Massive federal aid plan wends way through Congress

Two versions of a massive federal response to the ongoing COVID crisis are now in play on Capitol Hill. Passage of either version would mean hundreds of millions of dollars for Michigan counties.

The version passed by the U.S. House, the American Rescue Plan, has an overall price tag of $1.9 trillion and includes $65 billion in direct aid to U.S. counties. Of that amount, Michigan would receive about $1.95 billion. (Click here to see an estimated distribution under the House-backed plan.) Both MAC and the National Association of Counties (NACo) have backed this plan.

Later in the week, however, Senate Democrats released a slightly different version of the aid plan, which would lower the direct aid to all counties to $60 billion, of which $1.8 billion would come to Michigan. (Click here to see an estimated distribution under the Senate plan.)

In each case, the aid moves directly to counties (unlike in prior federal rescue plans), is distributed based on population and goes to all counties, regardless of size. The Senate plan would allocate half the funds upfront, with the other half to be released within one year. The Senate version requires counties to spend the aid by December 2024.

NACo is working to include language that would prevent the states from taking away county money because we will get federal money.

The Senate plan also includes an extra $10 billion for water, sewer and broadband, with each state getting a base of $100 million and the rest distributed based on population, poverty rates and how rural a state is.

The Senate is expected to spend all of Friday on amendments to the spending plan. If the Senate clears the plan, as expected tonight or tomorrow, it will head back to the House next week for final approval.

For more information on this issue, visit NACo’s advocacy center.

 

State loosens restrictions on public gatherings; MAC gets detailed response on effects for county board meetings

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced further loosening of state restrictions on public and economic activity due to the COVID pandemic during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

The orders come from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services via its responsibilities under the Public Health Code.

“While we continue to have virus very present across the entire state, our improvements in case numbers, test positivity, and vaccinations mean we can move forward with reopening in an incremental way,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “I am glad we continue to make progress, but that progress is fragile. Everyone should continue to do important things like wearing a mask, washing hands, avoiding large gatherings and getting one of the three safe and effective vaccines when it becomes available to you.”

The changes, which take effect today and run through April 19, include: 

  • Indoor gatherings involving people from different households are allowed to have up to 25 people. (*See note below.)
  • Restaurants and bars may have 50% indoor dining capacity, up to 100 people. Tables must still be six feet apart, with a max of six people at a table. A curfew on indoor dining is still in effect, but this order bumps it back from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. 
  • Retail shops are allowed to operate at 50% indoor capacity, up from 30%. 
  • Indoor private residential gatherings are capped at 15 people from three separate households. Outdoor residential gatherings are allowed to have up to 50 people. 
  • Outdoor gatherings can resume with up to 300 people. 

*MAC asked the Governor’s Office if public meetings or board meetings are permitted under this order?

MAC was told: “Yes, up to 25 board members may gather for a meeting. Under Public Act 254 of 2020, public meetings may be conducted virtually for any reason through March 31, 2021.

“The public may also attend the meeting in person subject to all applicable masking and distancing requirements. For public attendance to be permitted beyond 25 persons, the event must be designed to ensure that every person can avoid mingling or engaging in physical contact with persons from outside their household. For example, a reception larger than 25 persons would not be permitted indoors. All meetings covered by the Open Meetings Act – whether conducted virtually or in person – must also comply with Public Act 254 of 2020.”

With that in mind, MAC continues to advise counties to rely on virtual-only or hybrid virtual and in-person meetings to both comply with OMA and adhere to MDHHS orders and MIOSHA rules.

In related COVID news, Crain’s Detroit reported this week that MIOSHA, the state agency that oversees workplace safety and practices, is “very likely” to extend the ban on in-person office work beyond the current expiration date of April 14.

On the vaccination front, the state has updated its access calendar and announced that Michigan residents between the ages of 50 and 64 will be eligible for shots this month.

With all residents at skilled nursing homes having been offered their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine and a vast majority having had their second dose, the Residential Care Facilities Order goes into effect immediately. The order encourages communal dining and group activities for residents and allows indoor and outdoor visitation in all counties regardless of county risk level. Visitation is allowed as long as the facility has not had a new COVID-19 case in the last 14 days and all indoor visitors ages 13 and older are subject to rapid antigen testing.

