NACo applauds county leaders’ help on federal aid bill

US Capitol

Much still must be clarified about the latest federal relief package awaiting House action before its full effects on counties are known, said officials with the National Association of Counties via a briefing call on Thursday, March 26.

NACo leaders, however, were pleased with the inclusion of the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund included in the $2 trillion Senate-approved package that’s aimed at state, local and tribal governments.

Deborah Cox of NACo was able to state that:

  • 45 percent of the $150 billion is eligible for direct payments to local units with populations above 500,000; and
  • Such funds were meant for recent expenditures due to the public health emergency and unanticipated costs to local budgets that occurred on March 1 or after.

In Michigan, though, only four counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent) exceed the population threshold.

Cox and the NACo briefers said clarity was needed about aid to smaller counties and that there already were “100 different interpretations” of what the relief fund language actually meant.

Cox praised the calls from local county officials during the drafting process for helping to ensure counties would be specifically included in the relief fund.

Also critical is that under the economic stabilization sections of the bill, the U.S. Treasury can purchase debt from state and local units, while the Federal Reserve can participate in the secondary bond market for municipal debt, thereby reducing borrowing costs for counties.

Other key elements to the “CARES” Act identified in the call:

  • $1.32 billion is allotted to community health centers for COVID response – “a definite win for counties,” NACo said
  • Previously planned cuts to hospitals serving the uninsured and underinsured were pushed back to Nov. 30
  • $1 billion for agencies for aging to help them deliver meals, provide home-based services, support care-givers and provide equipment nursing homes to protect residents
  • $400 million for election assistance in the 2020 cycle
  • $56 million for airports in the Essential Air Service program
  • $5 billion for CDBG
  • $45 billion for FEMA disaster relief fund

NACo’s comprehensive analysis of the bill can be found here. As for eventual timing of the funds, the House passed the bill on Friday afternoon, President Trump is expected to sign it later today.

 

Damage from rising water levels will mount, state warns

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hosted an hour-long seminar Thursday evening to highlight the vulnerability of our natural resources and infrastructure due to record high water levels across Michigan and the Great Lakes.

Presentations by the Army Corp of Engineers and EGLE provided viewers with charts and graphs reporting record levels during 2019 and 2020 for all of the Great Lakes, and the current trajectory for water levels in the coming spring and summer months. The trend is calling for significantly higher water levels and the potential for greater and more costly damage to Michigan’s shorelines, farmland, parks, roads and other critical infrastructure.

The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates it has spent more than $5 million mitigating damage and anticipates that number to reach near $100 million before it’s all over. The Michigan Department of Agriculture reported that more than million acres of farmland could not be planted due to flooding last year, and its projections for the 2020 growing season are just as stark. 

What is most concerning is damages inflicted on municipal infrastructure. These high water levels have affected stormwater systems and sewer systems and caused discharges from combined stormwater and sewer systems. EGLE sent a letter to each entity in possession of a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit asking that they submit a vulnerability analysis to minimize the impact this anticipated rise in water levels will have on existing infrastructure.

The city of Detroit is spending $2 million on temporary dams to help prevent an overload of their combined stormwater and sewer systems. Work is under way to map the potential effects of a one-foot rise in Great Lakes levels, analyze where all of that water is going to go and figure out how best to notify residents of the potential for flooding.

A copy of the presentations will soon be up on EGLS website.

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

 

Urge your county to reply to census today

By now, you’ve probably received the 2020 Census in your mailbox. While national attention is properly focused on COVID-19, it is important to encourage your county residents to count themselves. The census determines congressional representation, as well as federal funding for public health and disease prevention, Medicaid and Medicare, health care centers statewide and other essential services.  

So far, Michigan ranks sixth in the country for census responses at 30.6 percent, compared to 26.2 percent nationwide (you can find an interactive map that includes all 50 states’ response rates here.) In 2010, Michigan had a response rate of 68 percent and our goal this year is 82 percent.

To date, more than 25 percent of census responses in Michigan have been done online, an option available for the first time this year. It is important to underscore that the census only has 9 questions and shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to fill out to completion.

Census takers were scheduled to begin canvassing households that hadn’t yet responded in early April, but COVID-19 has, of course, disrupted that timeline. In the interim, please urge your constituents to fill out the census at their earliest convenience. This can be done online at www.my2020census.gov, over the phone at 844-330-2020 or through the physical form that comes in the mail.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder why it’s never been more critical that all Michigan residents fill out their census form in order to get our fair share of funding for emergency services, police and fire funding, senior programs and more. Help us keep Michigan near the best in the nation!  

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

Maintenance is essential activity; counties must facilitate utility work, etc.

MAC is issuing another advisory to all counties regarding your code and permit operations that affect businesses such as utilities doing maintenance work.

Here is what the Governor’s Office says on this issue under her EO:

“Q: Is construction allowed under the executive order?

