State program will help homeowners on septic work

Michigan homeowners may be eligible for a $50,000 low-interest loan to replace their septic systems under a new program. The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) has launched the Septic Replacement Loan Program in partnership with Michigan Saves, a nonprofit green bank.

Systems must be failing or near-failing to qualify for financing. Failing septic systems can contaminate groundwater, leading to a public health crisis. However, homeowners are often unable to repair or replace their systems due to financial constraints.

Those interested in applying for the program must first seek a bid from an authorized septic installation contractor, then contact their local health department to obtain a construction permit. The final step is to apply for a loan online. The available loan options have an average interest rate of 7.67% with a 15-year term.

While the proposed statewide septic code legislation has not yet had a public hearing and is far from becoming law, financing for homeowners has been a major concern for MAC. The Septic Replacement Loan Program is a step in the right direction to help address some of those concerns, with or without legislative change.

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

 

Bill to make state law on lake levels more flexible gets hearing

A bill aimed at amending the state law on inland lake levels received a legislative hearing this week.

Senate Bill 662, by Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Oakland), would redefine the “normal lake level” to account for temporary fluctuations caused by weather conditions and construction or repair activities. The current statute and recent court decisions that require counties to maintain a static lake level or to petition circuit courts to amend lake level orders when deviations occur is a time-consuming and costly process. SB 662, which is before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation, intends to streamline this process by retroactively changing the definition to include the variations.  By broadening the definition, counties and lake level districts should be able to avoid unnecessary lawsuits and repeated court proceedings, ultimately conserving both financial and administrative resources.

The bill is supported by the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners and the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment.

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

 

Bill would exempt broadband expansion grants from taxation

A tax exemption may help to foster broadband expansion under proposed legislation. House Bill 5682, by Rep. Jen Hill (D-Marquette), was brought before the House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee for an initial hearing on Tuesday. The legislation would exempt broadband expansion grants from taxable income.

When a broadband provider is awarded a grant by the state or federal government, they must pay 6% percent in corporate income tax. Most of these grants require a match from the broadband provider, so they are financially invested in addition to the awarded funds. Peninsula Fiber Network shared during committee that they were awarded $61 million by the federal government, they matched $26 million in private funds and are now required to pay $5 million in taxes. That $5 million could have been used to connect additional customers.

The counter argument is that, at present, the $5 million goes into the state’s General Fund. However, the tax collected on broadband expansion grants can hardly be accounted for by Treasury each year, as it is unpredictable and circumstantial.

MAC did not take a position on the legislation but has discussed it with stakeholders. It was supported in committee by the Broadband Association of Michigan and Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

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

 

Bill to boost maintenance work on drains gets House hearing

A bill to raise the current maintenance dollar limitation from $5,000 per mile per year to $10,000 per mile per year on county drains received a hearing this week before the House Committee on Local Government.

House Bill 5188, by Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw), would change current law that limits the amount of maintenance work drain commissioners can perform on a single drain in a year to $5,000 per mile. This limit places stringent constraints on what a drain commissioner can do to perform maintenance on existing drainage systems each year. Whether the existing drainage system is an open channel ditch/watercourse or an enclosed underground system, much of the necessary maintenance of current drainage infrastructure across the state cannot be efficiently performed under the current limit, causing the commissioners to maintain smaller sections each year and redeploying equipment and personnel in subsequent years to properly maintain the drain.

The bill was not voted on this week, but further action is anticipated.

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

 

No Legislative Update for May 31

MAC’s Legislative Update will take a one-week hiatus due to the legislative break for the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island May 28-31.

Expect the next Legislative Update on Friday, June 7.

For any late-breaking legislative news, watch for MAC special alerts or check our website at www.micounties.org.

 

May 29 webinar to focus on rail crossing grants

A session focused on the Rail Crossing Elimination (RCE) grant, a federal program available to states and communities for improving the safety and mobility of people and goods, will be held on May 29 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern.

Click here to register.

Now approaching its second application period at the end of May, the program in its inaugural year delivered $570 million in grants to eliminate nearly 400 rail crossings in 32 states.

Attendees will hear from the Federal Railroad Administration on the program, including best practices for applicants. We will also feature a case study of a successful grant in Franklin Park, Illinois, including local and county perspective and insight from the project’s partner railroad CPKC on working with railroads on grant projects.

