Archive for May, 2020

MAC opens ‘Camp Counties’ for summer webinars

With in-person gatherings still discouraged, but the need to share information and best practices never more acute, MAC has responded with a new educational series for summer 2020: Camp Counties.

Replacing our traditional in-person Regional Summits, the webinars of Camp Counties are free to all employees of MAC member counties and designed to provide practical information and tips that can be put to immediate use. All webinars will start at 11 a.m. on their scheduled dates. The webinars will be recorded for post-event, on-demand viewing on our website.

“The five topics are designed to both provide something of an interest to members across the state and deliver practical information that can be put to immediate use as we all continue to navigate the COVID crisis,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “I’m also pleased that we are able to deliver so much to members at no additional costs to them or their counties.”

Major support for Camp Counties comes from Enbridge and Envirologic, with additional support from three of MAC’s sponsored programs: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Nationwide Retirement Solutions and Abilita.

For all the latest camp happenings, visit the Camp Counties page on the MAC website.

June 10: Benzie’s Broadband Journey and Funding Challenges Looking Forward

Click to register.

June 17: Planning and Winning Millage Elections in a COVID World

Click to register.

June 24: Using Uniform Fees to Boost Appeals in Criminal Cases

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July 8: How Will COVID Affect Community and Work Life in the Months Ahead?

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July 15: Basic Steps for Counties to Enhance Election Cybersecurity

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For additional details on each webinar, review the camp agenda flier.

 

Legislators look to delay summer property tax payments

A two-bill package intended to provide taxpayers extra time to pay their summer 2020 tax bill without penalty was discussed before the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance this week.

House Bills 5761 and 5810, by Rep. James Lower (R-Gratiot), are meant to assist businesses and property owners with cash flow concerns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent Executive Orders. Similar bills, Senate Bills 933-934, have been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent). 

The bills aim to waive late charges and penalties for taxpayers who do not make their summer 2020 tax bill payments by Sept. 30, 2020. For 2020 only, the local tax collecting unit will be required to turn over those unpaid taxes (if they have not already agreed to accept partial payments) to the county for collection.

The county treasurer is then instructed to pay the tax collecting unit the amount of the unpaid taxes out of the delinquent tax revolving fund, as they normally would for delinquent taxes not paid by March 1 of the following year. This acceleration of payment to the local unit would apply to just the summer 2020 taxes.

Under the bills, the county treasurer is further instructed to not charge the taxpayer for the late fees and interest normally charged for late payment of taxes. Instead, the county treasurer is instructed to apply to the State for reimbursement of those fees and interest for only those taxpayers that have submitted an affidavit of economic hardship and met the criteria for such hardship.

MAC remains concerned about some of the criteria used to qualify for the hardship exemption and the unlikely scenario that the state will reimburse counties for their lost revenue from fees and interest used to finance sufficient borrowing to meet the needs of the local units. More work will be done on the bills before they are voted out of committee next week.

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

 

Bill would extend property tax appeal deadline to Aug. 31

Under Executive Order 87, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the deadline for commercial and industrial real and personal property tax owners and utility personal property and developmental real property owners to file property tax appeals with the Michigan Tax Tribunal to July 31, 2020. This was in response to the inability of business owners to work with their legal counsel and formulate an appeal during Michigan’s Stay at Home order.

House Bill 5766, by Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Isabella), which would extend this deadline to Aug. 31, 2020, moved unanimously through the House last week and through the Senate this week. It will be presented to the governor next week for her signature.

MAC did not take a position on the legislation.

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

 

MMRMA updates its model response plan for COVID-19

To stay abreast of the ever-changing situation posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA) has updated its model preparedness and response plan.

Among the 11 significant changes to the plan, MMRMA’s Cindy King, director of membership services, encouraged counties to pay special attention to these three:

  • “Executive Order 2020-97 sets forth specific safeguards to protect employees and provides that any business or operation that violates the rules in the order ‘has failed to provide a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to an employee, within the meaning of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act, MCL 408.1011.’”
  • “Many counties and local governments are issuing their own executive orders or public health orders; members should check to see if any of those have application for their specific operations.”
  • “As orders and directives get more specific and complex, members are encouraged to consult with your in-house counsel, as compliance has regulatory and legal implications.”

