U.S. Supreme Court puts hold on vaccine mandate for large employers, allows mandate for health facilities to operate

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 people but left in place the one for federally funded health facilities.

Below is an analysis from the firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C. on what this means for county entities going forward:

“On Jan. 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued opinions on both the CMS Vaccine Mandate, and the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard. The opinions were issued less than one week after the Court held oral arguments on Jan. 7. 2022.

“(1) In a 5-4 decision, the Court granted the Federal government’s emergency applications to stay the Missouri and Louisiana District Court injunctions judicially enjoining the CMS vaccine mandate in 25 states. Therefore, CMS may now enforce the mandate nationwide, including in Michigan. The validity of the mandate will be determined in further proceedings in the lower Courts.

“(2) In a 6-3 decision, the Court granted the challengers’ emergency applications to re-impose the stay of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard vaccine/testing mandate that had been dissolved by the Sixth Circuit in a 2-1 decision on Dec. 17, 2021.  Therefore, the OSHA ETS may not be enforced pending the outcome of litigation in the lower courts. 

“As to the CMS Vaccine Mandate, facilities subject to the mandate must:

“(1) comply with Phase 1 of the CMS mandate, i.e., staff at all health care facilities included within the regulation must have received, at a minimum, the first dose of a primary series or a single dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to staff providing any care, treatment or other services for the facility or its patients, by Jan. 27, 2022; and

“(2) comply with Phase 2 of the CMS mandate, i.e., staff at all health care provider and supplier types included in the regulation must complete the primary vaccination series or have obtained an exemption, by Feb. 28, 2022.”

Counties, of course, should consult with their own counsel on any issues specific to their situation. MAC will provide additional updates as litigation continues.

 

U.S. Treasury, Mich. Treasury, NACo release analyses on SLFRF Final Rule

Following the release last week of the federal Final Rule on State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, federal, state and National Association of Counties experts have been providing overviews and analyses of key points for local leaders. MAC strongly encourages county officials to carefully study all these resources in the coming days.

The Final Rule takes effect on April 1, 2022, though U.S. Treasury officials noted that funds used under the interim final rule will be considered in compliance with the Final Rule.

Among key new components in the Final Rule are:

  • The $10 million revenue loss standard allowance, rather than completing full revenue loss calculation, is for the total period of the program and not on an annual basis
  • Eligible uses have been broadened – capital expenditures allowable (affordable housing, hospitals)
  • The option to provide premium pay has been streamlined
  • Investments for water and sewer and broadband have been expanded

The U.S. Treasury has provided:

NACo has provided/is providing:

A state analysis of the Final Rule and other documents can be found on the Michigan Treasury’s COVID page for local governments.

MAC strongly encourages county officials to consult these resources as soon as possible.

For the latest news on this issue, visit the MAC website.

 

Sign up now for Jan. 25 finance webinar co-sponsored by MAC

The 15th Updates and Resources for Local Governments” led by the Michigan Treasury, and co-sponsored by MAC and other local government groups, will be on Jan. 25 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Topics covered will include:

  • An update on the the Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference held Jan. 14, 2022
  • An update from MEDC on the Revitalization and Placemaking (RAP) Program

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Treasury has developed a webpage with numbered letters, memorandums, webinars, and resources regarding COVID-19 updates for local governments and school districts.

This webpage was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and is updated frequently with information and resources as they become available. A recording of the webinar will be posted on the page after the event.

 

Governor creates Office of Rural Development

A new state office will focus on the “economic, social, and educational needs in rural areas” under an order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Office of Rural Development will be housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and serve as a crucial component for rural communities seeking resources and opportunities.

The office will:

  • Collaborate with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other stakeholders on rural economic development
  • Collaborate with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to facilitate rural affordable housing development
  • Promote sustainability, environmental preservation, and green energy development
  • Address the ramifications of population and demographic trends in rural Michigan
  • Analyze and provide guidance on education-related issues affecting rural communities
  • Collaborate with the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office to facilitate expansion of high-speed internet connection in rural communities

The creation of the Office for Rural Development will build a better connected and more prosperous rural Michigan. MAC looks forward to working with the office to serve rural communities statewide. See additional details here.