 

Treasury sets schedule for correcting millage rate errors

The Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury) reminds municipalities that, although not required, they can review and correct errors in Treasury’s calculation of each municipality’s millage rate eligible for the 2024 Personal Property Tax (PPT) reimbursement (MCL 123.1345(x)(ii)(B) and MCL 123.1353(5)). 

The Local Community Stabilization Authority (LCSA) Act requires Treasury to make the eligible millage rate calculations available by May 1. The eligible millage rate calculations can be found on Treasury’s 2024 PPT Reimbursements website under the “Millage Rate Comparison Reports” heading. These 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports are intended to be used by municipalities to verify the accuracy of the eligible millage rates to be used in their 2024 PPT reimbursement calculations. 

How to Review the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports:

  1. Verify Individual Millage Rate(s) Levied in 2023
    1. Municipalities should compare the individual millage rate(s) levied in 2023 on the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports with the millage rates reported on their 2023 Form 614 – Tax Rate Request (L-4029).
    2. Each millage rate reported on the 2023 Form 614 should be listed on the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports (excluding special assessments).
  2. Verify Calculated Millage Rate Used in the Computation
    1. The calculated millage rates to be used in the 2024 PPT reimbursement calculations should equal the lesser of the eligible millage cap and the 2023 millage rate.
    2. The Millage Rate Calculation tab of the Excel workbook provides information about how each eligible millage rate is calculated.
    3. NOTE: Calculated eligible millage rates may be prorated and thus may not reflect the actual millage rates levied by the municipality.

When NO Millage Rate Errors Are Identified:

If a municipality does not identify an error in the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports, the municipality does not need to file a form or take any further action to notify Treasury.

When Errors ARE Identified:

If a municipality does identify an error in the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports, the municipality will need to complete the Form 5613Millage Rate Correction for the 2024 Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Calculations to notify Treasury of the error(s). In addition to the correction form, municipalities must provide substantiating documentation to support the millage correction.

The reporting forms related to the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports (along with the associated deadlines) are available on Treasury’s PPT Reimbursements website under Forms and Instructions.

  1. Form 5608Portion of 2023 Essential Services Millage Rate Dedicated for the Cost of Essential Services
    1. Optional form to be used by counties, cities, villages, townships, and local authorities that levy an extra-voted millage rate that partially funds the cost of essential services (for example a Fire/Cemetery millage).
    2. NOTE: For extra-voted millage rates with a name that implies the millage was partially dedicated for the cost of essential services, Treasury has identified the millage type as “PARTIAL ESSENTIAL SERVICE” on the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports.
    3. DUE DATE: Aug. 1, 2024
       
  2. Form 5613Millage Rate Correction for the 2024 Personal Property Tax Reimbursement Calculations
    1. Optional form to be used by municipalities that identify an error in the 2024 Millage Rate Comparison Reports.
    2. DUE DATE: Aug. 1, 2024

The corrections reported on Form 5613 and the essential services percentage reported on Form 5608 will be used in the calculation of the 2024 PPT reimbursements.

Form 5613 and Form 5608 submissions will not be accepted after Aug. 1, 2024.

Please direct any questions regarding the PPT reimbursement calculation or correction process to TreasORTAPPT@michigan.gov or 517-335-7484.

 

Comparing the FY25 revenue sharing proposals

As the state budget for fiscal 2025 heads to the Legislature’s Conference Committee, differing proposals for county revenue sharing from the governor and legislative chambers will be on the table. Each plan aims to address the fiscal needs of counties with varying methodologies and financial implications.

As seen in the chart, the three proposals have significant differences.

The governor favors a traditional approach of ongoing and one-time increases still subject to the annual appropriations process.

The House wishes to follow the MAC-supported Revenue Sharing Trust Fund model built on a sales tax carve-out, thereby allowing for a steady increase in funding and ensuring a link between economic activity and county funding.

The Senate takes the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund model further with a larger chunk of the sales tax and an inverse relationship to taxable value, meaning counties with lower taxable values receive a larger share of the increase. This results in a $52.5 million increase, with the average county seeing a boost of approximately 20 percent.

