Archive for May, 2021

The U.S. Department of Treasury released a wave of documents today (May 10) to guide counties and local governments on using direct investment funds through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Michigan counties stand to receive about $1.9 billion in such aid.

Treasury has created a main landing page for this effort, noting that relief is intended to:

  • Support urgent COVID-19 response efforts to continue to decrease spread of the virus and bring the pandemic under control
  • Replace lost revenue for eligible state, local, territorial, and Tribal governments to strengthen support for vital public services and help retain jobs
  • Support immediate economic stabilization for households and businesses
  • Address systemic public health and economic challenges that have contributed to the inequal impact of the pandemic

“The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds provide substantial flexibility for each government to meet local needs—including support for households, small businesses, impacted industries, essential workers, and the communities hardest hit by the crisis. These funds can also be used to make necessary investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure,” Treasury stated.

Treasury has published an Interim Final Rule that implements the provisions of this program.

Also, please make sure to review a “quick reference” fact sheet from Treasury.

Legislature continues work on FY22 state budget

The fiscal 2022 state budget bills continued their movement through the legislative process this week, with both chambers moving appropriations bills from their full appropriations committees. The Senate Appropriations Committee, for example, passed 17 budget bills, largely along party lines, after debating a variety of amendments.

Proposed amendments to restore the proposed $290 million in MI Clean Water Plan funding, increasing funding for high water emergency infrastructure grants to $40 million and to restore $20 million for contaminated site cleanups, all in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s original budget plan, were rejected.

In the House, budget bills moved with minimal changes from the subcommittee recommendations. Amendments proposed by Democrats included efforts to reverse a quarterly budget distribution adopted by the Republicans, allow the Department of State to send out absentee ballot applications and to keep the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission within the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and align the budgets more with the executive recommendation. All were defeated.

On revenue sharing for counties, the Senate recommended $231,516,700, which would be a 2 percent boost from FY21. Additionally, the Senate Appropriations Committee retained the requirement that any county with a retirement benefit system that was in underfunded status must dedicate any county revenue sharing increase to that system.

The House provides for a 1 percent increase on revenue sharing for $226,529,400 to counties. The funds, however, are tied to a requirement that the county must maintain public safety expenditures at an amount not less than FY21 to qualify for a payment.

MAC had asked legislators to eliminate strings attached to county revenue sharing payments. MAC will renew that request when budget bills reached the joint House-Senate conference committee stage.

The full House and Senate are expected to vote on the budget bills next week and send them to the other chamber to stay on track to get the budget to the governor’s desk by the end of June.

For further details, please see MAC’s previous Legislative Updates or visit the websites of the fiscal agencies for the Senate and House.

 

House committee examines bills to improve veterans tax exemption

The House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security took up a package of bills this week designed to reimburse local units of government for the lost revenue associated with the Disabled Veterans Property Tax Exemption.

When the exemption was enacted, the estimated cost to local units of government was projected to be minimal and the law made no provision for any reimbursement from the State. Now, years later, locals are faced with approximately $1.7 billion in taxable value exempted on more than 20,000 parcels.

House Bills 4624, 4625 and 4626, by Reps. Beau LaFave (R-Dickinson), Jeff Yaroch (R-Macomb) and Kevin Coleman (D-Wayne), would reimburse local governments through the current Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) system. The bills would not change veteran eligibility, nor would they require the veteran do file any additional paperwork (in fact, it would make it easier for veterans by allowing them to apply for the exemption once every 5 years, as opposed to every year).

In a joint letter with other local government groups, MAC supported the concept, particularly reimbursements to local governments and streamlining the process for veterans.

No votes were taken on the bills in committee, but MAC anticipates the conversation to continue in 2021.

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

 

MAC still needs your voice on 4-year terms

While legislation to enact four-year terms for county commissioners awaits action on the Senate floor, MAC again asks members to add their individual and collective voices to the campaign.

Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland) would bring four-year terms to Michigan in the 2024 presidential election cycle. Enactment of these bills would end Michigan’s status as one of just five states with two-year terms on all commissioners.

The bills are now on the Senate floor.

MAC continues to encourage commissioners to add their voices to the four-year term effort. As of Thursday afternoon, 61 county leaders had responded. Please add your voice to this effort today by clicking here.

MAC also requests that counties adopt official resolutions of support for the legislation. To download a template for this purpose, click here. If you pass such a resolution, please send a copy to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

As of Thursday, the following counties had advised MAC of passage of such resolutions: Allegan, Alpena, Bay, Cheboygan, Clinton, Emmet, Genesee, Houghton, Ionia, Manistee, Marquette, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Van Buren and Wexford.

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

 

Check out past podcast episodes on YouTube

There will not be a live episode of Podcast 83 on Monday, May 10. However, every video episode of MAC’s Podcast 83 is now available on MAC’s YouTube channel, including the May 3 live session in which MAC’s Stephan Currie, Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit discussed state budget news for fiscal 2022.

