Water issues are on the agenda for many state and local leaders in 2016.
A “blue-ribbon committee” has been investigating how to make water affordable for all Detroiters, and avoid the mass shutoffs the city has carried out since mid-2014.
Some people have called for a city-wide “water affordability” plan, with bills adjusted by income.
Mayor Mike Duggan and others have claimed that’s illegal under Michigan law. But other lawyers think they’re wrong about that.
Detroit City Council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez says a well-designed affordability plan could work.
“It does seem like it’s feasible,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “The [political] willingness is different.”
That committee is expected to give its report and recommendations to the City Council in January.
In Lansing, State House Democrats introduced bills to address affordability and other water-related concerns in late 2015.
Stephanie Chang is a state representative from Detroit. She says there should be more transparency about how water rates are set.
“We don’t know how these rates are being set. Michigan is one out of only a handful of states that actually don’t regulate water rates at the state level,” Chang said.
Another bill would tighten standards and testing requirements for drinking water in the wake of Flint's lead-in-water crisis.
Chang says there are more water bills in the works. The current batch has some limited bipartisan support.