The Senate’s proposal, which MAC favors, aims to provide more substantial financial support, particularly to counties with lower taxable values, thereby addressing disparities and promoting equitable distribution of resources.

To see how the different approaches affect your county, click here.

The challenge now before the Conference Committee, armed with final spending data from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (see item below), lies in balancing the ambitious increases proposed by the Senate with the more conservative approaches of the governor and House, all while ensuring the final agreement meets the varied needs of counties.

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

 

State has $14.26 billion to use for FY25 General Fund

Michigan’s legislators will have $236 million more available for the fiscal 2025 General Fund budget than was expected in January.

In its final session before the Legislature completes its 2025 budget work, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC) concluded there will be a net amount of $14.26 billion to spend for the General Fund, state spending plan that covers many county-related functions.

This figure is up $235.6 million from the CREC projection from January 2024.

These conferences are required by statute to determine the state of Michigan’s financial resources as lawmakers draft annual budgets.

“With Michigan’s revenue outlook appearing to be stable if not growing slightly, we hope to see the manifestation of growth to continue to benefit not just the state, and infrastructure, but with counties as well through revenue sharing,” said MAC’s Deena Bosworth.

Notable information from the May 17 presentation on Michigan’s economy and budget:

  • The state would enter FY25 with a “rainy day” reserve fund of $2.1 billion, after substantial growth in interest earnings. As recently as FY19, the reserve fund held only $1.15 billion.
  • CREC continues to show the state falling further below the revenue limit imposed by the Headlee Amendment, which was adopted in the 1970s. For the next two fiscal years, the state could raise an additional $12 billion ― essentially a second state General Fund ― and still comply with Headlee’s restrictions.
  • The housing affordability outlook is not good, but, conversely, that is positive news for businesses involved in home construction that are trying to fill unmet demand.
  • Michigan employment is above pre-pandemic levels.
  • Inflation in Michigan is “turning slowly,” with housing the major issue there.

For more information on MAC’s budget advocacy, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Policy Summit will focus on financial issues with opioids, roads, jails

The 2024 MAC Policy Summit on June 25 will feature briefings on Medicaid jail policies, the latest news on using opioid settlement dollars, a potentially massive shift in how Michigan funds its roads and an overview of counties’ long-term fiscal health.

Registration is now open for the session, with a $75 fee covering either the virtual option or attendance in-person at the AC Hotel Lansing just off U.S. 127 in the capital city.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

The event is designed to allow county leaders to get to and from Lansing in a reasonable schedule. However, MAC has secured a room block at the AC Hotel (3160 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing) for $149 per night.

Agenda

9 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.: Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:40 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.: Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy and the Medicaid Section 1115 Waiver

  • Presenters: Robert Sheehan, CEO, Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, and Samantha Gibson, governmental affairs associate, MAC

10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.: Opioid Settlement Funds: Year in Review

  • Presenter: Amy Dolinky, technical adviser, opioid settlement funds planning and capacity building, MAC

11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Lunch

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.: Why and How to Conduct a Road Usage Charge Pilot in Michigan

  • Presenter: Baruch Feigenbaum, senior managing director of transportation policy, Reason Foundation

1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.: Beyond the Numbers: Assessing the Resilience of Michigan County Governments’ Finances

  • Presenter: Stephanie Leiser, lead, Michigan Local Government Fiscal Health Project at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy

For more details on the presentations, the hotel and parking tips, visit MAC’s events page.

Participants in the summit will earn 1 credit hour toward certification in MAC’s County Commissioner Academy.

 

Legislator remarks, energy law featured in new MAC videos

The Legislative Panel was held on May 1 at the 2024 Legislative Conference. (Rod Sanford Photography)

MAC has added new videos to its YouTube playlist from the 2024 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference in Lansing, April 29-May 1:

  • Energy Siting Law Workshop (April 30) led by Sarah Mills of the University of Michigan
  • Basics of Public Act 233
  • What’s a county to do under the act?
  • Pros and cons of available options
  • Legislative Panel held on May 1
  • Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt on indigent defense reform
  • Comments on public safety funding
  • Rep. John Fitzgerald on road funding
  • Rep. Graham Filler on partisan dynamics in the House

Presentations and other documents from the conference can be found on MAC’s website.