The upcoming schedule is now:

  • Monday, May 10 – No podcast
  • Monday, May 17 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, May 14)
  • Monday, May 24 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, May 21)
  • Monday, May 31 – No podcast (Memorial Day)
  • Monday, June 7 – 3 p.m. (registration will open on Friday, June 4)

 

Muskegon rebates license fee to eateries; more assistance on way for food sector

Acting on a motion by the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners, the Health Department there this week sent checks to nearly 800 food service entities in the average amount of $365, WZZM reported.

The funds are reimbursement of license fees, which the Muskegon Board decided to reduce by 90 percent for 2020 and by 50 percent for 2021. For the 2020 year, the total reimbursed was more than $225,000, WZZM reported.

“We all want the restaurants to survive,” Muskegon County Board Chair Bob Scolnik told WZZM. “We all want the county to thrive, we want people to prosper, we want the economy to start growing again and this was just a little something we could do to try and help that.”

And more help is on the way.

MAC joined with the state and other organizations on April 30 to tout the resumption of the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The fund includes $9.5 billion in set-asides specifically for smaller businesses: $5 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of not more than $500,000; $4 billion is set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts from $500,001 to $1,500,000; and $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts not more than $50,000. Recipients would not be required to repay the funding if the funds are used for eligible expenses no later than March 11, 2023. 

For more information on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, visit sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at sba.gov/restaurantes.  

 

MAC marks milestone with all-woman Government Affairs team

By Alyssa McMurtry/Gongwer News Service

Deena Bosworth

For the first time, the Michigan Association of Counties government affairs team consists of only women who are no strangers to the Capitol community but have still faced challenges when advocating for their agenda in a field that has historically been dominated by men.

While the current team at MAC marks the first time that advocacy group has had an all-women team heading its government affairs, there’s also a multi-client firm with an all-women staff, RWC Advocacy.

Those at the organizations spoke about the challenges they face in the lobbying world and what priorities they hold this year as the Capitol community begins moving toward normal operations following the coronavirus pandemic.

Deena Bosworth is at the helm of the three-person governmental affairs team, leading it as director. Ms. Bosworth is well known around Lansing and has worked as communications and legislative director for the House of Representatives and director of legislative affairs for former Attorney General Mike Cox. …

Read the entire article at this link.

 

Counties to receive millions in outdoors grants

Counties including Antrim, Berrien, Cheboygan, Gogebic, Houghton and Muskegon are among local governments receiving $37.8 million in grants from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4469 this week.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is a restricted fund that was established in 1976 to provide funding for public acquisition of lands for resource conservation and outdoor recreation, as well as for public outdoor recreation development projects. It is funded through interest earned on funds derived from the development of publicly owned minerals.

The legislation enacts the recommendations from the Trust Fund’s board for development and acquisition projects to improve Michigan’s outdoor recreational opportunities, including trail systems, camping, fishing, and Great Lake and river access. This year the board recommended $27.3 million for acquisition grants and $10.5 million for development grants. MAC is supportive of these efforts to increase the quality and quantity of Michigan’s outdoor recreational activities.

  • To see the full list of counties receiving acquisition funding and intended projects, click here.
  • To see the full list of counties receiving development funding and intended projects, click here.

 

Join MAC for webinar on community wellness

Are you starting to feel like the hardest part of the global pandemic may be behind us? As vaccines begin rolling out around the world and glimpses of normal life start returning, we’ve been wondering what impact all of these changes might be having on people’s well-being.

So, this spring, researchers at The Wellbeing Lab headed out into Michigan to measure the well-being of 1,500 people representative of Michiganders to ask, “How are we doing” and delved into how people were boosting their levels of thriving and reducing their levels of struggle at this time. Survey data shows valuable forms of wellbeing support their families and community had been providing and what actions their workplaces and bosses were taking that were having a positive impact.

Want to know what was found?

Join us for a special event for our members, where Louis Alloro of The Wellbeing Lab will give highlights of the 2021 Michigan Community Wellbeing Report. Discover the roles struggle, psychological safety, families, allyship and vaccinations have played in helping people care for their well-being, and the practices you can implement in your own community. And we will discuss ways of intelligently applying these findings as a network.

Use this link on May 11 at 10:30 a.m. to enter the webinar.

Louis Alloro is social entrepreneur creating and facilitating highly sought after, evidence-based learning experiences helping teams and entire organizations and communities dig deeper and reach higher, thereby creating a collective impact. Since 2018, he’s collaborated with the Michelle McQuaid group in creating content for The Change Lab and The Wellbeing Lab. Since 2008, he has trained and certifies thousands of practitioners, companies and communities in applied positive psychology and wellbeing science, including cohorts from Midland, Mich., who he helped form a regional Wellbeing Coalition.

 

By Alyssa McMurtry/Gongwer News Service

For the first time, the Michigan Association of Counties government affairs team consists of only women who are no strangers to the Capitol community but have still faced challenges when advocating for their agenda in a field that has historically been dominated by men.

Deena Bosworth

While the current team at MAC marks the first time that advocacy group has had an all-women team heading its government affairs, there’s also a multiclient firm with an all-women staff, RWC Advocacy.

Those at the organizations spoke about the challenges they face in the lobbying world and what priorities they hold this year as the Capitol community begins moving toward normal operations following the coronavirus pandemic.