“A: Some limited forms of construction are permissible, including construction to maintain and improve essential public works like roads, bridges, the telecommunications infrastructure, and public health infrastructure. Construction workers may also undertake such projects as necessary to maintain and improve the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences. In addition, businesses may designate construction firms to provide necessary support to the work of the businesses’ critical infrastructure workers. All construction work that is carried out while the order is in effect must be done in accordance with the mitigation measures required under section 5(c) of the order.”

We have received reports of county offices telling callers that they are blocked by the EO from operating the normal coordination process on maintenance work. One example: “Point of call (to MAC) is to discuss some issues the telecom and energy issues are having as local units of government are limiting workforce hours and availability. This has impacted critical projects and emergency repairs around the state when permits are sought or 811 staking is required.”

Please review with your teams to ensure operational/staff support to these activities.

If you have questions on this, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

County leaders, look for survey info in email, mailboxes

With the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak placing tremendous stress on so many of our communities, we’re hoping you might find time to share your experiences through the upcoming round of the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) program is coming soon to your mailbox.

The MPPS is an annual statewide survey of local government officials conducted by the University of Michigan in collaboration with the Michigan Townships Association (MTA), Michigan Municipal League (MML), and Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

On March 30, you’ll receive an email link to the new MPPS questionnaire, which asks about the public health and economic challenges your county may be facing because of COVID-19. It also continues the annual tracking of counties’ fiscal health.

The U-M survey team plans to quickly share responses to the COVID-19 questions with other leaders to help the state respond to the crisis, all while carefully protecting your anonymity and confidentiality. Your participation is crucial to the success of the MPPS program.

If you have questions about this research study, you can contact Dr. Debra Horner, Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy, University of Michigan, 5309 Weill Hall, 735 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109, 734-647-4091, closup-mpps@umich.edu.

Please keep an eye out for your email invitation to take the survey next week. Thank you so much for supporting this effort.

 

State adjutant general details crisis response

On Thursday, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs released a letter from Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers, the state adujant general, on efforts by the National Guard to assist communities during the coronavirus crisis.
 
Rogers noted, “The Michigan National Guard has approximately 300 personnel already supporting the State of Michigan’s COVID-19 response. Since March 18th, guard members have supported relief activities across the state, with missions including relief planning, assembling and loading critical personal protective gear, and staffing at distribution centers across Michigan.”
 

 

DTE outlines actions taken in coronavirus crisis

DTE has taken the following actions to aid customers and keep employees safe during this challenging, unprecedented time:

  • DTE has all employees who can work remotely doing so, and we’ve kept those essential employees needed at facilities in their roles to maintain both gas and electric service for our customers
  • We are also suspending shutoffs and extend senior programs in response to the coronavirus through April 30
  • DTE has suspended all non-essential work as of March 23 – news release with details below
  • Updates for customers, including Q&A, can be found by visiting dteenergy.com/covid19.

 

MAC issues committee, conference updates in response to coronavirus

With coronavirus confirmed in Michigan, MAC has announced several steps to respond to the coronavirus situation in the interests of minimizing risk to members and staff alike.

First, we have created a resource page for county leaders in responding to the crisis. This page will be updated regularly.

Second, for members of our policy committees, we are shifting all upcoming meetings to teleconference-only sessions until further notice. Our staff will be in contact with committee members on the details of these sessions. As we already routinely offer a teleconference option to committee meetings, you should see a seamless transition.

Third, we have prepared for the option of MAC staffers to work at home, rather than in our Lansing offices. Each staffer will have a laptop that connects to our file system and phone access will be maintained via cell lines. You will still be able to call our main number, 517-372-5374, and a MAC staffer will answer your call.

We have NOT yet taken this step, but it is important to be ready to do so as events dictate. If we do shift to working at home, all members will be alerted by email.

Fourth, we are consulting with MAC Board leadership and our venues and monitoring advisories from county and state health officials as we continue planning for our 2020 Legislative Conference in Lansing April 15-17. As of this moment, the conference is still set to go forward as scheduled. As in all things, our decisions will be driven by what is in the interest of public health. Gov. Whitmer has ordered a halt to large gatherings until April 5.

We have advised all registered attendees that they may cancel with a full refund.

 

Legislative approves $312 million in immediate spending

An additional $312.3 million in state spending was passed by the Legislature this week and sent to the governor’s desk for signature.

Senate Bill 151 contains adjustments for FY 2019-20, including:

  • $10 million for coronavirus public health emergency state and local preparedness and response activities
  • $15 million for the Coronavirus Response Fund
  • $5 million for High Water Infrastructure Repair grants
  • $1 million for county fairs, shows and expositions
  • $128,000 for the Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council’s IT system
  • $500,000 for court-appointed special advocates
  • $3.2 million for behavioral health system redesign
  • $11.3 million to replace the MiSACWIS (child welfare IT system)
  • $16 million to support Pure Michigan
  • $37 million for 85 Michigan enhancement grants (specific special projects outline here

Muskegon County also was appropriated $2 million for the Muskegon Federally Qualified Health Center.

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

 

UP Natural Resources Commission bills introduced in House

A package of bills that would give more local control to the Upper Peninsula in how they regulate hunting and fishing has been introduced in the House. House Bills 5592-5594 and Joint Resolution Q would create the Upper Peninsula Natural Resources Commission and grant authority to the commission on decision-making concerning the UP’s vast hunting and fishing landscape.

Joint Resolution Q would alter the state constitution to create the UP Natural Resources Commission and supplant the authority of the Natural Resources Commission for the Upper Peninsula. The current Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) was created by Proposal G of 1996 when it passed overwhelmingly by over a million votes from Michiganders. The intent of the NRC was to “use sound scientific management in making decisions regarding the taking of game” and to set some Department of Natural Resources (DNR) policies and procedures. The Commission consists of seven members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Michigan Senate.

The commission has come under fire in recent years legislators for the approved ban on deer and elk baiting. Under the current ban the entire lower peninsula and parts of the upper peninsula are disallowed from using baits like corn or other vegetables in order to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). A bill that would’ve overturned the controversial order was vetoed late last year by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The UP Natural Resources Commission, just like the NRC, would consist of seven members, all of whom must be residents of the UP and all shall be appointed as follows: 1 appointment by each member of the House of Representatives that represent the UP; 2 appointments by the member of the Michigan Senate that represents the UP; and 2 appointments by the governor. The UP NRC would have the authority to make rules regarding the taking of game or sportfish that have any an impact on the UP. This resolution would go to the vote of the people.

The House bills, by Reps. Beau LaFave (R-Dickinson) and Greg Markkanen (R-Houghton) both from the UP, would make necessary changes to the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. HB 5592 would grant the new commission the ability to regulate all game, and HB 5593 would grant the commission the ability to regulate all fish. HB 5594 would create the commission statutorily. 

The three bills are tie-barred, which means they must all pass in order for them to go into effect. MAC has not yet taken a position on the bills.

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org

 

MAC launches #ParticipationIsPower campaign on salary data

The Michigan Association of Counties, in partnership with Munetrix, a Michigan firm specializing in government data, has developed a new salary survey database and tool. The first phase of this tool will focus solely on sheriff deputies and their pay and benefits. This tool is designed in response to our members voicing their concern about the increasing cost of salary surveys. This our first step in providing a more robust salary survey tool that covers all departments and will be consistently updated.

“This cloud-based system was developed for ease of use by participating members,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “And MAC and Munetrix are committed to providing staff and training support to ensure our members get the maximum value from their participation. Our motto is #ParticipationIsPower.”

Munetrix already has conducted multiple training webinars on how to upload data to the system. If you did not participate in one, you can view a recording of a session below.

Salary Survey Training Webinar

Please check the Munetrix page on the MAC website regularly for additional updates as the Salary Survey is rolled out to members.

 

 

Voters give broad approval to county millage requests

Voters showed strong support for county millage requests in elections this week, with 35 of 38 county requests gaining approval in unofficial results tallied by the MIRS News Service in Lansing.

Requests were primarily renewals of existing levies to support everything from public health and veterans services, to public transportation and 911 services.

In Dickinson County voters rejected a public health millage increase but did renew an existing PH levy. Voters in the same county rejected a new levy for conservation districts.

And Saginaw County voters rejected a new levy for MSU Extension.

 

 

National news from NACo

 

MAC members attend Trump speech, make Capitol Hill visits

Attendees of the 2020 NACo Legislative Conference make sure to get their own photos and video of President Donald Trump’s address to the conference on March 3. (Photo by MAC staffer Meghann Keit)

From hearing President Trump discuss federal cooperation with counties, to fanning out across Capitol Hill to meet with Michigan lawmakers, to attending briefings on coronavirus, mental health policies and more, MAC’s contingent of county commissioners and others were kept busy during the 2020 National Association of Counties Legislative Conference last week.

About 50 county leaders from Michigan joined more than 1,500 county officials from across the nation to attend committee sessions and work on key policy issues.

During the conference, MAC leads county officials on visits to Michigan’s members of Congress on Capitol Hill. This year, MAC groups met with or received briefings from Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Reps. Bill Huizenga, Justin Amash, John Moolenaar, Dan Kildee, Fred Upton, Haley Stevens and Debbie Dingell.

The NACo event each year draws on the local experiences and expertise of commissioners from the 3,069 U.S. counties to craft policy initiatives for Congress and federal regulators. A highlight of this year’s conference was an address by President Donald Trump.

See more photos.

“This was one of our largest contingents to attend NACo Legislative, which helps us in making our case to federal lawmakers on our needs in Michigan,” said Stephan W. Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “And President Trump’s address to the conference is another example of how this administration views the importance of county government.”

House GOP unveils local road funding plan

The Republican majority in the Michigan House introduced legislation this week to phase out the sales tax on gas and replace it with an excise tax dedicated to local roads.

