Lansing Republicans drop the mantle of ‘local control’

Short-term rentals

Short-term vacation rentals are not universally popular in residential neighborhoods, and some communities have moved to restrict them. A pair of bills in Lansing would prohibit such restrictions. 

Sanctuary cities

Law enforcement officers in some sanctuary or welcoming cities do not routinely enforce immigration laws, to encourage individuals to cooperate with police in more serious crimes. Two House bills would prohibit such designations and fine cities that do.  

Living wage

"Living wage" laws require employers to pay workers at varying rates well above minimum wage, the amount depending on the city; at least six cities in Michigan have them. In 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new law barring any more cities from passing any more. 

Salary history

No city in Michigan has passed a law banning employers from asking prospective employees their salary history, which some believe contributes to a gender wage gap. But a state Senate bill would ban any from doing so. 

cigarette sales

In most parts of Michigan, you can legally buy cigarettes at 18. In Ann Arbor, you must be 21, under a new law passed last summer. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette contends the new law conflicts with existing state law and is therefore unenforceable.


A bill introduced in May would bar local government from enacting or enforcing any gun law that conflicts with state law or the Constitution. 

plastic bags

In 2016, Washtenaw County commissioners tried to impose a 10-cent fee on plastic bags, to reduce waste and cut down on plastic pollution. The state legislature introduced a ban on such restrictions before it could take effect.

Disposable plastic bags. Gun control. Sanctuary cities. Minimum wage hikes. An explosion of Airbnb rentals.

It’s an eclectic list of concerns. Each addressed by Michigan towns and cities through their locally elected officials. What they now have in common: A Republican legislature or attorney general who has stepped in to say: “No, you can’t.”

Lately, the flurry of edicts coming from Lansing blocking cities and towns from crafting their own laws has raised the question: What happened to the GOP mantra that local government knows best?

One critic sees hypocrisy.

“Republicans in Michigan have for decades talked about the need for local control, especially when it comes to school systems,” said Washtenaw County Commissioner Andy LaBarre, D-Ann Arbor. Now, he said: “The minute you exercise that local control, if it offends any of their constituent groups, they take it away.”

LaBarre’s ire was fueled by a 10-cent fee on disposable plastic bags that Washtenaw was to impose this year as an environmental conservation measure. That was before Republicans pushed through a state law late in 2016 to stop it.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he said of the GOP.

A former advisor to GOP. Gov. Rick Snyder told Bridge he believes the Republican party, which now controls all branches of state politics, is drifting from its traditional conservative moorings.

“I think it has changed over time,” said Bill Rustem, former director of strategy for Snyder. “It’s a relatively new thing, (the GOP) telling local governments they can’t do things they traditionally have had the right to do.”

Historically, Rustem said, major issues like pollution and large infrastructure projects were the agreed province of state and federal government. Matters with no compelling statewide interest were most often left to local government. In Michigan, Republicans have consistently promoted local control, most notably in the context that local schools know best how to educate their students.

In 2015, for instance, Bridge documented how proposals for rigorous statewide standards for teacher evaluation collided with Republican demands for local control.

Which makes Lansing’s recent activism to restrict local decisionmaking seem like a reversal of the old orthodoxy.

It was Democrats who are usually stereotyped as the party of big government, always looking to distant bureaucrats for solutions to local problems. Republicans, by contrast, historically stood for the notion that locally elected officials (that is, those officeholders closest to the people) best understood the priorities and values of their communities.

Lately, Republicans in Lansing have found reasons to tell communities what they can and can’t do. And sometimes that’s necessary, according to one Republican lawmaker, even for a party that often rails against big government.  

“It becomes a state issue if something is being done that makes it hard for the entire state, such as harming tourism,” said state Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Bedford Township.

Sheppard recently sponsored a measure that would block Michigan communities from limiting residential short-term vacation rentals. The bill came in response to efforts by some towns to restrict vacation rental businesses like Airbnb, based on complaints by residents that their neighborhoods were being disrupted rowdy vacationers.   

Sheppard said there are times when state standards should trump local laws.

“If a local community tries to restrict the option of people coming to the state to enjoy what we have here, then I think it’s time for the Legislature to look at remedies,” he said. “It goes with commerce. It goes with industry. It goes with what’s best for the entire state.”

A more aggressive state government

While there has always been a push and pull between the powers of state and local government, an official with the Michigan Municipal League said he has observed an uptick in efforts by the state to rein in local authority in recent years.

