Archive for November, 2019

Budget deal forms, collapses in another Lansing letdown

What appeared to be a final agreement to resolve the FY20 budget showdown between the governor and Legislature collapsed on Thursday afternoon when Senate Republicans insisted on a statutory restriction on the governor’s ability to move money around in budgets via the State Administrative Board. While other details remain unresolved, placing restrictions on the State Administrative Board is the sticking point. 

As this budget argument rages on in Lansing, counties around Michigan continue to compile the toll that vetoes by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will take on county services and residents. Most counties do not have the kind of financial cushion the state enjoys (the state’s “rainy day fund” is now at $1.2 billion, or more than 10 percent of the state’s General Fund) and are looking at drawing down limited reserves, restricting programs and preparing layoffs to keep their budgets in balance.

After Senate Republicans announced opposition to the deal backed by Whitmer and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet), the Senate left town, not to return until Tuesday of next week. The House has scheduled a session for Wednesday of next week and again on Nov. 20 in the hopes that a deal can be reached and most of the vetoed funds can be restored.

MAC continues to urge any county commissioner who has not already done so to convey urgency to state leaders via our Advocacy Center.

For more information on the budget, contact Deena Bosworth at Bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Nov. 22 is deadline to opt out of opioids lawsuit

Counties have until Nov. 22, 2019, to opt out of the class action lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers for causing the national opioid epidemic. While not all counties are party to the lawsuit, this deadline affects all U.S. counties.

The notice sent by the federal court reviewing the case states: “NO SETTLEMENT HAS BEEN REACHED. HOWEVER, IF YOUR COUNTY OR CITY STAYS IN THE CLASS, it will be bound if a Class settlement is approved in the future. Your county or city will likely NOT be provided another opportunity to be excluded from this Class action, so you should read this notice carefully and consult with your counsel regarding your county or city’s rights.”

MAC is not party to the lawsuit, but we have been tracking the progress of this complex federal litigation. Counties are on the front line for responding to this opioid crisis, as well as working toward educating the public and preventing further opioid addictions. From the medical examiner’s office, to county jails and child welfare case increases, counties have contributed significant funds to address this crisis, which critics say pharmaceutical firms propelled in pursuit of huge profits.

Please refer to this website: https://www.opioidsnegotiationclass.info/Home/Documents, or contact MAC at 517-372-5374 for additional questions.

 

Bill to require spraying notice gets first hearing

A bill to require a minimum notice of five business days by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to local public health departments before aerial spraying is conducted to combat Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) received its first hearing this week.

The House Health Policy Committee took testimony on House Bill 5125, by Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Berrien). The bill was filed after an aerial spraying treatment for EEE notification was sent with only 48 hours’ warning to 14 counties in southwest Michigan. Legislative offices and county commissioners received numerous calls from constituents worried about the spraying’s effects. During testimony, DHHS said the 2019 spray was the first since 1980.

DHHS opposes the bill as introduced, but said it is willing to work on a robust notification process. A five-business day requirement could be problematic in public health emergencies, it noted, where fast responses are critical. Rep. Paquette said he’s willing to work with DHHS and local health officials to tweak the bill.

MAC has not taken a position on HB 5125, but is committed to ensuring proper public notifications that don’t exacerbate public health risks.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

Asbestos abatement bills move quickly out of committee

Bipartisan legislation to more strictly regulate asbestos abatement projects passed out of the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee this week.

House Bills 5046-51 were introduced earlier this month in response to a 2017 audit of Michigan’s effectiveness in inspecting asbestos abatement projects by contractors across the state. The audit found that only 12 percent of the more than 17,000 projects were inspected by officials in what was then the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

HBs 5046, 5049 and 5050 all increase precautions that public entities, including counties, must take when working with asbestos abatement contractors (and subcontractors). Some of those precautions include mandatory background checks on all contractors; mandating contractors sign affidavits beforehand ensuring compliance with environmental laws; and ensuring provisions in contracts that would allow public entities to withhold payments to contractors that later entered into consent agreements with what is now the Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment (EGLE).

HB 5047, by Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Wayne), would create an Asbestos Inspection Fund within EGLE and a fee system to fund it. At present, all owners/operators of properties with asbestos notify EGLE when demolition/renovation is set to occur. HB 5047 would create a $100 notification fee paid by the owner/operator that would be deposited in the Asbestos Inspection Fund, with the intent of funding more full-time inspection employees across Michigan to ensure compliance.