As always, for the latest county-related news on COVID-19, visit MAC’s Resources Page.

 

Virtual Legislative Conference set for April 28-29

Dates are now set for the 2021 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference: April 28-29.

The event will be all virtual and include 12 workshops for MAC members and four for members of the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council. Among topics to be addressed are:

  • The county apportionment process for drawing commissioner district lines
  • Decoding legislative terminology to better understand the work at the State Capitol
  • Options for local government finance reform

The conference also will have three plenary sessions for all attendees.

Registration information will be released in coming days. Please keep a watch on your email accounts for notices about the event. You also can check for updates on MAC’s conferences webpage.

 

Legislature adopts $2.3B COVID aid plan; governor’s response unclear

The Senate and House agreed this week on a plan to spend $2.3 billion to support businesses and help cover their costs incurred over the last year, including a property tax relief program. Additionally, the bill that now moves to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer supports an increase direct care worker hazard pay, vaccine distribution and continued COVID testing funds.

In fact, the direct care worker hazard pay adjustment would increase from the current $2 per hour to $2.25 per hour beginning March 1 and running through Sept. 30, 2021.

Another $347.3 million for epidemiology and laboratory capacity contingent funds cannot be spent or distributed unless the governor also signs Senate Bill 1, which limits the effectiveness of an emergency public health order issued by the director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)  to 28 days, unless the Legislature approves an extension.

And the Legislature approved spending of $2 billion of federal education money under House Bill 4048. However, $800 million of that mount is tied to House Bill 4049, which passed 60-50 in the House. That bill stipulates local health departments could close schools for in-person instruction or halt school sports based on specific criteria in the bill. The bill passed without support from the state or local health departments.

It is unclear what the governor’s options are with the language in the legislation that ties funding to limits on the state’s pandemic powers. Gov. Whitmer has also been clear that she wants the full $5 billion of federal money from 2020 allocated, a result that is not reflected in the bills heading to her desk.

 

Reforms for veterans’ services advance in House

Legislation to improve state law on the delivery of services to Michigan’s more than 600,000 military veterans cleared a House committee this week.

House Bill 4122, by Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland) reflects the work of MAC and the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency (MVAA) to adapt state law to the realities of service delivery to Michigan veterans.

As with many new programs, statutory changes are needed as experience identifies what structures work and what do not. Among the MAC-supported changes in the bill are:

  • Allowing grant funds to be expended for direct financial assistance for an emergent relief program (as counties continue to navigate through COVID-19 response, ensuring proper care and resources for our veteran community will remain a priority)
  • A 60-day window for the MVAA to distribute the grant, once approved by the county
  • A limited reduction in the county maintenance of effort (MOE) requirement to support hard-pressed counties (counties are not able to reduce the funding and supplant the reduction)
  • An exemption for the 20 hours per week staffing requirement, if approved by MVAA 
  • A process for distribution if the state does not award enough for each county’s base amount (this is not expected, but will act as a protection in uncertain times dominated by COVID-19)

HB 4122 cleared the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security on March 2 and now heads to the house floor. MAC appreciates the support of committee members in advancing this bill, but that’s just the first step in this process.

Please click on this link to use our P2A platform to send your personalized call to your House members to enact HB 4122 as quickly as possible.

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

 

Podcast 83 to discuss Capitol activity over previous week

The Podcast 83 team will continue its weekly reviews of legislative activity in Lansing and Washington, D.C., on Monday, March 8 at 3 p.m.

Click here to register for the live event, which will include a Q&A session on all of the hot legislative topics.

Members can view any previous episode of the Podcast, sponsored by DTE Energy, on the podcast webpage.

 

State to issue $5M to counties on marijuana

Counties will receive almost $5 million from revenue collected on marijuana businesses in fiscal year 2020. The state began distributions on Thursday.

The FY20 amount available per each licensed marijuana retail store and microbusiness is $28,001.32. For FY20, the Michigan Department of Treasury is distributing $4,984,234.96 to counties , plus an additional $4,984,234.96 is to cities, villages and townships.

For more information on this program, click here.