“I would say about a third of the work we do on the legislative side is related to the issue of (state laws) limiting or restricting local control,” said Chris Hackbarth, the municipal league’s director of state and federal affairs.  

The municipal league has voiced strong concern over some of these issues, opposing Sheppard’s bill on short-term rentals as well as a controversial “sanctuary city” measure pushed by Lansing Republicans that would require local police cooperate with federal agents on immigration enforcement.

Hackbarth said community efforts such as those by residents to restrict Airbnb rentals in their neighborhoods are “at the core of local government. We will fight all the way.”

State Republicans have often found support from large business groups, who complain that a patchwork of local laws – such as Washtenaw County’s plastic bag ordinance – can make it difficult to do business across the state.  

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, for instance, was a key supporter of a 2015 measure blocking cities and townships from enacting “living wage” pay standards – normally several dollars higher than minimum wage – for companies that do business in those communities.

Wendy Block

Wendy Block of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce: “We’d like one set of rules for our employers to comply with.” (Courtesy photo)

“We generally favor local control,” said Wendy Block, a lobbyist for the Michigan Chamber. “It becomes problematic when local units of government get involved in employment decisions. We’d like one set of rules for our employers to comply with.”

Of course, state and local frictions are hardly unique to Michigan. There are battles around the country over everything from local bans on fracking to a proposed Montana measure that would ban cities from penalizing texting while driving. Often, they are faceoffs between Republican-controlled state legislatures and cities under Democratic control. As noted in a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Republicans in 24 states control both legislative chambers and the governor’s seat, while Democratic mayors hold office in nearly four-fifths of the nation’s 40 largest cities.

In perhaps the most high-profile state-local clash, North Carolina overturned  a law passed by the city of Charlotte allowing transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. The Republican-dominated legislature partially repealed that law later after facing a backlash from companies that refused to do business in North Carolina.

In Michigan, meanwhile, the fight goes on across multiple fronts.

Short-term vacation rentals

In April, the Lake Michigan resort city of Grand Haven approved an ordinance restricting the number of short-term rentals – including those booked through the popular website Airbnb – in two residential neighborhoods. The decision followed months of community discussion, including complaints by some homeowners that rapid growth of vacation rentals in single-family homes was altering the character of the neighborhoods.

Pat McGinnis

Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis: “Would you want a short-term rental on either side of you if you are in a house you invested your life savings in?” (Courtesy photo)

City Manager Pat McGinnis told Bridge the local ordinance reflected what many homeowners told City Hall they wanted done.

“Would you want a short-term rental on either side of you if you are in a house you invested your life savings in?” McGinnis asked. “There is a line that you cross when a neighborhood no longer feels like a single-family neighborhood. It feels like a hotel district.”

Other communities have enacted similar restrictions. The Spring Lake Township board in Ottawa County voted in December to limit the number of days a home in a residential district could be rented to the public. Traverse City limits vacation rentals to commercial districts, while St. Joseph restricts rentals to a couple zoning districts.

A pair of bills now pending in Lansing would end those kind of restrictions in all residential districts.

Introduced in April by Rep. Sheppard and Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, they have the backing of Michigan Association of Realtors, which represents the state real estate industry. Since 2012, Sheppard has reported $15,348 in contributions from the Michigan Association of Realtors PAC. Hune reported $1,250 from the PAC for the 2015-16 election cycle.

Other Realtor organizations have also criticized restrictions on vacation rentals.

“This is a major intrusion into the rights of private property owners,” Dale Zahn, CEO of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors said in an article in the Grand Haven Tribune. “Enough is enough. What's next? How many fast-food restaurants? How many banks? In what locations?”

Sanctuary cities

On June 7, the state House Local Government committee approved bills that would prevent  cities from passing immigrant-friendly practices that often identify a community as a “sanctuary city.” The bills were approved by a 7-4 vote with unanimous Republican support.

While no Michigan city has formal sanctuary city status, Hackbarth, of the Michigan Municipal League, said Ann Arbor, Detroit and Lansing have “welcoming” policies toward immigrants.

In general terms, that means local law enforcement officers in these cities will not seek to enforce immigration laws in the course of their duty, unless a subject is arrested for a separate, serious crime.

At a state hearing on the bills, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton said they would discourage immigrants from cooperating with police when they investigate crime.

