The Manufacturing Growth Alliance (MGA) strives to make Michigan a great place to be a manufacturer and we know that one way to do that is to work with our local legislators to influence policies that affect you.
The below summary provides small manufacturers with a quick legislative update on a few items that have been passed this fall and brief preview of MGA’s priorities for January of 2021.
Covid-19 Liability Protections for Businesses
The Legislature passed an amended legislative package of bills that will provide coronavirus liability protections to businesses after months of negotiations between legislative leadership and the governor's office. Lawmakers passed four bills related to COVID-19 immunity for businesses and employers, along with another bill focused on health care worker immunity. The bills now head to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's desk. The business immunity bills were HB 6030, HB 6031, HB 6032 and HB 6101. The health care workers immunity bill was HB 6159.
House Bill 6030 creates a new act to establish standards for immunity from liability for certain tort claims alleging COVID-19 exposure. Under the act, a business/nonprofit/government entity is immune from liability for a COVID-19 claim if the person operates in compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the conduct or risk that allegedly caused harm.
House Bills 6031 and 6101 together amend the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act to establish conditions for immunity from civil liability for an employer whose employee is exposed to COVID-19. Under the bills, notwithstanding any other provision of MIOSHA, an employer is not liable for damages under the act for an employee’s exposure to COVID-19 if the employer was operating in compliance with all federal, state, and local statutes, rules, and regulations, executive orders, and agency orders related to COVID-19 that had not been denied legal effect at the time of the exposure.
House Bill 6032 creates a new act to prohibit an employee from reporting to work under certain circumstances related to COVID-19, to prohibit certain employer actions against certain employees, and to provide remedies. The act prohibits an employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or who displays the principal symptoms of COVID-19 from reporting to work until all the following conditions are met:
· If the employee has a fever, 24 hours have passed since the fever has stopped without the use of fever-reducing medications.
· Ten days have passed since the later of the following:
o The date the employee’s symptoms first appeared.
o The date the employee received the test that yielded a positive result for COVID-19.
· The employee’s principal symptoms of COVID-19 have improved.
The bills took effect October 22, 2020.
Increased Access and Funding for Rural Internet Access
In an effort to incentivize private projects to fill internet access gaps for those in underserved communities the Legislature approved, HB 4288, the Broadband Expansion Act of Michigan Grant Program, sponsored by Rep. Michele Hoitenga.
The legislation requires the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to establish a grant program for projects that extend broadband service using the recently-approved $14.3 million from the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. Once the DTMB receives the $14.3 million, it would have 60 days to implement the program. The grants are meant for private projects to boost broadband capacity in unserved areas, but can’t be used by governmental entities or educational institutions. The grant limit for any single project is $5 million.
“Unserved” is defined as a census block lacking broadband access from at least one internet service provider. Projects applying for the money can’t already have plans in place for service providers to install internet in the next three years. Applications will be considered by criteria such as the experience and financial resources of the applicant, the long-term effectiveness and reach of the project, the ability to use broadband for community and economic development and plans to discount internet service for low-income households.
Governor’s 60 by 30 Goal Backed by Programing
Governor Whitmer launched her 60 by 30 goal early in to her first year in office, challenging Michigan to get 60% of its population a degree or certification by the year 2030. Earlier in 2020 the Legislature passed a bi-partisan MI Reconnect Program that would provide tuition free opportunities to Michiganders ages 25 an older who did not yet possess a degree. The program is aimed at getting Michigan’s workforce enrolled in to programs at community colleges and/or private training programs. However, due to the onset of the covid-19 pandemic the funding for that program was paused in March. However, The Legislature was able to include 30 million dollars of funding for the program when they passed the FY 20-21 budget and the program is likely to launch in January.
Additionally, Governor Whitmer utilized federal CARES act funding to launch Future for Frontliners, which offers essential workers an opportunity to complete high school or community college tuition-free. MGA supports both of these program as opportunities for individuals to upskill for the in-demand jobs in Michigan.
FY 2021 Priorities
January of 2021 will bring in a new crop of lawmakers to the Michigan State House. MGA will be meeting with the newly elected lawmakers and chairs of the relevant committees as soon as possible as we begin to push forward more legislation that will make a positive impact for manufacturers across the state. We’ve heard from you about the challenges your businesses face when it comes to building and hiring a talented workforce, finding access to affordable high speed internet, and protecting and growing your businesses in the midst of a global pandemic.
If you have specific business needs or would like to inform the MGA of a problem facing the industry and/or your business please contact Jenn Deamud at Jenn@MGAlliance.org.