Questions regarding the plan or other coronavirus-related matters may be sent to cking@mmrma.org or spogorzelski@mmrma.org.

MAC members also have access to a webinar led by MMRMA on its original plan version in early May. 

 

Midland’s Gransden presents artwork to governor

During a recent visit to Midland County’s Law Enforcement Center as part of her tour of the flooding response there, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accepted an artwork from Midland County Administrator Bridgette Gransden. The piece was created by Linda Byrne Pingot from Pinconning. 

 

Eaton official headlines opioid ‘lunch and learn’ program

Bill Jenkins, health care administrator for the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office, will detail his county’s anti-opioid practices during a June 4 “Lunch and Learn” webinar sponsored by Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice.

To register for the free webinar from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 4, click here

“In 2017, the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office received a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant to implement medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) for inmates with opioid use disorder (OUD) housed in the Eaton County Jail. This webinar will inform how Eaton County developed this program, the mechanisms for referral and treatment engagement, as well as how they have sustained the program over several years.”

 

Nationwide presents ‘Peyton Manning: Positioned to Win’

Nationwide Retirement Solutions, a MAC sponsored program, invites county officials to a special event featuring Peyton Manning.

The Super Bowl champion will discuss how he’s dealt with adversity on and off the field on June 2 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free to county leaders. To register and for more information, click here

 

With in-person gatherings still discouraged, but the need to share information and best practices never more acute, MAC has responded with a new educational series for summer 2020: Camp Counties.

Replacing our traditional in-person Regional Summits, the webinars of Camp Counties are free to all employees of MAC member counties and designed to provide practical information and tips that can be put to immediate use. All webinars will start at 11 a.m. on their scheduled dates. The webinars will be recorded for post-event, on-demand viewing on our website.

MAC thanks Enbridge (see special message from Enbridge) and Envirologic for its support of this new event and their ongoing support of MAC events.

             CAMP SPONSOR                                                           SIGNATURE SPONSOR


Benzie’s Broadband Journey and Funding Challenges Looking Forward – COMPLETED
June 10, 2020, 11 a.m. to noon
LINK TO VIDEO
LINK TO SLIDE DECK

To expand broadband access in its area, Benzie County embraced a common-sense approach and partnered after open solicitation with a true point-to-point broadband provider who is expanding organically. Learn how its Broadband Subcommittee evaluated options, developed plans and continues to reassess. Learn how Benzie avoided the paralysis of analysis and maintained a live, active planning and oversight role.

Speaker(s): Bob Russell, Benzie Economic Development Corp.

Planning and Winning Millage Elections in a COVID World – COMPLETED
June 17, 2020, 11 a.m. to noon
LINK TO VIDEO
LINK TO SLIDE DECK

Adrian Hemond (D) and Scott Bean (R) from Grassroots Midwest will present useful information for counties about how COVID-19 will change millage elections, and who to proactively engage to pass millages. Grassroots Midwest is Michigan’s only bipartisan, grassroots organizing and advocacy firm. Our team has more than 100 combined years of experience influencing election outcomes, public opinion, and individual and group behavior. In this new era of tight budgets and intense resource competition, understanding how to effectively communicate your value case to county voters is essential to sustaining operations and building strong communities. The Grassroots Midwest team will provide practical tools for winning millage elections in this challenging environment.

Speakers: Adrian Hemond and Scott Bean, Grassroots Midwest

Using Tech to Get a Handle on Your Court Records – COMPLETED
June 24, 2020, 11 a.m. to noon
LINK TO VIDEO

LINK TO SLIDE DECK

State policymakers often contemplate changes to the criminal justice system, yet the lack of integrated data often put counties at a disadvantage. Learn from technology experts how to leverage an integrated system to make data sharing easier across county offices, as well as state databases. SolidCircle Court Case Management is a web-based application that provides Juvenile, District and Circuit Court users the ability to manage and process cases. SolidCircle Unified Justice System provides users with real-time access to an individual’s case, whether Traffic, Criminal, Juvenile or Civil, and includes seamless integration to financial and state systems, including State Police and LEIN.