“Most of the police service leaders recognize that fighting crime occurs with strong and trusting relationships with community members, who work as witnesses and help develop solutions to neighborhood problems,” he said.

The bills would prohibit cities from enacting laws that would limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials and allow fines up to $7,500 against any local official who knowingly violates the law.

Jim Runestad

GOP state Rep. Jim Runestad: “It is not the purview of local government to make immigration laws.” (Courtesy photo)

The GOP sponsor of the House bill told Bridge he sees the issue another way.

“It makes cities less safe to not cooperate with (federal immigration agents) get rid of some individuals who are in some cases very violent,” said Rep. Jim Runestad of White Lake.

“Immigration is the purview of the feds. It is not the purview of local government to make immigration laws.”

Living and prevailing wage

At least a half-dozen Michigan communities have “living wage” laws – requiring employers that do business with the local government to pay workers an amount sufficient to meet basic living expenses, typically several dollars above the state minimum wage for 2017 of $8.90 an hour.

For example, Washtenaw County set its living hourly wage for 2016-17 at $12.93 for workers with health insurance, $14.43 for workers without insurance. Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Warren, Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township have similar laws. Supporters say the laws benefit the community by making it easier for local workers to afford housing and be self-supporting.

But a bill signed into law in 2015 by Gov. Rick Snyder bars more local governments from passing these wage laws, and from passing minimum-wage laws above the state level. It also bans cities from forcing employers to provide paid or unpaid sick leave.

That state law was also backed by the Michigan Chamber, which argued that varying municipal wage and benefit requirements make it difficult for companies to operate in different communities.

“Potentially, 1,800 different local units of government could have adopted their own regulation,” said Block, the chamber lobbyist.

The sponsor of the bill, (now former) state Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, echoed that argument, saying the state should step in when local standards may disrupt business.

“It’s a better idea to have a consistent rule with regard to wages and benefits,” he said. “In the long run, that protects business and employees.”

But Ferndale’s mayor, Dave Coulter, a Democrat, said he sees it otherwise, arguing that his city’s living wage mandate has been good for the community.

“We have not heard from business in Ferndale that this is an unfair burden,” Coulter said. “In fact, we have found that a living wage has been a helpful tool that assures the economic development we are generating actually translates to better wages for the folks who are doing the work.”

Salary histories

The Michigan Chamber also backs a state Senate bill that would prevent cities and towns from barring employers from asking certain questions in a job interview. New York City approved such an ordinance in May, banning employers from asking applicants about their salary history. Supporters contend it would close the gender wage gap by helping ensure women with low-paying job histories wouldn’t continue to receive low salary offers.

There’s no such law in Michigan. But bill sponsor state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, said he wants to make sure some version of New York’s law doesn’t happen here.

“This is intended to ensure that local municipalities are not meddling in the interests of employers and employees, in the interview process in this case.

“The intent is that we don’t end up with a regulatory patchwork across Michigan. It needs to be managed on a state level.”

Cigarette sales to young adults

In Ann Arbor, city commissioners voted 9-2 last August to make the city the first in Michigan to ban the sale of cigarettes to individuals under 21. It joined more than 200 cities in 16 states with similar bans. Currently, state law requires cigarette buyers to be at least 18.

Washtenaw County Public Health officials, citing evidence from other cities, said the Ann Arbor measure would cut down on youth smoking and “save lives.”

A report on youth smoking in the American Journal of Public Health cited a study in Needham, Mass., which raised the minimum age for buying cigarettes to 21 in 2005, the first to do so. A subsequent study found that the rate of high school smokers fell by 47 percent in the four years after the measure went into effect.

But in February, GOP Attorney General Bill Schuette wrote an opinion contending that Ann Arbor’s law conflicted with a 1972 law that established “the age of majority” at 18.

While not addressing the possible health benefit of raising the smoking  age to 21 ‒ except to say it “may be a laudable goal” ‒ Schuette’s opinion said the state law trumps Ann Arbor’s ordinance.

“Any revision in this law must come from the Legislature,” his opinion stated. Schuette weighed in on the law at the request of state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

Dr. Jessie Kimbrough Marshall, medical director at Washtenaw County Public Health, declined to comment on Schuette’s legal analysis. But she said the Ann Arbor law was “a reasonable measure based off science. I think it’s reasonable for local communities to put measures in place to protect its public.”