While MAC understands the need for greater investment for inspectors in these situations, the local entity is already paying its fair share for the abatement by paying all costs of remediation. MAC suggests the state fund the Asbestos Inspection Fund through general appropriations. On that basis, MAC opposes HB 5047.

The bill package now moves to the House Ways & Means Committee.

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

State seeks feedback on plans for forest roads

The state of Michigan has announced its intent to open or close certain forest roads on state lands to off-road vehicles, conventional vehicles, or both. The specific proposed changes and road locations are now available by visiting Michigan.gov/ForestRoads.

The proposed changes are based on site reviews by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff and comments received from the public. Additional details are on the website.

Comments may be submitted until Dec. 1. Use the interactive map on the website or send an email. The formal information memo to the DNR director will be submitted at the scheduled January 2020 Natural Resources Commission meeting. The final land use order will be submitted for action by the director at the February 2020 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting. Comments will also be accepted at each of the NRC meetings.

If you have any questions, contact Kerry Wieber at 989-348-6371, ext. 7441.

 

National News from NACo

 

 

County-by-county revenue sharing estimates for FY20 released

Click here to see the House Fiscal Agency’s estimates for county revenue sharing payments in fiscal 2020.

Overall, the state is expected to disburse $226.5 million in such payments to counties.

State sets Nov. 12 webinar on shoreline erosion issues

County leaders are encouraged to participate in a Nov. 12 webinar that will review shoreline erosion issues and work by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)

The webinar will run from 11 a.m. to noon. Click here to register.

“Due to higher water levels in the Great Lakes, Michigan’s shoreline communities and residents are experiencing an increase in shoreline erosion,” the department stated. “This webinar is an opportunity for local officials to learn more about EGLE’s response to Great Lakes shoreline erosion, the basic rules and processes for obtaining permits for shoreline protection projects, efforts EGLE is taking to expedite permits, and how you and your constituents can communicate and partner most effectively with us.  The webinar will include a short presentation followed by time for questions from attendees.” 

EGLE also has a new webpage dedicated to the topic, Michigan.gov/HighWater, with resources for local readers and residents.

For more information or assistance, send a note to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov

Share your county experiences on energy issues

A new survey effort from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy — the Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES) — seeks county leaders’ responses on your county’s engagement (or not) with energy policies such as energy efficiency and reducing energy waste, renewable energy on county land, electric vehicle infrastructure and more. If someone from your county hasn’t already participated in the survey, please be on the lookout for an email with an online link or a hard copy in the mail.

Your county’s answers to the MiLES survey will remain strictly confidential. However, at the end of the survey, respondents have the opportunity to indicate whether their county would like to be contacted about resources for, or assistance with, specific energy issues, like communicating with residents and local businesses — including agriculture — about energy issues, energy audits or benchmarking for public buildings, energy-related funding opportunities, and more.

For more information, contact CLOSUP at closup@umich.edu or 734-647-4091.

Budget talks stuck; your voice needed to propel action

October has come and gone, but Michigan leaders still have not resolved a budget impasse that imperils millions in county funding for key programs.

While MAC is told that discussions between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders are ongoing, no positive results have resulted.

It is vital, therefore, for every county leader who has not already done so to contact their state officials and urge immediate action on supplemental appropriations bills. Your voice is very powerful; MAC needs your support in order to incite movement toward restoring the funding that was slashed by the governor’s vetoes.

  • You can call the governor’s office at 517-373-3400.
  • Click here for the House of Representatives’ phone list.
  • Click here for the Senate’s phone list.

Members also are encouraged to utilize our Advocacy Center to send pre-drafted messages to lawmakers with just a few clicks of your computer.

For more information, please contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

House panel takes up delinquent tax forgiveness

A bill that would authorize a foreclosing governmental unit to forgive some or all unpaid delinquent property taxes, fees and interest for those meeting poverty eligibility guidelines or qualify for disabled veteran property tax exemption received its first hearing this week.

The House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance took testimony on House Bill 5124, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-Wayne)., which  was introduced to assist those communities faced with residents in poverty who are losing their homes because they cannot keep up with the taxes, interest, fees and penalties.

