Archive for September, 2022

MAC makes case on trust fund to Senate committee

MAC’s Deena Bosworth testifies in support of revenue sharing legislation as sponsor Sen. Wayne Schmidt looks on during a Sept. 28 hearing at the State Capitol.

Legislation to earmark and increase county revenue sharing for the future was the topic of a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee this week.

Senate Bills 1160 and 1161, by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse) and strongly supported by MAC, would establish a Revenue Sharing Trust Fund and fund it with a carveout from the state’s sales tax.  The money deposited into the fund would stay in the fund for distribution to counties, cities, villages and townships and not lapse to the state’s General Fund at the end of the fiscal year.

The money in the fund would be split, with 50 percent going to county revenue sharing and 50 percent going to cities, villages and townships and could potentially increase county revenue sharing the first year by more than 40 percent.

Distribution to each county would be in the same proportion each was eligible to receive in the FY23 budget, except Emmet County, the last county to return to revenue sharing, would be treated as if they were receiving a full-year allocation going forward. Distribution to each city, village and township would be in the same proportion each was eligible to receive in the FY23 budget. 

The legislation’s method of carving out a percentage of the sales tax for the fund is what revenue sharing was originally designed to do — share in the state’s revenue. If sales tax goes up, local allocations go up, if sales tax revenue falls, so do allocations, just like it does for Constitutional Revenue Sharing for cities, villages and townships.

MAC will continue to advocate for the movement and passage of SBs 1160-61 during the lame duck session this year, but county involvement in the advocacy is essential. MAC would like to thank those counties that have already begun the advocacy campaign with phone calls to senators, letters submitted to committee members and testimony provided at the hearing.

Expect to see an email from MAC next week about how to contact your senator in support of this legislation.

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

 

Senate approves extension for trial court funding

Michigan trial courts would continue to have the authority to impose fees, a critical funding element, until May 1, 2024, under House Bill 5956, a MAC-backed bill approved in the Senate on Wednesday.

The bill now heads to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and must be signed prior to Oct. 1 to avoid a disruption in fee authority.

HB 5956, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), was designed to address the crisis caused by the looming expiration of fee authority on Oct. 1. Courts have long relied on fees to help fund operations. In 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court said, however, that courts could levy only fees specifically designated by the Legislature. MAC led a coalition to enact a legislative fix that was adopted in the fall. That legislation, to place “reasonably related” costs, has been extended twice already.

MAC thanks members who have reached out to their legislators, either directly or via MAC’s digital advocacy tool, in support of court funding.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Deal struck on ‘Zillow’ bill; MAC lends support

Legislation to require release of certain property tax records is now headed to the governor after an intense round of hearings and negotiations led to major revisions and an eventual compromise approved by MAC and other local government stakeholders.

House Bill 4730, by Rep. Julie Calley (R–Ionia), passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday. Commonly known as the “Zillow Bill,” HB 4730 was motivated by the online real estate giant wanting to share specific property tax information on their website. The initial draft of this legislation, however, required county treasurers to provide the public with a “qualified data file” upon request. Treasurers objected to this mandate due to the burden it would place on them, and MAC joined the treasurers in opposition to its original form.

Following an intense hearing in the House Commerce and Tourism Committee, amendments were agreed upon and stakeholders made concessions. The new language states a county treasurer must only provide pertinent information if they have it; they are no longer required to provide any information that is not routinely maintained. After these changes were made, county treasurers got on board and MAC submitted a card of support in the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee last week. The governor is expected to sign the bill.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Huge elections packages advance as MAC remains neutral

Two separate bill packages relating to consolidating the state’s election calendar passed the Senate Elections Committee on Wednesday, with MAC taking a neutral position.

House Bills 4530-33 and Senate Bills 130-133 would change election dates in Michigan by eliminating the May election and pushing the traditional August primary election back to June. The intent is to provide clerks adequate time between the primary and general elections. Additionally, this measure would save counties money by having to conduct fewer elections.

It is typical for less than 15 percent of voters to show up to the polls for the May election, and school millages are traditionally the only item on most ballots. This election is a drain on county resources for such minimal turnout, but the school millage element poses a problem. School groups, including the Michigan Association of School Boards, fear that without the May election their millages are less likely to succeed. An amendment to SB 130 by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason) would introduce a third election in presidential election years only, on the second Tuesday in March. This compromise was not enough for many school groups, however, who ultimately opposed the legislation.

