Senate Joint Resolution M: Paying for Michigan's Role in the Flint Water Disaster with Roads Funding?
Four Republican Michigan State Senators introduced Senate Joint Resolution M on December 15th to abrogate the just enacted PA 179 (HB 4370) deal which will eventually apply $ 600 million from State General Fund to roads repairs. SJR M replaces this funding by raising the Michigan sales tax from 6% to 7%. The four Republican Senators are:
Ken Horn, District 32
Rick Jones, District 24
Darwin Booher, District 35
Mike Green, District 31
Horn thinks the current plan relies too heavily on shifting money from other areas of the budget – especially with some big expenses on the horizon.
“That has me a little bit nervous,” he said. “If we tie our hands with $600 million out of the general fund, how do we ever manage new expenses?”
What “big….new expenses” cropped up in Senator Horn’s mind over the last 60 days?
Enacting section 1. The legislature shall annually appropriate sufficient funds from the state general fund to the state school aid fund created in section 11 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963 to fully compensate for any loss of revenue to the state school aid fund resulting from the enactment of this amendatory act.
“Any bill requiring an appropriation to carry out its intended purpose shall be considered an appropriation bill (See Constitution Article IV, Section 31). Appropriations bills, when reported back to the Senate favorably by a committee other than the Committee on Appropriations, shall, together with amendments proposed by that committee, be referred to the Committee on Appropriations for consideration.
Senator Kowall moved a suspension of the Senate Rules after the noon recess on Thursday to bring nine bills on to Third Reading, including SB 616. From Senate Journal 106, page 1910: “be placed on their immediate passage at the head of the Third Reading of the Bills calendar.” was his motion. Senate Journal 106 indicates that his request was passed by a majority. This allowed final action and passage on SB 616 in the Senate that day.
Reading the record, it would appear that Senator Kowall was suspending Rule 3.207 to consider SB 616 and the eight other bills which had been placed on to ‘General Orders’ that morning for final passage under ‘Third Reading’, out of normal order. Senate Rule 3.207 requires a one day delay between the ‘Second Reading’ (‘General Orders’), and the ‘Third Reading’ (‘Final Action’). Suspending this prescribed one day delay is a common practice when time is of the essence.
Senator Kowall had already moved that morning, before recess, to place SB 616 and the same eight other bills then under ‘Committee Reports’ (‘First Reading’) under ‘General Orders’ (‘Second Reading’), so they could be on that day’s calendar. Also out of normal order, but again a common practice when time is of the essence.
But did either of Senator Kowall’s two suspension motions suspend Michigan Senate Rule 3.602?
Is Michigan Senate Rule 3.602 a fundamental rule as defined by Mason’sManual of Legislative Procedure? Mason’s is the underlying body of rules adopted by the Michigan Senate when their own rules are mute on an issue. Fundamental rules cannot be suspended according to Mason’s and all the other accepted bodies of parliamentary rules.
“It is a tough issue,” Switch spokesman Roger Martin said. “There’s no question about it. We’re talking about introducing an entirely new industry to Michigan, something that is the future of this country and of this world. It’s a good, vigorous debate.”
A Few Details Michigan's Legislators Might Want to Consider
Michigan’s nitwit media have been gushing over the announcement last Thursday that Switch, LLC will purchase the erstwhile Steelcase Pyramid southwest of Grand Rapids and convert the site into one of their state-of-the-art SuperNAP cloud computing data centers. The ‘information economy’ has been touted as Michigan’s future by no less than Michael Dell. He was in Detroit to address the Economic Club after his company purchased EMC Corporation, another major data center operator with three facilities in Michigan, in a blow out $ 67 billion buyout. Switch SuperNAP promoters, notably The Right Place, Incorporated, are touting 1,000 new jobs in Gaines Township, but this should be regarded wth the same skepticism as any other MEDC clone employment prediction. No one has said anything about financing, but there is good reason to believe that Michigan will be asked to ‘participate’ here as well.
Steelcase vacated their distinctive Corporate Development Center in 2012 and sold it to to Norman Properties in May. Norman Properties, in turn, has agreed to sell this property to Switch LLC, pending the approval of State tax breaks. Those tax breaks have been introduced in the Michigan House by Representatives VerHeulin, Yonker, and Schor. Identical tax break legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Hildenbrand, Schuitmaker, and MacGregor. These legislators are targeting quick passage in the legislative session which convenes after their Thanksgiving break. They might want to consider a few details before they lunge further forward.
This being RightMI, you might think this post is about those tax breaks. You would be wrong. There is actually a critical flaw in this project which will injure Consumer’s Energy electricity customers all across West Michigan. A couple of other issues exist as well, but they pale in comparison to the electricity consumption of this project. Those tax breaks are a lost cause in American politics today – not even worth protesting.
Albert Einstein Called Him "The Greatest Mind in American History."
Josiah Willard Gibbs 1839 – 1903
The second phase of Governor Snyder’s plan to restore Flint’s damaged water infrastructure was announced today. Michigan’s taxpayers will pay the pirates at Detroit Water & Sewerage $ 6 million to reconnect the Flint water system to DW&SD’s Lake Huron water supply. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation will ante up $ 4 million more and the City of Flint will will pay $ 2 million extra as well. Governor Snyder said: “The technical experts helping the city on its water advisory all agree this move back to the Great Lakes Water Authority provides the best public health protection for children and families.” Note that our devious Governor gives you the impression that the funds will be going to the GLWA. No, they will all be going straight to the pirates at DW&SD unless Flint’s new Karegnondi water pipeline is seriously delayed.