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

 

Sen. Stabenow to lead infrastructure meetings with local leaders

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) will host a series of virtual sessions with local leaders in January to update them on federal infrastructure funding opportunities for your community.

“After decades of inaction and through all the challenges of COVID, we passed historic federal legislation last year to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Early in 2021, we passed the American Rescue Plan that not only stabilized our economy but provided significant new resources to local governments,” Stabenow said in a statement. “As a former local elected official, I know how critically important it is to be able to plan ahead.”

West Michigan Regional Meeting 
Jan. 19, 10 a.m.
Each individual must register to participate here.    

Northern Michigan & Upper Peninsula Regional Meeting
Jan. 19, 1 p.m.
Each individual must register to participate here.

Genesee/Great Lakes Bay/Thumb Regional Meeting
Jan. 20, 10 a.m.
Each individual must register to participate here.

Southeast Michigan Regional Meeting
Jan. 20, 1 p.m.
Each individual must register to participate here.

Mid-Michigan Regional Meeting 
Fri, Jan 21, 10:30 am 
Each individual must register to participate here.

Please note: Each person must individually register to participate. You are welcome to share the registration link with other leaders and stakeholders you feel would be interested in the meeting. Local members of the press are invited to attend the meetings. You are welcome to submit questions when you register, or you may ask questions or submit comments via Zoom chat during the meeting. If you have any technical issues or questions regarding the registration process, email RSVP@stabenow.senate.gov.

 

State Infrastructure Office will coordinate new federal aid

A Michigan Infrastructure Office announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week will focus on utilizing resources coming to the state from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The office will be responsible for ‘coordinating across state government and partnering with local officials, federal partners and stakeholders to invest in Michigan’s infrastructure.” By establishing this office, the state will ensure these once in lifetime resources are used effectively to repair roads and bridges, replace lead pipes, expand high-speed internet and build up electric vehicle infrastructure.

The Michigan Infrastructure Office will allow the state to move ahead and invest in communities to improve our ailing infrastructure. MAC looks forward to working with the office to build a more modernized future.

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

 

MAC offices closed on Monday, Jan. 17

MAC’s Lansing offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 17 to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Normal offices hours will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 8 a.m.

Check these links for activities in your area to honor and celebrate the civil rights leader:

 

U.S. Treasury issues final rule for State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Program

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued the Final Rule for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, enacted as a part of the American Rescue Plan, which delivers $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to view the final rule text. Click here to view a user-friendly overview of the major provisions of the final rule.

Treasury hosting webinars to review the rule and field questions from local officials. Click on the date to register:

There are capacity limits for these sessions, but Treasury will record them and post for later viewing.

To date, Treasury has distributed more than $245 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments as a part of the SLFRF program. Recipients of funds were encouraged to begin using funds under the interim final rule, which was released in May 2021. A recent analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that state governments have appropriated nearly 70 percent of their available funds as of November 2021.

The final rule, which takes effect on April 1, 2022, provides state and local governments with increased flexibility to pursue a wider range of uses, as well as greater simplicity so governments can focus on responding to the crisis in their communities and maximizing the impact of their funds.
 
The final rule provides additional clarity and flexibility for recipient governments, including:

  • First, Treasury has expanded the non-exhaustive list of uses that recipients can use to respond to COVID-19 and its economic impacts — ensuring states and localities can adapt quickly and nimbly to changing public health and economic needs. This includes clarifying that recipients can use funds for certain capital expenditures to respond to public health and economic impacts and making services like childcare, early education, addressing learning loss, and affordable housing development available to all communities impacted by the pandemic.
  • Second, Treasury has expanded support for public sector hiring and capacity, which is critical for the economic recovery and in maintaining vital public services for communities.
  • Third, Treasury has streamlined options to provide premium pay for essential workers, who bear the greatest health risks because of their service in critical sectors.
  • Fourth, Treasury has broadened eligible water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects — understanding the unique challenges facing each state and locality in delivering clean water and high-speed broadband to their communities.
  • In addition to these expansions, Treasury has greatly simplified the program for small localities — many of whom have received a historic federal investment in their communities through this program – including through the option to elect a standard allowance for revenue loss rather than calculating revenue loss through the full formula.

For more information, visit Treasury’s SLRF page.