Speaker: Pranay Rajgarhia, SolidCircle

How Will COVID Affect Community and Work Life in the Months Ahead? – COMPLETED
July 8, 2020, 11 a.m. to noon
LINK TO VIDEO
LINK TO SLIDE DECK
LINK TO HANDOUTS

With counties struggling to adapt to new realities in weeks and months ahead, this webinar will focus on “what will life be like for local government offices/operations and for a community’s general economy. Experts from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence will provide data from its annual workforce survey and a follow-up, COVID-19-specific survey to shed light on organizational and employee expectations.

Speakers: Rivka Liss-Levinson and Gerald Young, Center for State and Local Government Excellence

Basic Steps for Counties to Enhance Election Cybersecurity – COMPLETED
July 15, 2020, 11 a.m. to noon
LINK TO VIDEO
LINK TO SLIDE DECK

A 2018 report by the cybersecurity firm McAfee listed Michigan as one of the states where few counties have taken a basic security precaution for election purposes: adoption of the .gov website domain.

As opposed to other domains such as .com or .org, the .gov domain is controlled by the federal government and has strict rules about qualifying for its use.

This webinar will detail why counties should migrate to a .gov domain and what other common-sense measures they can take to protect their election processes and general information online.

Speaker: Rita Reynolds, National Association of Counties

Additional support from:

Court sides with governor on emergency powers in 1945 law

Michigan’s Court of Claims turned aside a challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers under a 1945 state law in a ruling issued Thursday.

Judge Cynthia Stephens rejected the challenge by House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) that the governor had exceeded her powers.

“It would take a particularly strained reading of the plain text of the (law) to conclude that a grant of authority to deal with a public crisis that affects all the people of this state would somehow be constrained to a certain locality,” Stephens said.

However, Stephens did rule that the governor cannot use a 1976 law to “unilaterally make emergency declarations,” the Associated Press reported. Whitmer had issued emergency orders under both the 1945 and 1976 statutes after the Legislature had declined to extend a state of emergency in late April.

Legislative leaders said they will appeal the decision.

In the meantime, all the governor’s executive orders remain in force.

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

 

Podcast 83 delves into federal aid prospects, state budget crisis

Aid proposals for counties and others continue to float around Capitol Hill, while the state of Michigan has nothing but grim budget news for the next two years, said MAC staffers during the most recent episode of Podcast 83, MAC’s audio briefing on all news and policies related to counties.

Also discussed was the decision this week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to revise her Stay at Home order for northern regions of Michigan: “Restaurants and bars can open, but at half capacity, and again protocols are just like the rest of the industries that have gone back to work,” explained Deena Bosworth, MAC’s governmental affairs director. “This is all just in time for Memorial Weekend. It’s probably really good news for those Up North.”

On Capitol Hill, said Executive Director Stephan Currie, numerous proposals are in play that would send more rescue funds to Michigan, but they are not all the same: “I think it’s important to note that when you look at the two packages, HEROES vs. SMART, HEROES does provide a lot of flexibility, where SMART does kind of put some guardrails on there, which I think we’re comfortable with going forward. We understand people should not be making pension payments and things like that. This is not just bailout funds. These are funds used to deal with direct revenue loss because of COVID-19.”

Less encouraging was the report from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference that Michigan is in the hole about $6 billion over the rest of this budget year (FY20) and the next (FY21).

“It takes three to tango,” said Keit, regarding the prickly relationship among Gov. Whitmer, House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) that must be navigated if budget compromises are to be found in Lansing.

To hear the new episode, or listen to prior ones, visit the Podcast 83 page.

 

New order loosens restrictions on retail activity, social gatherings

On Thursday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order 96, loosening restrictions on retail and social activity in Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Locals would gain spending flexibility on roads under House bills

Local road agencies could reallocate their share of state road funding dollars to the roads they determine need it the most under two bills approved by the House this week.  

Current law dictates that 75% percent of the money must be spent on primary roads, leaving only 25 percent for secondary roads. But House Bill 4965, by Rep. Rodney Wakeman (R-Saginaw), and HB 4966, by Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-Oakland), eliminate the requirements to allocate the funding in a 75/25 split.