 

Prospects for huge revenue sharing gain detailed in podcast

Legislators continue to grind on a fiscal 2025 state budget, a document that could yield a massive reform in county revenue sharing, a Podcast 83 team member detailed this week in a new episode.

While the governor, the House and the Senate all have proposed increases in revenue sharing, it’s the Senate approach that is most attractive, said Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth.

Like the House, the Senate is pursuing MAC’s trust fund proposal of carving out a portion of the state sales tax for use in dedicated fund for counties.

“(The Senate) wants to do 9.1 percent of the state sales tax for cities, villages, townships and counties. And they are not doing the public safety percentage (which the House is pursuing),” Bosworth said. “So, Sen. (John) Cherry made the recommendation that we’re going to take a bigger piece of the sales tax, which is a $52.5 million increase. He says whatever your county got in fiscal year 24 is absolutely the minimum. And then that additional $52.5 million that he is recommending for this year is going to get distributed out to counties based on an inverse relationship to their taxable value.”

In other Capitol news:

  • Samantha Gibson explained MAC’s opposition to a bill on prisoners earning release credits that could disrupt the state’s “Truth in Sentencing” rules.
  • Madeline Fata explained the huge burdens that could fall on county clerks and other local election officials if the current version of the so-called “Michigan Voting Rights Act” legislation were to be adopted.

View the full episode, recorded on May 13, by clicking here.

Previous episodes can be seen at MAC’s YouTube Channel.

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

 

Register now for next ‘Chart Chat’ webinar from Michigan Treasury

Registration is open for Treasury’s next “Chart Chat” webinar on Thursday, May 30. The session will run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern.

Click here to register.

The Chart Chat webinar series provides local governments with critical information related to accounting and auditing topics, measuring local government fiscal health, and other important updates from Treasury.

Topics covered in this session will include:

  • Corrective Action Plans
  • Numbered Letters Update
  • Budget Projection Tool
  • Uniform Actuarial Assumptions (PA 202 of 2017)
  • Headlee Overview

Presentations and recordings from this webinar, along with previous webinars, can be found at TREASURY – BLGSS Learning Center. For support related to Treasury’s local government services, visit the TREASURY – Contact Information.

 

Check out documents, videos from MAC conference

Deena Bosworth gives the MAC Legislative Update at the 2024 Legislative Conference on April 30. (Rod Sanford Photography)

Resources from the 2024 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference are now available to members who were unable to attend the event, held April 29-May 1 in Lansing.

The conference resources page includes presentations slides, related documents and links to photos and videos.

“Those Revenue Sharing Trust Fund bills say we want to carve out 8 percent of the first 4 percentage points of the state sales tax, put that into a fund and then pay our revenue sharing payments out of that,” explained Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth in her Legislative Update to the conference. “And that’s exactly what the House did. We couldn’t have asked for better. Until we get to the Senate.

“Then the Senate made their recommendations just a couple of days later. And in the Senate recommendations that is very much like a trust fund that we’ve been asking for. But they did it a little differently. … What they did was take 9.1 percent of (first 4 percentage points of) the state sales tax and dedicate that. … The Senate recommendation says whatever you are getting in fiscal year 24, you will always get because that’s your base amount. And then this additional $52.5 million would be distributed out on top of that base amount to counties in a way that is an inverse relationship to your taxable value in your county.”

See Bosworth’s full slide deck by clicking here. And MAC’s Issue Brief on the revenue sharing issue is found here.

Among videos available at the resource hub are ones from county leaders reporting on their work to deploy opioid settlement dollars to bolster services for those with substance use disorders. And more video segments will be added to the list in the days ahead from the Legislative Panel discussion on May 1 and other conference presentations.

 

Prisoner productivity credit bills introduced in Senate

A package to allow certain prisoners to earn productivity credits to reduce their sentence was introduced in the Senate this week.

Senate Bills 861864 would only apply to future sentences in allowing prisoners to receive productivity credits. Under the legislation, prosecutors would be required to notify victims at the time of sentencing that an earlier release date is possible ― if the offender completes productivity credits.

While completing productivity credits would deem a prisoner eligible for early release, the parole board will still recommendations regarding release dates, with final decisions remaining with judges and prosecutors.