Gun control

State Rep. Gary Howell, R-North Branch, wants to make sure the state has final say over gun control.

He introduced a bill in May that bars local government from enacting or enforcing any gun law that conflicts with state law or the Constitution. Any local official who knowingly enforces such an ordinance would be subject to fines up to $7,500. The measure is backed by the National Rifle Association.

Howell said the impetus for his bill was “cities, villages and townships (that) have continued to enact…illegal ordinances” that he said violate the state’s generous gun laws.

“This places an unfair burden on gun owners who would have to defend themselves in court at their own expense in order to prove that any citations issued against them are invalid,” Howell testified before the House Committee on Local Government.

Howell did not return Bridge’s multiple requests for comment.

Backers of the bill point to cities like Grand Rapids, which bans the carrying of loaded firearms in any public place except by law enforcement. Then-Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said in 2013 the law may well violate state law, but said the city had no interest in changing it.

Plastic bags

In June 2016, Washtenaw County commissioners approved a 10-cent fee on disposable carryout bags at retail stores, a measure intended to reduce landfill waste and cut down on pollution from plastic.

With prodding from corporate interests, Republican legislators in Lansing acted before it could take effect.

On Dec. 28, GOP Gov. Brian Calley (filling in for Gov. Rick Snyder, who was out of state) signed a Republican-backed measure banning local governments from imposing such fees. It was approved by large GOP majorities in both the state House and Senate. Democrats opposed the bill 11-1 in the Senate and 43-4 in the House.

The bills were backed by the Michigan Restaurant Association, which saw their passage as a victory for chain restaurants and retailers.

MRA Vice President Robert O’Meara also cited the burdens association members would face from “a patchwork approach of additional regulations” in Michigan.

Grocery retail giant Meijer Inc. waded into the fray as well, its political action committee sending a $20,000 contribution to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee the same day a Senate committee began debate on the measure.

The Senate Republican Campaign Committee also got $2,500 from the PAC for the Michigan Retailers Association and $1,000 for the PAC for the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers.

“I get the politics behind it,” LaBarre, the Washtenaw County commissioner, said of the state law voiding the plastic bag fee.

“I’m not naive. I think it negates the principle of a division of power.”

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Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:14am

quote from article: " June 2016, Washtenaw County commissioners approved a 10-cent fee on disposable carryout bags at retail stores, a measure intended to reduce landfill waste and cut down on pollution from plastic."

This is based on a lie from the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners since the fee they passed applied equally to PAPER bags. It had NOTHING to do with "Reducing landfill waste and cut down on pollution from plastic."

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:04pm

Your right that the that the fee is about paper and plastic disposable carry out bags, your wrong to call the incorrect statement in the article a lie or imply that the fee has nothing to do with landfill waste or plastic pollution. Reducing use of disposable bags especially plastic is about way more than just landfill waste. Plastic bags are an environmental hazard as well as a public nuisance. They plug storm drains, damage pumping stations, are mistaken by wild animals for food & create other issues & problems to numerous to note in one comment. The articles mistake doesn't change nor diminish the truth about disposable plastic waste.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 4:30pm


Have you done any work on what the real environmental impact of plastic bags are versus alternatives? Have you tried to findout the value such as secondary uses of those bags versus the alternatives? Have you made an effort to look at the unintended consequences of adding a special cost to such items? Have you ever considered the reality beyond the political catch phrases the 'greenies' throw out there?

A few examples to consider; in my community dog owners are required to carry a sanitary means to pick up after their dog has defecated, a common means is to carry and use those smaller plastic bags that were provided at the store [a secondary use]. For those that don't use the store bags they purchase plastic bags designed for the dog dropping pickup [a single use]. It would seem me if environmental impact is a real concern people would rather see multiple uses of items such as plastic bags. The other consideration would be the sequestrating of carbon whether as plastic or as paper once it is buried it will not be emitted as CO2 in the atmosphere.

As for your concern about nucents, I wonder if you have ever tracked how many plastic bags you actually see in your neighborhood, especially when you compare to other trash and debris. How many plastic bags would there have to be to compare to bottles or cups or rags or car parts that we see along out roads? Simply look at the trash clean up volunteers [using plastic bags] do of local streams and roads and compare either by volume or by weight to see how valid the complaint is about the plastic bags.

I wonder if you have even contacted your local land fill and asked how much of the volume of their landfill are those plastic bags you see as so despicable.