This comes in the wake of new asset management plan requirements that created asset mapping. The maps, approved by the State Transportation Asset Management Council, identify the conditions of roads and rank them. The flexibility will allow locals to allocate their resources in a manner consistent with need, instead of restricting the funds according to percentages. 

MAC supports both bills, which now move to the Senate.

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

 

Immunity bill stalls in committee; Whitmer issues new EO on nursing homes

A bill to provide civil and criminal immunity to health providers during the coronavirus crisis got its second hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 899, by Sen. Michael MacDonald (R-Macomb) was held over, however, after several committee members voiced concern with the language that provides immunity due to a shortage of PPE and the time frame that runs to Sept. 30, even if Michigan is not then under a State of Emergency.

The bill sponsor and committee members continue to work on potential amendments to the bill.

In other medical news, the governor issued Executive Order 95, rescinding last week’s EO 84 and extending enhanced protections for the health and safety of residents and employees of long-term care facilities. The order took effect immediately and will run through June 17.

The order came shortly after criticism by the Republican majority in the Senate Oversight Committee of the governor’s executive orders relating to nursing homes and safety concerns over admitting or readmitting patients who had previously tested positive for COVID-19.

The new order “…-95 provides for a holistic decision-making process so that COVID-19-affected residents will only be discharged from a hospital to a facility that is capable of safely isolating the resident. In doing so, the order requires all hospital discharges be made consistent with current CDC and DHHS guidance. To ensure residents and employees are receiving the protections it affords, Executive Order 2020-95 authorizes the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to take actions necessary to assure the proper level of care and services in connection with this order.”

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

 

NACo cancels 2020 Annual Conference planned for July

The National Association of Counties (NACo) will not hold its 2020 Annual Conference in July, the group’s board announced this week. Instead, the group will proceed with a virtual Annual Business Meeting, including the election for second vice president, consideration of by-laws amendments and other association business.

The 2020 NACo Annual Business Meeting will be on Monday, July 20 at 2 p.m. on a secure online platform with the ability of NACo members to vote in accordance with NACo by-laws. Participation will be free for all NACo members, but registration is required. Click here to register for the virtual Annual Business Meeting. Voting delegates must complete the credentials form as part of this registration process.

If you are not sure if your county is a NACo member, contact NACo’s John Losh at jlosh@naco.org.

In addition, NACo is planning a virtual membership town hall meeting on Monday, July 13 at 4 p.m. that will include: a forum for second vice president candidates; an overview of proposed by-laws amendments; a status report on voting delegate credentials totals; and a Review of NACo policy resolutions.

 

Rural communities can get federal grants to fight opioid abuse

Rural communities can apply for grants from a $12 million fund to fight opioid abuse under the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (R-CORP), the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced on May 13.

The grant will support the expansion of prevention, treatment and recovery services for opioid and other substance use disorders.

To be eligible, the applicant must serve rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder. Rural counties and counties serving rural census tracts within the county are eligible to apply.

Program applications are due by July 13 and HRSA is expected to disburse funding by Sept. 1. Grant funding may be used to support the following activities, many of which fulfill county priorities in addressing substance use disorders in our communities:

  • Distributing naloxone to individuals and organizations;
  • Providing community-based naloxone training;
  • Recruiting and training providers and support staff in medication assisted treatment (NOTE: These grant funds cannot be used to pay providers/support staff to deliver medication assisted treatment);
  • Creating a strategy to reach and engage individuals at high risk of substance use disorders (SUD) or opioid use disorders (OUD);
  • Working with law enforcement to develop a diversion program; and
  • Training providers, administrative staff and other relevant stakeholders to optimize reimbursement for treatment encounters through proper coding and billing.

 

Webinar will aid government leaders in rethinking operations

County leaders are invited to a June 5 webinar on how to evaluate operations and adapt them to current needs.

Leaders across all industries and sectors are currently figuring out how to navigate priorities, customer needs and business operations during the unfolding coronavirus pandemic. Defining a short-term strategy to lead your organization through this health crisis takes resourcefulness, flexibility, a clear vision and the ability to ask yourself some big questions. It’s been proven time and again that the best strategies are built on good information.

