Archive for May, 2022

MAC-backed safety bills advance from Senate committee

Three bills on local public safety were approved by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week that MAC supports.

House Bill 4719, by Rep. Robert Bezotte (R-Livingston), a former sheriff and county commissioner, would require a person convicted of first-degree murder be immediately committed to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections (DOC) in a state correctional facility, pending sentencing. The county sheriff will have to transport the convicted person for final sentencing from the facility to the county and back again.

HB 4887, by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Genesee), would also allow for transports of a juvenile under the age of 18 with an adult in limited circumstances. A transport could occur if all of the following apply in the situation: the juvenile was 16 or older; the adult was 25 or younger; the juvenile and adult were taken into custody at the same time; the juvenile and adult were taken into custody for the same offense or both occupied the same vehicle at the time the offense was committed; and the juvenile was taken directly to the appropriate location and then was separated from the adult at the earliest available time.

MAC supports both bills to ensure officer and public safety and save county time and resources.

MAC also supports HB 4173, introduced by Rep. Kara Hope (D-Ingham) that would delete the cap on the amount of a reward that a county may offer for the arrest and conviction of a person who committed a crime or escaped from a penal institution. Current law limits the amount a county board of commissioners could offer and pay out for the arrest and conviction at $2,000. The bill would change that limit and leave it to the county’s discretion.

For more information on this issue, send an email to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

 

Details released on getting second batch of federal ARP funds

The U.S. Treasury has begun the process of allocating the second tranche of ARP Recovery Funds.

The process for counties to receive the second installment of funding is provided below with the new SAM.gov registration requirements:

Section 603 of ARPA provides payments to eligible local governments in two tranches, with the second tranche payment being made no earlier than 12 months after the first payment.

Consistent with this requirement, Treasury expects to provide second tranche payments to local governments approximately 12 months after their first payment.

In the coming weeks, Treasury will open the submission portal in a phased approach, allowing counties to access the portal for 30 days prior to their second tranche payment date.

Counties will receive a notification from Treasury by email letting them know that they can enter the portal — it is very important to make sure that the assigned point of contact is still available to receive future communications.

The point of contact is the individual designated in the portal during the first tranche submission who will receive email notifications on submission status, including any issues found during the verification and communication regarding payments.

The individual entering the portal for the second tranche submission will be the same individual with the registered ID.me who submitted for the first tranche allocation.

If that individual is no longer with the county and you need to designate a new individual, email COVIDReliefITSupport@treasury.gov with the subject line “Entity Name – Update to Designated Individuals” and include the role that needs to be updated along with the full name, title, email and phone number of the new person designated.

After the email is received by the county, the point of contact will be able to update their entity information to include banking information in the portal.

In preparation for the second tranche payment, counties should ensure their SAM.gov entity registration is still active — all counties are required to have a SAM.gov registration to receive their second tranche payment.

Note that on April 4, 2022, the federal government changed service providers and stopped using the DUNS Number and began using the Unique Entity ID (UEI) in SAM.gov to identify entities.

All counties, even those already registered in SAM.gov, must validate their entity information through the new service provider.

Counties may need to provide additional supporting documentation through the new system.

The General Services Administration (GSA) released FAQs to support counties through this new process.

Counties are required to renew their SAM.gov registration every 12 months. If a county’s SAM.gov registration expired (12-month coverage) before it is due to receive its second tranche (and after April 4, 2022) the county is required to reactivate their SAM.gov registration, which will require them to adopt UEI (instead of a DUNS number) PRIOR to receiving their second installment.

 

Keit-Corrion departs MAC government team

Meghann Keit-Corrion, MAC’s governmental affairs associate with specific responsibilities for court, health, human services, public safety and other issues, departs MAC on Friday, May 27.

The Michigan State University graduate will be joining the Dykema law firm in Lansing.

Keit-Corrion joined MAC in September 2017 from the office of Sen. Jim Stamas. She also worked for Stamas when he served in the Michigan House and for the Midwest Strategy Group in Lansing, where she was a legislative analyst.

“Meghann has played an important role at MAC working on health and judiciary issues. We wish her the best of luck in the future,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

 

Bill for nonpartisan county elections introduced

Some county boards of commissioners would have the ability to create nonpartisan elections for countywide offices under a new bill introduced in the Senate.