I have worked hard to minimize waste, both in my personal life and in my working career, but I have found those who fail to get the facts about what they are emotionally opposed to create more waste [money, value, and environmental impact] when they simply think and decide on what impacts others by using the sound bite reasoning of others.

I wonder if you have ever consider the environmental impact of those multi use bags that are touted as an 'environmental' friendly alternative to plastic bags. I wonder if you have ever heard how many equivalent plastic bags one of those 'environment' bags replaces each time someone goes shopping, how uses [trips to the store] that such bags would have to have before they actually lowered the carbon consumption for the plastic bags. Is it a hundred trips to the grocery store, a thousand, what is the actual environmental break even point for such a bag, the financial break even point, if the secondary uses [we use the plastic bags under our sink as a collection point for day to day garbage], and what is the usable life of one of those 'environmentally' friendly bags [does it even last long enough to reach break even]?

This may seem like an overwhelming effort for you to think about such things, the reality is that you should be thinking about things passed your emotions before you make choices since ignoring the unintended consequences of emotional decisions is what creates more waste/harm than it ever prevents.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 8:59pm

A pretty strong retort of a person who stands in anonymity.

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:23am


I apologize for the 'Anonymous' indication, it was a simple slip of 'Save' before verifying I had included my name.

In the case of this note I put my name in first before writing the note.

To me what the more important question is, was there any merit in the points I tried to make. Would they be something that should be part of a conversation when developing policies and practices that apply broadly?

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 1:11pm

Duane, in a utopia people will use those plastic grocery bags more than once and then dispose of them properly. In reality they do not, and the environmental damage caused by those bags is very real. You can research it yourself--there is plenty if information available. The argument that there will be no way for people to clean up after their pets if a ban on single-use plastic bags remains in place is just absurd. There aren't enough doggie piles to justify the millions of bags each year used for one-time merchandise carry-out and then either thrown away or left on the ground. Besides, that is each community's decision to make--if you don't like Ann Arbor's ordinances don't move to Ann Arbor.

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 10:56am

Thanks - right on all points.

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 11:14am

The point of my remarks is to get people to think past some catch phrase and look at the real cost [environmental, financial, person value] before flippantly removing a long serving product from public use.
Have you tried to personalize the issue by considering how and why you use plastic bags? I wonder what you use for collecting trash/garbage in your home, have you considered/proposed alternatives for others to use when you want to ban what they are currently using, have evaluated their equivalent impact of what you expect others to do, and have you considered the value to others and the community.
As for the dog pickups, as best I can tell the plastic provides an effective barrier [better than paper or clothe (would use cotton gloves to pick up fresh droppings?] between poop and the hand, the dog waste is a health concern and in our town having the means [plastic bag] when walking your dog is required and enforceable including ticketing by the police, and our City [out of concern] has erected bag stations [filled with bags you claim no one reuses] in many spots where they encourage walkers. I suspect if they weren't being use the City wouldn't go to the trouble and expense to install, maintain, and keep stocked [thought it seem local resident do much of the restocking].
Simply claiming environment impact as justification should not be an excuse for not thinking through an issue/practice. Too many times the ‘greenie’ ego has overwhelmed public discussion and allowed public official not to think about the unintended consequences. The case of Ann Arbor, they are much like elected officials anywhere, few ever think past their own ego and how it will look in the media. The lack of or lazy thinking should be battled every, especially when practiced by elected officials.
I will continue to do battle against waste by trying to get a second use/ live/value out of each item we use.

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 10:44am

The ban does not prohibit merchants from selling boxes of kitchen garbage bags or even boxes of dog waste bags. It prohibits the use of single-use bags for carrying merchandise out of the store, inarguably a use (unlike garbage and dog waste) that can be better served with paper or cloth bags. It is a good start to addressing a problem. You ignore the fact, again, that most plastic grocery bags are only used once.

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 8:26pm

What is the problem? Is it carbon content, total pounds of carbon consumed, is it total energy consumption, is it volume loading in landfills, is it the relatively few bags of total in service that are seen on the roads, or what?
The claim of single use seems in consistent with the reality that many people give them a second use, the two uses mentioned, if you go to an art fair you will see them reused with a potential for a third use, our grocery store even has a recycle bin for bags [that I have used] so which is it the bags are single use or are there additional value for them? I would think that the multi uses/value bags would be more in line with the idea of reducing environmental impact.

