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.

The commission’s offer as a new report shows widespread gaps in understanding of the redistricting process from local government leaders.

“When asked in the spring of 2020 — when Michigan residents were applying to serve on the new Commission — just under half (49%) of local government leaders ‘had heard of it, and understood it fairly well, but didn’t know many details,’ while 9% were very familiar and knew a great deal about the Redistricting Commission,” said the the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan. “By contrast, well over a third (41%) were either somewhat unfamiliar (29%), completely unfamiliar (6%), or didn’t know (6%) about the Redistricting Commission, even when prompted with a description of 2018’s Proposal 2 ballot measure that established it through a constitutional amendment.”

For more information about redistricting, click here.

 

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

 

House passes COVID spending bills with ties to health power restrictions

The House passed their $3.5B COVID relief funding plan on a largely party-line vote. House Bill 4019 totals $868.6 million of federal COVID relief funding, and proposed under the bill to be spent mostly on the following:

  • $510 million (15% increase) in monthly Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through June 3, 2021
  • $165 million for emergency rental and utility assistance for households at or below 80% of area median income
  • $144 million for COVID-19 testing, contract tracing, surveillance and mitigation efforts

House Bill 4047 spends $565.5 million from the state’s General Fund to support business relief efforts. Of that, $393.5 million would go toward business tax and fee relief, including a property tax and unemployment insurance tax relief program.

House Bill 4048 appropriates $1.8 billion in federal aid for schools. This spending would be subject to the governor signing a separate bill, House Bill 4049.  That legislation would restrict the director of the Department of Health and Human Services from closing a public or nonpublic school to in-person instruction or prohibiting a qualified sporting event during an epidemic involving coronavirus. The bill would permit a local health officer to close a public or nonpublic school to in-person instruction or prohibit a qualified sporting event if certain metrics are met. DHHS and the Michigan Association of Local Public Health are opposed, due to concerns the bill would limit response time for an outbreak and be difficult to enact orders for school districts that cover multiple counties outside of the boundaries of a specific health department.

The governor has indicated she does not support tying the funding to policy changes in the public health code and has also asked for a $5.6 billion plan. These supplemental negotiations will continue with the Legislature, while they also begin a new budget cycle next Thursday with the governor’s budget presentation for fiscal 2022 on Feb. 11.

 

2021 Legislative Conference will be virtual in April

The 2021 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference, originally planned for April 28-30 in Lansing, will shift to virtual sessions in April, MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie announced this week.

“This decision was not made lightly,” said Currie, “but our staff analysis and advice to the Board’s Executive Committee showed too many risks and unknowns with any type of large in-person gathering in April. We have had success with our virtual events in 2020 and expect to build on that work to give members an even better virtual learning experience for 2021 Legislative.”

As planning shifts to virtual sessions, members are urged to keep their late April calendars as flexible as possible. Details will be released on session topics and speakers as soon as possible, likely in early March.

All details will be shared via LU emails and on our conferences page.

 

Podcast 83 team talks SOS, MAC priorities, COVID funds

The governor’s State of the State address and MAC’s 2021 legislative priorities were key topics discussed by MAC’s Podcast 83 team in its initial broadcast for 2021.

MAC’s Stephan Currie, Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit reviewed the previous week of action in the Legislature Initial live episode of Podcast 83 for 2021. MAC plans to offer live weekly episodes of the podcast through the end of May as the Legislature enters its busiest time of the year.

Among topics covered:

  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State (SOS) address: “The governor tried to hit on bipartisan accomplishments,” said Keit. “It’s no secret there has been an interesting relationship between the governor and legislature. She tried to kick off the year with a different tone.”
  • MAC 2021 legislative priorities: “We really have tried to focus on things we can take action on and have resonated with our internal committees at MAC,” said Bosworth.
  • Fight over COVID-19 health powers: “House Republicans came back and put out their COVID-19 response pretty early on,” said Keit. “The new speaker, I think (he) is looking to bring that balance back as far as the Legislature’s authority and what they see as unilateral action by the governor.”