SBs 861-864 would remove truth-in-sentencing, leaving many victims of crime with uncertainty regarding the minimum sentence their offender would serve.

The bills have been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

MAC has joined the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office in opposing this legislation.

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

 

MAC-backed bill to expand drug courts passes House

Legislation to expand drug treatment court availability was voted out of the House this week. For several months, it remained on the House floor, needing a majority to be reinstated after the special elections in mid-April to receive enough votes.

House Bill 4525, by Rep. Graham Filler (R-Clinton), would allow certain offenders to be admitted to a drug treatment court with the approval of the judge, prosecutor and any known victim.

HB 4525 is part of a three-bill package, including HBs 4523 and 4524, by Reps. Kara Hope (D-Ingham) and Joey Andrews (D-Berrien), respectively. The package would expand the use of mental health and drug treatment courts, which are currently limited to nonviolent offenders, to include certain violent offenders ― but again only with approval from a judge and prosecutor and consent of any victim.

The bills now move to the governor.

MAC supports this legislation.

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

 

House moves court data collection bill

Crucial legislation to promote court funding reform was concurred by the House on Thursday and sent to the governor for her signature.

HB 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), would require the State Court Administrative Office to complete data collection and turn over to the Legislature by May 1, 2026, for advancement towards implementing the 2019 Trial Court Funding Commission recommendations.

HB 5534 was originally “tie-barred” to HB 5392, which extended the sunset on court fee authority to Dec. 31, 2026, and was signed by the governor last week.

MAC supports HB 5534 and long has supported adoption of the funding commission’s recommendations.

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

 

County leaders, legislators discuss policy needs at 2024 conference

Keynoter Dr. Peter Cressy emphasized the need for leaders to be adaptable in times of crisis and change in his conference address. (Rod Sanford Photography)

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” With these words from Winston Churchill, Dr. Peter Cressy concluded his keynote address to the 2024 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference on Tuesday in Lansing.

Cressy spoke to a filled conference hall at the event, which drew nearly 300 county leaders and others to Lansing this week.

Earlier on Tuesday, MAC honored its County Advocate Award winners for legislative work done in 2023.

Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw) was lauded for championing Revenue Sharing Trust Fund legislation that would fulfill a longstanding MAC priority. Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason) was honored for “commitment to preserving local control and championing legislation that helps counties provide services to the best of their abilities.”

During a legislative panel on Wednesday, attendees heard all four participants ― Sens. Aric Nesbitt and Jeremy Moss and Reps. John Fitzgerald and Graham Filler ― pledge support for “proper” revenue sharing, with Moss, Filler and Fitzgerald endorsing the trust fund reform effort.

National Association of Counties President Mary Jo McGuire of Ramsay County, Minnesota, not only delivered an address on her “ForwardTogether” initiative but spent two days with attendees making connections at receptions and presentations.

“We’re pleased at well everything came together,” said Executive Director Stephan Currie. “We had more than 30 legislators attend our reception on Tuesday evening, at a time when there were several other major events going on in Lansing. This shows the importance of counties at the state level.”

Materials from the conference’s Plenary sessions and 12 policy breakouts can be found at MAC’s website. In coming weeks, MAC also will be adding video segments from the event to its YouTube channel.

MAC’s next major educational event is the 2024 Policy Summit, to be held June 25 in Lansing and via zoom. Details and registration information should be released in mid-May.

 

FY25 state budget bills, with key trust fund, advance another step

Budget work continued in the Legislature this week with various spending bills gaining approval of each chamber’s full appropriations committee.

Click here to see a review of county spending issues from the April 26 Legislative Update.

A focus of MAC’s budget work right now is enactment of its Revenue Sharing Trust Fund proposal, as each chamber’s appropriators have now endorsed the concept, but with different provisions.

As detailed in this Issue Brief and by Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth at this week’s Legislative Conference, House and Senate appropriations panels want to set up a dedicated trust fund using a portion of state sales tax receipts. The Senate version would secure a larger slice than the House’s, yielding $52 million more for counties in FY25 alone.

To gain the higher amount, MAC is working with legislators to address how the budget handles a separate “public safety fund” pushed by House Democrats.

