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‘Switch,’ schools, energy: MI lawmakers have full plate in December

Posted at 3:45 PM, Nov 29, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP/WXMI) — The Michigan Legislature returns Tuesday for two or three weeks of voting, and while a roads deal is finally complete, a number of issues do still remain on tap before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

Lawmakers face few hard deadlines to act. But some major bills have seen little traction all year, leaving proponents to hope for movement in December.

Other priorities, like enticing a massive data center to western Michigan with tax breaks, have just popped up.

Data company Switch wants to move into the iconic pyramid building formerly owned by Steelcase and add buildings around it, south of Grand Rapids. The company says it would be the largest data center in the eastern U.S. Switch has sites in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada.

Switch says part of the appeal is that Michigan is far from traditional earthquake zones and other natural risks on the coasts. Switch customers include some of the biggest names in banking, entertainment and technology.

The deal, that has the potential to bring 1,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in long-term investment to the state, is contingent on the passage of state legislation.

“Until this legislation is passed there is no deal,” Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of Right Place Michigan told FOX 17 earlier in Nov.

Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to split Detroit’s troubled state-run school district in two next summer and spend $70 million annually over a decade to pay off debt while launching a new district is hitting opposition from all sides.

Also, the first update of energy laws since 2008 remains a top agenda item and could win approval in the House. If changes, Michigan would no longer require utilities to generate a portion of their power from wind or other renewable sources. Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers favor setting a goal — not a new mandate.

Electric providers are required to produce 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by year’s end. A House panel has voted for a non-binding goal of meeting 30 percent of Michigan’s electricity needs by 2025 through a combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Clean energy advocates say the target should be higher. Utilities say the goal is reasonable and contend a mandate is no longer needed because of President Barack Obama’s plan to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants.