Category Archives: Legislative Update

Google Won’t Participate in the Spectrum Auction

According to a report in FierceWireless, Google said it will not bid for 600 MHz spectrum licenses in the FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auction scheduled for March 2016. Google will join Sprint, Charter Communications and other tech heavyweights in sitting out the event.

“Like all those interested in improved connectivity and equitable access, we’ll be following the upcoming spectrum auction closely. That said, we have not filed to participate,” a Google representative told Reuters. Google also did not participate in the FCC’s AWS-3 auction a year ago that brought almost $45 billion in total winning bids.

Security Upgrades Coming for the Capitol Building

The Michigan State Capitol building could see more, and better, cameras and traffic barricades under plans discussed by the Capitol Commission last week. While metal detectors were not part of the discussion, the Commission also considered replacing the building’s back-up generator, including air monitoring, as part of an ongoing review of the physical plant. To support these and other projects, the commission is expected to back budget legislation currently being drafted to fund the improvements.

FCC Submits Fiscal 2017 Budget Request to Congress

The FCC has submitted its budget request for fiscal year 2017 to Congress, asking for $358,286,000 in budget authority from regulatory fee collections, a decrease of 6.7% from FY 2016. The request includes over $44 million earmarked for the Commission’s move or renovation of existing space. The new proposal asks for an installment of $17 million for the same purpose. That is the second portion of a total $44 million ‘ask’ made last year for the move. The FCC anticipates that the General Services Administration will award the contract for the move or space reconfiguration this spring. The agency tells Congress that the new contract will use space more efficiently, reduce the FCC’s footprint, and save up to $119 million over 15 years through reduced rental costs.

Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and Student Press Law Center Coalition Requests MAB Support

The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and the Student Press Law Center are working together to build a coalition to push for legislation in Michigan to protect student journalists, including student broadcasters, from unwarranted censorship.

The legislation is modeled on legislation that unanimously passed North Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislation earlier this year. In short, the bill would roll back the decision in a 1988 Supreme Court case (Hazelwood) that allows school officials to censor student journalism as long as they can prove a valid educational purpose. It is a vague and troublesome standard that often leads to unwarranted censorship.

The legislation would not protect student expression that: a. Is libelous or slanderous; b. Constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy; c. Violates federal or state law; or d. So incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of institution or state board of higher education policies, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the institution.

The coalition, led by MIPA, has requested MAB’s support in this effort, and the MAB Board voted unanimously to send a letter of support for this legislation. You can learn more about our group at www.newvoicesmi.com.

House Holds Off on ‘Gag Order’ Fix

Last week, the Michigan House of Representatives scheduled HB 5219 for a floor vote but pulled the bill before the vote could take place. The bill is designed to clarify what local municipalities can say on ballot proposals using taxpayer dollars. HB 5219 currently states that local entities can provide factual and strictly neutral mass communications on the direct impact of local proposals unless it can be reasonably interpreted as attempting to influence an election. Local groups and some lawmakers have said the language is too ambiguous and could lead to expensive lawsuits for local governments.

The bill comes after Public Act 269 was signed by the governor earlier this year. The law prohibits local governments from issuing information to voters by a variety of means, including television and radio, 60 days before an election.

FCC Letter On Way To Auction Participants

According to CommLawBlog, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Task Force has sent ‘First Confidential Status Letters’ (First CSL) to would-be reverse auction applicants advising them of potentially fatal incompleteness flaws in their application.  According to the Task Force’s public notice, the First CSL includes “information on the status of [the addressee’s] application, as well as the status of each station that it selected.” These assessments are based on the FCC staff’s initial review of all applications filed last month.

The letter confirms that an application is complete, including all information about each station that an applicant has put into the auction. However, it may indicate that either the application, or the showing relative to one or more specific stations, is lacking. Deadline for corrections is February 26 at 6 p.m. (EST) to fix whatever problems there might be with the application.

Another Spectrum Reform Bill in the Works

Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, released a statement that he and ranking committee member Bill Nelson (D-FL) are planning to introduce a spectrum reform bill later this week, titled ‘The Mobile Now Act,’ with the goal of improving wireless access. However, Thune’s House counterpart, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI), stated that his committee will monitor the upcoming spectrum auction before taking action on any spectrum reform legislation.  MAB is tracking.

FCC: Form 398 Children’s TV Reports Must Be Filed in New LMS System

According to the Broadcast Law Blog, the FCC announced that all Form 398 Quarterly Children’s Television reports must be filed in the new Licensing and Management System (LMS) starting March 31. The FCC is migrating all TV broadcast filings to this new system, and the next Form 398, due by April 10, must be filed in this system.  While LMS has been available for stations to use for these reports since last June, beginning with the reports due in April, no more reports can be filed in the FCC’s old KidVid Filing System. Children’s Television reports need to be maintained in the public file for the entire license term and only removed from the file after the next license renewal is granted.

Snyder’s Budget Focuses on Flint, DPS

Last week Governor Snyder proposed the $54.9 billion 2016-2017 budget titled, “We Are One Michigan.” Snyder identified fixing the Flint water crisis and Detroit Public Schools (DPS) as the top priorities for the spending plan. The $54.9 billion budget includes $10.2 billion in General Funds and $12.5 billion in School Aid Funds.  The largest single share of the budget, almost 45 percent, is centered on health and human services, with another 30 percent focused on all forms of education.

In terms of helping Flint, the budget calls for $195 million to be spent across several agencies. Snyder told lawmakers that the state will operate on the assumption that all Flint children have been exposed to high lead levels, which will mean ongoing observation over the years. In helping Detroit schools, Snyder’s budget reiterates his earlier plan to assist the district in paying off its debt, to create a new district to operate the schools, and to have a commission appoint a manager for public schools within the city.

Other budget proposals include $533.3 million in dedicated funds for transportation revenue. For K-12 schools, a $150 million increase will boost what districts receive per pupil, with the lowest-funded districts receiving $120 more per pupil, bringing them to $7,511; and the highest-funded districts receiving $60 more, bringing them to $8,229.  

Court Issues Injunction Against “Gag Order” Law

State officials have been ordered to not enforce PA 269 (SB 571) in an injunction issued by U. S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara. PA 269 has been labeled as a ‘gag order’ on local governments with ballot issues before the voters.

The injunction comes a month before the March 8 primary election in which more than 100 local governments have a variety of issues before the voters. The law prohibits local governments from issuing information to voters by a variety of means, including television and radio, 60 days before an election. The injunction, issued from the U.S. District Court in Ann Arbor, states that the controversial legislation creates confusion in terms of communicating with voters and that “public officials deserve clarity on this issue so that they may serve the public in the normal course without fear of arbitrary sanction or prosecution.”