As budget work accelerates in advance of the Legislature’s June 30 deadline to finish its fiscal work, keep an eye out for MAC Advocacy Alerts so you can add your voice to MAC’s call for maximizing revenue sharing.

For more information on MAC’s budget advocacy, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Governor signs trial court funding extension 

A key part of funding for trial courts in Michigan is again secure for another 30 months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 5392 this week.

Extension of the ability of local judges to impose fees, this time to Dec. 31, 2026, was a MAC priority for the 2024 legislative year.

HB 5392, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), moved the extension of fee authority from May 1, 2024 to Dec. 31, 2026.

A related measure, House Bill 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), has not yet received a final vote of concurrence in the House. HB 5534 would require the State Court Administrative Office to complete data collection and turn over to the Legislature by May 1, 2026, for advancement towards implementing the 2019 Trial Court Funding Commission recommendations.

MAC supports HB 5534 and long has supported adoption of the funding commission’s recommendations.

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

 

Troubling election bills get Senate hearing

Election bills that would impose sweeping new duties on local governments received a hearing in a Senate committee this week. Known collectively as the “Michigan Voting Rights Act,” Senate Bills 401-404 were introduced to bolster federal law and voting rights in the state for members of a protected class and for disabled electors. While the intent is straightforward, the practical implementation would be complex and could expose locals to frivolous legal challenges.

Local governments will have an incalculable degree of legal liability. SB 401, by Sen. Darin Camilleri (D-Wayne), for example, prohibits a local government from impairing a protected class from participating in elections or the political process, but many of the listed impairments are beyond the control of a local government or conflict with Michigan election law.

The other major bill of concern is SB 403, by Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Wayne), which mandates local governments must provide language assistance for elections. This includes providing translated signage, forms, ballots and a communication system that offers translation to electors. The local government will have to rely on the Secretary of State’s Office to produce these materials.

MAC opposed the bills when they were first introduced but is still working through the latest amendments. We will be meeting with bill sponsors and various stakeholders in the coming weeks in anticipation of further committee discussion.

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

 

Van Buren Commissioner Gail Patterson-Gladney receives her certificate from MAC President Jim Storey. (Rod Sanford Photography)

More than 60 commissioners graduate from MAC academy

MAC’s County Commissioner Academy (CCA) honored its largest graduating class ever during a Plenary session on Tuesday, April 30 at the 2024 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference.

Sixty-six county commissioners earned recognition as “certified” or “advanced.” Commissioners who attended the conference were presented their certificate by MAC President Jim Storey. Those who were unable to attend will be shipped their certificate.

Participants in CCA earn continuing education “hours” by attending designated events and workshops. “Certification” is offered at two different levels: “Certified” is reached at 10 hours, while “Advanced” is reached with 20 hours. In addition to MAC events, credit-qualified presentations also are offered by MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Treasury.

For a full list of this year’s graduates and more information on the academy, click here.

 

MACSC provides $250 prizes to 2 lucky conference attendees

Commissioner Jeri Strong of Mecosta County and Administrator Katie Zeits of Benzie County were the winners of the MACSC Exhibitor Bingo drawing at the 2024 Legislative Conference on Wednesday, May 1.

Each received $250 after their completed bingo cards were drawn from a bowl by MAC President Jim Storey and Executive Director Stephan Currie.

In the last decade, MAC Service Corp. has issued more than $7,000 in cash prizes to attendees of MAC’s two major conferences each year.

 

Extension for court fee authority heads to governor

Legislation to secure key trial court funding now awaits the governor’s signature after a vote in the Senate this week. 

House Bill 5392, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), extends a quickly approaching May 1, 2024, expiration (“sunset”) of the authority of trial courts to levy fees that constitute a key part of their operational funding.

HB 5392 was previously “tie-barred” to House Bill 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), which outlines a plan for the State Court Administrative Office to conduct data collection on certain trial court costs and revenue sources and provide a report to the Legislature with proposals to implement the Trial Court Funding Commission’s recommendations from 2019. See more details in this MAC Issue Brief.

On Wednesday, the Senate broke the tie bar, meaning the bills no longer must advance together. With this amendment to the bills, they were sent back to the House for a concurrence vote. The House passed HB 5392 with broad support and HB 5534 failed along party lines. It is expected that the Democrats will regain majority in the House on Tuesday next week and will pass HB 5534 at that time.