MAC remains neutral on the issue for several reasons. While the financial benefit of eliminating the May election is clear, as is reducing stress on our poll workers and county clerks, counties cannot ignore the situation this puts school boards in. MAC will continue to monitor the legislation should it advance this fall.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Senate approves county mental health transportation panels

County boards of commissioners would have the authority to establish a county mental health transportation panel under House Bill 4414, by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Dickinson), which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

MAC has backed HB 4414, which complements Senate Bill 101, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), now PA 146 of 2022.

HB 4414 now awaits Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Visit Treasury portal on public land payments

Michigan counties with public lands are advised to visit a U.S. Treasury Department application portal on the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund (LATCF). 

The portal launched at 3 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday. Click here to access it.

Treasury informed NACo that the formula focuses predominantly on federal acreage within each unit of local government, as defined by PILT and the Refuge Revenue Sharing program under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Population and various economic conditions (poverty levels, unemployment, etc.) also factor into the formula. The payments will for the most part look like “scaled PILT allocations,” according to Treasury. 

Michigan LATCF Eligible Payments

Treasury will email all eligible recipient counties with more information on the LATCF application process. They will also host a webinar for counties on Oct. 4, so please keep an eye out for that invitation as well.

 

Mining taxes revamp gets hearing in House committee

Testimony was heard this week on a package of bills relating to mining operations during a session of the House Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Committee.

House Bills 6218, 6220, 6254-55, and 6257-58, by Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette) seek to expand mining in Michigan by designating funds to research and development. The legislation would create the Metallic Mineral Mine Reclamation Fund and Ferrous Mining Research and Design Fund. The former would receive $250,000 and the latter would receive $200,000 each year from revenue generated by the minerals severance tax, which is currently allocated toward local governments and the School Aid Fund.

Cambensy expressed a willingness to work with stakeholders through October before advancing the legislation later this fall. MAC plans to engage on this issue and continue its work to protect revenue sources for counties.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Senate approves new judge slots for Allegan and Kalamazoo counties

A bill to add circuit court judgeships in Allegan Kalamazoo counties moved to the House this week after gaining Senate approval.

Senate Bill 1047, by Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), would allow the 9th Judicial Circuit, which consists of Kalamazoo County, to add one additional judge, effective Jan. 1, 2025, increasing the number of judgeships from four to five, and specifies that the term of office for the judgeship would be eight years. The bill also allows the 48th Judicial Circuit, covering Allegan County, to have one additional judgeship beginning Jan. 1, 2025, increasing the number of judgeships from one to two.

SB 1047 is now in the House and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Legislative Update takes fall break

MAC’s Legislative Update email will be taking a two-week break in October, resuming on Friday, Oct. 21.

If you have any legislative questions in the interim, please contact:

For questions regarding job postings, contact Derek Melot (melot@micounties.org) AFTER Oct. 16.

 

Webinar to review constitutional amendments on November ballot

On Nov. 8, 2022, Michigan voters will consider three proposed constitutional amendments:

  • Proposal 1 would modify the implementation of legislative term limits and require certain financial disclosures for state elective offices.
  • Proposal 2 would add several voting and elections provisions to the constitution.
  • Proposal 3 would establish an explicit right to “reproductive freedom,” including all matters related to pregnancy.

Join the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan (CRC) on Wednesday, Oct. 5 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (Eastern) for a free webinar, in partnership with MIRS News, to hear summaries of CRC’s analyses of the proposals.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

CRC does not take positions on ballot issues. In analyzing the questions on the November ballot, CRC hopes to provide more information so voters can make better informed decisions in formulating their votes.

Founded in 1916, the Citizens Research Council of Michigan works to improve government in Michigan. The organization provides factual, unbiased, independent information concerning significant issues of state and local government organization, policy and finance. For more information, visit www.crcmich.org.

 

Staff picks

House approves extension for trial court funding

Michigan trial courts would continue to have the authority to impose fees, a critical funding element, until May 1, 2024, under House Bill 5956, a MAC-backed bill approved in the House on Wednesday.

The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and it must be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prior to Oct. 1 to avoid a disruption in fee authority.

HB 5956, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), was designed to address the crisis caused by the looming expiration of fee authority on Oct. 1. Courts have long relied on fees to help fund operations. In 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court said, however, that courts could levy only fees specifically designated by the Legislature. MAC led a coalition to enact a legislative fix that was adopted in the fall. That legislation, to place “reasonably related” costs, has been extended twice already.