The team reconvenes on Monday, Feb. 8 for its next live session. Click here to register and receive the viewing link.

If you have questions for the team, you can send them in advance to Hannah Sweeney at sweeney@micounties.org.

All sessions are recorded and available for 24/7 viewing on the Podcast 83 webpage.

 

Funding crisis continues, Bosworth tells House committee

The crisis in funding for Michigan’s local governments continues, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told the House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance during its session on Wednesday.

Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs, and other representatives of local government groups were asked to testify by Chair Julie Calley (R-Ionia) on key issues and provide a general background on local government.

“We are the frontline agency and provide foster care, public health, the courts, jails, infrastructure,” Bosworth explained. “We have collaborations with both cities and townships. We are the social safety net for the most part.

“Hopeful that this year, this committee, and other committees, really take a look at some local government finance reform so we can have some stability,” Bosworth added.

To see the slides from the presentation, click here.

 

FEMA reimbursement policy extended to 100 percent of costs

FEMA now can pay 100 percent federal funding for the costs of activities that have previously been determined eligible, from the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021, under a  directive issued by President Biden this week.

This means that all work eligible under FEMA’s existing COVID-19 policies, including increasing medical capacity, non-congregate sheltering, and emergency feeding distribution will be reimbursed at 100 percent federal share. For projects that have already been approved, FEMA will amend the existing awards to adjust the federal funding amounts. No action will be required by the applicants.

In addition, the president’s directive allows FEMA to expand the activities eligible for reimbursement for work conducted after Jan. 21, 2021 and until Sept. 30, 2021. Specifically, the costs to support the safe opening and operation of eligible schools, child-care facilities, healthcare facilities, non-congregate shelters, domestic violence shelters, transit systems, and other eligible applicants will be eligible after Jan. 21.  

This may include funding for the provision of personal protective equipment, disinfecting services and supplies. These costs will also be reimbursed at 100 percent federal share. In the coming days, FEMA will issue an amended COVID-19 policy to implement this directive. See the memos below for more details:

 

Bill includes more personal property tax (PPT) exemptions

A bill that would give a 10-year personal property tax (PPT) exemption to businesses that provide broadband service of at least 10 megabits per second downstream received a hearing this week before the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology.

Senate Bill 46, by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Van Buren) is another attempt to incentivize telecom providers to boost services for unserved and underserved areas of Michigan.  

MAC opposed the bill in committee based on our policy platform that opposes all new property tax exemptions without full reimbursement for the lost revenue.

Counties already are struggling to recover from the Great Recession and are likely to face greater property tax revenue declines due to the pandemic. Our ability to rebound from such declines is severely restrained by Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment. By contrast, the state has several other tax sources that rebound much faster when the economy improves.  Passing more laws that require locals to forgo future revenue makes it even harder to provide the services the state mandates we provide. Instead of further crippling local governments, the state should absorb the cost for such an incentive.      

The issue is not whether broadband is necessary or important, the issue is how to incentivize providers to build out the infrastructure, which seems to require they a better return on their investment.

In addition to the fundamental financial issue associated with SB 46, the bill intermingles cellular equipment by default. The PPT lost value has not been calculated and will inevitably be very difficult to determine.

MAC is working on additional language that would require reimbursement for losses, a sunset on the provision and metrics to ensure the savings are redirected to infrastructure investments, as intended.

The committee will resume its review of the bill next week.

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

 

Veteran services bill filed in House as MAC pushes for full funding

A MAC-supported bill to clarify state law so it reflects how the state and counties are handling veteran service funds was filed this week in the House.

House Bill 4122, by Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland), would revamp the County Veteran Service Fund statute and update it to allow for some of the emergency relief efforts counties have utilized funding for due to COVID-19.