MAC has not yet taken a position on the bill, but is encouraged that the bill is permissible, not mandatory, on counties, which preserves local control and allows counties to tailor the program to what best suits their residents.

For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

County officials: Community corrections good, but could be better

Leaders in community corrections programs around Michigan gave testimony this week to a House appropriations subcommittee on the state of such programs and ideas to improve them.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Ionia), heard from Andrew Verheek of Kent County Office of Community Corrections (OCC); Mary McLaughlin of Saginaw County OCC; David Stevens of Thumb Area Regional OCC; and Ionia County’s Ron Morseau and Brent Denny.  

All spoke to the benefits of community corrections programming, as well as how the system could be improved with state policy changes. Saginaw’s McLaughlin, for example, noted, “The Pretrial Supervision Program has grown to monitor more than 600 offenders per year with a 70 percent success rate in a community where violent crime was once rated nationally.”

Suggestions for the legislative action included more flexibility between funds for the felony drunken driver jail reduction program and community corrections plans and services funds, since the population typically overlaps. Ideas were shared to improve risk assessment data sharing between state and locals, along with goals to maximize the referrals to programs.

A Department of Corrections representative also spoke to some of the ways the system could be improved, while noting some county programs are recognized nationally for their successful programming.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

Michigan adopts ‘Raise the Age’ legislation



Michigan will no longer automatically charge 17-year-old defendants as adults, following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature this week on so-called “Raise the Age” legislation.

MAC supported the final version of the package after modifications were made to ensure proper funding for additional juvenile justice services under county purview.

“I’m proud that Michigan has joined 46 other states in ending the unjust practice of charging and punishing our children as adults when they make mistakes,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release. “These bills will strengthen the integrity of our justice system by ensuring that children have access to due process that is more responsive to juveniles.” 

Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, Michigan law will handle most 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. MAC had long expressed concerns to legislators about the financial and service implications of this shift. However, after much negotiation, changes to the bills addressed those concerns, allowing MAC to support the final versions.

For further information on the final bill package, see the Legislative Update from Oct. 18.

Kent County leaders urge rescue of foster care pilot

Kent County leaders testified before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of a performance-based foster care program now at risk of closure due to the fiscal 2020 budget fights in Lansing.

Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent), chair of the Community Health/Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, took testimony regarding the West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC). MacGregor has been a champion for foster care and this enhanced program in Kent County throughout his time in the Legislature.  

On Oct 1. 2017, responsibility for 800 Kent County children transferred under the new model for WMPC to administer with a front-loaded case rate that incentivizes getting children out of the foster care system sooner. This transition began the first year of a projected five-year pilot.

But with nearly $2 million transferred by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through the State Administrative Board for FY20, the pilot program is in jeopardy of closing only two years into the five-year trial. WMPC CEO Kristyn Peck told the subcommittee about improved outcomes such as a decreased length of stay for foster children and more immediate permanency, plus the benefits of enhanced wrap-around foster care services.  

Kent County Board Chair Mandy Bolter and Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt urged restoration of the funds as soon as possible. Bolter asked the committee to “work together to restore this funding because if not, we will have to shut the doors on Nov. 14.”

Britt explained how the pilot model “simplifies our child-care funding system to focus on results and not who pays.” He added, “This is an opportunity to create a quality system that focused on the kids and their time in care.”

Proponents see the pilot as the first step in improvements for foster care efforts around the state.

If funding is not restored, WMPC’s caseload would move to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). To help advocate for Kent County and WMPC, click here.

Survey finds wide variance in county recession prep

Less than half of Michigan counties have taken preparatory steps in advance of the next recession, a new survey of local public officials found.

In its new release, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan found: “Although most of Michigan’s local governments report slow but steady improvement in fiscal health over the decade since the Great Recession, many local leaders express concerns about weathering the next recession, whenever it arrives.”

In county-only data provided by CLOSUP to MAC, 45 percent of respondents said preparatory steps had been taken, with big differences by county size. For larger counties, those with more than 30,000 residents, nearly 57 percent had reported actions, while the same was true for only 29 percent of smaller counties.

CLOSUP emphasized that this is a self-reported survey with a small sample size for counties.

To see all the CLOSUP data, click here.