MAC thanks members who have reached out to their legislators, either directly or via MAC’s digital advocacy tool, in support of court funding.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Permanent fund for road patrol clears Legislature

A permanent funding source for Secondary Road Patrol needs only the governor’s signature to become reality after the Senate approved enabling legislation this week.

House Bills 5732 and 5772, by Reps. Tommy Brann (R-Kent) and David Martin (R-Genesee), would allocate $15 million annually for the program from the excise tax on liquor. HB 5773, by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Genesee), was introduced to eliminate the $10 fee on traffic tickets that has funded Secondary Road Patrol, but the bill did not receive support in the Senate. We anticipate the fee will remain in place and revenue will be redirected to another source.

The changes brought by these bills will eliminate the fluctuations in funding based on the number of tickets issued in a given year, which created uncertainty for law enforcement and rural communities.

HBs 5732 and 5772 will now be presented to the governor for signature. This stable annual funding is a big win for county sheriffs that will allow them to better patrol secondary roads and protect rural communities.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Commissioners from Clinton, Macomb and Oakland counties elected to MAC Board of Directors; Kent’s Ponstein becomes 114th Board president

Stan Ponstein of Kent County gives his inaugural address during the President’s Banquet on Sept. 20 at the 2022 Annual Conference.

During regional caucuses held at the Michigan Counties Annual Conference Sept. 18-20 in Port Huron, MAC members elected three new members to the MAC Board of Directors and re-elected two incumbents.

The newest members of the 16-member governing body are:

  • Ken Mitchell of Clinton County
  • Antoinette Wallace of Macomb County
  • William Miller of Oakland County

Returning to the MAC Board for another three-year term are incumbent directors Vaughn Begick of Bay County and Scott Noesen of Midland County. Board members can serve a maximum of three 3-year terms.

Leading the Board will be Stan Ponstein of Kent County, who was sworn in as MAC’s 114th Board president during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Blue Water Convention Center in St. Clair County.

Joining Ponstein as Board officers for the 2022-23 term are Eileen Kowall of Oakland County (first vice president) and Jim Storey of Allegan County (second vice president).

On Sept. 20, during their Annual Business Meeting, MAC members approved policy platforms developed by MAC’s policy committees overseeing issue areas ranging from finance to agriculture and tourism.

“St. Clair County and Port Huron were excellent hosts for us” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director. “It is important as a statewide organization to visit and support all sections of the state, so we were pleased to be able to convene in the Thumb.”

MAC will be posting the presentations from the sessions and photos from the event to www.micounties.org during the week of Sept. 26.

MAC’s 2023 Annual Conference will be Oct. 1-4 in Kalamazoo County.

 

House approves County Veteran Service Fund requirement changes

The County Veteran Service Fund, established by the Legislature in 2018, was created to encourage counties to establish and maintain County Veteran Service Offices. The fund ensures that counties are eligible for a $50,000 grant annually, plus additional funding based on the number of veterans living within the county.

House Bill 6377, by Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Isabella), was approved in the House on Wednesday, to modify the distribution structure of the County Veteran Service Fund.

Under HB 6377, counties must maintain a minimum county veteran service funding level of 70 percent of the funding level from FY 2017 in order to receive the $50,000 grant from the County Veteran Service Fund. The 70 percent funding level requirement was previously only for FYs 2021 and 2022, however, HB 6377 extends the requirement to FY 2023 and beyond.

The bill now moves to the Senate. MAC is neutral on the bill.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Join NACo on Sept. 23 for broadband mapping update

Join NACo staff and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Data Task Force (BDTF) on a webinar on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. (Eastern) for an overview of the ongoing Broadband Data Collection process, which will be used to create an updated national broadband availability map.

The forthcoming broadband availability maps will be instrumental in determining the flow of funds for over $42 billion in funds for broadband deployment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

On Sept. 15, the FCC announced the process for state, local and Tribal governments to file bulk challenges to the data in the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (the “Fabric”), which serves as the foundation for the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) fixed availability maps. Counties will be able to challenge broadband availability data within the FCC’s national maps, if necessary, following their release this November.

To register for the webinar, click here.

 

Staff picks

Stan Ponstein of Kent County gives his inaugural address during the President’s Banquet on Sept. 20 at the 2022 Annual Conference.