A word of caution on this year’s distribution: The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs did not fund the $20 million for research this year, but will be funding that for the next two years. Additionally, they expect more licenses in FY21 and similar consumption levels, while prices are down about 20 percent. As a result, the distributions on a per store basis may go down for FY21.

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

 

Webinar examines intersection of public safety and mental health

A new webinar will “explore interdisciplinary partnership and collaboration efforts from three innovative Michigan communities” in the intersection of public safety and mental health.

The webinar will be held March 26 from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Amid a global pandemic, the related economic downturn and a renewed focus on racial justice, mental health, and public safety, the intersection of law enforcement and mental health have come to the fore in public discussion and debate. When placed on the shoulders of law enforcement, the list of community needs burdens them with an ever-growing list of expectations from the public – expectations beyond the core responsibilities and capacities of any law enforcement professional.

As we look forward to shared strategies that enhance the capacity to respond to a variety of crisis situations, Michigan communities have developed innovative and effective partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and community mental health systems.

To register for this free event, click here.

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

 

Senate approves GOP plan on COVID spending

In another move over the dispute on how to spend billions in federal COVID aid for Michigan, the Senate approved a $2 billion supplemental spending plan advanced by the Republican majority this week, but not without heated debate.

Senate Bill 114, by Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas (R-Midland),  was approved on a party-line vote and includes:

  • $110.2 million for vaccine distribution
  • $184.9 million for COVID testing
  • $150 million for a $2.25 per hour direct care worker wage increase through Sept. 30
  • $220.3 million for emergency rental assistance

Much floor debate centered on vaccine distribution requirements tied to the spending. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) when determining the county allocation of vaccine. Per DHHS vaccination guidance:  “(T)he CDC Social Vulnerability Index (CDC SVI) for targeting distribution of supplies by geography within a phase of vaccination. The CDC SVI was used in establishing testing sites for COVID-19. The CDC SVI combines 15 U.S. census variables into a tool that helps local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, or after disasters. The CDC SVI is made up of indicators of socioeconomic status; household composition and disability; minority status and language spoken; and housing type and transportation. The CDC SVI status in Michigan communities correlates with the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 this spring, as well as areas of that state with high rates of risk factors for severe COVID-19 outcomes.”

The spending bill, however, would not allow “the use of race, gender, color, national origin, religion, sex or socioeconomic status as factors in determinizing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.” Proponents contended removing the index would get more vaccine more quickly to older Michiganians.

A second bill, SB 29, would spend more than $1.2 billion for education-related efforts.

Both bills await further House action when the House returns next Tuesday.

Also this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved House Bill 4047, by Rep. Tim Beson (R-Bay), that allocates $593 million. Of this, $150 million from the state General Fund would be dedicated for the unemployment trust fund. Additional federal funds would be dedicated to small business relief programs. The bill was not taken up for a Senate floor vote this week but is expected to be part of the final spending package presented to the governor.

 

State commission rejects MAC concerns, alters grant guidance manual

MAC voiced concerns with sections of the manual used to guide indigent defense policies during a meeting this week of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC).

MAC provided input and suggestions during the creation of the original grant manual in early 2020 to ensure it maintained a balance of supporting local control and administrative processes at the county level, while advancing the commission’s goal to streamline and rationalize the grant processes.

With just a few days’ notice of proposed changes, MAC quickly gathered input from county administrators and identified concerns on prohibiting grant funds for use as compensation for standby attorneys; costs incurred for feasibility studies; cumbersome time reports/studies for personnel, which could include salaried and union employees; and costs associated with local bar dues.

The commission went through each proposed change, with Isabella County Administrator Margaret McAvoy explaining the county point of view, and then rejected all but one concern raised by MAC. A footnote was included to allow costs of a feasibility study to be reimbursed by MIDC grant funds.

The final version with the changes can be found here.

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

 

Podcast 83 to discuss Capitol activity over previous week

The Podcast 83 team will resume its weekly reviews of legislative activity in Lansing and Washington, D.C., on Monday, March 1 at 3 p.m.

Click here to register for the live event, which will include a Q&A session on all of the hot legislative topics.

Members can view any previous episode of the Podcast, sponsored by DTE Energy, on the podcast webpage.