As I recall a drive to reduce the use of paper bags lead to the plastic bags. You seem to be promoting using paper to replace plastic. I am confused, was the environmental reasoning to stop using paper right then or is encouraging the use of paper today 'environmentally' right?

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 11:02am

Actually, the drive for plastic bags was a cost-saving effort by retailers. Paper bags nowadays are made from fast-growing trees raised specifically for the purpose. But, yes, they are more expensive than mass-produced petroleum-based plastic bags.

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 8:27pm

My mistake, I forgot to enter my name before saving and got the anonymous.

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 10:58am

Secondary uses are great, but they are SECONDARY--sort of like I bought too much stuff and have to find a way to use it up. The environmental COST of these bags far outweighs the value of their primary use as a way to carry your stuff home. Not to mention that they are petroleum products. So you think being a "greenie" is an insult? Having regard for salvaging our burning house seems smart to me. You are my neighbor coming over to throw everything I've saved back into the fire--and taking a torch to start your own house on fire.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 2:53pm

If it was a lie, can you please substantiate that with Proof?

Because it applied to paper as well only bolsters the argument for landfill reduction. Do you like plastic bags blowing into your yard? Or are you so far removed that it doesn't affect you and you're trying to run our community from afar?

Paul Jordan
Fri, 06/30/2017 - 5:23am

It wasn't a "lie". Paper bags also end up in landfills. The point of the ordinance was to discourage the use of one-use bags.

Conan Smith
Mon, 07/03/2017 - 7:51am

As I recall it (I'm a Washtenaw Commissioner) plastic vs paper was more of an implementation challenge. The way our ordinance works is to assess a fee for consumers to use a single-use bag (it's not actually a ban). It was more practical for retailers to assess that free on all types of bags.
We did extensively evaluate the carbon impacts of single use bags versus their alternatives (including a comparative Lifecycle Cost Analysis of various materials), and plastic performs the worst. However, the leading motivation for the policy was not carbon emissions or land/stream toxins but a real and quantifiable problem in solid waste management. We can't (yet) recycle these bags because of their content and weight. So they head to the landfill where they fly all over. They're really tough to control. Landfill operators hate them as much as the neighbors do. The costs of management at a single facility outstrip the cost of implementing the ordinance. Similarly, these things wreak havoc at recycling facilities. People think plastic bags should be recyclable so they put them in the bin. But our machines can't handle them (not to mention their content is useless) and they jam up and damage the equipment, costing more than $200k at one facility each year and putting staff at risk of injury. Again the cost, here to the public, exceeded the cost of implementing the ordinance.

So our policy takes a "choice" approach. You can use a plastic bag - doing so creates public costs that you will now bear directly. Or you can find an alternative and save yourself $10-12 a year. The cost isn't excessively burdensome either way, and the public benefits are clear both ways. Fewer bags means fewer problems at landfills and recycling centers. Alternatively, the public collects resources to deal with the problems these bags create.

Mon, 07/03/2017 - 2:06pm

It sounds like the Commissioner have made a disciplined study of the issue. In fact that seems to be one of the few if not the only one I have heard of in Michigan. It would seem that such work could help other communities, since this is an issue that all communities have to deal with. Would it be possible to share those numbers, I know in my community that the issue was discussed by the County Commissioners and there were many comments from the residents, but they had no data to help frame the issue. Our county is smaller but the data should be credible when presented on a per ca-pita basis.
Please share, this could help move the conversation along.

Jarrett Skorup
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:21am

Everybody, and certainly both political parties, believes in local control when it suits them and disagrees with it when it doesn't. This isn't necessarily good or bad - it's just part of the process.

For example, few argue that local governments should be allowed to ban religions or prevent free speech - the U.S. Constitutional overrides this local control.

The bills above are from Republicans - but they are mostly about free-market issues. "Local control" does not equal "smaller government" - it often means bigger government. So it isn't a contradiction for Republicans; it's a weighing of principles.

And Democrats don't like local control when it upsets their agenda. I never heard of a Democrat in Michigan favoring local governments banning windmills, passing ordinances that allow housing discrimination, ignoring the state prevailing wage law, or establishing a "right-to-work zone" (before that was a statewide law).

Le Roy G. Barnett
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:27am

This was a great piece. Thanks for sharing it with your readers.