Deena Bosworth is at the helm of the three-person governmental affairs team, leading it as director. Ms. Bosworth is well known around Lansing and has worked as communications and legislative director for the House of Representatives and director of legislative affairs for former Attorney General Mike Cox.

Ms. Bosworth said there’s always been some difficulty breaking into “the boy’s club,” but women lobbyists have gained more respect from their male peers.

“We are starting to get more respect,” Ms. Bosworth said. “But I’ve had situations where legislators wouldn’t meet with me alone because I’m a woman. There’s always been a boys club, which I’m not a part of.”

Ms. Bosworth and her team, including Meghann Keit-Corrion and Hannah Sweeney, work to stay focused on policy and know the issues to help make up for challenges they face in Capitol community that can be seen as a boy’s club.

Ms. Keit-Corrion has worked with Sen. Jim Stamas and as a legislative analyst for Midwest Strategy Group, a multiclient firm. Ms. Sweeney recently received her master’s in public policy from Michigan State University and works as the team’s governmental affairs assistant.

Meghann Keit-Corrion

“I think for me, I’m starting MAC at the start of my career, it’s important that I work with two other women who are able to bring me in and teach me the ropes, especially now that we see women become more politically active,” Ms. Sweeney said.

Before starting with MAC in 2017, Ms. Keit-Corrion was working with the Legislature with different groups and organizations. Over the past 10 years, she says she has been welcomed into a variety of groups because of more women “having a seat at the table.” Ms. Keit-Corrion said MAC offers internships and teaches young women and men how lobbying for governmental affairs works.

“It’s not about searching for women to join the governmental affairs team, it’s about noticing women who have those qualities to be successful and showing them the ropes so that there’s more women in 10 years in lobbying and other aspects of politics,” Ms. Sweeney said.

As a lobbyist, forming good connections is an integral aspect of the job. Without them, Ms. Bosworth said it is much harder to advocate for your policies.

“If you don’t have those relationships and you’re not a part of that boy’s club, it presents greater challenges. It makes relationship building a little harder,” Ms. Bosworth said. “Especially when you have some legislators who have concerns about building a relationship with female lobbyists.”

To combat this, Ms. Bosworth said she and other female lobbyists double down on their knowledge of policies to compensate. MAC’s executive director is Stephan Currie and at times, the government affairs team needs to call him in because legislators do not give the team the same respect as Mr. Currie.

“Having an all-female government affairs team means we must that we have to be much more policy-focused and work harder on building those relationships,” Ms. Bosworth.

Hannah Sweeney

In certain dynamics, Ms. Bosworth says the team has found a balance between being assertive without coming across as “bossy.” Her team was picked because of their work ethic and willingness to dig into the work.

“It really takes a huge level of dedication to lobby on behalf of county government because we have so many issues and the inherent challenges we have (as lobbyists),” Ms. Bosworth said.

MAC’s government affairs team is not the only all-women lobbying group in Lansing. RWC Advocacy is a multiclient firm that has been on the Lansing scene for the last 30 years. Melissa Reitz, RWC Advocacy director, bought the governmental affairs law firm with then-partners Elizabeth Weihl (now of counsel) and Peter Ruddell (who has since moved to the Honigman firm).

The firm was originally owned by Rick Wiener, former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, and his wife, Raj Wiener, former director of the then-Michigan Department of Public Health. After ending their time in the public sector, they co-founded Wiener Associates.

“I think Raj really brought a tremendous amount of strong female leadership from the beginning and Betsy and I were honored to carry that on into 2020 and now,” Ms. Reitz, now the sole principal in the firm, said. “We’re really proud to have that identity, especially in the current time that we are living in.”

This legislative term, RWC is working with the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan to ensure schools would be “seizure safe.”

RWC is also working on greater patient access for oral parity for cancer treatments, prior authorization reform and co-pay accumulator legislation.

Though they have not faced direct discrimination, the women at RWC said they find the environment very supportive of their work.

“Our employees and our teams generally express how supported and empowered they feel at our firm,” Ms. Reitz said. “Not to say they didn’t feel supported at previous jobs, but I think they definitely have very explicitly expressed how much they love working as a team together and just feeling empowered.”

This legislative term, MAC has a large list of policies it seeks to tackle. With six internal committees, the three members of the team cover the breadth and depth of county government such as transportation and finance.

“When the Legislature goes to allocate these federal dollars, we’re hoping for a focus on county roads and local infrastructure, including water,” Ms. Bosworth said. “Enhancing and securing county revenue sharing, that’s a big deal. Counties only get statutory revenue sharing. Although we represent 100 percent of the population…we still get less in statutory revenue sharing and we don’t get constitutional revenue sharing.”

Other policy goals include putting a moratorium on property tax exemptions. Broadband property tax exemptions or solar property tax exemptions encourage alternative uses of energy, but Ms. Bosworth said this is also starving local governments.

This story originally appeared in the May 3 report of Gongwer News Service. For more than 110 years, Gongwer News Service has set the standard by providing its subscribers the most independent, comprehensive, accurate and timely coverage of issues in and around state government and politics.

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