 

MAC directories entering the mail next week

MAC’s 2021 Membership Directory will be mailed next week to all commissioners, administrators and county board offices across Michigan. The 2021 edition carries full listings of elected officials for all 83 counties and detailed information about MAC services and the Michigan Legislature in its 150 pages. MAC also will deliver copies to each legislative office, so lawmakers are reminded of the central role counties play in the delivery of local public services.

Each directory, on its Table of Contents page, also has the URL and password to access the digital, searchable flipbook of the directory, which MAC will update on a quarterly basis.

Once initial distributions are complete, MAC will have a small quantity of directories for sale at a price of $40. For more information on extra copies, contact MAC’s Derek Melot at melot@micounties.org.

 

MCMCFC leader pushes for visitation changes

Renee Beniak, executive director of the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC), joined other health leaders on Wednesday to testify on nursing home visitation policies before the House Health Policy Committee at the invitation of Rep. Bronna Kahle (R-Lenawee), chair of the committee.

Beniak explained the frustrations facilities face, and manage, each day as state-set daily risk levels determine facility visitation practices. When risk levels drop and facilities begin a process to open for safe visitation, families are notified, but within a day, a single positive case can bring everything to a halt. Facilities then must turn away families and disappoint residents, leaving them frustrated and upset. The residents’ frustrations are often passed on to the nursing staff, making it even more difficult to provide care in facilities that were short-staffed even before COVID.  

“It is time to rethink visitation policies and safely reconnect residents with family members,” Beniak said. “With the overwhelming majority of residents having received both vaccines, now is the time to relieve the tremendous burden that severely restricted visitation requirements have placed on our residents, families and staff. Our nurses and CNA staff have witnessed firsthand the physical and mental toll the extended isolation has taken on their residents, despite their best efforts to support alternate ways to connection them with family and friends over many months.”

Witnesses urged state leaders to begin considering a risk-benefit analysis to contracting COVID versus the psychological and physical consequences endured by residents with no or limited visitations. With all medical care facilities (MCFs) with a 90 percent vaccination rate, and routine precautionary measures in place, visitation restrictions should be lifted.

Beniak added there is a cost to this as well. Recently, one patient and their family specifically chose to stay longer in a hospital, rather than moving to a nursing facility for rehabilitation, because they will be allowed to visit their loved one in the hospital. Some hospitals offer this option because they have what is referred to as a “swing bed,” which changes a hospital bed into a nursing home bed. The swing bed, however, can cost 300 percent or 400 percent of the cost of a day of care in an MCF.

David Gehm, president of Wellspring Lutheran Services, told the committee that states like Indiana and Minnesota have visitation models that follow CDC guidance with some local adaptations.

Full video of the committee testimony can be found here.

 

Commission offers redistricting briefings for counties

Members of Michigan’s new Redistricting Commission (MICRC) will be available in March to present information and answer questions about their work authorized by the voters at the ballot box in 2018.

“For the first time in Michigan’s history, citizens are now in charge of redistricting to ensure fair congressional districts, Michigan State Senate districts, and Michigan House districts,” the commission stated in announcing the public outreach campaign. “The MICRC would like to send one of its commissioners or staff to present at the beginning of county board meetings for two to three minutes.”

Counties interested in such presentations should send an email to Redistricting@Michigan.gov and type “Redistricting Michigan” in the subject line. In the email, include the date or dates you have available and the time for the presentation.

MSU Extension also is offering a March 24 webinar on “Redistricting and Communities of Interest” as part of its “Current Issues” series.

“This webinar will provide participants with an overview of the redistricting process including work done by the University of Michigan Center for Local, State and Urban Policy on defining communities of interest. Participants will also have a chance to hear from three organizations that are deeply involved in this process about the work they are doing throughout the state to identify communities of interest that exist.”

The session will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. EST on March 24. Click here to register for this event.

 

Deadline approaches to register for mental health courses

The deadline is March 5 to register for a series of live webinars on managing mental health crises during March.

The sessions will occur on March 10, 11, 17 and 18 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. This course is the equivalent of the 2-day classroom training and participants must attend all four sessions to receive a certificate.