Mike Watza
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:41am

If we look at each of these Legislative initiatives limiting local community governance, (which by the way refers to the places everyone of us lives and raises our families) we find a well heeled special interest fronting the effort by way of either direct campaign donations or indirect party support. Regrettably, the combination of campaign costs, dark money and term limits has resulted in both major parties becoming shills for every special interest group offering money for any idea they care to throw that money at.
In this article, the Republican Party is the target, and rightly so, but there are other examples applicable to the Dems as well and for the same reasons.
These Acts of foolish greed and the resulting diminution of our fundamental Democratic Freedoms, including the right to create communities with standards we "The People" choose to live in, will continue until the paradigm in Lansing (and D.C.) changes.
Demand that all political money, advertising and their sources be clearly identified at the least, end term limits and, for God's sake, don't further consolidate power among a very few by going to a part time legislature.
We need to know in detail who is fronting and paying for what issues and why and, we need strong and intelligent representatives with both historical knowledge and commitment to our future, who can stand up to the powerful and moneyed special interests.
We cannot afford to continue the current path which has led us to economic paralysis and political floundering.
Mike Watza

Jim Vollmers
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:49am

Mike, you are absolutely correct! Every penny and dollar donated in the name of a politician or political cause should be accounted for and the names of the donors should be public knowledge.
Term limits are a fool's errand. The vote of the people give them a right to elect or remove an office holder every election.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:55pm


I struggle to understand what is lost to term limits. What special knowledge and skills does a person gain when serving in the Legislature?
I have yet to have some one explain to me what special knowledge it takes to be an effective Legislator. What unique knowledge to you believe a Legislator needs to have to be effective?

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:04pm

Why do you feel all donors of money and time need to be made public? I would think there should be some threshold such as 5 or 10 or 20 dollars sufficient. My concern that when all names are listed that makes all targets for solicitation when they only were supporting a single individual. I am concerned that they will become politically targeted by those that may be a single issue group that is opposed to a specific vote by the person they donated to, this would be much what happened to people who signed a constitutional amendment petition in Oregon.

I can understand and even support donation of significant time or dollars, but don't see how a $20 donation corrupts our system.

Jim Fletcher
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:37am

Local Control is typical manifested as Local Tyranny.

Ed Haynor
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 10:51am

The article by Mr. Roelofs, showing republicans disdain for local control was a great read and to the point. Although, he only briefly mentioned what has happened over the years in the erosion of local control of school boards throughout Michigan.


Now, not often does a school district sue the state of Michigan, but if a school’s right of some semblance of self-determination, where a wrong needs to be righted, Michigan schools have no recourse now to sue the state, unless of course, they can raise independent funds on their own to do so.

We often read where state officials complain of the heavy hand of the federal government regarding their rights and it’s common for states to sue the federal government, when they think a wrong needs to be righted, but Michigan schools don’t have this same right as it applies to them; therefore, more loss of local control.

Tom Ivacko
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:20am

We have just published two reports on state-local relations and state preemption, from the Michigan Public Policy Survey of local government leaders. These are based on responses from leaders in 71% of Michigan's local jurisdictions. Key findings:

(1) 70% of local leaders think the state government is taking too much authority away from local governments. This includes 73% of both Republican and Democratic local leaders.

(2) Relations are strained between local governments and the state. 49% of local leaders say these relations are only fair (36%) or poor (13%) compared with 46% who say they are good (40%) or excellent (6%).

(3) Despite the concerns about state preemption of local authority, local leaders do believe state government in general should take the lead on some types of broad policy areas, while local government should take the lead on others.

There is much more information in the two reports, which are available on our website:

Sun, 07/02/2017 - 4:30pm

Thank you, Tom. I sure wish we had included.

David Zeman
Bridge Editor

Tom Ivacko
Mon, 07/03/2017 - 9:45am

Thanks, David. This is a very informative article already, on a very important topic (not just in Michigan, but across the country). Keep up the great work at Bridge!


Kevin Grand
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:34am

These are all good reasons (republican AND democrat chicanery) for enacting a Part-Time Legislature.

Limiting their time in making laws & appropriations will curtail the urge to stick their collective noses where it doesn't belong.

State and federal laws will take care of themselves over time.

And in those other areas that don't work out as planned?

Well, see for yourself...

William Perkins
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:51am

You missed gravel pits / mineral extraction . Townships in Leelanau county spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in court and writing gravel pit ordinances only to have the state take away local control .