Click here to register for this free event, from 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., put on by the Lansing firm of Public Sector Consultants, Inc.

 

Staff picks

Revenue meeting paints bleak outlook for Michigan into 2022

The state has a $3.2 billion hole in its current budgets, public finance experts testified today before the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. The conference is used to set revenue targets for elected officials each year. Of that gap, $2 billion is in the state’s roughly $11 billion General Fund, which finances a wide variety of services that counties are mandated to provide.

The outlook for FY21 is little better, with the experts seeing another $3 billion combined revenue drop for the General Fund and School Aid Fund. For FY22, which begins Oct. 1, 2021, the shortfall should be $2 billion.

Data and conclusions provided Friday by the University of Michigan, the Center for Automotive Research, the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies, the Michigan Department of Treasury and the State Budget Office included:

  • 22% of the state’s population is unemployed; and that level will persist through the end of June 2020
  • The state’s payroll tax revenue will be down 9% for FY20
  • One in seven businesses across Michigan will close, resulting in the loss of about 4.9% of jobs in the state
  • Light vehicle sales will be down 50% compared to last year, but should rebound to 2019 levels in 2021 

With only four months left in the current fiscal year, serious decisions about cuts to the programs, services and departments supported by the state’s General Fund are imminent. Of the $3.2 billion FY20 shortfall, about $2 billion is in the General Fund. And the $1.2 billion gap in the School Aid Fund will put additional pressure on lawmakers to find more savings in the General Fund.

Restoring a balanced state budget, as required by law, can happen via a negative supplemental appropriations bill advanced by the Legislature or an executive order from the governor, which only would need approval by the House and Senate Appropriations committees, not the full chambers. The specifics of cuts, and the mechanism to enact them, are not yet apparent.

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

 

Supplemental could provide $1,000 per first responder

Public safety workers could get $1,000 payments under the terms of Senate Bill 690, sponsored by Appropriations Chairman Jim Stamas (R-Midland), which was unanimously approved by the Senate this week.

If the bill is also approved by the House and signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in its current form, first responders could get the payments if their local employers agrees to it, thus qualifying for reimbursement via the state dollars.

The bill allocates more than $500 million of the $3.8 billion of federal COVID relief Funding. It includes large support for counties and their front-line workers, including:

  • $100 million for up to $1,000 one-time, either lump sum or hourly, bonus payments for local public safety officers (police, fire, EMT, 911 etc.) under the following conditions –
  • Requires bonuses be paid by September 30, 2020
  • Allows local units until December 31, 2020, to apply for reimbursement through Treasury
  • Requires that reimbursements be made on a first-come, first-served basis and that the payment be made no later than 45 days after all required information is submitted
  • Sets a maximum award of $5 million to any city, township, village, or county
  • $178M in temporary pay increase for direct care workers as follows –
  • Those already receiving $2/hour under the governor’s order would receive $1 more for $3/hour total
  • Nursing home workers added to receive $3/hour increase (this includes county medical care facilities)
  • Eligibility would be until Sept. 30 and retroactive to April 1
  • $62 million for PPE and testing needs for:
  • Meat plants and other agricultural processing centers
  • Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • Other entities included in DHHS prioritization guidance
  • $125 million in financial help for childcare providers and impacted families
  • $11 million in funding for UIA to hire 300 temporary workers to handle unemployment claims
  • $2.5 million to the Replenish Hospitality Employee Fund to help restaurant workers adversely impacted by closures

 

House committee advances trial court funding bill

Statutory authority extending the ability for Michigan’s trial courts to levy fees, is one step closer to the governor’s desk. This week, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved House Bill 5488, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), thereby keeping court funding stable until long-term reforms can be enacted.

The bill originally extended the authority until October of 2023, but after some committee members expressed concerned with the three-year extension, the bill was amended for a two-year extension. MAC supports this change and encourages the Legislature to continue swift action to ensure a long-term funding solution for our courts.

The state’s Trial Court Funding Commission said court costs “directly account for as high as $291 million annually in support (most of the 26.2 percent generated). Additionally, approximately $127 million of the annual funds transferred from the State originate from court assessments at sentencing. When totaled, Michigan trial courts are supported, in significant part, by over $418 million assessed to criminal defendants.”