Under Senate Bill 1050, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), counties with a populations below 75,000 may adopt a resolution to create nonpartisan elections for the following offices: clerk, treasurer, register of deeds, prosecutor, sheriff, drain commissioner, surveyor, coroner and elected road commissions.

Incumbents will be noted on the ballot and the two candidates with the most votes in a primary would move on to the November general election. Counties will have the option to adopt this change within three years of a census.   

MAC will continue to monitor the bill as it moves through the legislative process.

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

 

Fuel tax suspension bills clear full Senate

Bills to suspend state fuel taxes in a bid to lower prices at the pump advanced out of committee this week. A Senate committee and the full chamber this week reviewed and approved:   

  • Senate Bills 972, 973, 974, by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Eaton), Sen. Aric Nesbit (R-Cass), and Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-St. Clair) respectively, suspend the collection of taxes on gasoline by exempting motor fuel from sales and use tax for the period of June 15-Sept. 15.
  • Senate Bill 1029, by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Ottawa), which specifies that between June 15 and Sept. 15 the rate of tax on gasoline would be zero. The bill would appropriate $192.6 million from the state’s General Fund to county road commissions and $107.4 million to cities and villages to backfill any lost revenue from the sales and use tax suspension.

The package now moves to the House. MAC will continue to track the legislation.

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

 

Key measure for medical care facilities heads to governor

After months of steady progress, House Bill 5875 has cleared the Legislature. This week, the full Senate approved the three-year extension to the county maintenance of effort (MOE) rate for county medical care facilities (MCFs), a key legislative priority for the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC).

HB 5875, by Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Lenawee), provides an extension to the MOE freeze until 2025, or until the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) implements a new reimbursement model, whichever is sooner.

MDHHS has been studying and contemplating a new reimbursement model and policies for long-term care facilities. Should a new approach be implemented prior to Dec. 31, 2025, MCFs would transition to the new system under the bill.

MCMCFC had partners in support, including MAC, the Health Care Association of Michigan and LeadingAge Michigan. MCMCFC greatly appreciates the work of bill sponsor, Rep. Kahle, and her staff for championing this important issue for facilities.

The bill now heads to the governor for final approval.

 

Report outlines options on spending opioid dollars

In late 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) contracted with the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT) to analyze results from a survey of key Michigan respondents about the best ways to use opioid settlement dollars within state and federal guidelines.

CHRT’s team analyzed qualitative and quantitative survey results in collaboration with state partners then reported back to MDHHS to share its analysis, which is the first step toward making recommendations to support policymakers’ decision process.

Respondent priorities for the use of settlement funds included:

  • Recovery support services, including peer support and wrap-around services for individuals with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health diagnoses
  • Prevention programming
  • Expanding access to medications used to effectively treat opioid use disorder (MOUD) and other opioid-related treatment

The full report can be found here.

 

Two counties earn green recognition from state group

Two counties were recognized by the Michigan Green Communities program for taking the Michigan Green Communities Challenge. The program is designed to promote environmental sustainability and development in communities across Michigan.

Local units of government that chose to participate in the challenge completed actions in 2021 related to energy efficiency, climate adaptation, resilience, recycling and environmental justice. Ten communities received bronze certification, 12 received silver certification and 22 received gold certification. Among them were:

  • Oakland County, receiving silver certification
  • Monroe County, receiving bronze certification

The program is open to all local governments in Michigan at no cost.  For more information, contact Danielle Beard, Michigan Green Communities program coordinator, at dbeard@migreencommunities.com or Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@miounties.org.

 

State looking for foster care volunteers

Michigan needs more loving foster families to temporarily care for children while the state works to reunify them safely with their biological parents, a point made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in proclaiming May as Foster Care Month in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is recognizing foster families for their contributions while raising awareness of the need for more foster homes. There are about 10,500 children in foster care in the state. There is a particular need for families to foster older children, sibling groups and youth with special needs.

“We are facing an increased need for foster families to provide stable and safe care for children due to the department’s commitment to provide family homes for children and reduce the use of congregate care settings, as well as a significant loss of foster homes during the pandemic,” said Demetrius Starling, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “I want to thank the 4,928 foster families in Michigan who have stepped up because they want to help children who deserving loving homes.”

In most cases, MDHHS’s goal is to reunify the children with their families after providing resources to them. If that’s not safe, MDHHS looks to find them permanent homes through adoption.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster parent can call a Foster Care Navigator at 855-MICHKIDS or visit www.fcnp.org. Navigators are experienced foster care parents who can answer questions and guide prospective foster parents on their journey. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/hopeforahome.