“Managing Mental Health Crisis” is designed specifically for Michigan law enforcement, public safety and community mental health responders. It is funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, endorsed by the state’s Diversion Council and is MCOLES-approved and meets with MCOLES recommended annual officer trainings.

The cost is free, but seating is limited. Click here to register.

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

 

Broadband equipment property tax exemption passes the Senate 

SB 46, sponsored by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Van Buren) is a bill that will exempt eligible high speed broadband equipment installed after December 31, 2020 from property taxes if that equipment resolves a lack of broadband service and can deliver at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and three Mbps upstream for internet service. The bill passed the Senate this week on a party line vote. MAC remains committed to finding solutions that will expand broadband to unserved and underserved areas, but oppose legislation that exempts property from property taxes without full reimbursement of those funds from the State. We all recognize Michigan’s digital data infrastructure is not adequate for the needs of all residents. The question is: How do we resolves the access issue, so every resident can have the opportunity to prosper regardless of their geographical location? MAC disagrees with the assumption that a broad-based property tax exemption is the solution to the problem. The simple economics are that the providers are not building in rural areas because there are not enough customers to ensure a decent rate of return on the investment. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the cost of installation and the return on investment. Exempting property for the specific business classes may provide encouragement to investment, but it significantly strains the ability of local units of government to provide the services their residents need and deserve. 

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

MDHHS director discusses vaccine progress with Podcast 83

Elizabeth Hertel, newly appointed director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, discussed Michigan’s vaccine distribution efforts and other COVID-19 work during a special edition of Podcast 83 on Feb. 16.
 
Hertel was named to lead the state’s largest department, with more than 14,000 employees, by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. She is currently awaiting confirmation by the Michigan Senate.
 
The Podcast 83 team will be taking a one-week break from its current weekly schedule, resuming live episodes on Monday, March 1.
 
To see any prior episode of Podcast 83, visit its webpage on the MAC website.

 

MAC applauds revenue sharing, infrastructure plans in governor’s budget

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal makes important and much needed boosts to local governments dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and to public infrastructure, said MAC’s executive director on Thursday.

“We greatly appreciate the variety of recommendations for spending that recognize the ongoing demands on counties, demands increased by the pandemic,” said Stephan Currie.

See FY22 county-by-county revenue sharing estimates.

He added, however, that the short-term positive news will not reverse the long-term crisis in local government finance in Michigan. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that not only is Michigan “unique in the restrictiveness of the state’s property tax limits,” but “the property tax is particularly important for local governments’ fiscal health in Michigan because they have little access to other types of taxes to raise revenue.”

One such example of this dynamic is in state revenue sharing to counties. The governor is proposing a 2 percent increase in that annual amount, boosting it about $4 million to a total of $231 million. However, that increase has to stand against two decades of lagging payments. In 2000, counties received $214 million in revenue sharing. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $330 million this year, nearly $100 million below the governor’s recommendation.

“We need a full partnership with the state to address the funding crunch, similar to what started in 2019 on the Jail and Pre-trial Incarceration Task Force that led to significant improvements in state policy during the last Legislature,” Currie said.

Overall, though, the FY22 proposal has numerous benefits for local services and infrastructure, including:

  • $300 million from the state General Fund to repair or replace about 120 local bridges that are in serious or critical condition.
  • $15 million for the Dam Safety Emergency Fund for emergency response when private dam owners leave their structures in disrepair. The money for dams follows the devastating flooding in the Midland area last year after privately owned dams failed.
  • $40 million to fund high water level and resilient infrastructure and planning grants to local governments to address high water issues such as flooding and erosion
  • $5 million for first responder training
  • $290 million in infrastructure grants for the MI Clean Water Plan to address sewer overflows and mitigate public health risks by removing sewage discharge to surface water and ground water and eliminate failing septic systems
  • $148.9 million in grants from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to adhere to state mandates for defense services
  • $262 million for the Child Care Fund
  • $9 million for the Raise the Age Fund, to help cover costs resulting from the move of 17-year-old offenders to the juvenile justice system
  • $12.9 million for Secondary Road Patrol services from sheriffs
  • $4 million for the County Veteran Service Fund
  • $14.8 million for the County Jail Reimbursement Program to compensate counties for housing state offenders in county jails
  • $51.4 million for Essential Local Public Health Services
  • $13 million for Community Corrections

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

 

NACo: Federal aid could total $1.95 billion for Michigan counties

Counties across the United States stand to receive $65 billion in federal aid on COVID-19 under legislation now winding its way through Congress, the National Association of Counties (NACo) reported during a call on Wednesday.