Additionally, the bill has changes to the processing of grants – changes agreed to by both the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency (MVAA) and MAC. Those include:

  • A 60-day window for the MVAA to distribute the grant once approved by the county
  • A one-year reduction in the county maintenance of effort requirement to support counties struggling financially (Counties are not able to reduce the funding and supplant reductions; this is intended for any county not eligible due to financial strain in FY 21)
  • 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

The governor has recommended a 50 percent reduction in this line item in previous years. The Legislature, however, has restored the item to full funding of $4 million. MAC is hopeful the full amount will be in the governor’s budget plan for FY22, which will be released on Feb 11.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Military, Veterans and Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Dickinson).

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

 

Keep up reform work, say prosecutors, defense attorneys

Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys told the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week that they want to continue momentum on criminal justice reform launched in the 2019-20 Legislature.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Graham Filler (R-Clinton), held its first meeting and heard from various groups that have an interest in the criminal justice system.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) started the presentations with a broad overview of the organization and prosecutorial process.  Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson, along with Kent Prosecutor Chris Becker, provided the update and the group’s goals for the 2021 legislative session.

The 2019-20 legislative session was marked by bipartisan work on criminal justice reforms, and that work is expected to continue in this Legislature. Prosecutors embraced the opportunity to align the system with the times — repealing unnecessary criminal statutes, updating expungement records and “right-sizing” crimes, all while ensuring protections for victims.

Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM), represented by Jessica Zimbelman, followed, echoing many of PAAM’s comments, supporting expungement reform and applauding the legislative actions on recommendations from the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. Priorities remaining on their list include bail and habitual offender reform. CDAM also applauded the work of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, which is implemented through county government.

The Michigan Sheriffs Association will present next week before the committee.

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

 

MACPAC exceeds $18,000 in 2020 fundraising

MAC’s political action committee, MACPAC, raised $18,275 in calendar 2020, its Board of Directors were told in a virtual meeting this week.

Macomb and Ionia tied for largest amounts donated by MAC members, $1,000 each, with Otsego in third place at $750.

The counties with the most county officials donating in 2020 were Oakland, Ottawa and Van Buren, with four each.

MACPAC received donations from county officials in 34 of Michigan’s 83 counties.

MACPAC gives only to incumbent state legislators who have a record of being a friend to counties. MACPAC is the best way for you to protect your county’s best interest in the state Legislature.

 

MAC joins Michigan Reconnect effort

The Michigan Association of Counties is serving as a Champion to support the Michigan Reconnect program unveiled Tuesday, Feb. 2, in Lansing by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an effort to help address a widening skills gap within the state’s workforce.

The program is specifically designed for residents who are 25 years or older and have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent.

Michigan Reconnect will help pay the costs of tuition or training for eligible adults who want to pursue an associate degree or technical degree. The program also offers skills scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition at more than 70 private training schools with 120 programs to earn certification in manufacturing, construction, information technology, health care or business management.

In order to be eligible for Michigan Reconnect, adults must meet the following criteria:

  • Age 25 or older
  • High school graduate or equivalent
  • Michigan resident for at least one year
  • Not yet completed a college degree (associate or bachelor’s)

Michigan Reconnect pays the remaining balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other state and federal financial aid have been applied.

Interested in a skill certificate from a private training provider? Michigan Reconnect provides a $1,500 Skills Scholarship for Michiganders enrolled in an approved training program.

 

MISS DIG sets informational sessions

In preparation for the 2021 dig season, MISS DIG 811 will be hosting regional virtual pre-construction meetings between Feb. 22 and March 1. See lists below for your county’s region.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW

A pre-construction meeting is your best chance to manage expectations and clarify project goals. During the virtual meetings, expect open dialogue between contractors, facility owners, and locators to establish processes and expectations. MISS DIG 811 staff will be present to educate and make known the solutions and resources available through the System.

  • The West region will meet Monday, Feb. 22, 9:30 a.m.-11 am.
  • The North region will meet Wednesday, Feb. 24, 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m.
  • The East region will meet Monday, March 1, 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m.

The meetings will be held Via WebEx. Once you register, you will receive an invitation with WebEx meeting and call-in information.

Counties in West region: Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Clare, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Isabella, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, Ottawa, St. Joseph, Van Buren.