 

MAC offices closed on Monday, May 30

MAC’s offices in Lansing will be closed on Monday, May 30 to observe the Memorial Day holiday.

Normal office hours will resume at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 31.

MAC joins our members and the rest of the United States in honoring the sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives in service of their country.

 

Tax cut legislation includes property tax reimbursements for counties

In swift action this week, the House and Senate put forth and passed an income tax cut bill that would also allocate funding to local governments for their losses due to the veterans property tax exemption. Such reimbursements are a key MAC policy priority in 2022.

Under House Bill 4568, by Rep. Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo), the state’s income tax rate would fall from 4.25 percent to 4 percent in 2023. The legislation also increases deductions for seniors, tax credits for dependent 19-year-olds and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

As far as the reimbursements for veterans property tax exemptions, the plan is consistent with and tie-barred to Sen. Jon Bumstead’s plan in Senate Bill 784, a plan which is supported by MAC, other local government associations and the veterans group. See previous coverage on the legislation by clicking here. To send a message of support for Bumstead’s legislation, click here.

The tax proposal passed both chambers and will be sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a matter of days for her consideration. However, a vote on Senate Bill 784 has not taken place in the House yet due to the constitutional rule for a five-day layover in a chamber before lawmakers can take action on it. 

From all indications, the Whitmer administration and the legislative Democrats would prefer a very different tax relief option. So, this legislation will likely be struck by the governor’s veto pen.

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

 

Newest estimate shows billions more for state coffers

Tax dollars continue to flow into state coffers at unexpected high rates, the May session of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference reported Friday. These trends will provide the state with an extra $1.7 billion in General Fund revenue for the current budget year (FY22) and an extra $1.1 billion for the upcoming budget (FY23), as compared to the consensus estimates at the last conference in January 2022.

State lawmakers now will work from final consensus totals for the FY23 General Fund of just under $14 billion. As recently as FY14, the General Fund was barely $9 billion. Still, adjusting for inflation, the General Fund is well below where it was at the turn of the century.

Forecasters from the Treasury Department and the fiscal agencies of the House and Senate also see continued growth in General Fund revenues in fiscal years 2024, 2025 and 2026.

It remains to be seen in coming weeks whether these increased state resources will be deployed in investments in public services at the state and local levels or converted to tax cuts or one-time cash rebates to taxpayers.

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

 

MAC testifies in favor of new public notices bill

MAC’s Deena Bosworth testifying for HB 6062 during House committee meeting on Thursday.

After a decade of working on the issue, MAC is pleased to announce the introduction of legislation to modernize public notices law, save counties time and money and create more avenues for our citizens to receive public notices. 

MAC’s Deena Bosworth was among those testifying Thursday in support of House Bill 6062 before the House Oversight Committee. The bill, by Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Wayne), is the first bill in what will be more than 100 dealing with the modernization of public notices for public bodies. The bill sets up the framework, while other pieces of legislation will amend each state statute requiring the notice to be published in a newspaper.

HB 6602 would allow local units to put public notices on their websites, but not require them to be published in a newspaper. In addition, and to ease the concerns about transparency, the bill requires the public body to send a copy of the notice to the newspaper, to post the notice in a conspicuous place and to create an annual mailing list for those residents wishing to have notices mailed to them via first class mail.

Even with these stipulations, the Michigan Press Association, whose members have long relied on fees charged to counties and others for publishing such notices, opposes the bill. 

MAC’s Bosworth, however, detailed the extensive protections for public transparency with the new system. “We are not trying to hide our public notices from the public,” she noted.

The bill makes it beneficial for counties to navigate our new media landscape in a way that is fair to local government and gives options to community members on how they choose to receive information on public notices.

HB 6062 is a welcome contrast to two other public notice measures that were recently signed into law. Senate Bill 258, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), and SB 259, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), unfortunately did not curb the cost of the postings on local taxpayers or alleviate any unnecessary details of many of the posting requirements.

MAC will continue to support a fair and transparent process of reporting public notices and will continue to monitor HB 6062’s progress through the Legislature.

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

 

State Supreme Court still studying court costs case

The Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) is still considering a case that challenges the authority of trial courts to impose costs on defendants.