 

Vaccine mandates loom as Supreme Court hears arguments

The U.S. Supreme Court was holding oral arguments today on both: (1) the federal government’s emergency applications to stay the Missouri and Louisiana District Court injunctions judicially enjoining the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) vaccine mandate in 25 states, and (2) the challengers’ emergency applications to re-impose the stay of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard vaccine/testing mandate that had been dissolved by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 17, 2021.

In the meantime, CMS intends to enforce the CMS Mandate in the 25 states, where the CMS mandate is not presently enjoined, but with modified compliance dates.  Facilities in those states, including Michigan, must now:

  • (1) comply with Phase 1 of the CMS mandate, i.e., staff at all health care facilities included within the regulation must have received, at a minimum, the first dose of a primary series or a single dose COVID-19 vaccine prior to staff providing any care, treatment or other services for the facility or its patients, by Jan. 27, 2022; and
  • (2) comply with Phase 2 of the CMS mandate, i.e., staff at all health care provider and supplier types included in the regulation must complete the primary vaccination series or have obtained an exemption, by Feb. 28, 2022.

Employers may take a wait and see approach but are also encouraged to act in good faith to prepare a roster of vaccinated employees.

The firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C. (CST) also noted to MAC that MIOSHA has not acted on the OSHA requirement yet (they could be waiting for the outcome of this litigation) but that could happen and there will be an implementation window (e.g. 7-14 days).

Link to model policies: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2.  CST suggest counties look at “Implementation; Policy Templates” and then “Vaccination or Testing and Face Covering Sample” since it is most is line with what the firm expects MIOSHA to do.

MAC will update members as the litigation dictates.

 

Deadline to register for opioid settlement payments moved to Jan. 26

The deadline for eligible local governments to voluntarily participate in two historic opioid settlements has been extended to Jan. 26, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office announced this week.

The state of Michigan formally signed on to the proposed multibillion-dollar national settlements in August, which is with Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. Michigan is positioned to receive nearly $800 million over 18 years. 

Based on the settlement terms, there are 277 local units of government eligible to participate in Michigan. Each of Michigan’s counties are part of that 277 total.

To confirm your county’s registration status, visit this state page. The document reflects two status columns because there are two settlements. The estimate noted for each subdivision reflects the total anticipated amount if the subdivision elects to participate in both settlements. 

The document also notes the direct payments each subdivision is estimated to receive if the voluntary participation process is completed. 

Eligible governments can email AG-OpioidLitigation@michigan.gov for help with the process. 

 

Reminder: Rules for open meetings changed on Jan. 1

Public meetings in Michigan governed by the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) are now under more restrictive rules on remote participation, as of Jan. 1, 2022. This means that commissioners cannot participate in a county board session as a voting member via electronic means, with only one narrow exception.

MAC continues to work in Lansing to get pre-pandemic OMA rules back in place which would allow remote voting if a quorum is physically present.

As detailed in a memo from the law firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C., the permissive rules for remote participation granted under Public Act 254 of 2020 expire at the end of 2021. At that point, the only way a commissioner can participate remotely as a voting member is if the member must be physically absent due to military duty.

Boards, of course, can continue to livestream their public sessions. And commissioners who cannot be physically present can utilize remote means to listen to the meeting, but they cannot participate or vote as part of the board.

The memo reminds county boards to ensure their board rules, procedures and by-laws are modified to be consistent with the Open Meetings Act.

 

Jan. 19 webinar reviews Michigan’s new redistricting process

A University of Michigan webinar on Jan. 19,Michigan redistricting: A model for the nation? Evaluating the state’s new maps and process,” will review the state’s new process for drawing congressional and legislative districts, as mandated by Michigan voters via a constitutional amendment passed in 2018.

The webinar is conveniently timed for busy citizens, as it runs from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 19.

“Michigan has brand new electoral maps designed through an innovative new process, and the state’s politics will never be the same,” wrote the webinar host, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). “This webinar will analyze and evaluate Michigan’s new redistricting approach and new maps. The discussion will offer a national perspective, comparing Michigan’s new approach of an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission with approaches in other states. Will Michigan’s new model inspire reform in other states?”

