Dark store bills introduced

The Lowe’s store along U.S. 41 in Marquette Township is pictured. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — On Wednesday, the first day of the 100th Michigan Legislature, state Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, introduced several bills, including plans that address some of his top priorities for the next two years, like “dark store” property valuations, car insurance and concealed carry reforms.

LaFave said on his website that House Bill 4025 ensures the tax assessment process is fair for small businesses and local communities. The plan would eliminate a loophole allowing large retailers to drastically reduce their tax bills by claiming that sales of older, vacant buildings should be considered when determining the value of brand new store properties.

In some cases, this “dark store” loophole has brought the assessed value for the entire property — including a new building and the land on which it was built — to less than the cost of the land alone.

“Let’s be clear, the current system is unfair to small retailers who compete against big box stores,” LaFave said. “Communities across the Upper Peninsula are being denied tax revenue that is necessary to improve public services. We need a system that ensures fair and sensible retail tax assessments for all businesses, not just a few.”

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, a co-sponsor of the “dark store” bill, issued a statement about the legislation.

“I’m glad to see on the first day of the legislative session that we are taking on one of the most serious concerns facing our Upper Peninsula communities by reintroducing this important legislation,” Cambensy said. “This is no longer just a U.P. issue, and making this a priority on day one sends a strong message that everyone needs to pay their fair share in taxes.”

LaFave on Wednesday also introduced two other packages of legislation, House Bill 4024 and House Bills 4026-4029.

House Bill 4024 makes car insurance reform a 2020 ballot proposal, allowing Michigan voters to decide revisions to the state’s no-fault laws at the ballot box if both chambers of the Legislature approve it. Under the plan, Michiganders could reduce car insurance rates by:

• Giving drivers choice on the extent of personal injury protection coverage as part of their car insurance;

• Guaranteeing lower rates for all drivers through a mandatory rate reduction on the PIP portion of policies; and

• Establishing a reasonable and fair fee schedule for car insurance comparable to the fee schedules in place for workers’ compensation and Medicare.

“If Lansing cannot set aside its differences regarding no-fault reform and deliver a meaningful solution for the more than 7 million drivers across Michigan demanding change, I feel it’s best we let the people decide,” LaFave said. “If given the chance, voters would have ended this mess years ago.”

LaFave’s House Bills 4026-4029 allow law-abiding holders of concealed pistol licenses to carry in more areas for self-defense and the state in accordance with the constitution of Michigan. The plan would also eliminate the CPL requirement, allowing all legal gun owners to carry anywhere CPL holders are currently allowed to carry.

LaFave noted cases of lawful, responsible gun owners being prosecuted for exercising a right laid out in the U.S. and Michigan constitutions, adding his plan decriminalizes carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, which is currently a five-year felony.

“Criminals don’t respect pistol-free zones,” LaFave said. “We cannot have areas where good citizens are left with no legal ability to protect themselves and their families. We also cannot have a system in place that punishes honest, well-intended people exercising their rights outlined in both the federal and state constitutions, and force them to purchase a license to exercise that right.”