Counties in East region: Bay, Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Huron, Ingham, Ionia, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Midland, Monroe, Oakland, Saginaw, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Tuscola, Washtenaw, Wayne.

Counties in North region: Alcona, Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Baraga, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Gogebic, Houghton, Iosco, Iron, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Menominee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Schoolcraft, Wexford.

 

Republicans, Whitmer clash on COVID spending, vaccine distribution

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republicans who control the Michigan House of Representatives have a $2 billion difference of opinion on what to do next, spending wise, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Republicans released their COVID spending proposal this week in the wake of Gov. Whitmer’s own plans to use federal and state funds for a spending surge to accelerate the state’s health and economic responses to the coronavirus.

New House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) said the House plan for COVID-19 funding is a start and his hope is the governor is willing to listen and work with lawmakers to move the state forward and provide targeted relief, the Gongwer News Service reported.

The biggest difference in the spending proposals involves about $2 billion in federal aid for education. The House GOP plan includes $3.5 billion in total federal and state spending, while Gov. Whitmer’s includes $5.6 billion.

In other COVID and health policy news this week:

  • The governor plans to use federal funding to bring Michigan closer to its stated goal of administering 50,000 vaccines per day. Funding will help provide financial support to local health departments for administrative vaccine costs, like staffing, as well as equipment and supplies. The state has distributed about 1.5 million vaccine doses, according to its COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.  The state encourages all citizens to make use of its Vaccine Locator system and follow all the latest news on vaccines at its COVID-19 Vaccine webpage.
  • Sen. Rick Outman (R-Montcalm) was named this week as the new chair of the Senate Appropriations Community Health/Human Services Subcommittee, replacing Peter MacGregor, who was elected as Kent County treasurer last fall. For a full list of Senate Appropriations subcommittee assignments, click here.

 

MAC applauds Whitmer comments on road, water investments

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s inclusion of infrastructure investments in her 2021 State of the State address Wednesday was welcomed by MAC.

“We appreciate Gov. Whitmer’s call to improve our local roads and infrastructure. While this is not a new topic at the State Capitol, or at the local diner, it is a critical one, and MAC supports making it a priority,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

“MAC has been at the table for previous efforts to resolve Michigan’s longstanding infrastructure funding challenges, but we concluded our members cannot support a local gas tax option as a solution, as implementation for it would be nearly impossible,” Currie added. “However, we are open to other suggestions, such as a local option registration fee, and stand ready to partner with the governor and the Legislature to get a deal done.”

“MAC applauds the governor’s efforts to provide additional grant funds to locals to improve our drinking water and ground water across Michigan,” added Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “This plan is essential, utilizes current resources and is the first necessary step in addressing our water infrastructure needs.”

On Tuesday, MAC released publicly its legislative priorities list for 2021, which includes the need for local government finance reform; the extension of county commissioner terms to four years to bring Michigan in line with the practice in most of the country; and renewed investment in public infrastructure.

For questions on MAC’s legislative strategies, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 returns to live broadcasts on Monday

The Podcast 83 team returns to their live broadcasts on Monday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. with an update on initial legislative activity in 2021.

MAC’s Steve Currie, Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit will address Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address on Wednesday, the response from legislative Republicans on Thursday, MAC’s legislative priorities for 2021 and much more.

Register for the event at this link.

Attendees will be able to pose questions to the Podcast 83 team. A taped version of the event will be placed on the Podcast 83 page on Tuesday, Feb. 2. Podcast 83 is sponsored by DTE Energy.

 

MAC’s Currie appointed to Protect Michigan Commission

MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie was appointed this week by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to serve on her Protect Michigan Commission and attended the body’s first meeting on Friday, when members were presented with updated information on Michigan’s vaccine strategy and schedule (see image at right).

“The Protect Michigan Commission, formed in December, serves in an advisory capacity to Gov. Whitmer and (the Department of Health and Human Services). The new members are tasked with providing public leadership to elevate and reinforce the importance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine, identifying barriers that may impede the acceptance of an approved COVID-19 vaccine by Michigan residents, which includes identifying areas or groups within this state that are likely to experience vaccine hesitancy, and develop an outreach action plan designed to overcome these barriers. The Commission must complete its work and submit a brief final report to the governor by Dec. 31, 2021. Appointees will serve until the dissolution of the Commission,” the Governor’s Office announced. 