On April 6, 2022, the MSC heard oral arguments on the application for leave to appeal in People v Travis Michael Johnson, which challenges state law by which a judge can impose “any costs reasonably related to the actual costs incurred by the trial court.”

On May 13, the court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs within 21 days, addressing three discrete issues:

(1) whether MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) violates the separation of powers by assigning the judicial branch “‘tasks that are more properly accomplished by the Legislature,“

(2) whether MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) violates due process by creating a “potential for bias” or an “objective risk of actual bias,” and

(3) if the Court finds MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) to be facially unconstitutional under either theory, what remedy should follow.

Thus, the court is still considering whether to grant leave to appeal and has requested additional briefing on the constitutionality of the statutory subsection on two broad constitutional grounds, i.e., separation of powers and due process, focusing more particularly on certain narrowly described reasons as to why the statute may violate those constitutional principles, i.e., improper assignment of legislative tasks to the judiciary and judicial bias concerns. 

As part of its consideration of whether to grant leave to appeal, the court would also consider the proposed remedies that may be ordered if it were to ultimately determine that the statute is unconstitutional on its face, i.e., invalid under any circumstances.  Based on the framing of the issues in its latest order, it would appear the potential remedies for a finding of facial unconstitutionality could include the Legislature establishing more objective criteria for the imposition of costs in a criminal case.

If the application is granted, the case would likely continue with further briefing on the specific issues to be defined by the court in its order granting leave to appeal, followed by oral argument and the court’s final determination of the issue.

MAC will continue to closely monitor this case and the huge potential for it to disrupt local court financing.

 

Counties among recipients of first responder grants

Thirteen counties are among recipients of the First Responder Training and Recruitment Grant Program, the Michigan Treasury announced this week. The program was launched by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in January to assist local governments in addressing critical needs in recruitment and retention of first responders.

Among the 400 applicants seeking a portion of the $5 million allocated by the Legislature last December, the requests exceeded $29 million. The 13 counties will be among those receiving a total of $1.4 million. As instructed through budget boilerplate language, Treasury reviewed and ranked all applications according to intended use of the funds and those communities most in need.

Congratulations to the county recipients:   

  • Alger – $46,651
  • Allegan – $100,000
  • Chippewa – $78,939
  • Clare – $54,035
  • Delta – $170,000
  • Iron – $17,583
  • Keweenaw – $82,172
  • Marquette – $98,784
  • Menominee – $143,908.40
  • Montcalm – $170,000
  • Ontonagon – $100,000
  • Otsego – $100,000
  • Roscommon – $67,500

The counties must submit a letter of acceptance through the state of Michigan E-Signature process and include the amount awarded and signed by the recipient’s chief executive officer. The grant will be distributed on a reimbursement basis after adequate documentation has been provided to the department. Counties awarded the grant will receive further instructions via email. Procedures and information on documentation can be found on the First Responder Training and Recruitment Grants webpage.

MAC supports efforts to enhance first responder training, retention and development and will continue to provide resources to counties to address important public safety needs.

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

 

Senate advances bill on transporting mental health patients

A MAC-supported bill to allow county mental health transportation panels received unanimous support in the Senate this week and has moved to the House.

Senate Bill 101, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), would allow the panels for the purpose of alternative transportation services for individuals needing involuntary psychiatric hospitalization. The bill awaits a hearing in the House Health Policy Committee.

The bill would set forth a description and responsibilities of the panel, should a county choose to establish one, and outline contract and liability requirements. Any private security company considered to provide the transport services must meet certain requirements in order to enter into contract, including maintaining certain insurance coverage and providing to security transport officers a specialized training program for best practices when working with an individual with severe mental illness.

The bill also creates the Mental Health Transportation Fund, which, if funded by the Legislature, could help counties carry out functions of these mental health transportation services.

MAC supports the bill as an important tool for counties to secure alternative transportation services, so county law enforcement staff and resources are not tied up in long transport times.

A full analysis of the bill can be found here.

For any questions, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at Keit@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 goes live again on May 23

MAC’s Podcast 83 team will again be live to discuss all the news and events out of Lansing on Monday, May 23 at 4 p.m.

Among the burning questions that will be addressed are: Who has been hanging out with polar bears? And who is MAC going to miss soon?

Some policy issues will be reviewed, too, and the team will answer audience questions live.

The update will begin at 4 p.m. To join the session, just use this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82867692853.

