According to a report in MIRS, state departments say they are facing an onslaught of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. The main state agencies in the spotlight, the Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ), as well as Health and Human Services (DHHS), have been slammed with a record number of FOIA requests this year due to the media attention and coverage of the Flint water crisis.
The DEQ reported receiving 6,895 FOIAs during Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. So far in FY 2016, now in its sixth month, the department is up to at least 3,562 requests. The agency is projecting a 20-percent increase from last year, according to a DEQ spokesperson. The DHHS has had to bring on three temporary employees to help address the volume of FOIA requests. There have been at least 163 health-related FOIAs received by the DHHS so far this calendar year, compared to 680 total in 2015.
If you have ever had a chance to participate in NAB’s annual Call on Congress, the one thing that strikes you the most is the value that the Congressional delegates place in local Broadcasters. While there are many forces working against our industry, they still understand our role and respect what we do for our communities. But that highly valued position cannot ever be taken for granted. We must continually be doing our part in developing relationships to insure that our legistlative leaders comprehend the challenges we face in serving the public. If we don’t do it, who will? Our members have consistently stated that one of the most important facets of what the MAB must do is monitor legistlative activity and maintain strong congressional relationships. I’m proud to say that the MAB, with Karole and Elena leading the effort, is well represented in that effort.
That all being said, we can’t rely solely on their activity to have impact. WE NEED ALL MEMBERS TO HELP. The MAB provides a number of avenues to create those vital contact points between Michigan’s Broadcasters and our Legislative leaders. Whether it is through the Call on Congress or at the Legislative Reception, held at the upcoming GLBC in May, the MAB works tirelessly to provide the opportunities to make those personal connections with our leaders. One of the most effective ways however, is to take the time to invite your Congressmen or Congresswomen to your station or visit them at their offices when they are in district. To aid you in that effort, download this 2016 Congressional Calendar that provides you when they will be back in Michigan so you can take advantage of that opportunity. If you are uncertain what to discuss, I would encourage you to reach out to Karole and/or Elena, who can provide you with the up-to-the-minute talking points that will make a difference.
Your involvement is crucial for the continued success of not only your station but our industry as a whole. The recent news events across our great state demonstrate the need for a viable, strong, and evolving Broadcasting industry. Your participation in the communication process to our elected leaders is needed as well.
Alisha Clack, Manager of the Emergency Alert System and Development Coordinator for the Michigan AMBER Alert Foundation, was re-appointed by Governor Snyder to the Michigan Citizens-Community Emergency Response Coordinating Council (MCCERCC) for the term expiring December 31, 2019. This will be Alisha’s second term in the position.
The mission of MCCERCC is to support and enhance Michigan’s homeland security, community health, public safety, and all hazard and emergency preparedness with responsible leadership and planning. This includes: public education and awareness campaigns; coordination of programs, information and resources; development of structural and non‐structural projects to enhance emergency response and volunteer coordination capabilities at the state and local levels and within the private sector; and establishment of collaborative public/private partnerships to identify, develop, and implement specific opportunities of local, regional, or statewide application.
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has posted the reverse auction file format specs that will be available and for those broadcasters who take part in the auction. As the auction bidding proceeds, the commission will post each licensee’s data — to be reviewed by that owner only, according to the Commission, which could help participant’s shape their bidding strategies.
According to the Attorney General Bill Schuette’s opinion 7288, issued March 4, audits done of local governments to check for minimum assessing requirements are not subject to the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA). The audits are held under the supervision of the State Tax Commission, and state law requires that all local assessing officials comply with and assist the commission in reviewing efforts to assess and levy property taxes.
The Attorney General, in his decision, stated that the auditor does not fall under the definition of a public body under the OMA, and the information gathered by the auditor does not constitute either a recommendation or a final decision on the local government’s assessing practices. In addition, the Court of Appeals has held that financial review teams, which the auditors could be considered, did not fall under the definition of a public body.
Michigan Democratic Party leaders called on the GOP to join them in supporting an expansion to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the end of Sunshine Week. Sunshine Week promotes open government and freedom of information and lasts from March 13 to March 19.
As Governor Snyder released thousands of pages of emails from the Executive Office dealing with the Flint water crisis, Democrats are saying he should have been required to do so by law. House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-29) stated that because the governor is not required to release any of the emails, there is no way to know if he is actually releasing every email related to Flint water management.
Several bills were introduced in the State Legislature that would expand the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to include State Legislature and the Governor’s office – two entities currently exempt from FOIA. House Bill 5216, introduced by State Representative John Bizon (R-62), expands FOIA to the State Legislature. Senate Bill 716, introduced by State Senator Coleman Young II (D-1), expands FOIA to the State Legislature and the Governor’s office. Greimel noted that 48 other states subject their legislatures and executive offices to FOIA, and Michigan can do so without risking personal constituent information.
March 28, 2016 10am EST – March 29, 2016 6pm EST: The Initial Commitment Window – a total of 32 hours – during which broadcasters must file their Initial Commitments. The Initial Commitment may be changed until the close of the window, but if no commitment is made by the close of the window, the station will be excluded from the auction and repacked in its pre-auction band.
March 24, 2016 10am EST – March 28, 2016 9:59am EST: The Initial Commitment Preview Period – a four-day period during which all participating stations are encouraged to log into the system, set their PINs, and view the list of stations and Relinquishment Options available to them.
MAB’s Executive Committee and some Board members traveled to Washington D.C. February 22-24 for the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference (NAB SLC).
The conference agenda included presentations by NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith on what Washington policies have in store for broadcasters and digital media companies in 2016, the importance of using social media as an advocacy tool, and policy updates presentation from the NAB government relations team.
The MAB Executive Committee met with members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation and their telecommunication staff to discuss the need to oversee the FCC as the agency implements incentive spectrum auction procedures set up by Congress. In addition, discussions took place about broadcasters’ opposition to the performance tax and advertising restrictions, preserving the integrity of the free market process in the retransmission negotiations, and reforming media ownership rules to reflect the competitive marketplace.
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.
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.