Under the current provisions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Reconciliation Act bill, NACo calculates that Michigan’s 83 counties would receive about $1.95 billion.

See county-by-county estimates.

According to NACo Executive Director Matt Chase and NACo lobbyists, the aid would:

  • Cover all counties of all sizes
  • Be distributed based on population
  • Cover COVID-related expenses and revenue lost due to COVID
  • Be distributed directly from the U.S. Treasury Department to counties that fill out forms to certify they want to accept the funds
  • Be eligible for sub-allocation to nonprofits doing COVID relief work

Counties that do certify for funds would receive them within 60 days.

The bill was expected to leave the U.S. House Oversight Committee today and advance to the House Budget Committee for review next week. The goal is to get the bill to President Biden for signature by mid-March.

For more information on this issue, click here.

 

MAC opposes bill on court records requirements

The Michigan Association of Counties and Michigan Association of County Clerks partnered in opposition this week to House Bill 4164. Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Oakland) introduced the legislation, which would require courts to allow an attorney to access, through a website, the register of documents and digital images of documents filed in that court.

MAC opposes this bill because there is no funding attached to require a document management system to be implemented in all courts to adhere to this bill if it were enacted, which would create an unfunded mandate on counties.

Further, courts are currently implementing the MiFile system, as State Court Administrator Tom Boyd explained to the House Oversight Committee. The timing of this bill does not align with the current schedule for statewide rollout already occurring. Additionally, continued funding to move toward a unified court management system will need to be addressed with the goal of online court record accessibility.

MAC will continue to track this legislation, as well as the rollout of the MiFile system.

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

 

DHHS director will be guest on Feb. 16 podcast episode

Elizabeth Hertel, recently named by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to lead the state’s mammoth Department of Health and Human Services, will be the guest on a special live episode of Podcast 83 on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at 4:30 p.m.

The state’s response to COVID-19 will be the focus of the discussion with Hertel, of course, but the interview is sure to touch on other responsibilities of the department, which has 14,000 employees and operations in all 83 counties.

To pre-register for this live session, click here.

If you have specific questions, please send them to Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org by noon on Monday, Feb. 15.

During the regular weekly episode on Feb. 8, the podcast team of Stephan Currie, Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit-Corrion discussed action on a state supplemental appropriations bill for COVID aid; FY22 budget priorities for MAC; Senate Bill 46, which would provide personal property tax breaks on telecom investments (see item below) and the outlook for legislative progress in general in 2021.
 
That episode and previous ones are available for 24/7 viewing on the podcast webpage.

 

Remember, state health orders still point to virtual public meetings

While the recent update to Michigan’s statewide health orders on COVID-19 focused on youth sports activities, the change still left in rules that make indoor public meetings, such as county board sessions, impractical, if not impossible.

Indoor gatherings at non-residential venues are limited to 10 or fewer persons from two or fewer households. Public meetings may be held outdoors if there are fewer than 25 attendees or 20 attendees per 1,000 square feet, whichever is less. Attendees should be separated by at least six feet and wear a mask, the state orders.

County boards retain the legal ability to hold fully remote sessions for any reason through March 31, 2021.

For the latest COVID-19 news affecting Michigan counties, visit MAC’s Resources Page.

 

Broadband tax break bill clears Senate committee

A bill to give tax breaks to firms installing new broadband equipment in Michigan cleared the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology this week, despite ongoing MAC opposition.

“The good news is the committee made some changes that disentangled mobile equipment from the tax breaks some and increased the performance metrics (for qualifying firms)” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “However, there’s still no reimbursement to local governments (for funds lost to the personal property tax), nor an option for locals to prioritize where those projects should go.

“MAC remains opposed,” she added, “but we are working on amendments for more local control and reimbursement for losses.” 

Senate Bill 46, by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Van Buren) is designed to give a 10-year personal property tax (PPT) exemption to businesses that provide broadband service of at least 10 megabits per second downstream.