 

Final chance to speak on health IT needs is Jan. 26

The last listening session in a two-year process on health informational technology needs will be held on Jan. 26 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has led a listening tour that has engaged with more than 500 stakeholders and 300 organizations for the Health IT Commission’s five-year strategic plan. This health IT strategic planning document, called the Bridge to Better Health report, compiles findings from stakeholder engagement, cross-sector recommendations and commission strategy into one comprehensive report. Over the next five years, the report will guide public, private and collaborative strategy and investments in health IT, MDHHS said. 

Please visit the Health IT Commission webpage for more information on the event and how to access it.

 

MACPAC raises almost $10,000 in 2021 from nearly 90 donors

The Michigan Association of Counties Political Action Committee, MACPAC, collected $9,839 from 86 donors in 2021, according to unofficial results tallied in late December.

Since 2008, MACPAC’s annual fundraising has ranged from $8,171 (2015) to $18,725 (2020).

MACPAC is the best way for you to protect your county’s best interest in the state Legislature. MACPAC supports legislators who have a record of protecting local control, supporting full payment for mandated services and reducing the burden the state has placed on counties.

Other details from 2021 include:

  • Total number of donors: 86
  • Total number of counties with a donor: 50
  • County with the most dollars donated: Newaygo ($1,025)
  • County with the most donors: Ottawa (5)
  • County with highest percentage of board members donating:  Marquette – 50%
  • Single largest donor: Commissioner Jack Shattuck of Ionia
  • Please note that these figures may not reflect donations sent at the end of 2021 that may not have reached or been processed by MAC prior to Jan. 1, 2022.

MAC thanks all county leaders who contributed to MACPAC.

 

NACo webinar takes look at behavioral health crisis on Jan. 11

A new webinar from the National Association of Counties (NACo), “Before and After a Behavioral Health Crisis: Building a Continuum of Care,” will run from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 11. For details and to register, click here.

“Counties across the country are building multidisciplinary teams and using key data elements to prevent and better address mental health and substance use disorder crises outside of the criminal legal system,” NACo wrote. “Building an effective care continuum targets the root causes of a behavioral health crisis by investing in comprehensive and accessible prevention, treatment, and real-time intervention. With almost one in four adults in the United States living with a mental health condition, substance use disorder or both, county leaders recognize the urgency to find innovative approaches to balance community behavioral health needs and law enforcement response in a time of crisis. This discussion will provide key resources on the importance of a continuum of care and feature lessons learned from counties working to reduce barriers to behavioral health for its residents.”

 

Bills for 4-year terms signed into law

The huge House majority in favor of 4-year terms for county commissioners is reflected on the chamber’s voting board.

Starting in 2024, candidates in Michigan for county commissioner will run for 4-year terms, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed new term legislation: Public Acts 121-122 of 2021.

The largest change affecting county commissioners since 1968 is the result of Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland).

Since 1968, voters in Michigan have elected county commissioners to two-year terms from geographic districts. Michigan has been one of only five states that has required two-year terms for all commissioners, even though all other elected county offices have four-year terms.

“We are immensely pleased to end 2021 on such a high note,” said MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie. “Creating equality in terms for commissioners has been a MAC goal for many years; I’m so proud of our advocacy team for their work on this, ably assisted by MAC Board directors and members.”

 

Federal court clears way for vaccine mandate; legal advice is ‘plan’

A Biden administration rule that requires workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated against COVID or undergo weekly testing was restored last Friday via a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The rule was blocked on Nov. 6, just one day after it was formally issued by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Counties are advised to begin or continue planning with their legal counsel to comply with the restored rule, MAC was told by the firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey.

“Michigan as a State Plan has not yet adopted the OSHA ETS, as is required for it to be effective in Michigan,” the firm noted. “It is also our understanding that OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before Jan. 10, 2022, and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before Feb. 9, 2022, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard. Further, the lifting of the stay of enforcement (by a 2-1 majority of the Sixth Circuit panel) is not a ruling on the merits of the case. Finally, several states intend to seek further relief from the U.S. Supreme Court, which could be forthcoming very soon by a sole justice (Kavanaugh for the 6th Circuit) or by the whole court.”

In addition to the vaccine and testing requirements, the rule requires companies to determine who among their workers are vaccinated and who are not, and to enforce a mask mandate for unvaccinated workers.

