Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer signs water shutoff extension, more bills into law

By: - December 23, 2020 11:46 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs bills into law, Dec. 22, 2020 | Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday signed a slew of bills into law — including one to protect access to water service for Michiganders during COVID-19 — one day before the state Legislature officially meets for the last time during Lame Duck.

All five Senate bills and two House bills were approved and signed by Whitmer by Tuesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 241, introduced by state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), creates the Water Shutoff Restoration Act to ensure that no occupied residences have their water shut off due to nonpayment.

It also puts in place regulations for public water utilities to abide by and mandates that residences currently without water service receive reconnection. The act is effective until March 31. 

“Every Michigander deserves access to clean water, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement Tuesday. “This legislation, spearheaded by Senator Stephanie Chang, will help ensure every Michigander can wash their hands and give their child a glass of water at the dinner table. My administration will continue working to ensure clean water for all Michiganders, and I look forward to partnering with everyone who wants to get this done.” 

Monica Lewis-Patrick, President & CEO of We the People of Detroit, also released a statement praising Chang’s bill. We the People of Detroit has been among the groups leading the charge to restore water connections in Detroit.

“…The passage of Bill 241 is moving us in the right direction. However, we must also recognize that water affordability issues will not go away with the pandemic; thus, we must all do more,” said Lewis-Patrick.

“We stand with water activists across Michigan who have been advocating for water affordability for over a decade. We urge state and local leaders to implement policy changes beyond 2020 to permanently protect water affordability and ensure water access for all Michiganders.”

Senate Bill 1246, sponsored by state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), was also signed to continue allowing public bodies to meet electronically during COVID-19. It amends the Open Meetings Act to extend current remote attendance allowances to March 31, and after that requires compliance with social distancing and cleaning guidelines for in-person meetings.

“Throughout this pandemic, Michigan’s local leaders have continually adapted while providing critical essential programs and services—which are vitally important to residents and communities during this time,” said Neil Sheridan, executive director of the Michigan Townships Association. 

“We thank both Gov. Whitmer and the Legislature for extending the time frame allowing townships and all local governments to meet virtually to conduct public business. SB 1246 ensures that our local leaders can continue to work on behalf of their community while safeguarding the health and safety of both elected officials and residents.” 

Other bills signed Tuesday include: Senate Bills 676 and 1137, which change how revenue from foreclosure sales are distributed and establish a procedure for claiming an interest in remaining proceeds of a property; SB 1234, which modifies the procedures for obtaining and extending a “poverty exemption” for property taxes; House Bill 5481, which modifies appraisal management company requirements; and HB 5824, which allows a one-time extension for equalization of assessment rolls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

HB 5824 effectively codifies Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-87. The bill it is tied barred with, Senate Bill 5825, has not yet been presented.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).