morning of December 13, the House of Representatives passed legislation which would establish a letter grading system to schools. HB 5526 creates an A-F letter grading system using areas of proficiency such as math and English language arts as measures of competency, with schools receiving a letter grade in each of these areas.

Utilizing a five-member peer review panel to submit reports on schools to the Michigan Department of Education and the legislature, the current bill language has seen divisive criticism on the issue.

The bill will next be presented to the Senate and would then need to be signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

Expanded Power of the Legislature to Litigate

HB 6553, which would amend previous statutes to expand the legislature’s ability to intervene in any action made in any level of state court, at any time, has passed in the Senate Government Operations Committee.

The bill was approved following changes which would now first require a court action challenging the constitutionality or the validity of a statute or legislative action before the legislature could intervene. This would protect the legislature’s ability to litigate in cases of state interest as an entity independent from the Attorney General’s office.

The current bill language continues to be interpreted as potentially threatening to the separation of powers with concerns to its constitutionality, while others argue it as a bill to, “…protect the legislature as an institution.”

House Adds New Requirements for Citizen-Initiated Bills

HB 6595 would make significant changes to the procedures of voter driven ballot initiatives and the collection of signatures. Bill sponsor Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) posits that the changes would “ensure statewide input” on determining whether or not to place an initiative on the ballot.

After seeing changes made to it on the House Floor, the bill would enforce a 15% cap on the total number of signatures collected from any one congressional district as well as change requirements of the Board of State Canvassers, the acceptable time frame of legal challenges, and require circulators to file signed affidavits.

Nonprofit Transportation Tax Repealed in Revised Year-End Tax Bill

The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee repealed a 21 percent tax on parking and transportation benefits for nonprofit employees in its most recent revised version of a year-end tax bill. In addition, this bill version would see changes to retirement-related sections of the tax code, extend a moratorium on medical device taxation, as well as repermit churches and other 501(c)(3) groups to engage in political activity.

MSAE and The American Society of Association Executives are encouraging nonprofit professionals to support this effort by sending this model letter to members of the House and Senate.   

U.S. Senate Overturns Donor Disclosure Rule

The Senate passed legislation on December 12 regarding a recent Treasury Department decision which limits donor disclosure requirements for nonprofit organizations. This past summer, the Treasury Department altered a rule which required all names and address of donors of $5,000 or more to be made available on certain tax forms. The newly passed resolution seeks to reverse this decision.

This movement comes as similar legislation currently sits before the Michigan House, SB 1176, which would create a “Personal Privacy Protection Act,” that further protects the identities of members of non-profits and other donor information currently already protected from public disclosure.

MSAE will continue to monitor and provide substantive updates to the above. For additional information, contact Taylor Benavente regarding MSAE advocacy.

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