 

Governor signs bill to continue 9-1-1 funding

Ticking off another item on MAC’s legislative priorities for 2021, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 5026 into law. The bill amends the Emergency 9-1-1-Service Enabling Act to continue funding until Dec. 31, 2027. The bill will also streamline 9-1-1 system capabilities, increase the prepaid wireless 9-1-1 surcharge and make other changes to improve the 9-1-1 system.

“Maintaining and expanding public safety is a responsibility of our government,” said Whitmer in a statement. “When an emergency occurs, our state’s first responders are ready to take action. Funding our state’s critical 9-1-1 services is necessary to equip our state in times of need.” 

House Bill 5026, now Public Act 126, was sponsored by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Ionia), and a copy can be found here.

MAC thanks the Legislature and governor for passing and enacting this bill before the 2021 year-end deadline to continue 9-1-1 funding.

 

Treasury releases FY22 actuarial information for counties

Actuarial assumptions for local governments with defined benefit plans were released this week by the Michigan Department of Treasury.

“A key component of the Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act (Public Act 202 of 2017) requires the State Treasurer to annually establish uniform actuarial assumptions for local governments in Michigan who offer a defined benefit retirement system(s) (pension or retirement health care),” Treasury said in a statement.

Fiscal Year 2022 Uniform Assumptions

This document provides the rationale for how the assumptions are determined, as well as a table that provides a summary of the relevant changes. 

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Treasury has developed a webpage with numbered letters, memorandums, webinars, and resources regarding COVID-19 updates for local governments and school districts. This webpage was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and is updated frequently with information and resources as they become available. 

Legislature sets up future funding crisis on Personal Property Tax

MAC joined with other local government groups this week to urge the Legislature to address the consequences of a massive Personal Property Tax exemption which lawmakers rushed through Lansing in a late-night session on Tuesday.

While the Legislature voted for House Bill 5351 without a clear understanding of its effects on local governments, estimates of the impact are as high as $75 million each year. This results through the bill’s lifting of the PPT exemption threshold for small taxpayers from $80,000 to $180,000 in true cash value.

Lawmakers did also vote for a $75 million reimbursement for the first year of this exemption scheme (which starts in 2023), but they did not provide for the years beyond. As the statement from MAC, the Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association said, “(T)he ongoing erosion of funding that supports local services will be permanent unless the Legislature and the governor fulfill their commitment to find revenue replacements.”

While MAC is not arguing against efforts to combat the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will push lawmakers to permanently replace funds from what has been counties’ most reliable and most relied upon revenue source.

HB 5351 now moves to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to sign it.

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

 

Jail diversion bills sent to governor

Two MAC-backed bills that create grant programs that would help support local efforts to promote jail diversion and community mobile crisis intervention services cleared the Legislature this week and are on the way to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bills 637 and 638, by Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Wayne) and Sen. Rick Outman (R-Montcalm) respectively, would create the programs through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Under SB 638, the behavior health jail diversion grant will provide funds to local units of government to establish or expand behavioral health jail diversion programs in coordination between community agencies and law enforcement agencies.

Under SB 637, the community crisis response grant will distribute grants to local units of government for the purpose of establishing or expanding community-based mobile crisis intervention services and give priority to grant applications that demonstrated a commitment to certain best practices.

The state’s FY22 DHHS budget included $5 million for the Jail Diversion Fund, which is also created under this legislation. MAC supported the bills and supports diversion programs that seek to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness being housed in our county jails.

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

 

Governor creates council to study medical care facility issues

A new state council, which will identify, review, develop and recommend policies, administrative actions, legislative changes and other approaches to support high-quality nursing home care, was created this week through Executive Order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Nursing Home Workforce Stabilization Council (NHWSC). According to the order, the council will be housed within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and comprised of state department directors, representatives from the nursing home workforce, representatives of nursing home employers and nursing home residents.

Specifically, the order requires five representatives of nursing home employers, including at least one representative a nursing home administered by a county government. 

The full EO can be found here. Applications to the council are due by Jan. 7, 2022.

For questions on this issue, contact Meghann Keit-Corrion at keit@micounties.org or Renee Beniak at renee@mcmcfc.org

 

MAC announces office schedule for holiday break

MAC announced this week its office hours for the upcoming holiday break.