House Bills 5582-88 phase out the sales tax paid at the pump by 2 percentage points per year beginning Oct. 1, 2020, and simultaneously phase in an excise tax at the pump at the same rate. Sixty percent of the approximately $780 million in this annual revenue is slated to be distributed counties and 40 percent to city and village roads. 

This move is consistent with the House Republican priorities for road funding, calling for the all the taxes paid at the pump to go to fund our roads. However, this plan leaves a shortfall in the School Aid Fund (SAF) and in constitutional revenue sharing (CRS) for cities, villages and townships. The plan also calls for earmarking the state’s income tax to backfill the hole created in the SAF due to this shift in taxes, yet that will create a different hole in the state’s General Fund.

How the plan will backfill the loss in CRS is yet to be seen.

The House leadership believes there is enough growth in the coming years and enough budget cuts that can be made to make up for this loss in General Fund. However, MAC remains skeptical of this claim and has not taken a position on the bills.

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

 

Weapon-related infringement on local control advances in House

A bill to bar local governments from engaging in publicly financed gun buyback programs sped through the House this week, despite opposition from MAC and others over the clear infringement on local control.

House Bill 5479, by Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland), cleared committee and the full House in just two days. It would prohibit a local unit of government, including counties, from using any public resource to implement, administer or operate a program to purchase privately owned firearms, firearm parts or ammunition from private individuals or organizations. MAC opposed the bill as an infringement on local control and county funds. The bill passed committee on a party-line vote without the typical two weeks of testimony and was approved by the House a day later 58-49. The bill was sent to Senate Government Operations, which is known to either pass bills very rapidly or never move them.

Another bill to curtail local control, House Bill 5286, by Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Kent), was heard by the House Judiciary Committee this week, but no action was taken this week. It would create the Michigan Knife Rights Act and prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances relating to knives that are more restrictive than state law. MAC also opposed HB 5286, as counties should have authority to regulate their county-owned buildings.

According to legal advice obtained by MAC, it is not clear whether a county rule or policy banning or regulating the carrying of knives on county property, as opposed to banning or regulating it anywhere in the county (which Counties cannot do anyway), would necessarily be “more restrictive than state law.“

MAC has suggested changes to address this uncertainty as it relates to county-owned property. HB 5286 is expected to get a vote next Tuesday, but it is uncertain that bill leaders will accept MAC’s recommendations.

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

 

 

MDHHS: State increasing coronavirus testing

As cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) increase in the United States and internationally, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of Laboratories has increased its testing supplies to test more than 300 Michiganders for the virus, more than doubling its previous testing capacity.

The MDHHS lab received additional test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday. The kits are currently undergoing a validation process but should be ready for use by the end of the week.

“We want Michiganders to know that their state laboratory is ready and able to provide testing for COVID-19,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We are currently able to provide same day turnaround for test results.”

The new test kits arrived following news from the CDC that testing criteria had expanded to include any persons, including health care workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset, or a history of travel to one of the affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset. Affected areas include China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

To date, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan. As of March 4, eight people have been tested for COVID-19 in the state: five by CDC and three by MDHHS.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. For the latest information, visit Michigan.gov/coronavirus or CDC.gov/coronavirus.

 

Census estimate: State at risk of missing more than 1 million residents

As much as 10 percent of Michigan’s population are at risk of not being counted in the 2020 Census, says a new report, jeopardizing huge amounts of federal funds for the state.

As the once-a-decade population count gets under way, a coalition of nonprofits, local government associations (including MAC), labor unions, religious groups, business stakeholders and more held a press conference last week to announce the “Be Counted” campaign to promote an accurate count for Michigan.

The press conference highlighted an analysis that found 10 counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Ottawa and Saginaw) are at risk of missing by about 1.2 million people in the counts. See the breakdown here. Historically, young people, the homeless, veterans, renters and immigrants are the hardest populations to count and make up the most undercounted segments of society. 

In 2010, the last census, the response rate was only 78 percent; the goal for the 2020 Be Counted campaign is 82 percent, which would mean tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funds flowing into local communities.

MAC strongly urges full participation and support for the U.S. Census efforts across Michigan. Opportunities to fill out a census form will be made online, with door-to-door canvassers, at townhalls across the state and directly in residents’ mailboxes.  

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

USDA offering grants to boost rural economy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office is accepting applications for grants to help strengthen the rural economy.

The grants are available under the Rural Community Development Initiative program for qualified intermediaries to provide assistance to help improve housing and community facilities, and to implement community and economic development projects in rural areas.

Electronic applications must be submitted to grants.gov by May 13, 2020, at midnight EST. Paper applications must be submitted to the applicant’s USDA Rural Development state office by May 18, 2020, at 4 p.m. local time. Additional information is available on page 12761 of the March 4, 2020, Federal Register

The USDA encourages applications that will support recommendations made in the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to help improve the quality of life in rural America. Applicants are encouraged to consider projects that provide measurable results in helping rural communities build robust and sustainable economies through strategic investments in infrastructure, partnerships and innovation. Key strategies include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life  

USDA also encourages applications that will support the administration’s goal to combat substance use disorder, including opioid misuse, in high-risk rural communities by strengthening the capacity to address prevention, treatment and/or recovery.

