The 12 Biggest Wins for Government Affairs in 2021
Your Chamber Government Affairs team advocates on your behalf to solve the issues that matter most to you and navigates local, regional, and state policy landscapes to create a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for all. We take an intentional approach to our policy positions by listening to members who direct our advocacy efforts. Below are our top wins, directed by you, as well as our top priorities to tackle in 2022.
In 2021, we made huge strides for businesses at the state level.
1. We received additional funding for top Chamber talent priorities.
The bipartisan state budget signed by the Governor included:
- $1.4B in child care funding from the American Rescue Plan, a major win for our child care providers and the overall business community
- $40M for the Going Pro Talent fund, allowing businesses to upskill their workforce to meet real time demand on a competitive grant basis
- Michigan Reconnect and Futures for Frontliners increased to $55M and $25M, respectively. These programs help Michiganders gain skills and contribute to Michigan’s Sixty by Thirty goal.
- The Tri-Share Pilot program has been allocated $2.5M, $1.5M over the previous year’s allocation. This means more communities will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to split the cost of child care between state, family and business.
2. We launched a legislative agenda to address state’s housing crisis through the Housing Michigan Coalition.
Several bills were overwhelmingly passed by the Senate and await action in the House. Visit www.housingmichigan.weebly.com for more information.
3. We championed advocacy for offices, restaurants, banquet, event and wedding venues to reopen after being severely restricted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chamber led on multiple letters to Governor Whitmer with other business organizations and had over 1000 Michigan residents send letters to the Governor and elected officials in their district asking for the opportunity to open safely.
4. We supported businesses through COVID-19 federal mandates.
The Grand Rapids Chamber organized a letter with 30 other business organizations to Governor Whitmer asking for her administration’s support procuring and paying for the tests for the duration of the six-month Biden Administration COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing mandate with federal dollars that have already been appropriated by the State Legislature for testing and vaccination.
5. Several criminal justice bills were signed into law.
Governor Whitmer signed a bipartisan package of bills, which stemmed from the work of the Michigan Jail and Pre-Trial Incarceration Taskforce. This legislation:
- Removes mandatory jail sentences for certain misdemeanors (HB 5844 & 5855-5857)
- Ends the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for things unrelated to unsafe driving (HB 5846, 5847, 5849-5854)
- Encourages alternatives to arrest, jail incarceration or probation (SB 1046-1051)
- The Grand Rapids Chamber has long prioritized criminal justice reform and was a leader in the business community advocacy for such common-sense reforms.
6. We led advocacy on Social Districts extension and improvements.
The House passed improvements to the Chamber-championed Social Districts legislation from 2020 that eliminates a burdensome special events conflict and removes the sunset. The Senate is expected to quickly pass this legislation in January.
7. Our work on Development District Liquor Licenses passed House 104-1.
This legislation would clarify that new builds in development districts and corridor improvement districts can qualify for the development district liquor license. These licenses are more accessible and are critical to the success of new and small businesses.
At the local level, we worked with the City of Grand Rapids to make real change, now.
8. The Grand Rapids Continuation Budget was approved 7-0.
The City Commission unanimously approved a budget aligned with Chamber goals of fiscal discipline and the strategic investment of dollars to improve community outcomes.
9. The Grand Rapids City Commission voted 6-1 to accept a federal grant from the Department of Justice to enhance public safety.
The Chamber supports the City’s ongoing commitment to increased accountability, addressing the root causes of crime, and efforts including the community-led crime prevention program or Cure Violence, mental health co-response, intentional recruitment, improving community relations, investments in housing, and other ways to promote equitable opportunities.
10. We received approval from a City Commission policy to establish the Grand Rapids Affordable Housing Fund.
Funds can be used for property acquisition, homeowner assistance, gap-financing, paying city fees, small scale housing, and more.
11. Our Government Affairs team assisted over 380 businesses.
From road name changes and liquor licenses to connecting employers with elected officials and facilitating connections and conversations, the GA team has worked hard to help West Michigan businesses thrive.
12. Our Chamber PAC-endorsed incumbent, Mayor Stephen Kepley, was reelected as Mayor of Kentwood.
In 2022, our Government Affairs team is laser-focused on these top priorities:
- Addressing the state’s talent crisis.
- Elevating regional strategies to support housing supply and affordability.
- Tracking and promoting the effective use of State and Local Federal COVID relief funds.
- Supporting highly qualified candidates for local office.
Do you have ideas on what should be a top Chamber Government Affairs priority for 2022? Send your ideas to Government Affairs Manager, Katie Doyen at [email protected].