During regional caucuses held at the Michigan Counties Annual Conference Sept. 18-20 in Port Huron, MAC members elected three new members to the MAC Board of Directors and re-elected two incumbents.

The newest members of the 16-member governing body are:

Returning to the MAC Board for another three-year term are incumbent directors Vaughn Begick of Bay County and Scott Noesen of Midland County. Board members can serve a maximum of three 3-year terms.

Leading the Board will be Stan Ponstein of Kent County, who was sworn in as MAC’s 114th Board president during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Blue Water Convention Center in St. Clair County.

Joining Ponstein as Board officers for the 2022-23 term are Eileen Kowall of Oakland County (first vice president) and Jim Storey of Allegan County (second vice president).

On Sept. 20, during their Annual Business Meeting, MAC members approved policy platforms developed by MAC’s policy committees overseeing issue areas ranging from finance to agriculture and tourism.

“St. Clair County and Port Huron were excellent hosts for us” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director. “It is important as a statewide organization to visit and support all sections of the state, so we were pleased to be able to convene in the Thumb.”

MAC’s 2023 Annual Conference will be Oct. 1-4 in Kalamazoo County.

County leaders gather in St. Clair County next week

The installation of Kent County’s Stan Ponstein as MAC’s 114th Board President is one of many highlights planned for the 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference, which begins Sunday, Sept. 18 in St. Clair County.

MAC, along with partner Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC), will set up shop in the county’s Blue Water Convention Center along the shores of the St. Clair River, just south of Lake Huron. On Monday, Sept. 19, attendees will be welcomed by former St. Clair commissioner Howard Heidemann, who was tireless in his efforts to convince MAC to visit his county and use the facility.

Serving as master of ceremonies for the event will be current MAC Board President Phil Kuyers of Ottawa County.

Plenary events include panels on the current challenges in broadband expansion, the energy industry’s impact on and future in Michigan and the biennial MAC Legislative Update from Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth and State of MAC report from Executive Director Stephan Currie.

Conference attendees will enjoy this view of the St. Clair River and the Blue Water Bridge at the 2022 Annual Conference next week.

The conference also will provide 12 policy breakouts designed for MAC attendees and specialized workshops for MCMCFC members, who can earn Continuing Education credits.

“The past two weeks have been a bit of blur, of course, as all of the numerous details for the conferences are worked out,” said Currie. “We think we are ready. We are excited to have St. Clair County host us. And we hope everyone has a good time.”

County leaders who have not registered can do so at the conference site beginning on Sunday at noon. MAC is advising that hotel space remains available, too (though not at the special conference rates).

Commissioners attending the full conference also will perform their duties in choosing MAC Board directors for five seats (1 at-large, 1 in Region 5, 1 in Region 4 and 2 in Region 6) and review and approve MAC’s policy platforms for 2022-23.

The culminating event for the conference will be the President’s Banquet on Tuesday, Sept. 20, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where Ponstein will give his inaugural address.

For information on conference activities, click here or email conference@micounties.org.

 

MAC recognizes Lenawee on its bicentennial

MAC’s Stephan Currie below the dome of Lenawee’s refurbished courthouse.

Executive Director Stephan Currie had extra duties this week as he arrived at the Lenawee County Courthouse in Adrian.

In addition to making one of his regular “County Visits” to brief members on MAC’s advocacy, educational and business services, Currie also delivered a Proclamation of Tribute from MAC to the county on its 200th anniversary.

“On Sept. 10, 1822 by order of Michigan Territory Governor Lewis Cass, and five years after Monroe County was divided from Wayne County, the expansive state border land was split further to the west to form Lenawee County,” states the county’s bicentennial webpage. “The county had rolling hills and deciduous woods to the north, the Great Black Swamp to the south and east. Lake after lake dotted the northern boundaries of Lenawee County, a name derived from the local indigenous word for ‘man.’”

After his appearance before the Lenawee Board, Currie also had time to tour the county’s old courthouse, refurbished at the cost of about $8.8 million earlier this year.

 

MAC offices will close for conference

MAC offices in Lansing will be closed Sept. 19-21 and Sept. 23 due to 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference. The MAC offices will be open on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Massive reform of county revenue sharing introduced

Sen. Wayne Schmidt finalizes paperwork to file legislation for a massive reform of county revenue sharing in Michigan.

Legislation to increase county revenue sharing and protect it from the annual appropriations process is now before the Michigan Legislature.