The USDA will be one of nearly 40 entities at the 2020 Legislative Conference Exhibitor Show in April. Have you registered to attend?

 

National news from NACo

 

Community corrections, jail pressures discussed at MAC summit

Leaders from groups representing prosecutors and sheriffs came to MAC on Feb. 25 to discuss legislative agendas for 2020.

Leaders of the groups representing Michigan’s sheriffs and prosecutors joined MAC President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie for a discussion this week on legislative goals in 2020.

Among topics raised by MAC were funding for community corrections, the looming sunset on the authority of trial courts to impose fees and a bill that requires defendant competency examinations at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry to be completed within 30 days or allows a court to appoint an outside independent psychiatrist to perform examination.

Key concerns for sheriffs this year are finding a better revenue stream for the state’s Secondary Road Patrol program and full funding for reimbursements to counties holding state prisoners.

Prosecutors want the Legislature to look at greater investment in information technology services and consider the rising demands on prosecutor offices in the wake of the state’s new investments in indigent defense services.

“This was one of the best conversations we have had since we started these gatherings,” said Currie. “Boosting communication and coordination among county groups will pay dividends later this year in the Legislature.”

MAC appreciates the county leaders who were able to attend:

  • Paul Bailey, Berrien County sheriff and past president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association
  • Matt Saxton, Calhoun County sheriff and incoming executive direct of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association
  • Bill Vailliencourt, Livingston County prosecutor and president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan
  • Jim Miller, a lieutenant in the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the joint county-state Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration
  • Barbara Hankey, manager of Oakland County Community Corrections

MAC launched these “county summits” in early 2019 to foster communication and cooperation among the various groups representing county government offices in Michigan.

 

Allegan’s Storey urges state action on lakeshore damages

Allegan Commissioner Jim Storey (left) and Ottawa Water Resources Commissioner Joe Bush before their testimony on Feb. 25.

Allegan County Commissioner Jim Storey told a Senate funding panel this week that little has been done to address a “shipwreck on the horizon” for Michigan’s summer tourism season.

Storey, a MAC Board member, was referring to the damage inflicted by rising water levels and wave action along Lake Michigan in his county and elsewhere. He also told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and the Environment that the state should look at extra emergency funds beyond what becomes available via the regular disaster declaration process. (link to testimony)

Joining Storey during testimony was Joe Bush, water resources commissioner for Ottawa County, who detailed damages in his county on homes, marinas and infrastructure.

“Roads in Grand Haven have been underwater; the city is looking at $3 million-plus to make intersections passable,” Bush said. “Windmill Island (in Holland) will be underwater if we get 8 to 10 inches more (rise in lake levels).

“If water rises, we definitely need to have a plan in place and try to figure out who is going to pay for what,” Bush added.

“We need to get going; time is now,” Storey added. “That’s my essential message.”

For more information on MAC’s work on water issues, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MIDC details system progress, spending to Senate committee

Michigan is unlike many states in the local control over indigent defense services and 85 percent of the state money appropriated for those services went to attorneys and their staffs in fiscal 2019, Executive Director Loren Khogail and Research Director Jonah Siegel of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) told the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week.

The pair also detailed MIDC’s financial monitoring of spending through quarterly financial reports, noting that work has begun on an internal and local system audit component. MAC will be closely monitoring this project and collecting feedback from members, as we recognize the current reporting requirements and additional requests for documentation already are proving burdensome to some systems.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget includes $117 million from the General Fund for FY21 to fully fund systems for compliance of state mandates under standards 1-4. The Legislature is now reviewing those recommendations. If the grant funding is not provided in full by the state, however, local systems are not required to continue to comply, under provisions of state law. MAC is urging legislative approval of the full $117 million.

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

 

MAC releases federal priorities in advance of NACo Conference

In advance of the 2020 NACo Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, MAC has released its federal legislative priorities for the year.

Key points of emphasis include:

  • Greater investment in services to those coping with mental illness or substance abuse disorders (In Michigan rural county jails, 34 percent of the inmates are dealing with mental illness.)
  • Disaster preparedness and resilience (Michigan was 34th out of 50 states in disaster preparedness in a 2018 USA Today report.)
  • Infrastructure (A 2019 report by a business alliance found Michigan needed $12 billion in new spending to update critical water infrastructure.)
  • Broadband access (Fifteen Michigan counties are below 50 percent in resident broadband access, according to the Federal Communications Commission.)
  • Full funding for federal PILT (Michigan has the second-largest amount of land in federal control of states east of the Mississippi River.)

“We will spend several hours on Capitol Hill on March 3 visiting with House members and receive briefings from both of Michigan’s U.S. senators,” said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs. “These issues will be the first topics of conversation in each session.”

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

 

Longtime MAC staffer Dzurka passes

Yvonne Dzurka, a fixture at MAC since the 1980s and friend to countless county leaders, passed away Sunday, Feb. 22 due to complications from her long battle with cancer.