In this week’s episode, on May 16, MAC’s Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit-Corrion discussed a huge broadband funding opportunity on the horizon, the latest on the legislation to reimburse counties for veteran property tax exemptions and what’s coming up on the FY23 state budget.

 

DNR seeks county input on outdoor recreation plan

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is updating the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). This plan, which is updated every five years, supports and directs Michigan’s use of its federal Land and Water Conservation Fund apportionment, among other things.

As one aspect of the SCORP update, the state is surveying land managers throughout the state who have information about publicly available outdoor recreation resources and facilities, and insights into key issues facing those resources.

The survey will take about 10 minutes to complete. Thank you for your help in this important effort.

Contact Dustin Isenhoff, Michigan DNR, at 517-275-1468 or IsenhoffD@Michigan.gov with questions about this survey.

 

Michigan voters to rule on changes to legislative term limits

The Michigan Legislature approved a ballot proposal this week that would let voters decide on term limit changes to House and Senate members in November. The House voted in favor, 76-28, of the proposal and the Senate voted in favor the same day, 26-6. Both chambers gave approval without debate or discussion.

Advocates would have needed to collect 425,000 signatures to move to the ballot had the Legislature not acted. The proposal also includes changes to financial disclosure requirements of the Legislature; however, language passed by both Legislature requires far fewer financial details than what has been called for by activists. 

Under the existing constitutional term limits approved by voters in the 1990s, an individual can serve a total of 14 years at the State Capitol, with a maximum of three 2-year terms in the House and two 4-year terms in the Senate.

Under the ballot proposal this fall, the total years would be reduced to 12; however, an individual could serve all of those years in a single chamber.

The proposal does not have any effects on the number of terms a person may serve as a county commissioner.

MAC is reviewing the approved language and has not taken a position on it.

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

 

Medical care facilities win another round on key funding measure

The Senate Health Policy Committee, chaired by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), unanimously approved this week a three-year extension to the county maintenance of effort (MOE) rate for county medical care facilities (MCFs), a key legislative priority for the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC).

House Bill 5875, by Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Lenawee), provides an extension to the MOE freeze until 2025, or until the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) implements a new reimbursement model, whichever is sooner.

MDHHS has been studying and contemplating a new reimbursement model and policies for long-term care facilities. Should a new approach be implemented prior to Dec. 31, 2025, MCFs would transition to the new system under the bill.

Other organizations supporting the bill alongside MCMCFC include MAC, the Health Care Association of Michigan and Leading Age Michigan.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor to await a vote by the full body.

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

 

Clare, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Wayne claim NACo Achievement Awards

Five Michigan counties were among those honored recently by the National Association of Counties in its 2022 Achievement Awards. The Achievement Awards program is a non-competitive awards program that seeks to recognize innovative county government programs. One outstanding program from each category will be selected as the “Best of Category.”

Macomb County led with 12 citations, including seven in the criminal justice field alone.

Oakland County received 11 citations in six different categories for work that included vaccination promotional efforts, a school nurse program and a “Blueprint for Successful Aging.”

Clare and Wayne counties were honored for their work in community and economic development, while Washtenaw County was cited for financial management via its “sustainable investments to preserve natural areas.”

To see descriptions of Best of Category winners nationally and a searchable database of this year’s winners, click here.

 

Treasury to announce awards for first responder recruitment grants

Counties should learn early next week if they are among recipients of first responder recruitment grants issued by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

MAC has learned that awards will reach 44 of our 83 counties. The list of recipients should be available within the next two business days and follow-up letters will be sent out to all communities that applied for the funding.

Treasury received more than 400 applications from local units of government seeking a portion of the $5 million allocated by the Legislature in December 2021 for first responder recruitment and training grants. In total, applications requested more than $29 million, so the program is highly competitive.

Per legislative directive, the department reviewed and ranked all applications according to intended use of the funds and those communities most in need. Funding for recruitment and training was given the highest priority, then the applications were ranked based on those with the lowest taxable value per capita across the state. 

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

 

Seven Michigan county staffers finish leadership academy

Seven Michigan county staff members recently finished their course work in the NACo Leadership Academy, a 12-week online program that empowers front-line county government employees with fundamental leadership skills. Across the country more than 4,600 county employees have participated; this includes 75 from Michigan.