The Commission also reported “findings from the survey of local funding units show that the total cost of Michigan’s court system (outside of the supreme court and court of appeals) amounts to between $1.14 billion and $1.44 billion.” Of the total amount, the percentage of local court operations expenses covered by state general fund is 2.24%. The report calls for a rebalancing of state and local funds and makes recommendations for the Legislature to consider for a stable court funding system.

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

 

Governor extends deadlines on property tax disputes

A Board of Review now has until July 21, 2020, to hear property tax disputes under a new order (Executive Order 87) issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Thursday night.

The order also directs that Board of Review decisions are due by Sept. 1, 2020. Further, EO 87 pushes back the deadline for commercial and industrial real and personal property tax disputes from May 31, 2020, to July 31, 2020.

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

 

Skilled nursing facilities move into Lansing focus this week

Senate Bill 899, by Sen. Michael McDonald (R-Macomb), which would provide immunity for certain health care workers from civil or criminal liability during the declared COVID-19 state of emergency, or through Sept. 30, 2020, whichever is later, was debated before the House Judiciary Committee this week.

The bill already has passed on party lines in the Senate and many Democratic members of the House committee questioned whether a bill to codify legal protections for hospitals treating new coronavirus patients would protect workers as much as it aimed to protect the hospitals themselves from potential lawsuits. The bill is supported by hospitals and doctors but is opposed by union groups representing hospital staff.

The bill is expected to come before the committee for a vote next week, but uncertain if there will be any changes at this point.

Also this week, the Senate Oversight Committee met regarding the governor’s executive order related to nursing homes (EO 50). Committee members focused on the operation of regional hubs created in the order and questioned Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon and other senior officials at DHHS. A full video of the committee hearing can be found here. 

The governor did re-issue orders, rescinding EO 50 and 51, and extending “capacity for disaster relief child care services for essential workforce” and “protecting residents and staff in long-term care facilities.” The new versions are: 

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

 

There’s still time to sign up for next Treasury webinar on May 18

In partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce the third joint webinar, “COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments,” at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18.

Topics will include an update after the state of Michigan’s May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) on project timelines and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management.

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Each webinar is limited to 1,000 attendees. With previous webinars reaching capacity limits, participants are strongly encouraged to register early.

A fourth webinar is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 8. Additional information and registration details about this June webinar will be sent in the coming weeks.

The state Treasury Department has developed a website with numbered letters, communications and resources regarding COVID-19 information for local governments and school districts. This website was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and will be updated frequently with information and resources as they become available.

 

Prosecutors group: Governor’s orders valid unless court says otherwise

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) – an association consisting of all 83 elected county prosecutors and affiliate member of MAC – issued a statement Wednesday that said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Orders remain in force.

In the statement, PAAM acknowledged the legal challenge brought by the State Legislature against Governor Whitmer over her authority to issue Executive Orders but stated that, because no court has issued a ruling, “the Executive Orders are still in force.”  

This statement comes after Attorney General Nessel issued similar guidance on May 5 to law enforcement across the state where she found the two orders – Stay Home, Stay Safe Order (2020-70) and Places of Public Accommodation Order (2020-69) – to be valid under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act and asked local law enforcement agencies to continue their enforcement efforts.   

Oral argument was heard today by Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens in Michigan House of Representatives and Michigan Senate v Whitmer, (Case No. 20-000079).

No timeline was set for a decision in the case.

 

Jail Task Force issues memo on gaining COVID funds

Michigan’s Jail and Pretrial Task Force has released a memo to county and city officials as they consider spending options from Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding through the federal Bureau of Justice. Some counties were eligible for funding directly through the federal government, but the remainder will be funded through the state allocation. The Michigan State Police is the lead agency and will provide more information to MAC members when the application and information are available. Until then, county leaders can begin thinking about innovative ways to use funds, with this memo as a reference point.

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

 

Opioid summit information posted to web

The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice at Wayne State University thanks the 360 people who joined us for the first ever Opioid Treatment Ecosystem Community of Practice Summit on May 5, 2020. We have attached a copy of the presentation slides and responses to your questions from the Q&A portion of the event.