State sends scrap tire grants to two dozen county entities

About 25 counties and count entities will receive nearly $700,000 in state grants to support scrap tire collections and other tire cleanup efforts.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced the grants this week to 72 such events, awarding $1,277,351; another five grant projects will fund the removal of old tire piles at private properties, the department said.

Counties and county entities receiving funds:

  • Alcona, $4,000
  • Superior Watershed Partnership, $70,000
  • SW Michigan Solid Waste Consortium, $94,000
  • NE Michigan Council of Governments, $6,255
  • Bay County Mosquito Control, $8,000
  • Benzie County Solid Waste Dept., $8,032
  • Charlevoix, $11,444
  • Crawford, $6,108
  • Emmet County Dept. of Public Works, $14,550
  • Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, $10,000
  • Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Dept., $8,000
  • Kalkaska County Recycling Center, $4,000
  • Leelanau, $4,216
  • Lenawee, $6,000
  • Livingston, $10,000
  • Manistee, $12,000
  • Marquette County Solid Waste Mgt. Authority, $65,000
  • Mecosta, $200,000
  • Midland County Mosquito Control, $4,000
  • Monroe County, $20,000
  • Muskegon County, $56,376
  • Newaygo County Board of Public Works, $8,152
  • Ottawa, $14,500
  • Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission, $10,000
  • Sanilac, $4,000
  • Schoolcraft, $2,000
  • St. Joseph, $4,000
  • Tuscola County Recycling, $22,000
  • Washtenaw County Public Works, $8,000

For more information, call the EGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278, or visit Michigan’s Scrap Tire Program at Michigan.gov/ScrapTires. To stay up to date on other EGLE news follow us at Michigan.gov/MiEnvironment.

State sets Nov. 12 webinar on shoreline erosion issues

County leaders are encouraged to participate in a Nov. 12 webinar that will review shoreline erosion issues and work by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)

The webinar will run from 11 a.m. to noon. Click here to register.

“Due to higher water levels in the Great Lakes, Michigan’s shoreline communities and residents are experiencing an increase in shoreline erosion,” the department stated. “This webinar is an opportunity for local officials to learn more about EGLE’s response to Great Lakes shoreline erosion, the basic rules and processes for obtaining permits for shoreline protection projects, efforts EGLE is taking to expedite permits, and how you and your constituents can communicate and partner most effectively with us.  The webinar will include a short presentation followed by time for questions from attendees.” 

EGLE also has a new webpage dedicated to the topic, Michigan.gov/HighWater, with resources for local readers and residents.

For more information or assistance, send a note to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov

Learn about ‘myths’ of tax incentives in Michigan

A longtime analyst of Michigan’s economy will lead a webinar on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. to address common myths about the value of tax incentives in economic development.

In “Making Sense of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity,” Timothy J. Bartik, a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute, will show how:

  • Incentives don’t tip every location decisions of assisted businesses
  • Once one accounts for the public service needs caused by job growth, typical incentives do not pay for themselves
  • Incentives only have slight “fiscal benefits” (fiscal benefits are the increase in tax revenue minus the increase in needed public services’ spending)

To join the free webinar, go to http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd1, “enter as a guest” is by default already chosen. Type your name into the text box provided and click on “Enter Room.” To facilitate Q&A’s, participants submit questions/comments via the Chat Function in Adobe Connect. See the event flier for more information.

The webinar will be recorded and archived at http://ncrcrd.msu.edu/ncrcrd/chronological_archive.

Share your county experiences on energy issues

A new survey effort from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy — the Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES) — seeks county leaders’ responses on your county’s engagement (or not) with energy policies such as energy efficiency and reducing energy waste, renewable energy on county land, electric vehicle infrastructure and more. If someone from your county hasn’t already participated in the survey, please be on the lookout for an email with an online link or a hard copy in the mail.

Your county’s answers to the MiLES survey will remain strictly confidential. However, at the end of the survey, respondents have the opportunity to indicate whether their county would like to be contacted about resources for, or assistance with, specific energy issues, like communicating with residents and local businesses — including agriculture — about energy issues, energy audits or benchmarking for public buildings, energy-related funding opportunities, and more.

For more information, contact CLOSUP at closup@umich.edu or 734-647-4091.