“I’m honored to be appointed to this important commission and look forward to working with other commission members,” Currie said in a statement via Twitter this week.

Currie became MAC’s fourth executive director since 1968 on Jan. 1, 2017. In September 2017, Currie was named the strategic association leader for 2017 by the Michigan Society of Association Executives.

 

Local governments need money, Senate committee told

One of the authors of a report on local government finance in Michigan told a Senate panel this week that, “We need more funds in the hands of local governments to do their jobs.”

Jenna DeAngelo of the Lincoln Institute on Land Policy made those comments during her presentation this week to the Senate Local Government Committee.  DeAngelo is one of the authors of “Towards Fiscally Healthy Michigan Local Governments,” which the nonpartisan think tank issued last October after more than a year of working with MAC and other local government groups to identify the financial structures most in need of reform.

The report details Michigan’s long recent history of funding shortages for local governments and the resulting financial and service crises these shortages have spurred. Among its recommendations, the report advises greater use of county governments as regional service and/or funding hubs to improve efficiencies.

For more information or questions on this report, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Time to get moving on indigent defense planning

It’s still January, but the first deadline for indigent defense plans in 2021 is not that far away. The first round of submissions for plans to the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC), which are to include standard 5, are due by April 27. This year, MIDC also will be adopting a commonly used state grant program, EGRAMs. Training for EGRAMS will be available March 22-29.

Per a communication from MIDC this week, regional managers should be scheduling planning meetings to help support funding units with compliance plans and costs analyses. Additionally, if counties have any concerns, they are always welcome to reach out to MAC for clarification or questions.

As many counties continue to operate in a virtual world and begin the process to transition to a more “typical” environment, the National Association for Public Defense published considerations when operating remote criminal proceedings. This may act as a resource for counties as they begin analyzing various areas of the justice process.

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

 

DNR releases land strategy, asks for public feedback

The Michigan Department of Resources (DNR) has released its comprehensive public land strategy to manage public lands

Previously, the Michigan Association of Counties has encouraged the DNR to include specific information about state-owned lands, including payments in lieu of taxes (PILT), and the effects of state land ownership on local tax rolls, and the fair market value of the public land.

The framework details the DNR’s focus on acquiring new lands through the purchase of privately owned lands from a willing seller and requirements of PILT that are be made by the state of Michigan to local units of government for public land that is managed by the DNR. Further, the strategy looks to protect Michigan’s natural and cultural resources, providing access to outdoor public recreation opportunities for Michigan residents, and responsible natural resource management for Michigan’s public lands.

DNR is accepting feedback on its plan at www.michigan.gov/PublicLands.

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

 

MAC partner gives advice on maximizing your internet

With the ongoing need to work remotely, maximizing the use of internet service, particularly in underserved rural areas, has never been a higher priority in Michigan.

To assist MAC members, Dan Aylward of Abilita, a MACSC sponsored program, provided a presentation on tips and ideas for a special episode of Podcast 83, sponsored by DTE Energy. Among the issues addressed by Aylward are:

  • Michigan’s “digital divide”
  • What options exist for changing/improving internet links to your home
  • What you can do to improve the performance of your existing internet service

Abilita, a leader in telecommunications consulting, can help MAC member counties find efficiencies and savings in their telecom services. On average, Abilita clients in Michigan end up saving 29 percent on their bills. Learn more at Abilita’s page on the MAC website.

 

February jails call to focus on rapid opioid screener tool

Sheriffs or jail administrators curious about the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program are encouraged to join the February Community of Practice event organized by the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. It will be held Feb. 19 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The event is designed to gather officials who can help talk through any issues, concerns and programing successes that jails are having with the opioid use disorder population.

The focus will be on the RODS (rapid opioid dependency screener) tool.

 

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