Watch the full recording of the event or navigate to a specific section here. 

 

Stay at Home order extended to May 28; work restrictions eased

Michigan’s Stay at Home order has been extended to May 28, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in a press conference Thursday afternoon. The new order, EO 77, however has enhanced exceptions to allow for a variety of work activities, ranging from auto production to garden centers. E0 77 also notes that “Businesses, operations, and government agencies that remain open for in-person work must, at a minimum:

  • “(a) Develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, consistent with recommendations in Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, developed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and available here. Such plan must be available at company headquarters or the worksite.
  • “(b) Restrict the number of workers present on premises to no more than is strictly necessary to perform the in-person work permitted under this order. …”

During her Thursday presentation, Whitmer outlined the phases Michigan is going through to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor also released her Safe Start Plan to guide businesses in the days and weeks ahead. Businesses in the construction, real estate and manufacturing fields have been cleared to resume operations before the end of May.

 

House, Senate file lawsuit challenging governor’s emergency powers

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) filed a lawsuit in the Michigan Court of Claims this week seeking a declaratory judgment that the governor has violated the Michigan Constitution by taking away legislative authority via the continued declarations of emergency and her subsequent executive orders.

The controversy surrounds which law applies to the governor’s ability to act unilaterally during this pandemic. The governor has declared a state of emergency under a law established in 1945, which allows the use of emergency powers until such time as the governor deems the emergency is over. The other law the governor has used is a 1976 measure that allows her to declare a state of emergency for 28 days, after which the Legislature much approve any extensions of the declaration.

The Legislature did approve an SOE extension to April 30 but has not acted to extend one beyond that date.  All executive orders, including the Stay Home orders, are contingent upon the continuation of the state of emergency. A May 15 hearing has been set on the lawsuit.

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

 

EO 75 extends virtual meetings under OMA

County boards may continue to hold remote sessions until June 30 under Executive Order 75, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Wednesday night.

EO 75 continues the remote option that ordinarily would not be allowed by the state’s Open Meetings Act. The purpose of the order is to allow local entities to hold necessary public meetings without endangering the public health now threatened by COVID-19.

For additional background on legal and mechanical issues relating to remote board sessions, see these links, which also can be found on MAC’s Resources Page:

 

Rep. Lightner urges immediate action on trial court funding

House Bill 5488 would extend authority for Michigan’s trial courts to levy fees, thereby keeping court funding stable until long-term reforms can be enacted, the bill’s sponsor told the House Judiciary committee this week.

Addressing the committee, chaired by Rep. Graham Filler (R-Clinton), Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) noted that current authority to levy fees expires in October and a lapse would devastate court operations.

The Legislature restarted the committee process this week with protocols in place to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19. Some members wore masks, seating in the committee rooms was reduced and committees allowed testimony through Zoom.

The state’s Trial Court Funding Commission said court costs “directly account for as high as $291 million annually in support (most of the 26.2 percent generated). Additionally, approximately $127 million of the annual funds transferred from the State originate from court assessments at sentencing. When totaled, Michigan trial courts are supported, in significant part, by over $418 million assessed to criminal defendants.”

MAC encourages swift passage of HB 5488, but recognizes it is not the final solution to court funding. MAC supports further legislative action to implement reforms recommended through the Trial Court Funding Commission once this bill is passed. The recommendations of the commission address Michigan’s historic problem of financial influence on the justice system and will create a more efficient system and stable source of funding for our courts.

Please contact your legislators to support HB 5488 and ensure final passage as soon as possible.

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

 

State court office gives guidance on operational restarts

The Michigan Supreme Court has issued Administrative Order 2020-16, which requires courts to follow a careful, phased approach in returning to full capacity. Per the Supreme Court General Counsel, “Court plans must be based on the advice of local health experts and be approved by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) prior to implementation.”

Additionally, the “order also stipulates, “Courts must maintain their current level of operations until SCAO approves a court’s plan to expand in-court proceedings. Courts in each circuit may work together to submit to SCAO at each gating level a single plan wherever possible consistent with the SCAO guidelines for returning to full capacity. Conditions may also require a court to move to a previous access level, depending on local conditions.”