With HB 5392 headed to the governor this week, MAC expects the sunset to be extended prior to its expiration on May 1.    

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

 

After hiatus, legislators accelerate FY25 budget work

Budget proceedings ramped up in the Legislature this week with a remarkable increase proposed for county revenue sharing.

Both the House and Senate General Government subcommittees used the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund model proposed by MAC as guidance when making their recommendations. The Senate subcommittee was most generous by dedicating 9.1 percent of the first 4 percentage points of the state sales tax for local revenue sharing. This would mean a $52.5 million increase from last year. The House subcommittee recommended 8 percent of the first 4 percentage points of the state sales tax with an increase of $11.9 million.

The House’s proposal reflects the provisions outlined in House Bills 4274-75, which MAC has been advocating for since March 2023. The bills would establish the Revenue Sharing Trust Fund in statute and dedicate a portion of the state’s sales tax to locals, allowing for a true sharing in the state’s revenue. The bills passed the House in November 106-4.

The governor’s FY25 budget did not follow the trust fund model; it calls for a 5 percent increase in base funding and 3 percent for locals that hit ARPA funding allocation requirements.

More details on these proposals will be presented on Tuesday at MAC’s Legislative Conference in Lansing.

Courts

In other great news, funding panels in both chambers recommended more dollars for local prosecutors. These grants would serve to “bring staffing closer to optimal levels to reduce the average caseload per attorney.” The House General Government Subcommittee included $3 million, while the Senate subcommittee included $35 million. There is a caveat to the Senate funds, however: they would only go toward the 15 counties with the most violent crime.

Transportation

Both the House and Senate Transportation subcommittees expressed interest in a mileage-based user fee via a pilot project by allocating $5 million in their budget plans for FY25. The concept of a milage-based user fee is to charge people for the miles they drive rather than how much gas they consume.

While the specifics of the pilot project have not yet been solidified, participation will be voluntary, and participants will be reimbursed for what they pay in gas tax while the study is active. While Michigan is already billions of dollars short on road funding, electric vehicles and high-efficiency vehicles are exacerbating the issue by contributing much less to motor fuel tax revenue.

Nineteen other states are administering similar pilots and at least one state has fully implemented a mandatory mileage-based user fee program. With both chambers in agreement, MAC anticipates the program will be included in the final version of the budget.

Environment

In departmental budgets on environmental programs, neither the House nor Senate included the governor’s proposed raise on the “trash tax.” Commonly referred to as landfill tipping fees, the governor sought to increase them more than 1,000 percent from 36 cents per ton to $5 per ton. The increase was meant to generate $80 million for environmental remediation and brownfield redevelopment. Following the governor’s initial recommendation, industry leaders voiced strong opposition and the Legislature has shown little indication it wants to pursue the increase.

Since neither chamber included the recommendation in their budgets it seems unlikely that it will be included in the final budget.

The next step in the budget process is for the chambers to pass their budgets on the floor. In mid-May, the second Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference of the year will be held to provide an update on the state’s revenue. The official budget targets will then be negotiated between the governor and the Legislature. Conference committees will then meet to agree on the final budget (this is where the House and Senate subcommittees come together to compromise on each chamber’s proposed budgets). The final budget must be presented to the governor before July 1 for her signature.

For more information on MAC’s budget advocacy, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MAC seeks fair treatment for counties on short-term rentals

MAC urged a House panel to treat counties fairly by amending a 10-bill package designed to restrict ― but not eliminate ― local governments’ power to regulate short term-rentals in testimony this week.

Speaking before the House Local Government Committee meeting this week (start at 9:58 mark), Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth focused on the failure in the original bill drafts to include counties in revenue to be derived from a 6 percent excise tax: “Let me be clear, MAC supports tourism and the promotion of all Michigan has to offer. However, counties and municipalities across the state are struggling with having enough resources to invest in our facilities, infrastructure and emergency response personnel. 

“We want our residents to enjoy the resources and services they pay for,” she added, “and we want them to have access to public safety and emergency response personnel even when there is a large influx of tourists demanding services.”