The then Yvonne Simon joined MAC in 1985. In the subsequent 35 years, Yvonne was involved in just about every aspect of MAC’s work on behalf of county officials, including conference planning, overseeing the MAC newsletter, Michigan Counties, and serving as the secretary for all three of MAC’s governing boards: MAC, Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund and MAC Service Corp. She also served as the administrative assistant for the Michigan Association of County Administrative Officers (MACAO).

“We are devastated,” said Executive Director Stephan Currie. “Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband, Scott Dzurka, her son and daughter in-law, Jason and Amanda Simon, and the rest of her family. Each of us at MAC has lost a dear friend whose gentle spirit and ready smile never failed to brighten the day.”

“Yvonne was my right hand in planning the MACAO conference for last two decades,” said Bridgette Gransden, Midland County administrator and a close friend. “She made sure all the details were taken care of and I couldn’t have done it without her — at least not nearly as well.

“Yvonne was a huge supporter of other women — ‘girls,’ as she would lovingly refer to us as. She was all about boosting up other women and encouraging them to follow their dreams. It was common in our conversations for her to say, ‘Of course we can do that — we’re girls!’ We had the power to change the world. Yvonne had the power to change lives,” Gransden added.

On top of climbing the ladder to become MAC’s lead finance staffer, Yvonne also encountered her future husband, Scott, then working in governmental affairs for MAC. The couple traveled, golfed and were big fans of the Michigan State University Spartans.

In remarks in January for a planned feature on her duties at MAC, Yvonne wrote:

 “I love my job … I love the people I work with and the people I work for. Every day, I learn something new about county government or about my job.”

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to Court Appointed Special Advocates: The Voice for Clinton County’s Children (1207 N. Old U.S. 27, St. Johns, MI 48879) or St. Joseph Catholic School’s Educational Trust Fund. 

 

DHHS provides opioid broadcast for local leaders

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chair of the Michigan Opioid Task Force, led an Opioid Crises Response Broadcast for local officials Thursday. For those that were not able to view live, the department will be posting slides from the presentation at its site.

Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive continues, to educate about the crisis, which is killing five people per day in Michigan and has reverberating impacts through the child welfare and criminal justice systems —both huge systems largely supported financially by county government. Khaldun noted that in 2018 trends indicated racial disparities across the opioid effects and access to treatment. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is ensuring all this data is considered when targeting interventions. Finally, responses will build on current efforts such as expansion of naloxone distribution and syringe service programs.

The governor created the Opioid Task Force to drive action and policy changes with the goal to decrease opioid deaths in half in five years. MAC is part of the Opioid Advisory Group that provides feedback and suggestions to the Task Force. The Task Force also will be holding town halls around the state. MAC encourages members to attend, promote to constituents and provide input on this important topic affecting county residents.

Town hall dates and more information can be found here https://www.michigan.gov/opioids. Please contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org with questions.

 

MAC Membership Directory arriving in mailboxes

The 2020 MAC Membership Directory is the ultimate guide to county elected officials across Michigan.

Each of Michigan’s 83 counties has a full listing with names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for all county elected officials. The directory also carries a list of board chairs and vice chairs; full administrator listings; and contact information for human resources and purchasing.

Complimentary copies of the 2020 MAC Membership Directory should have arrived, or be arriving, for county commissioners, county administrators and county board offices.

Readers also will find background materials on MAC’s services, full listings for Michigan legislators, both state and federal, and Michigan legislative committee assignments.

Members also can access a digital version of the directory here. Your password information is found on the Table of Contents page of your directory.

 

CLOSUP: Local government financing system is broken

Tom Ivacko and Debra Horner of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy led a Lansing briefing on local government officials’ thinking on fiscal resources. (photo: U-M Social)

“Michigan is experiencing its longest-ever period of sustained economic growth, but because of a web of policy factors, local governments are not reaping the benefits,” Tom Ivacko, interim director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) told a Wolverine Caucus event in Lansing on Tuesday attended by some 40 officials and policy-makers.

CLOSUP, part of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, presented its case that the system of funding for local government in Michigan is broken at the briefing. Confidence levels of officials across the state to meet their fiscal needs have been stagnant for the past three years despite a growing economy. The root of local leaders’ concerns is a system that has been constricting local governments’ ability to raise enough money to keep up with rising service costs and demands.

Costs for health insurance for public employees, infrastructure repairs and capital expenditure have been rising faster than revenues, as funding streams for municipalities, counties, townships and villages are restricted because of a number of factors, including caps on property tax revenue increases, reduced state government revenue-sharing, state-imposed unfunded mandates on local governments, and rules limiting the types of revenues that can be raised and kept locally, Ivacko noted.

The data come from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), which CLOSUP has been conducting since 2009, and which seeks data from the 1,856 general purpose local governments in the state, with an average participation rate above 70 percent. The program is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association.

