Traverse City News and Events

Five Pieces Of Pending State Legislation That Could Impact Traverse City

By Craig Manning | May 12, 2022

Several bills in the Michigan legislature, if passed, could have profound impacts on the Grand Traverse community. Here's a look at just five that could dramatically affect northern Michigan.

Short-term rentals

The legislation: House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 0446, bills that would effectively bar Michigan communities from regulating short-term rentals as a matter of zoning.

The local impact: As written, these two bills say short-term rentals 1) must be considered a residential property use rather than a commercial one, 2) must be permitted in all residential zones, and 3) cannot be “subject to a special use or conditional use permit or procedure.” Collectively, those requirements would render local ordinances and regulations on short-term rentals unenforceable, including in Traverse City and surrounding townships. Local leaders have expressed worries that the passage of the legislation would drive short-term rental activity through the roof in northern Michigan, harming neighborhood character and exacerbating issues with housing inventory and affordability.

The status: The Michigan House of Representatives approved the legislation in October, with 55 votes in favor and 47 opposed. As proposed, the legislation would have permitted jurisdictions to regulate short-term rentals on a very limited number of grounds, including noise, traffic, and mass occupancy. The version of the legislation passed by the House was revised to give communities slightly more regulatory power. For instance, local governments could limit the number of short-term rentals an individual or legal entity could operate within a jurisdiction, so long as that limit “is not less than two units.” The bill also now allows a government to limit the total percentage of housing stock in its jurisdiction that can be used for short-term rental purposes, so long as that limit is “not less than 30 percent” of the housing inventory.

According to State Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), the senate “continues to work on” its version of the short-term rental bill. “Discussions continue with the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, with convention and visitor bureaus, with local units of government, and with Michigan Realtors” he says. “We’re still working together to find a solution that respects local control and flavor of the community, but also personal property rights.”

Nursing

The legislation: House Bills 5556 and 5557 would allow community colleges to offer four-year bachelor of nursing programs.

The local impact: The legislation would enable Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) to introduce a bachelor of science in nursing degree program (BSN), to go along with its existing associate degree in nursing (ADN). Leaders at NMC and Munson Healthcare have advocated for years for this type of legislation, arguing it would help rural areas like northern Michigan address shortages of qualified nurses.

The status: According to State Representative John Roth (R-Traverse City), who introduced the bills along with John DaMoose (R-Harbor Springs), the legislation is stalled and is unlikely to proceed as is. As an alternative, Roth says multiple parties – including state lawmakers, community colleges, healthcare systems, and four-year universities – are in talks to develop a new “compromise” bill. That compromise would likely create more BSN-specific partnerships between community colleges and four-year universities – which, in Traverse City, would mean more universities offering BSN degrees through NMC’s University Center. Roth’s goal is to put policy and funding changes in place that would enable northern Michigan nursing students to earn their BSN degrees from Traverse City without having to travel, and that those degree programs would cost about 25 percent what they do on university campuses.

NMC Board Chair Rachel Johnson says the college is disappointed that the original legislation is unlikely to move forward, but also “supportive of anything that expands nursing education in our community.” She adds that NMC will continue to advocate for legislation that would allow NMC to confer its own BSN degrees – something Roth vows to keep working toward as well.

Childcare

The legislation: A package of bills – House bills 5041 and 5043-48 – that would amend several parts of Michigan’s child care licensing act.

The local impact: Collectively, the bills in this package would help improve childcare capacity and access throughout the state. One bill would allow in-home daycares to provide childcare to more children, while another would create new family childcare networks throughout the state to provide support for home-based providers. House Bill 5048, which would open the door for childcare facilities to operate in mixed-use buildings, even has roots in northern Michigan.

The status: The House passed this entire package of childhood bills in October, advancing them to the Senate. Last week, the Senate assigned the legislative package to its Committee on Economic and Small Business Development for review.

Film incentives

The legislation: Two bills apiece in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature – Senate Bills 0862 and 0863 and House Bills 5724 and 5725 – that would create new film incentives in the state of Michigan.

The local impact: According to local filmmaker Bill Latka, Michigan had the biggest film incentive in the country from 2008 to the mid-2010s. During those years, dozens of Hollywood projects were filmed in the state, including Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the George Clooney-directed Ides of March, and several Transformers films. The incentives also brought several projects to northern Michigan, including the 2012 film Hideaway, which starred notable actors Josh Lucas and James Cromwell and featured scenes filmed in downtown Traverse City and at Bowers Harbor. When former governor Rick Snyder eliminated the incentive, Latka says most studios stopped doing business in Michigan, opting instead to make movies or TV in the 40 states that still have incentives. These new bills would bring film incentives back to Michigan, creating a program that Latka says would not only encourage more studios to plan film, television, and commercial productions in Michigan, but also incentivize them to hire Michigan workers.

The status: Brought to the legislature in February, the bills are currently being reviewed in committees: the Committee on Economic and Small Business Development in the Senate, and the Committee on Commerce and Tourism in the House. In the meantime, the Michigan Film Industry Association (MIFIA) is working to raise awareness about the legislation throughout the state, including with a town hall event that took place at Traverse City’s Workshop Brewing Company this past Monday.

Liquor licenses

The legislation: Senate Bill 1004, which would eliminate some confusion in the Michigan Liquor Control Code about whether or not liquor license holders are allowed to donate a percentage of their beverage sales to charity.

Local impact: The Michigan Liquor Control Code currently states that “a [liquor] licensee shall not allow a person whose name does not appear on the license to use or benefit from the license.” This provision has made some Michigan liquor license holders nervous about linking alcohol sales directly to charity. Under a strict interpretation of the law, something like Traverse City’s Pour For More – which supports charities by asking local breweries, wineries, cideries, and other businesses to donate $1 from each sale of a specific beverage to charity – could be seen as having shaky legal footing. The argument in that case would be that, by donating proceeds from alcohol sales to charities, liquor license holders are letting someone else “benefit” from their licenses. Last year, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) issued a statement on the subject, saying that it “does not view a licensee’s mere monetary contribution to an unlicensed nonprofit entity as allowing the unlicensed nonprofit entity to use or benefit from the license.” Senate Bill 1004 – which was introduced by State Senator Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) – would codify this statement into law, creating an exception in the Michigan Liquor Control Code that expressly allows liquor license holders to donate proceeds from alcohol sales to nonprofits.

The status: Senator VanderWall introduced the legislation in April. It is currently under review with the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.

Pictured: A film crew making a TV commercial in Traverse City (courtesy of the Michigan Film Industry Association)

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