The primary bill in the package is HB 5438, by Rep. Joey Andrews (D-Berrien), which would require short-term rentals to be registered with the state; carry $1 million in liability insurance; have carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers; and have an emergency contact for renters within 30 miles of the rental. The bill would not allow a local government to ban short-term rentals but would allow communities to restrict their number.

Bosworth summarized MAC’s views in four points:

  • All counties across the state would like to have access to funds for economic development;
  • Counties across the state play a critical role in the planning and zoning of communities;
  • Counties across the state have significant infrastructure responsibilities; and
  • Counties across the state play a critical role in providing services to residents and tourists alike.

House Bills 5437-5446 did not receive a vote in committee this week.

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

 

House adopts resolution on County Government Month

“Have you ever needed to call 911 for an emergency? interfaced with our courts enjoyed a county park? How about eaten with your family at a local restaurant and enjoyed your meal without getting ill …” said Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) in remarks in support of a House resolution naming April as County Government Month in Michigan.

MAC thanks Rogers, a former commissioner and MAC Board director, for advancing the resolution. Click here for a video of her full remarks.

 

Learn about advantages of digital payment systems

Join NACo on April 30 for the webinar “Modernizing County Finance with Digital Disbursements” to discover how incorporating digital payments can increase constituents’ satisfaction and improve government efficiency. In this session, representatives from Knox County, Ill., the National Association of Counties (NACo) and Visa will share how they delivered fast and secure payments to county election judges and jurors.

To register for the session, which runs from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern, click here.

You will learn:

  • The importance of cross-sector partnerships for driving digital transformation.
  • The benefits of transitioning to digital payment systems.
  • The unique challenges and solutions for implementing a digital payment system involving the public sector.
  • The role of stakeholder involvement and effective communication in successful digital payments projects.

 

NACo webinar to review legal requirements for online materials

On April 8, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the release of a final rule which seeks implementation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on web-based government services provided by state and local governments.

The final rule lays out the details for web accessibility requirements and compliance, and standards will adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Standard, Level AA. The WCAG is a set of guidelines that outlines the parameters around web accessibility, and is developed by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Like the proposed rule released last August, the final rule includes exceptions for the following categories of web content:

  • Archived web content
  • Preexisting conventional electronic documents
  • Web content posted by third parties on a county’s website
  • Third-party web content linked from a county’s website
  • Course content for specific students in public postsecondary institutions
  • Class or course content for specific students in public elementary or secondary schools
  • Conventional electronic documents related to specific individuals, their property, or their accounts, and are password-protected or secured

If a county’s web content falls under these exceptions without limitations, they do not need to conform to the WCAG 2.1 Level AA standard. However, if a limitation applies, compliance with the proposed rule’s accessibility requirements becomes necessary.

Counties with a total population of 50,000 or more need to comply within two years of the final rule’s publication. Counties with a total population of less than 50,000 need to comply within three years of publication.

The rule also creates a provision which states that compliance with WCAG 2.1 Level AA is not mandated if it results in undue financial and administrative burdens or fundamentally alters the services, programs, or activities of the county.

The final rule projects a cost of up to $1 billion in total to counties, which may prove onerous for under-resourced counties. The cost figure for compliance accounts for initial rule familiarization, necessary remediation, and ongoing compliance with the accessibility requirements going forward.

To help counties familiarize with the rule and to answer questions, NACo will host an informational webinar on the final rule on May 6, 2024, from 2: p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern. NACo members can register for the webinar here.

 

May 2 webinar will focus on infrastructure requirements, resources

County leaders are advised to participate in the newest edition of a webinar series co-sponsored by MAC. The May 2 edition of “Updates and Resources for Local Governments” will focus on infrastructure requirements and resources available to local governments.

To register for the session, which will run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern, click here.

The Updates and Resources for Local Governments webinar series is designed to provide local governments with the information, tools, and resources necessary to make important decisions at the local level.

Specific topics to be covered will include:

  • Lead Service Line Replacement
  • Infrastructure Financing – State Revolving Funds  
  • Michigan Infrastructure Council – Asset Management Champions Program
  • Michigan Infrastructure Office Technical Support
  • State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program (SLCGP)

Presentations and recordings from this webinar, along with previous webinars, can be found at TREASURY – BLGSS Learning Center. Utilize TREASURY – Contact Information for support related to Treasury’s local government services. 

 

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