The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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

 

Webinar focuses on board member conduct

“Codes of Conduct: Going Beyond the Minimum” is a new webinar from MSU Extension that will focus on an increasingly salient topic: proper behavior for members of public boards.

Codes of Conduct can be a useful tool for members of elected and appointed boards. They help underscore a person’s role and expected behavior and set clear expectations for how members will conduct themselves.

This webinar will use the planning commission as an example of how a code of conduct can be a valuable tool and discuss how other bodies can use them as well. The webinar comes with credit for MAC’s County Commissioner Academy.

The FREE webinar will start at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25 and run for one hour. To register, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/ethics/.

 

Is your county ‘fiscally ready’? Webinar can help

The Michigan Department of Treasury and MSU Extension are excited to announce our next Fiscally Ready Communities training webinar titled, “Financial Best Practices.” This 90-minute webinar will take place at 10 a.m. on Thursday, March 25, 2021.

This FREE training discusses the fundamental best practices for fiscal and operational planning and provides an overview of best practices in financial policies and good governance.

This webinar comes with credit for MAC’s County Commissioner Academy.

Training topics include: budgets; cash controls; debt; grants; internal controls; purchasing policies and receipting.

Please register for webinar at https://events.anr.msu.edu/fiscalbestpractice.

For more information about Fiscally Ready Communities, please check out the Treasury Fiscally Ready Communities webpage. This webpage includes Treasury’s 32-page Fiscally Ready Communities Best Practices document, which we encourage all local officials to review.

If you have any questions, please email TreasLocalGov@michigan.gov with the subject line “Fiscally Ready.”

 

Staff picks

 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal makes important and much needed boosts to local governments dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and to public infrastructure, said the head of the association representing counties Feb. 11.

Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, responded to the FY22 budget presented in Lansing on Feb. 11 by the governor and her top budget officials.

“We greatly appreciate the variety of recommendations for spending that recognize the ongoing demands on counties, demands increased by the pandemic,” Currie said.

See FY22 county-by-county revenue sharing estimates.

He added, however, that the short-term positive news will not reverse the long-term crisis in local government finance in Michigan. A recent analysis by the nonpartisan Lincoln Institute of Land Policy found that not only is Michigan “unique in the restrictiveness of the state’s property tax limits,” but “the property tax is particularly important for local governments’ fiscal health in Michigan because they have little access to other types of taxes to raise revenue.”

One such example of this dynamic is in state revenue sharing to counties. The governor is proposing a 2 percent increase in that annual amount, boosting it about $4 million to a total of $231 million. However, that increase has to stand against two decades of lagging payments. In 2000, counties received $214 million in revenue sharing. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $330 million this year, nearly $100 million below the governor’s recommendation.

“We need a full partnership with the state to address the funding crunch, similar to what started in 2019 on the Jail and Pre-trial Incarceration Task Force that led to significant improvements in state policy during the last Legislature,” Currie said.

Overall, though, the FY22 proposal has numerous benefits for local services and infrastructure, including:

  • $300 million from the state General Fund to repair or replace about 120 local bridges that are in serious or critical condition.
  • $15 million for the Dam Safety Emergency Fund for emergency response when private dam owners leave their structures in disrepair. The money for dams follows the devastating flooding in the Midland area last year after privately owned dams failed.
  • $40 million to fund high water level and resilient infrastructure and planning grants to local governments to address high water issues such as flooding and erosion
  • $5 million for first responder training
  • $290 million in infrastructure grants for the MI Clean Water Plan to address sewer overflows and mitigate public health risks by removing sewage discharge to surface water and ground water and eliminate failing septic systems
  • $148.9 million in grants from the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to adhere to state mandates for defense services
  • $262 million for the Child Care Fund
  • $9 million for the Raise the Age Fund, to help cover costs resulting from the move of 17-year-old offenders to the juvenile justice system
  • $12.9 million for Secondary Road Patrol services from sheriffs
  • $4 million for the County Veteran Service Fund
  • $14.8 million for the County Jail Reimbursement Program to compensate counties for housing state offenders in county jails
  • $51.4 million for Essential Local Public Health Services
  • $13 million for Community Corrections

For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.

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