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse), Senate Bills 1160 and 1161 earmark 10 percent of the state’s sales tax for deposit each year into a new “Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.” Money in the fund has to be sent out each year, so the state can’t divert the dollars into its General Fund for other uses.

In addition, the bills require that 50 percent of that 10 percent be distributed to counties, with the other half going to cities, villages and townships in accordance with the distribution methodology in the FY23 budget (except for Emmet County, the last county back in the state revenue sharing formula, which would be treated as if it was a full year).

If enacted, counties could see an increase of at least 43 percent on their current revenue sharing dollars in the first year.  Additional increases would be based on the growth of the state’s sales tax.

The bills, developed by MAC in consultation with Schmidt and others, have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In the coming weeks, MAC will be sending out a digital advocacy campaign link and additional talking points for counties to use when reaching out to their legislators in support of these bills.

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

 

Opioids payment notice is out; review your document carefully

Counties will soon receive their first payment from the national Opioid Distributor Settlement. On Sept. 7, the notice regarding Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor settlement was sent to local governments.

Please note, however, that this notice reflects only Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor Settlement and does not include any funds from the Janssen Distributor Settlement. A separate notice will be sent regarding the Janssen funds.

Once counties have received the notice for Payment 1, they must take action as provided in the notice to receive payment as soon as possible.

BrownGreer, the national settlement administrator for both settlements, is responsible for providing notice to counties for settlement payments. This notice is crucial to receiving payment and outlines the Michigan State-Subdivision Agreement, how to receive payment, how to reallocate payment and information regarding the Special Circumstance Fund.

The Special Circumstance Fund provides additional opioid abatement funding to address a special circumstance of the opioid epidemic that was not addressed by the original calculations for local government’s allocation percentage. Counties are eligible to apply to the Special Circumstance Fund by Oct. 28. In addition to applying to the Special Circumstance Fund, counties have the right to dispute the calculation of the payment they will receive within 21 calendar days of receiving their settlement payment notice.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at Gibson@micounties.org.

 

Solar PILT bills receive Senate hearing

Legislation to create an optional structure for the taxes levied on solar facilities in Michigan received a hearing this week before the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology.

After years of participation on workgroups to ensure local options, a stable funding source, appropriate zoning considerations and adequate local reimbursements, MAC has taken a neutral position on the legislation.

Senate Bills 1106 and 1107, by Sens. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason) and Kevin Daley (R-Lapeer), would allow for the creation of solar energy districts by local municipalities after a mandatory public hearing.  Subsequently, solar energy developers could apply for an exemption from local property taxes and instead pay a flat rate of $7,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity for the proposed solar energy facility, instead of ad valorem property taxes. The payment would be locked in for 20 years and distributed based on the proportions of normal taxes that would have been paid to each taxing unit. 

An additional financial incentive would be offered for developers that choose to site their facilities on brownfield properties, in opportunity zones, as a secondary use on already improved real property (i.e., roof tops) or on state-owned property. In such cases, the reimbursement rate would be $2,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity. 

The impetus behind the legislation is twofold. First, this methodology for compensating locals for lost taxes will provide financial predictability for the developers and the locals, hopefully avoiding the same problems we have had with the challenges to the evaluation of wind turbines.  Second, the rate and process should serve as incentives for developers to build more renewable energy facilities in the state.  

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

 

Counties can again apply for rural broadband funds

Applications are now open for another round of funding for rural broadband through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service program, ReConnect. 

Eligible applicants can apply through the Rural Utilities Service portal by clicking here.  The application deadline is Nov. 2.

The ReConnect Loan and Grant Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

Award funds may be used to pay for the following costs:

  • To fund the construction or improvement of facilities required to provide fixed terrestrial broadband service.
  • To fund reasonable pre-application expenses.
  • To fund the acquisition of an existing system that does not currently provide sufficient access to broadband (eligible for 100 percent loan requests only).

Only projects that USDA determines to be financially feasible and sustainable will be eligible for an award. An eligible project must demonstrate a positive ending cash balance as reflected in the cash flow statement for each year of the forecast period and demonstrate positive cash flow from operations by the end of the forecast period. Eligible projects must also meet at least two of the following requirements: a minimum Times Interest Earned Ratio (TIER) requirement of 1.2, a minimum Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) requirement of 1.2, and a minimum Current Ratio of 1.2.

For more details on the program, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

 

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