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:52am

There are valid arguments for and against local control. This is especially true of issues that address matters of law such as civil rights and gun issues. But much of the Republican / business side of the question is about wealth and power not matters of law. This is especially true of economic & environmental issues. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce like its federal version could care less about the welfare of anyone's employees. Their position about standardizing and holding down wages and benefits or frustrating local efforts to address specific environmental challenges are a self serving use of conservative political & economic power to stifle local control and make it subservient to their interests. Republicans are all for local control except when it costs powerful constituents financially. In this at least Democrats aren't blatant hypocrites as they often prefer large government solutions. You don't need to agree that's always the best approach to see the contradictions between conservative rhetoric and how they actually govern.

Donna Hummer
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 12:07pm

The "everybody does it" rule doesn't apply here. Bill Mills/Lobbyists like ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce and yes, even Mackinac Center for Public Policy are responsible for the loss of local autonomy, they are the GOP overlords with the "free market" mantra. It's free markets for thee but not for me. BTW, Mr. Skorup works for Mack Center and manages their PR department, CapCom. I'm just a retired old lady that gets tired of having to do a forensic search to find out where all these bills originate.

Sat, 07/01/2017 - 11:00am

Thanks - I love the false equivalency of 'both parties do it' when it's the GOP running over local government way more than the Demos. Look at the national level - when a Republican is in charge the Federal gov't expands (Patriot Act anyone?) way more than with a Clinton or Obama. Trump would like to do away with government of any kind (and voting).

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 1:27pm

Anyone who thinks that local government is a fount of good governance is kidding themselves. Locals receive less scrutiny, media coverage, accountability and follow up than any level of government. Normally I'd say tough when local government destroys their own community but Detroit and Flint have proven the state's taxpayers always have a way of getting stuck paying for the results. Having local officials trying to solve global warming, macro economic labor trends and national immigration laws when they can't maintain their own streets is a laugh.

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 2:49pm

So Grand Ledge gets to tell us how to live in Ann Arbor.
We can't charge fees for plastic bags to reduce litter, but the state can fine us $7500?
Get your government out of my life please.

Dot Barnett
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 9:28pm

I'm glad to see this article. I've been observing this hypocritical policy-making for some time.

John S.
Thu, 06/29/2017 - 11:13pm

Local communities under the control of liberals (Democrats) should hesitate before proposing legislation that is sure to annoy the special interests that funnel money to Republicans in the state legislature. All that's accomplished, in the end, is filling the campaign coffers of their political opponents. I'd think that Republicans in the state legislature are delighted when local communities enact such legislation since it makes it all the more easy for them to solicit (shake down) money for their campaigns.

Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:57pm

Count the number of times these business groups and their legislative allies use the word "patchwork." It's another example of wanting to make money from local communities without making any real investment in fitting into those communities or acknowledging their uniqueness.

John Nash
Mon, 07/03/2017 - 10:24am

What a great article and how true it seems today in Michigan. Obviously campaign contributions speak louder than the concerns of local citizens in the eyes of many of the Michigan State Elected Legislatures. Thanks for such a thorough, honest and complete article. I hope many Michigan residents read the article and think about what is currently happening in Lansing.

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 3:07pm

the Michigan Legislature has also curbed the citizen ballot initiative.

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 10:48am

"One critic sees hypocrisy." A lot more than one. After 40 years as a Republican, I'd like to see the GOP dismantled and outlawed. Start a new conservative party that is actually conservative. This bunch is just a new variation on carpetbaggers--they're from next door instead of far away.

Sun, 07/09/2017 - 2:21pm

Voting republican is like taking time release poison. The one thing you can count on is that, gradually, the republicans will take away your liberty. They disdain privacy, they want into your uterus, your wallet, your mind. Until people wake up and realize that they are being literally murdered by their government, this will all continue.

Trout Fisher
Mon, 07/10/2017 - 8:15am

You overlooked another issue of Lansing knows best. We just concluded the Cherry Fest in Traverse City, 100,000's of visitors literally overwhelming our infrastructure. Yet, Lansing prevents us from using a hotel tax to offset these costs. Why? Because well, you know.

Jerome Bigge
Tue, 07/11/2017 - 8:01pm

Looks to me like the Republicans in Lansing are sticking up for individual freedom against local governments who want to take those freedoms away.