MAC offices will be closed on the following dates to celebrate the Christmas and New Year’s holidays: Dec. 23 (closed noon to 5 p.m.); Dec. 24; Dec. 27; Dec. 30; and Dec. 31.

MAC will be open on Dec. 28 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Regular office hours resume on Monday, Jan. 3.

Executive Director Stephan Currie and the staff at MAC wish you and your families a safe and pleasant holiday season.

 

Treasury releases details on first responder grants

The Michigan Department of Treasury announced on Wednesday, “In an effort to help local units of government address critical needs in recruiting and training first responders, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Public Act 87 of 2021 that appropriates $5 million to create the First Responder Training and Recruitment Grant Program.

“All Michigan cities, villages, townships, counties or fire authorities are eligible to apply for a grant up to $100,000 related to first responder training and recruitment. First responders are police officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), paramedics and local unit of government corrections officers.

“The Michigan Department of Treasury will be working directly with local units of government and other local government partners to implement this grant program.

“Key items for local units of government to remember:

  • A completed application with detailed information must be received by the Michigan Department of Treasury on or before Feb. 15, 2022.
  • The governmental unit must demonstrate how budgeted costs directly relate to recruitment or training of first responders.
  • Priority will be given to projects that will be completed by Sept. 30, 2022.
  • Projects are funded on a reimbursement basis.
  • $2 million will be designated for communities with a per capita property taxable value of less than $15,000, with the remaining funds awarded based on a review of applications and the determination of the effective use of and need for the grant funds.

“During the application review process, applicants may be contacted for clarification. The Michigan Department of Treasury reserves the right to award funds for an amount other than requested.

“Applications will be selected for funding by the Michigan Department of Treasury based on program purpose, eligibility and criteria. Projects are funded on a reimbursement basis.”

To learn more about the First Responder Training and Recruitment Grant Program, go to Michigan.gov/FRG. Questions should be directed to TreasLocalGov@michigan.gov.

 

NACo now accepting interim policy resolutions for 2022 Legislative Conference

In preparation for the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2022 Legislative Conference, held in Washington D.C. on Feb. 12-16, NACo members are invited to submit interim policy resolutions.

The NACo resolutions process provides members with the ability to participate in national policy decisions affecting county governments. During the Legislative Conference, NACo’s ten policy steering committees and Board of Directors consider legislative and policy resolutions that will guide NACo advocacy until the NACo Annual Conference in July 2022.

Interim policy resolutions provide an opportunity for members to address policy issues at the Legislative Conference that were not discussed at the previous Annual Conference. Interim resolutions may not overturn existing policy resolutions, and will expire at the 2022 Annual Conference in Adams County, Colo.

The American County Platform and the association’s policy resolutions are carefully considered statements of the needs and interests of county governments throughout the nation. These policy statements serve as a guide for NACo members and staff to advance the association’s federal policy agenda before Congress, the White House and federal agencies. Please refer to the comprehensive overview of NACo’s policy resolution process here.

 

Celebrate your county’s innovations in 2022 NACo Achievement Awards

Applications are now open for the National Association of Counties (NACo) 2022 Achievement Awards. Please join us in celebrating 52 years of county innovation by applying today.

Since 1970, the NACo Achievement Awards have recognized outstanding county government programs and services. Through a non-competitive application process, noteworthy programs receive awards in 18 categories that cover a vast range of county responsibilities. By participating, your county can earn national recognition.

NACo will highlight the 18 “best of category” winners, as well as feature all winners in NACo materials and online. We also provide a customizable press release for you to share the good news with the media and residents.

Early Bird Application Deadline: March 4, 2022 (save $25 off the application fee)

Regular Application Deadline: March 31, 2022

For more information, please review the Achievement Awards online brochure, or email awards@naco.org with any questions.

 

House passes bills for 4-year terms; historic change headed to governor

The largest change affecting county commissioners since 1968 is headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk after the House of Representatives approved this week two bills to adopt four-year terms for commissioners.

Whitmer is expected to sign Senate Bill 242, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson), and SB 245, by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Oakland), which cleared the House this week on 75-29 votes. The legislation would start four-year terms with the 2024 election cycle.

