Calley: ‘Dark store’ legislation expected to come back in 2017

Lt. governor in Dickinson County to swear in new Rep. LaFave

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, at left, attended Tuesday’s swearing-in of new 108th District state Rep. Beau LaFave, center, by Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, right. LaFave, of Iron Mountain, succeeds Ed McBroom of Vulcan, who had to step aside due to term limits. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Legislation to address Michigan’s controversial “dark store” tax loophole likely will be revisited in 2017, despite the Senate’s refusal this year to advance a House-passed bill, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Tuesday.

“I expect it will be a very active issue,” said Calley, who conducted a swearing-in ceremony at the Dickinson County Courthouse for newly elected state Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain.

The House bill, which passed 97-11, required the Michigan Tax Tribunal to apply “generally accepted appraisal principles” to all commercial real estate property in the state. Aimed at eliminating a tax loophole that has cost Michigan municipalities an estimated $100 million since 2013, the bill died in the Senate’s finance committee without a hearing.

Legislation must start again in the next legislative session, Calley explained, but he expects “a high level of engagement” going forward.

The “dark store” loophole has allowed retailers to appeal their property tax assessments and have their stores assessed at rates comparable to closed or vacant stores. Industrial property owners also have appealed to gain drastic reductions in assessments.

Calley, who quoted a Bible passage from Philippians before administering LaFave’s oath of office, said the new lawmaker’s potential to make a difference in Lansing is “extraordinary.” He advised LaFave, a law student who is taking office at the age of 24, to “wear young like a badge of honor.”

LaFave said one issue he wants to address is Michigan’s costly no-fault automobile insurance, predicting rates can be cut by a third if reforms are enacted. Among his ideas are a cap on catastrophic claims and allowing policy holders to choose reduced levels of personal medical coverage.

LaFave also wants high schools across the state to copy the examples of Iron Mountain and Kingsford in giving students a chance to earn credits while gaining work experience with local employers.

The election of LaFave, physically disabled from birth, has “a profound impact on other people with disabilities,” Calley said. “He has the excitement, energy and ambition to make a difference.”

LaFave is replacing state Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who is being forced out by term limits, and who also attended Tuesday’s ceremony, along with state Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba. McBroom will be a candidate for Casperson’s term-limited seat in 2018.

Earlier in the day, Calley toured Systems Control in Iron Mountain and Lake Shore Systems, formerly Oldenburg, in Kingsford.

He credited a talented workforce as the main reason companies choose Michigan, saying, “It’s all about the people and what they can do.”

However, as the economy improves, employers are having a harder time hiring enough people with the right skills.

That, Calley said, offers a chance to reach into the population to train and employ people who may have been overlooked, whether because of disabilities, addictions or criminal pasts.

“It’s about connecting people to opportunity, and making sure that more people get plugged into it,” he said.

Calley is chairman of the state’s Mental Health Diversion Council, created by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013. It includes a pilot program in Marquette focused on innovative ways to divert the mentally ill and developmentally disabled from incarceration.

With Snyder’s term ending in two years, Calley is one of several potential governor candidates. He said he has not decided whether to run in 2018.

Once among the state’s most prominent Republicans to call for President-elect Donald Trump to step aside because of crude remarks about women, Calley said he’s now optimistic about Trump’s presidency.

“I’ve been impressed with his actions since the election,” he said, noting Trump’s interest in expanding manufacturing should be a plus for Michigan. “His success means America’s success and I support him fully.”