Michigan county staff to complete the Academy this April are:

  • Rebecca Johns, county veteran service officer, Alger County
  • Patrick Mellon, jail administrator / sergeant, Alger County
  • Matthew Newton, deputy county administrator, Cass County
  • Michael Turisk, director of planning and zoning, Cheboygan County
  • Elizabeth Zabik, equalization director, Cheboygan County
  • Chris Roberts, system administrator-network/security, Grand Traverse County
  • Amber Weber, building official, Leelanau County

“At the beginning of the course I was actually struggling with the direction of my future,” said one course participant. “This course provided me with some very valuable insight and thought processes to empower me to be a better leader. The best part was today at lunch, a colleague mentioned that I was somber, and she didn’t like it. I simply told her that I do not see a need to get worked up over some things. This course has helped me to mature as leader.”

Congratulations to all these individuals who completed the program. To learn more about the Academy, click here. Registration for the next cohort is now open.

 

MAC interns end year with ‘modeling gig’

We said goodbye this month to our 2021-22 interns, Noah Peterson and Will Hansen, but not before assigning them one final task: modeling our new “83” brand T-shirt that soon will be on sale at MAC’s Lansing offices and MAC conferences.

If you are interested in an “83” shirt, send an email to dozier@micounties.org.

 

Free MDHHS webinar to focus on crisis response

A May 24 webinar, part of the Interdisciplinary Partnership Series led by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), will focus on crisis response collaboration efforts within the state of Michigan. Representatives from MCOLES, MDHHS, the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, CIT International and The Cardinal Group II will share information related to crisis response partnerships, associated data and information and training opportunities for first responders, law enforcement and behavioral health staff.

The webinar, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., is free through MDHHS.

To register, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1479027180761863696.

For information, contact J. Eric Waddell at jericwaddell@thecardinalgroup2.com.

 

FOIA bills threaten integrity of public bodies

Legislation that alters the Freedom of Information Act in ways detrimental to county government will be up before the House Committee on Oversight (Chair Steve Johnson) next week and MAC needs your voice to urge the House to set aside this ill-advised package.

Among the problems in the package are provisions to impose penalties on public bodies when mistakes are made, an inevitable increase in costs for compliance with the act and the removal of the anonymity of volunteer task force members when serving their communities. 

House Bill 5921, by Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Kent), limits the reason for FOIA request denial to only the ones(s) stated in the beginning. This amendment could have the unintended consequences of releasing protected records if someone didn’t catch the right exemption the first time and could potentially force a local agency to violate other laws. MAC anticipates an amendment that will also require a $500 penalty payable to the requestor should a public body deny a request for the wrong reason. 

House Bill 5923, by Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Muskegon), requires the public body to acknowledge that exempt records exist and provide a description of the record. These amendments will likely require public bodies to consult legal counsel in each record request denial. In addition, this change has the potential of exposing private information that the law was originally intended to protect, especially in cases of mental health allegations, sexual assault allegations, legal opinions and law enforcement investigations, these disclosure requirements undermine the intent of the privacy exemptions. 

House Bill 5924, by Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale), requires that a record in the possession of outside legal counsel be considered to be in the possession of the public body. This amendment blurs the line over what is FOIA-able in an outside legal practice.

House Bill 5925, by Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Kent), allows for civil actions regarding the determination of whether the record is considered primarily for the public benefit and therefore should not be subject to fees for compiling the record. Again, these amendments would open the floodgates of litigation against public bodies, especially by the press who would claim public benefit for every request. Then the public body would likely have to absorb the entire cost of fulfilling these requests to avoid litigation.

MAC is opposed to these bills as written and urges county leaders to use our advocacy platform to send a pre-drafted message of opposition to your House member before next week’s hearings.

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

 

Veterans property tax reimbursement bills stalled in Senate; your voice needed now

Long-sought legislation to properly reimburse local governments for losses due to the state’s property tax exemption for disabled veterans remain stalled in the Senate.      

Senate Bills 783-84, by Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-Newaygo), are the culmination of years of negotiations between counties, other local government organizations, veterans organizations and the Legislature. These bills signify the first time we have all been able to rally around a method for reimbursing local units for their losses due to the veterans exemption. 

The bills provide a reimbursable income tax credit, payable to the local unit, in the amount of the exemption granted to eligible veterans. Nothing in this legislation alters the benefit, nor does it require any additional steps for the disabled veteran. It is a win-win for veterans and locals. 

