Category Archives: Legislative Update

Senate Committee Unanimously Passes Student Press Rights Bill

Rick Jones
Senator Rick Jones (R-24)

Legislation establishing “protection for freedom of expression for student journalists in public schools and institutions of higher education” unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with immediate effect. Committee chair and bill sponsor of Senate Bill 848 (The Student Free Press and Civics Readiness Act) Senator Rick Jones (R-24), called the bill a “victory for free speech.”

The bill establishes that student journalists in public schools and universities have a “right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media, regardless of whether the media are supported financially by the school or public institution of higher education.” It prohibits a school from exercising prior restraint against the publishing of an article unless the article was libelous or slanderous, an unwarranted invasion of privacy, a violation of state or federal law or an incitement to students that could cause them to commit an unlawful act, violate school policies, or substantially disrupt school operations.

SB 848 follows legislation enacted a year ago in North Dakota and which is now being considered in 28 states, including Michigan.

The MAB Board of Directors voted to support this legislation and promote its passage. The bill now moves to the full Senate chamber for a vote.

Legislation Creates Open Government Commission

capitol3State Representative Martin Howrylak (R-41) introduced HB 5488, legislation to establish an Open Government Commission within the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR).

Howrylak’s bill would establish the Commission to receive and investigate citizen complaints regarding responses to request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Commission may refer complaints to the Attorney General or recommend policies to a public body after a complaint is investigated. The Commission would be composed of nine members appointed by the Governor from recommendations by the Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and Michigan Press Association.

HB 5488 is now referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Ethics.

CBS, Disney, Fox, Univision File Comments with FCC to Support Foreign Ownership Rule Changes

According to a report in AllAccess, CBS Corporation, The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Inc., and Univision Communications, Inc., have filed comments in a joint letter to the FCC supporting extension of foreign ownership rule relaxation.

In the letter, the parties stated that the proposal to extend the looser foreign ownership limits and review procedures applicable to common carrier and aeronautical licensees to broadcasters as well have been endorsed by the NAB, the MMTC, Fox, Comcast, Nexstar, Media General, and T-Mobile, the latter of which the parties say, “can be said to owe its very existence to the Commission’s previous liberalization of foreign investment in common carrier (and other non-broadcast) licensees.”

Read more here.

FCC Reverse Auction Webinar Available On-Demand

The Federal Communications Commission has released a new on-demand webinar regarding the current spectrum auction.  Owners, general managers and other interested parties may find this of interest as it offers a sneak preview of the software will that will be used to enter their bid preferences.

While stations have attorneys who would likely manage this for participating stations, the webinar may help owners and managers understand the process in order to better communicate with legal counsel in a more effective manner.

The webinar can be found here.

FOIA Requests on the Rise for State Agencies

capitol3According 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.

MAB Chairman Ed Fernandez: You Can Make A Difference

(L-R) MAB Chair Ed Fernandez, Congressman Mike Bishop (R-8), and MAB Secretary-Treasurer Peter Tanz during February’s Call on Congress.

Dear MAB Colleagues:

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.

Enjoy the Spring ahead!

Ed Fernandez
MAB Chairman
E.W. Scripps Company

MAB’s Clack Re-appointed to MCCERCC

Clack_300Alisha 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.

Reverse Auction File Formats Available

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.

Schuette: Local Audit Not Subject to OMA

capitol3According 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.