“If the situation does not change, less than half of local leaders say they will be able to maintain local services at current levels,” said Debra Horner, MPPS project manager at CLOSUP.

The survey does indicate a majority of respondents see three possible solutions which require statewide action: pay for unfunded mandates; return revenue-sharing to full funding levels; and state constitution reform to allow greater property tax revenue growth.

 

Time to get REAL about your identification

Michigan residents are being urged by the Secretary of State’s Office to ensure their personal identification is compliant for REAL ID.

This federally required standard for identification means anyone who travels by air within the United States will be unable to board a plane without a REAL ID-compliant document beginning on Oct. 1, 2020. A REAL ID also will be required to enter certain federal facilities.

A REAL ID can be a U.S. Passport or an Enhanced Driver’s License – or you can turn your standard driver’s license into a REAL ID at the Secretary of State’s office. Learn more about the law and what documents you need to bring to get a REAL ID at Michigan.gov/REALID.

 

National news from NACo

 

DHHS budget receives mixed response in committee session

DHHS Director Robert Gordon

As Appropriations subcommittees began work this week on the FY21 budget, Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon presented on his department’s plans in the areas of education and skills; health and families; and climate and water.

While the DHHS budget, overall, is $26 billion, Gordon said the agency consistently has to do more with less. The Legislature has been concerned with spending in the past few budget cycles, specifically as it relates to the management of IT systems and significantly reined in the spending. Gordon discussed the number of freezes initiated on the IT development and increased financial oversight through a DHHS/DTMB governance board.

Deputy Director George Mellos also presented on the departments behavioral health system transformation project that would include new specialty integrated Medicaid plans. The department wants SIPs to manage physical and behavioral health for those with significant needs and allow the community mental health providers to provide safety net services.

Additionally, the director highlighted the governor’s recommendation to increase psychiatric staffing. Northern Michigan legislators reiterated their view of a need for a facility located in Northern Michigan. Rep. Sue Allor (R-Cheboygan) noted that patient transportation from northern counties to the Caro Center in Tuscola County can keep deputies away from other duties for several days.

Lastly, the department highlighted the $5.1 million (General Fund) increase in non-Medicaid funding to community mental health providers. This, however, is coming at the expense of a $5 million increase in the local match rate for counties. In FY20, the Legislature included $5 million to start phasing out the $25 million local match amount required under section 928. The governor reversed this trend in her FY21 budget and moved it to the non-Medicaid line. MAC supports the legislative initiative to phase out the local match requirement and will advocate to have it restored as the departmental budget moves through the Legislature.

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

 

MAC meets with leaders for clerks, treasurers, RDs

MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie met this week with leaders of groups for Michigan clerks, treasurers and registers of deeds to discuss legislative priorities for 2020.

MAC’s Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit briefed on a variety of MAC priorities, ranging from extending the sunset on trial court fee authority to revenue sharing.

Also discussed were bills on the tax foreclosure process; legislation to allow pre-processing of absentee ballots in the wake of Proposal 3’s liberalization of absentee voting; legislation to waive renewal fees for concealed carry permits; and proposed changes to the Open Meetings Act.

“This was an excellent discussion on the numerous issues where our organizations’ members can collaborate for everyone’s benefit,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

MAC appreciates the county leaders who were able to attend in person or by teleconference:

  • Michael Hanley, Saginaw County clerk
  • Laura Brandon-Maveal, Gladwin County clerk and president of the Michigan Association of County Clerks
  • Catherine McClary, Washtenaw County treasurer
  • Patty Niepoth, Antrim County register of deeds
  • Bob Robinson, Eaton County treasurer and second vice president of the Michigan Association of County Treasurers
  • Stewart Sanders, Newaygo County register of deeds and president of the Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds

MAC launched these “county summits” in early 2019 to foster communication and cooperation among the various groups representing county government offices in Michigan. Next week, MAC will host leaders from the groups representing sheriffs and prosecutors.

 

Time to register for 2020 Legislative Conference

The 2020 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference will feature a variety of speakers and events to enhance county officials’ learning and leadership skills.

Please note that this year’s conference runs Wednesday through Friday, April 15-17.

Among the highlights:

  • Plenary sessions on legislative priorities, jail reform proposals and county revenue trends
  • Remarks from senior state officials (Chief Justice Bridget McCormack will headline the panel)
  • 12 workshops designed for MAC members and affiliates over three days.
  • A Legislative Reception on Wednesday evening
  • An Exhibitor Show Reception featuring complimentary beverages and snacks

The conference’s early-bird fee is just $350 for county members, which includes all commissioners, county administrators, medical care facility administrators, treasurers, prosecutors, sheriffs, clerks and registers of deeds. Please note: The early-bird rate ends on March 20, so register soon.

The conference hotel, the Radisson, is offering a special room rate of $135.95 for the event, and is connected to the main conference venue, the Lansing Center, by an enclosed pedestrian ramp.

Complete details are available in our handy Registration Packet.

Or you can begin your registration process by clicking this link. Please remember: All registrations are online only.