“Deena (Bosworth) and I have been at MAC for 10 years and this has been at the top of the MAC to-do list every day,” said Executive Director Stephan Currie. “This is such an exciting victory after so many years of work in the halls of the Capitol. All credit goes to Deena and Meghann; Board Director Jim Storey for his consistent advocacy and testimony before committees; and, most importantly, our members who kept reminding legislators of the need for this change.”

Since 1968, voters in Michigan have elected county commissioners to two-year terms from geographic districts. Michigan has been one of only five states that has required two-year terms for all commissioners, even though all other elected county offices have four-year terms.

“This is just one of those moments you hope to have in your career in public advocacy,” said Bosworth. “I want to thank the bill sponsors, Sens. McBroom and Moss, and all of the county boards who passed resolutions in support of our effort. The power of MAC is in our members and that fact shone through this year on this issue.”

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

Veteran Property Tax Exemption reimbursement bills introduced

This week, Sen. Bumstead (R-Newaygo) introduced a two-bill package that would provide relief to local governments by reimbursing them for their loss of property tax revenue due to the 2013 legislation granting disabled veterans a property tax exemption. Senate Bill 783 and Senate Bill 784, co-sponsored by 11 other senators from both sides of the aisle would turn the property tax exemption into a refundable income tax credit payable to the local tax collecting unit.

The legislation would still require the veteran to file an affidavit with the local tax collecting unit, the only difference is that the form will change slightly, allowing the local unit to submit for the refundable credit to cover the deferred property taxes.  Upon a payment by the state, the local unit will then be required to provide written notification to the individual who filed the affidavit explaining the payment or rejection by the state. 

This approach would not disrupt the current process veterans go through to get the exemption, it simply requires the local unit to defer property tax collection until the Department of Treasury dispenses the payment for reimbursement.  All 100% disabled veterans, and the widowed spouses of a 100% disabled veteran, that previously claimed the veteran property tax exemption prior to January 1, 2023 are still eligible for the same benefits under the new income tax credit that goes into effect on January 1, 2023.

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

Updated: Rules for open meetings revert to old form on Jan. 1

Public meetings in Michigan governed by the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) will revert to pre-COVID rules on Jan. 1, 2022. This means that commissioners cannot participate in a county board session as a voting member via electronic means, with only one narrow exception.

As detailed in a new memo from the law firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C., the permissive rules for remote participation granted under Public Act 254 of 2020 expire at the end of 2021. At that point, the only way a commissioner can participate remotely as a voting member is if the member must be physically absent due to military duty.

Boards, of course, can continue to livestream their public sessions. And commissioners who cannot be physically present can utilize remote means to listen to the meeting, but they cannot participate or vote as part of the board.

The memo reminds county boards to ensure their board rules, procedures and by-laws are modified to be consistent with the Open Meetings Act.

House Bill 5467, introduced by Rep. Phil Green (R-Tuscola), would allow for some members of the public body to participate remotely where there is otherwise a quorum physically present at the in-person meeting.

However the language as currently proposed expressly prohibits the remote participant from voting, which is inconsistent with the intent to return to the previous system whereby a remote participant could vote so long as there was a quorum physically present.

MAC has expressed our interest to the bill sponsor in getting the legislation to return to the old “pre-covid” system whereby a member for any reason could participate remotely, including voting, where a quorum was physically present.  While there may be opportunity to revert to allow this type of meeting option, it will not be possible to complete necessary statutory changes prior to year-end.

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

Healthcare spending bill in House Appropriations Committee 

Another supplemental proposal was offered this week to the House Appropriations Committee – this time related to healthcare spending. House Bill 5523, introduced by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Ionia), appropriates $1.2 billion toward efforts addressing health care recruitment and retention, as well as funding COVID testing in schools and supporting monoclonal antibody sites. The funds are all from federal dollars, with $400M from the state allocation through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Specifically, the proposal includes:

– $667 million would be allotted overall for COVID testing, of which $300 million directed to purchase COVID-19 tests= for schools

– $300 million to a Healthcare Recruitment and Retention Reserve Fund, of which $150.0 million would be available and the remaining $150.0 million is not available to be expended until funds are approved through the legislative transfer process.

– $50 million to establish COVID-19 early treatment sites.

