OMA update, protecting mental health services top MAC’s 2022 priorities

Updating the Open Meetings Act to meet the 21st century needs of state residents and preventing an ill-advised attempt to privatize Michigan’s locally directed system of public mental health services head the list of legislative priorities for Michigan counties this year.

Legislative action in 2020-21 allowed county boards and other local panels to address the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the changes also resulted in making the act less responsive in 2022 by barring the votes of public officials participating remotely when a physical quorum was present at a meeting.

“Quick action by the state in 2020 allowed county boards to meet remotely during the pandemic in a safe manner, but those changes ended up removing a key option for local officials to participate in governance in specific situations,” explained Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “We will be focused on OMA reform with legislators to resolve this problem as soon as possible.”

MAC also will continue its efforts with a broad coalition opposed to a mental health privatization scheme embedded in Senate Bill 597-598, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson). Boards in more than 40 counties already have passed resolutions opposing privatization of mental health services, which face growing demands for care and persistent state underfunding.

Other goals for 2022 in Lansing are:

  • Enacting Reforms to Ensure Proper Funding of Local Courts
  • Creating a Fair Revenue Sharing System for Counties
  • Compensating Local Governments for Funds Diverted by the Veterans Property Tax Exemption
  • Revamping the PPT Exemption to Provide Annual Reimbursement to Locals
  • Adopting the MI Roadmap to Use ARP Funds for Historic Investments in Michigan

“These goals reflect months of meetings and discussions by our policy committees of elected county leaders, by our Board of Directors and by our membership,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “These items constitute the ‘Regional Agenda,’ if you will, from Michigan’s original regional governments, our 83 counties.”

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

 

Podcast 83 reviews MAC priorities, discusses State of State

MAC’s Podcast 83 team gathered for a live session on Thursday, Jan. 27 to analyze Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State address and go over MAC’s 2022 priorities, which were released on Jan. 26.

“(A)side from accomplishments, she focused on mental health, which is absolutely needed in the state. Getting more health care workers,” said Deena Bosworth, governmental affairs director.

Reviewing MAC’s priorities for the year, Bosworth focused in on the challenges and complexity of resolving reimbursements to counties created by 2021 changes to exemptions for the Personal Property Tax: “We don’t have a good idea on how much money (in lost revenue for counties) that is. … We have a commitment from the Senate to work on it. … So that is what I am going to spend the vast majority of my time on this year — trying to figure how to get that reimbursement out to our counties.”

Executive Director Stephan Currie welcomed the podcast’s new sponsor, Comcast, and noted that with legislative activity gearing up, the podcast would be shifting back to weekly tapings.

To stay abreast of the latest podcast doings, bookmark the Podcast 83 page on MAC’s website and MAC’s YouTube channel.

 

MAC applauds mention of mental health boost in governor’s annual address

In a brisk delivery from an industrial plant Wednesday evening, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized political cooperation and calls for tax cuts in her 2022 State of the State address.

The governor also pledged new investments in mental health services, a key priority for Michigan counties, “We should invest in our mental health workforce so we can expand access. Nearly 40% of Michiganders do not get treatment for their mental illness. We will address this shortfall by expanding Michigan’s Loan Repayment Program for mental health professionals. And we will make a historic investment to retain and recruit hundreds more mental health workers.”

Responding to the governor’s comments, MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie said, “Our county members who are entrusted with oversight of the local mental health system were pleased to hear the governor cite mental health as a priority for the year ahead.”

He added, “As the governor develops her budget plans, we hope to see more about long-term investments in local government stability and in water, transportation and broadband infrastructure utilizing the historic opportunity presented by federal COVID aid and the state’s strengthening economy.”

 

MAC urges members to speak out against binding arbitration bill

MAC continued its opposition to an ill-advised expansion of binding arbitration coverage for public employees during testimony this week on House Bill 4725, by Rep. Robert Bezotte (R-Howell). The bill would expand binding arbitration beyond police and fire labor bargaining units to correctional officers.