Nevertheless, although the bills passed out of committee in early March, no action has been taken on the Senate floor on them due to opposition from the Whitmer administration, which is not too keen on the state paying for the consequences of state policy.   

The annual loss to local revenues is estimated at nearly $100 million each year, and that amount is expected to increase as property values rise and veterans trade up for more expensive homes. 

Your voice as a county leader is urgently needed to push the Senate into a vote on these bills before the Legislature reduces its meeting schedule for the summer.

To assist you, MAC has created a message of support which you can email directly to your senator with just a couple of clicks. If each county commissioner across the state contacted their senator in support of reimbursement, we would surely see the legislation move forward in Lansing.

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

 

Podcast 83 resumes live episodes on May 16

The Podcast 83 team will be live on Monday, May 16 to discuss what’s coming up for action in Lansing.

The update will begin at 4 p.m. To join the session, just use this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82867692853.

Viewers will be able to ask questions of the team as well.

In their most recent episode, on May 2, the team discussed state budget news, veterans property tax exemption legislation and the ongoing work of MAC’s six policy committees. Click here to view the video.

If you can’t catch any episode live, a recording will be posted later next week to MAC’s YouTube channel.

And you always can find details about any Podcast 83 episode on the MAC website.

 

Report: Quarter of ‘federal aid’ roads in ‘good’ condition

Michigan made some progress in addressing road conditions in 2021, says a new report from the Transportation Asset Management Council.

In its 2021 Annual Report, the council says Michigan has “… the highest percent of roads rated in good condition since 2005.

“The 2021 condition data for Michigan’s federal-aid eligible paved roads has made progress with

  • 25% Good
  • 42% Fair, and
  • 33% in Poor condition.

In 2020, estimated breakdown was

  • 22% Good,
  • 36% Fair, and
  • 42% were in Poor condition.

“This improvement in road surface condition,” the report says, “may be due in part to several factors including a mix of fixes of road surface treatments and increased revenue.  The reasons for this improvement will be analyzed further and better understood as the 2021 project data becomes available.”

By contrast, conditions with Michigan’s bridges declined in 2021, with 4 percent of them falling into the “severe” category, which “measures the criticality and is a warning that these structures are in jeopardy for closure due to structural concerns that could pose a threat to traffic.”

The council is an appointed group that advises state officials on infrastructure. Kelly Jones, Ingham County Road Department managing director, is the MAC representative on the council.

 

Treasury launches improved document search site

The Michigan Department of Treasury is launching a new and improved Document Search site to provide greater access to local unit audit reports and other related financial information, the department announced this week.

“The Document Search site is a public online repository of document submissions and determinations for local units of government. For example, individuals can view a local unit’s audit or the determination of a local unit’s prior-approval application for borrowing.

“The new Document Search site retains all the previous features while adding new ways to search. New features include:

  • “Search Bar: Type the name of the desired municipality instead of selecting from several cascading dropdowns
  • “Document Groups: Related documents are grouped together into categories, like audit, finance and retirement
  • “Improved Interface: Visual modernization and accessibility improvements

“Effective June 3, 2022, access to the old Document Search site will cease. Individuals are encouraged to add the new site to their browser’s favorites and replace any favorites directing to the old site by June 3, 2022.

“To access the Document Search site via our website, visit www.michigan.gov/localfinancialreporting. Afterward, click on the ‘Document Search’ button.”

 

Behavioral health effort expands to more Michigan counties

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)  has expanded the Behavioral Health Home (BHH) initiative to more Michigan counties to provide intensive care management and coordination services for Medicaid beneficiaries with a serious mental illness (SMI) or serious emotional disturbance (SED).

“The expansion of the BHH will help address the complexity of physical and behavioral health conditions in Michigan and improve access to essential services,” said Elizabeth Hertel, director of MDHHS. “For enrolled beneficiaries, the Health Home will function as the central point of contact for directing patient-centered care across the broader health care system.”

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently approved Michigan’s State Plan Amendment (SPA) to expand its BHH initiative into five counties within two Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan regions (PIHP): CMH Partnership of Southeast Michigan and Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. The expanded SPA will allow thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries meeting the eligibility criteria to receive BHH services.