As we pointed out last week, the Flint water distribution system has been seriously damaged by 17 months of amateur chemistry and government incompetence after resourcing their water supply to the Flint River. Incompetent control of water chemistry after April 2014 has dissolved protective pipe linings, allowing lead, iron and steel corrosion which has released lead and iron compounds into Flint’s water on its way to customers. A process called leaching. The finished water coming out of the Flint Water Treatment Plant is seemingly fine, but it certainly isn’t by the time it arrives at their customer’s taps.
Because the damage to Flint’s water infrastructure commenced with this resourcing, a hue and cry went up to reconnect Flint to Detroit water. A logical fallacy. Detroit water did not damage Flint’s water infrastructure when it was used prior to April 2014, at least as far as we know. (Do we really know?) However it cannot – by itself – repair the damage done since. Flint pipes may not have been corroding before April 2014, but they certainly are now. Detroit water is controlled just enough to prevent damage to water infrastructure, but not enough to repair damaged infrastructure. Flint is going to require a distinctly different water chemistry than Detroit.
The technical experts are touting corrosion control plans to stop the corrosion in Flint’s water distribution piping. By corrosion control, they intend to load up Flint’s water with orthophosphate forming chemicals to prevent further corrosion and attempt to restore the protective scale linings in Flint’s water piping. This is the EPA’s stock recommended practice, derived from their statistical analysis of water systems across the nation. The problem here is those statistical analyses were made of more or less functional water distribution systems. Not a heavily damaged system like Flint’s. Flint’s water problems are an ex novo case. The only recent case of lead pipe leaching even close occurred in Washington, DC, but is enough different in its particulars that Washington’s corrective actions do not provide an assured plan of action for Flint.
In all fairness to EFM Kurtz, part of his rate increase was intended to replenish $ 15.7 million which had been transferred from the Flint water fund in 2007 to pay a sewerage overflow settlement. However this entire situation was almost certainly an attempt to quickly balance Flint’s books and wrap up emergency financial management. Lansing was certainly sweating EFM Kurtz to conclude Flint’s restoration in order to shut down the social justice warriors before our 2014 election.
So what is happening here, technically? Will Detroit water fix Flint’s problems? (Hint: No)
Meanwhile, Attorney General Schuette completed a binding legal agreement with Enbridge to prevent Enbridge Pipeline 5 from being used to transport ‘heavy crude oil’ under the Straits of Mackinac. This agreement formally implements the first recommendation of the Michigan DEQ Petroleum Pipeline Task Force Report released in July to ban heavy crude oil in Line 5. Sounds good, but Enbridge Pipeline 5 does not now have the pumping horsepower for heavy crude transmission, and the weight of the crude has very little to do with pipeline integrity. Corrosive constituents in the crude, biofouling, and a host of other technical issues are far more important determinants of pipeline integrity. This agreement has great optics, but little consequence.
This deal was constructed as a lease to evade the 1963 Michigan Constitution‘s requirement, under Article VII, Section 25, for a vote of Detroit’s electors to approve the sale of any public utility. However, by constructing the deal as a lease, the City of Detroit is essentially granting a lease franchise covering the DW&SD’s water and sewerage operations to GLWA. The 40 year term of this lease franchise clearly exceeds the 30 year maximum permitted by Article VII, Section 30 of our 1963 Constitution: Merriam-Webster defines a ‘franchise’ as “ the right to sell a company’s goods or services in a particular area; also, a business that is given such a right”. Exactly the nature of the GLWA lease agreement with the City of Detroit. Should you doubt that the City of Detroit constitutes a ‘company’, Merriam-Webster defines a ‘company’ as “ an association of persons for carrying on a commercial or industrial enterprise”. Exactly what DW&SD has been doing for over 100 years.
State Representative Kurt Heise (R-20th) from Plymouth has challenged the establishment of GLWA under the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s Article VII, Section 28:
Taken together with the 1963 Michigan Constitution’s Article III, Section 5:
it establishes our Legislature’s authority over intergovernmental units. But these two sections do not unambiguously grant the Michigan legislature exclusive authority over intergovernmental units, so there is probably legal wiggle room here. Contrary to Representative Heise’s contention, a good lawyer could make a case that the U.S. Bankruptcy Court could establish the GLWA under Article VII, Section 28 and Article III, Section 5.
Last Act of the Detroit Bankruptcy Stumbles Behind a Wall of Secrecy
The final Detroit bankruptcy plan established a 14 June deadline to reach an agreement transferring operating control of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department’s (DW&SD) assets outside of Detroit to the newly created Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The State of Michigan, Detroit, Wayne County, Oakland County and Macomb County all signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) creating the GLWA late last year, subject to a 200-day due diligence period. Under the MoU, the City of Detroit would receive a $ 50 million annual lease payment from the GLWA while retaining full control of DW&SD assets and operations within the city. Erstwhile DW&SD customers outside Detroit were promised a 4% cap on annual water and sewerage increases for a 10 year period, which have been running above 10% per annum, in residential bills, in most Southeastern Michigan communities.
In point of fact, what has actually been occurring are secret negotiations over future tax increases across Southeastern Michigan. Water rates have become a surrogate form of incremental taxation. These negotiations will set tax fee increment rates for decades into the future. For taxpayers ratepayers who haven’t even been born yet. How are these negotiations going?