The legislation, which previously cleared the House 97-10, is before the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee, so MAC asks members to use our Advocacy Center to send a pre-drafted message of opposition to their state senators.

MAC has long opposed any expansion of binding arbitration to other bargaining units due to the cost of the process, the long-term liabilities associated with third-party decisions and the unequal treatment such a system provides to those bargaining units. The Michigan Public Employment Relations Act already provides for bargaining rights without tying the hands of the county in binding arbitration.

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

 

U.S. Treasury issues clarification on $10 million revenue loss and COVID aid

The U.S. Treasury has issued the following important clarifications on how to report revenue replacement and other expenditures in the Project and Expenditure Report, said the National Association of Counties this week:

  1. Option to defer choice of claiming $10 million standard revenue loss allowance: If a county has not decided whether or not to take the standard allowance, Treasury won’t commit them to their reported choice in the Jan. 31 report.
    • Decisions made in the reporting around the standard allowance as part of the Jan. 31 Project and Expenditure Report may be changed in the April 2022 Project and Expenditure report when the Final Rule takes effect. More guidance on this will be released as we approach that reporting period.
    • If a county has nothing to report in the Revenue Replacement section and doesn’t want to make any choice, they may enter zero in the required fields and use the description box to explain that they have not yet allocated funds under revenue loss and will update their response in future reporting cycles. Treasury may choose to follow up in these cases for further details.
  1. What to do if a county has no projects to report on the January 31 Project and Expenditure Report: If your county has not yet identified any projects to report, please know that maintaining a project list is a core requirement of the Recovery Fund program. For the Project and Expenditure Report due January 31, 2022, Treasury will be offering an option to select “No Projects to Report” at this time. Selecting this option will require providing a written explanation and may result in additional compliance follow-up from Treasury.  Please see the user guide for additional guidance; information will also be provided in the Project Overview module of the Project and Expenditure Report. If you have questions or need additional information, please send an email via SLFRP@treasury.gov.
  2. Additional resources and helpful information from Treasury: If you are unable to log in to Treasury’s State, Local, and Tribal Support portal after establishing your accounts or need technical or other assistance, please send us an email at covidreliefitsupport@treasury.gov for

As a reminder, the following counties, the following counties are required to submit a Project and Expenditure Report the Treasury by Jan. 31, 2022:

  • Counties with populations that exceed 250,000 residents (referred to as Tier 1 recipients by Treasury)
  • Counties with a population below 250,000 residents which received more than $10 million in Recovery Funds (referred to as Tier 2 recipient by Treasury)

The Project and Expenditure Report will cover the period between March 3, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2021, and requires the reporting of project, obligations and expenditure data, subaward data, as well as certain required programmatic data.

Please note: Counties with populations below 250,000 residents and received less than $10 million in Recovery Funds, are not required to submit a report by January 31, 2022, and there will not be a report record available for you to do so. Your first reporting deadline to submit the Project and Expenditure Report will be April 30, 2022, and annually afterwards. A Project and Expenditure Report will be made available for your jurisdiction to complete ahead of your April 30, 2022, deadline.

 

Public notice bills don’t help counties, MAC tells House committee

Bills purporting to modernize Michigan’s requirements for local governments to issue public notices got a thumbs down by MAC in a House hearing this week.

MAC testified in opposition to Senate Bill 258, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), and SB 259, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), before the House Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee. The bills passed the Senate 34-0 last fall.

Deena Bosworth, MAC governmental affairs director, told committee members that counties oppose the current version of both bills as they do not curb county costs to do postings, reduce the unnecessary details of many of the posting requirements or assist locals in meeting legal timelines.

Bosworth added that MAC remains ready to work with sponsors on amending the legislation to make it beneficial to counties that have to navigate a media landscape far different from the one of the 1960s when notice requirements were enacted.

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

 

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.

 

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