The Behavioral Health Home is a benefit offered to Medicaid beneficiaries who have been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or a serious emotional disturbance and reside within one of the following PIHP regions/counties:

  • NorthCare Network (counties in the Upper Peninsula)
  • Northern Michigan Regional Entity (21 northernmost counties of the Lower Peninsula)
  • CMH Partnership of Southeast Michigan (Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Washtenaw)
  • Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network (Wayne)
  • Oakland Community Health Network (Oakland)

Individuals who meet the criteria can work with a team of providers who will attend to the beneficiary’s complete health and social needs. Participation is voluntary and enrolled beneficiaries may opt out at any time.

According to a 2019 report, half of Michigan Medicaid beneficiaries with a mental illness do not receive needed treatment in a given year. Behavioral Health Homes are a proven model to increase access to coordinated and integrated care, which is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For BHH information, including eligibility and available resources, visit Michigan.gov/BHH

 

 

MAC corrects list of 10 longest-serving current commissioners

Due to an editing error, Alcona’s Carolyn Brummund was left off the list of longest-serving commissioners published in the April 2022 edition of Michigan Counties. MAC regrets the error.

 

By Will Hansen/Communications and Marketing Intern

Doug Johnson of Otsego County is currently the longest-serving county commissioner in Michigan, having first taken office in 1981. (courtesy photo)

In 1980, Doug Johnson was four years into ownership of his father’s company, Mid-North Printing, in Gaylord. Living and working in a county seat of just 3,000, Johnson already knew several county commissioners and the importance of public service.

So, when a vacancy occurred on the Otsego County Board, Johnson said, “I thought, ‘It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about something.’ (This is my) chance to get in there and make a difference.”

And that he has kept doing – through hundreds of board sessions, 40-odd county budgets, seven U.S. presidents, six Michigan governors and five Masters titles for Tiger Woods. In the process, Johnson has now become the dean of Michigan’s county commissioners.

In late 2021, MAC undertook a survey of continuous office tenure for all of Michigan’s county commissioners. Johnson, now in his 42nd year of service, topped the list.

The challenges of public life came early in Johnson’s tenure, he said, when Otsego was faced with what to do with a 600-acre piece of property that once housed a state hospital. “Since (purchasing the land from the state for $1), the county has been able to revitalize the acreage into a new high school, a community college and the Health Department, which haven’t cost taxpayers anything,” Johnson explained. “People didn’t agree with the move at the time, but since then it’s developed into quite a savings over the years, and I’m proud of that.”

Johnson, of course, has witnessed firsthand just how the responsibilities and routines of county government have changed between the 20th and 21st centuries. “It’s definitely gotten harder,” he said. “People are less patient and more frustrated.”

He’s also seen a change in how public servants are perceived and public life is conducted.

“It used to be you could respect one another and disagree and walk out of the meeting knowing that you disagreed on that, but leave it at the door,” he explained. “It’s just I sense a lot of frustration, which I can understand. But a lot of disrespect, if you will, and rudeness from the general public that I didn’t see 10 or 20 years ago.

“People’s attitudes change towards you once you get into office,” he added. “They are not always going to agree with you. And it’s always a challenge to help them understand why you do what you’re doing, and you’re doing what you think is right for the majority of the people that you serve. I’ve actually lost customers because of something that I took some action on, but I guess if that’s the type of people they are I don’t need them for customers.”

Through all these years, all those meetings, what keeps Johnson going?

“It is still important for me to continue to serve,” he replied. “There is still important work to be done, and ways I can still make a difference to be valuable to my constituents.”

Not content to contain his service to Otsego, Johnson leads the Board of Trustees for Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund and serves on the board of the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority.

Outside of public life, Johnson recently celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with wife Sherry. They have three children and nine grandchildren. In what free time he has, Johnson loves to golf, fish and hunt – and for the past 13 years he’s been a member of a curling club.

Johnson named Ernie Harwell and Arnold Palmer as two inspirational figures in his life. “I met Ernie a couple of times,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to sit in meetings with him and have been able to have a conversation with him afterwards. He was inspiring, had great focus and knew how to treat people with respect.” Johnson also met the golfing great Palmer while at a tournament with his family: “We were invited to a dinner party after the tournament and my family was able to sit with him at his table.”

For those interested in starting a public career, Johnson advised, “Stay focused on the work and be true to yourself, your beliefs and your values.

“It is important to be honest and dependable and follow through on your promises; also, accept the fact that not everybody is going to agree with you and to not beat yourself up over it.”

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