 

Fiscal training schedule stretches from Iron River to Lapeer

Training sessions designed to help county leaders on capital project planning and general financial oversight will begin March 4 and continue through the summer.

The Fiscally Ready Communities team, a joint project of the state Treasury Department and MSU Extension, will lead the sessions on capital asset management and planning and general financial oversight!

Please note: These sessions are eligible for credit in MAC’s County Commissioner Academy program. 

Each training is half-day and is FREE. The material is designed for basic to intermediate knowledge or a refresher course for those with advanced knowledge.

Dates and locations for capital planning sessions are:

  • March 4 – Ann Arbor
  • April 2 – Lapeer
  • April 28 – Madison Heights
  • May 14 – Kalamazoo
  • June 11 – Grayling
  • July 8 – Iron River
  • July 9 – St. Ignace
  • Sept. 9 – Saginaw

Plans also are being finalized for sessions in Big Rapids in August. Check the website for updates.

For times and venues, see the registration page. To register for the capital trainings, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/FRC2020/

Additionally, the team will be leading one Financial Best Practices Overview training on Thursday, May 7 in Grayling, plus a webinar planned for the fall. This training was created in 2019 to provide local governments with information on best practices and policies and procedures.

To register for the high-level overview on May 7 in Grayling, visit https://events.anr.msu.edu/FRC2020/

Please check  Michigan.gov/FiscallyReady for additional information.

 

State offers $250,000 in anti-blight grants to small counties

The State Land Bank Authority has launched a second round of Michigan Rural Community Demolition Grants. Smaller communities in Michigan can apply for a $50,000 grant to help eliminate blight and revitalize their communities.

The funds, available to Michigan county land banks and local units of government in counties with populations under 50,000, are designed to help communities remove vacant and abandoned structures from their neighborhoods and prepare for future developments that spark business investment and provide good jobs for residents. Applications are due Friday, March 13 at 5 p.m.

The maximum award per proposal is $50,000 and can be used toward vacant and abandoned, blighted commercial or residential structures. Proposals will be evaluated based on their anticipated impact in promoting public safety, enhancing economic development, public and private investment in the project and alignment with the community vision or other placemaking efforts.

For more information, visit Michigan.gov/LandBank.

 

Listening sessions on opioid crisis continue March 12

The Michigan Opioids Task Force and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are hosting a town hall Thursday, March 12, 5:30-6:30 p.m., at the Sterling Heights Community Center, 40250 Dodge Park Road. 

MDHHS and the Michigan Opioids Task Force will share its strategy to address the opioids crisis, seek information about how the opioid epidemic has impacted those in attendance and host a Q&A about the crisis response.

“Information gathered during this event and other town halls will help the state develop a crisis response that is flexible; effective to fit the needs of communities from Detroit to Grand Rapids to Marquette; and informed by the experiences of Michiganders affected by the crisis. About 150 people attended a similar town hall in Detroit in January,” said MDHHS in a statement.

Future sessions will be in:

  • Gaylord on Friday, July 24
  • Escanaba on Wednesday, July 29
  • Flint on Friday, Sept. 25
  • Grand Rapids on Friday, Nov. 6

For more information about the state’s opioids response and available resources, visit Michigan.gov/opioids.

 

Animal welfare grants issued to county shelters

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is issuing $127,240 to 23 recipients of the 2020 Animal Welfare Fund grants. The grants help support the spaying and neutering of shelter dogs and cats to help them be more adoptable. Grants also help support many anti-cruelty and proper care programs and training around the state. Registered shelters also can receive assistance through the grant program for the unrecovered costs of care for animals involved in legal investigations.

“The Animal Welfare Fund is supported by generous Michiganders during tax season when they check the fund’s box on Form 4642, Voluntary Contributions Schedule, with their state tax returns. Since 2010, MDARD has distributed more than $1.3 million to more than 185 local animal shelters. One hundred percent of the contributions made to this fund are used for Michigan animal welfare programs,” MDARD said in a statement.

Among county facilities receiving grants were:

  • Cass County Animal Shelter – $10,000
  • Gratiot County Animal Shelter – $5,000 
  • Kalkaska County Animal Shelter – $2,940
  • Macomb County Animal Shelter – $1,490
  • Newaygo County Animal Shelter – $874
  • Roscommon County Animal Shelter – $10,000
  • Saginaw County Animal Care Center – $8,000
  • St. Clair County Animal Control Shelter – $6,000
  • St. Joseph County Animal Shelter – $7,520

Please note that best practices for animal shelters will be the topic of a workshop at this year’s Legislative Conference in Lansing, April 15-17. For details on the workshop and registering for the conference, check out our Attendee Registration Packet.

For more information on the program, click here.

 

National news from NACo

  • CoPro Web Ad 2018
  • Enbridge Banner Ad 2018
  • MCM Banner April 2018
  • MMRMA Web Banner 2019
  • NACo Live Healthy Ad 960x200px
  • Nationwide Ad For Mac Site
  • MBS MACad 2019