– $25 million to purchase additional monoclonal treatment, in addition to federally allocated supply

–  $10 million in a competitive grant program for nursing facilities to convert multi-resident rooms into single resident rooms. Grant awards would reimburse 50% of the cost.

A full list of details can be found here. The bill hailed praise from the healthcare sector, but with few remaining session days, the bill will likely not pass prior to the end of the legislative year.

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

MAC opposes public record fee bills

A bill to limit the fees paid for property records passed out of committee this week and is on the House floor. HB 4730, sponsored by Rep. Julie Calley (R-Ionia), would limit the revenue county treasurers collect for the dissemination of records for parcels of property. The bill was originally introduced as part of a package that would have carried the same limitations on fees for other county electronic records, but has since been scaled back to just fees charged by treasurers. 
 
Currently, a county treasurer can charge 25 cents per parcel record, which is not easily separated from the entirety of the parcel records, so it comes in a batch. The bill on the other hand, would state that the qualified data file would have to include at least four of the required fields instead of having to include all of them in the records for each parcel of property. In other words, it limits how much they can charge for parcel records. Zillow is the primary advocate for this bill, seeking less costly access to the records that the treasurers compile, record, keep and update. 
 
MAC continues to work with other organizations representing county-wide elected officials effected by this legislation and is currently opposed along with the Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds and the Michigan Association of County Treasurers. 
 
For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

The Michigan Department of Treasury announces the next Chart Chat webinar 

The Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce our next Chart Chat webinar at 2 p.m. on Thursday, December 16, 2021.

The Chart Chat Webinar Series provides updates to local government officials on accounting-related topics, updates from the Michigan Department of Treasury and information on sound fiscal management.

This Chart Chat webinar will cover:

  • Requirements for Accepting Federal Funds
  • Fiscal Indicators – A Recap of All Four and How They Work Together
  • First Responders Grant Program

To register, please visit:

https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5a_ki0onSvWK9R1_MI-umQ

We are currently accepting submissions for the questions and answers portion of the webinar. To submit a question, please email LAFD_Audits@Michigan.gov.

Correction: Michigan’s 83 counties will have 619 commissioners in 2023

Michigan’s 83 county governments will be led by 619 elected county commissioners after the 2022 elections, following decisions this fall by the county apportionment boards. The Nov. 19 Legislative Update had incorrect figures for Oceana County, which changed the total.

The new total is a decrease of 3 commissioners from the current roster of 622 commissioners established after the last census and apportionment process.

Eight counties increased the size of their boards for 2023. The biggest boost was 2 seats, done in 5 counties, including Kent County, which, at 21, will have the largest board in the state on Jan. 1, 2023.

Seven counties reduced the size of their boards, with the largest reduction in Antrim, which is going from 9 districts to 5. Oakland County, which currently has the state’s largest board at 21, reduced its board ranks to 19 for 2023. See full corrected list here.

MDHHS expands Opioid Health Home services to additional counties

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has expanded the Opioid Health Home (OHH) initiative to more Michigan counties to provide intensive care management and care coordination services for Medicaid beneficiaries with an opioid use disorder (OUD), a move applauded by MAC this week.

“The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently approved Michigan’s State Plan Amendment (SPA) to expand its Opioid Health Home initiative into PIHP Regions 6, 7 and 10. The expanded SPA will allow thousands of Medicaid beneficiaries meeting the eligibility criteria to receive OHH services,” MDHHS reported.

A Health Home is a benefit awarded to Medicaid beneficiaries who have a diagnosed with an Opioid Use Disorder and reside within one of the following Prepaid Inpatient Health Plan (PIHP) regions/counties:

  • PIHP Region 1 (counties in the Upper Peninsula)
  • PIHP Region 2 (21 northern-most counties of the Lower Peninsula)
  • PIHP Region 4 (specifically Calhoun and Kalamazoo Counties)
  • PIHP Region 6 (Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Washtenaw)
  • PIHP Region 7 (Wayne)
  • PIHP Region 9 (Macomb County)
  • PIHP Region 10 (Genesee, Lapeer, Sanilac, St. Clair)

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

“MAC supports additional and expanded services of this program, which has been extremely successful in many counties so far,” said Governmental Affairs Associate Meghann Keit-Corrion.

For OHH-specific information, including eligibility and available resources, visit Michigan.gov/OHH

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