The full order and detailed guidance for courts can be accessed here:

MAC advises connecting with your SCAO regional office for questions regarding phasing back to “full capacity,” or about any judicial administrative orders.

 

Michigan aiming for big testing boost, governor tells local officials

Michigan is working toward testing 1 percent to 2 percent of its total population each week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told a virtual audience of local government leaders on Tuesday evening.

Such testing would, at the high end, represent about 200,000 tests conducted per week. At present, Michigan is testing at a rate of about 60,000 per week.

Whitmer did note that supply chain issues on testing materials still exist, but that she expected the state to reach its testing goals in “next week or two.”

 

Sign up now for next Treasury webinar on May 18

In partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association, the Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce the third joint webinar, “COVID-19 Updates and Resources for Local Governments,” at 2 p.m. on Monday, May 18.

Topics will include an update after the state of Michigan’s May Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, an update from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) on project timelines and financing and best practices around local government cash and debt management.

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Each webinar is limited to 1,000 attendees. With previous webinars reaching capacity limits, participants are strongly encouraged to register early.

A fourth webinar is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 8. Additional information and registration details about this June webinar will be sent in the coming weeks.

The state Treasury Department has developed a website with numbered letters, communications and resources regarding COVID-19 information for local governments and school districts. This website was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and will be updated frequently with information and resources as they become available.

 

Webinar reviews model plan for county preparedness

Counties need to have preparedness/response plans to comply with a state Executive Order, experts with the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA) said during a MAC-sponsored webinar on Wednesday.

The webinar allowed MMRMA to review and take questions on its model response plan for the COVID-19 crisis.

Among key points made by MMRMA’s Cindy King and Stephen Tobler were:

  • Counties should plan for employees to wear masks in their buildings unless the employee is in her office or cubicle.
  • Counties need to think expansively about what areas and surfaces would require regular cleaning, even down to such items as a shared stapler in a copier room, King said.
  • Any questions about returning non-essential staffers to workplaces while the Stay at Home order is still in place should be raised with a county’s legal counsel.

MAC thanks MMRMA for participating in the webinar and for making its model plan available to non-members as counties grapple with the public health, personnel and service-delivery issues created by the COVID-19 crisis.

 

State delays permit on Line 5 tunnel, asks for more data from Enbridge

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) has delayed permits for Enbridge to construct a tunnel to enclose the Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge filed in early April for permits to begin construction next year, with a target operational date in 2024. The letter from EGLE to Enbridge can be read here.

State officials said, “The application has been determined to be incomplete as received” due to omitted information and deeming the permit “unnecessarily long.” In the letter to Enbridge, EGLE asked for a new assessment of alternatives to the project and for the firm to shorten the permit in order to make it more accessible for the public. Enbridge has said it will comply with directives from the department. It has 30 days to resubmit the applications.

Concurrently, the Michigan Public Service Commission is still taking public comment on a request from Enbridge for a declaration that it already has the authority to re-site the pipeline under the straits. If this claim were upheld, construction on the tunnel could begin much sooner, even after the delayed permit requests this week. The public comment period for that decision from the MPSC ends on May 13.

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

 

Governor extends restrictions on nursing, juvenile facilities

Entry to nursing, juvenile and other facilities is limited to essential personnel until May 31, under a new Executive Order signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Sunday night.

EO 72 replaces a previous order with these restrictions.

This order extension is dated until May 31.

“I know this is a difficult time for families, patients and workers across the state, but we must continue to be diligent in our efforts to slow the spread of the virus,” said Whitmer. “Right now, the best we tool we have to save lives is to reduce person-to-person interaction. That is why it is necessary to extend this order and put the health and safety of Michiganders first. I hope everyone in Michigan continues to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”

 

Staff picks

Each week, Legislative Update will feature a round-up of news and information links suggested by members of MAC’s staff:

 

  • CoPro Web Ad 2018
  • Enbridge Banner Ad 2018
  • MCM Banner April 2018
  • MMRMA Web Banner 2019
  • NACo Live Healthy Ad 960x200px
  • Nationwide Ad For Mac Site
  • MBS MACad 2019
  • 2020 VAC Sponsors Ad