MAC releases state priorities for 2020

Eight issue areas, led by MAC’s ongoing work to reform local government finance and a push to extend county commissioner terms to four years, have been identified as MAC’s State Priorities for 2020.

MAC issues a priority list each year as part of its educational work with legislative leaders.

“The foundation of our advocacy work, of course, are the policy platforms developed and approved by our members and board each year,” explained Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs. “This priority list is built off of those platforms, but taking into account the immediate opportunities and challenges we see in then next 12 months in Lansing.”

The eight objectives for MAC’s Government Affairs Team in 2020 are:

  • Reforming Michigan’s System of Financing Local Government
  • Extending County Commissioner Terms to Four Years
  • Working to Combat the Opioid Crisis
  • Ensuring Stable, Proper Funding for Trial Courts
  • Ensuring Viability and Responsibility in Michigan Mental Health Systems
  • Ensuring the State Covers Costs for Property Tax Exemptions
  • Prohibiting the Use of Deed Restrictions in Property Valuations
  • Addressing Infrastructure and Threats to Michigan’s Waters and Shorelines

“Some of these will be familiar to members,” Bosworth noted. “But the list is dynamic, in that issues fall off when we are able to record success at the State Capitol, such as last year with a prudent approach to treating 17-year-old offenders as juveniles.”

For more information on MAC’s 2020 advocacy work, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Jail Task Force report turned over to Legislature

House Speaker Lee Chatfield addresses reporters and others during the presentation of the Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force report to the Legislature Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Emmet) received the final Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration report this week at a State Capitol event. It is now up to the Legislature to review the 18 recommendations and decide where their priorities fall.

Speaker Chatfield commented, “The House will review every one of these recommendations and begin work immediately to help protect the people of our state and give them the local and state government they deserve.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • an emphasis on county jails becoming de facto mental health facilities and investment for mental health diversion services
  • expanding officer discretion to use appearance tickets as an alternative to timely arrest processes
  • ensuring adequate resources for protections and services for victims, especially for victims of domestic violence

MAC encourages members to review the full report and recommendations, as well as discuss with other countywide elected officials and staff. Please feel free to provide input or feedback of support or concern to Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

Ottawa’s Kuyers attends trade ceremony at White House

Phil Kuyers snapped this photo of President Trump during the signing ceremony for the U.S.-China trade deal.

Ottawa County Commissioner Phil Kuyers, first vice president of the MAC Board, was among invited guests to the signing ceremony for the new U.S.-China trade agreement.

Kuyers was one of a handful of county leaders who were invited to witness the signing ceremony for the “Phase One Trade Deal” in the East Room of the White House.

In a statement Wednesday, the White House said, “The Agreement requires structural reforms to China’s economic and trade regime in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange. The deal also includes a commitment by China to future purchases of U.S. goods and services, plus a strong dispute resolution system that ensures prompt and effective implementation and enforcement.”

Of the event, Kuyers said, “It was an honor to be invited and attend this historic event, with President Trump and his administration, which will mean $50 billion in agricultural trade and more.”

 “Phil is a strong and knowledgeable voice on agricultural policy in every MAC forum, both as a member of our Board of Directors and on our Agriculture Committee,” said Stephan W. Currie, executive director. “His invitation to the signing is more evidence of the administration’s outreach to county leaders in Michigan, which has included special briefings for county leaders from our state in 2017 and 2019.”

 

National news from NACo

 

Nominate a ‘Hometown Hero’ boosting local public health

The Michigan Public Health Week Partnership, of which MAC is a part, joins the American Public Health Association in celebrating National Public Health Week in April 2020 with the annual presentation of the Hometown Health Hero awards.
 
The Hometown Health Hero award is presented to individuals and/or organizations that have made significant contributions to preserve and improve their community’s health in the focus areas listed below. Awardees are selected from nominations received by you. The only way for someone to receive this award is to be nominated. What person or organization in your community deserves this statewide recognition?
 
Nominations are due by Feb. 14. Details can be found in the nomination form.

Road Commission bills sent to governor

Eliminating the sunset on a county’s ability to absorb a road commission is getting closer to being finalized under Senate Bills 322-23, which passed the House and Senate in 2019 and were sent to the governor this week.

Since 2012, counties have had the option of absorbing their appointed road commissions. In cases of an elected road commission, a county could put the question up to the voters. The deadline for a county to do so was Jan. 1, 2020. The bills, if signed by the governor, will eliminate the sunset/deadline and make this a permanent option for counties, a change MAC has strongly supported.

In addition to the elimination of the sunset, the bills would require a vote of the people to change an elected road commission to an appointed one. MAC will provide an update on bills as events warrant.

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

 

MAC leaders attend national policy session in Washington, D.C.

Stephan Currie and Veronica Klinefelt were at NACo headquarters in Washington this week for policy briefings.

MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie joined their counterparts from around the U.S. this week in Washington, D.C., for three days of issue briefings, policy discussions and meetings with federal officials.

On Wednesday, the group received a presentation on George Washington’s “enduring relevance” and leadership. The next day, the group went to the White House complex to meet with Trump administration officials, including from Interior officials on the National Environmental Protection Act.

“This week was another example of the strong and continuing outreach from the administration to county leaders,” Currie said.

County leaders interested in learning more about federal policy still have time to register for the 2020 National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, Feb. 29-March 4 in Washington. Early-bird pricing remains in effect until Feb. 14. In conjunction with the conference, MAC will hold special events on Capitol Hill to engage Michigan commissioners with their members of Congress.

 

Counties applaud Jail Task Force, await Jan. 14 presentation

Jim Talen of Kent County (left) and Bill Peterson of Alpena County after the Jan. 9 meeting of the Jail and Pretrial Incarceration Task Force.

Michigan’s county leaders are eager to study the findings and recommendations of a joint state-county Task Force on jail and pre-trial detention policies approved by Task Force members on Jan. 9, said MAC’s Stephan Currie.

 “The work of the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration (#MICJReform) is notable for both its outreach to county leaders directly involved in jail operations and for the data it has brought to public attention,” said SCurrie, executive director. “Crime rates are dropping, yet jail populations remain high, which puts severe stress on limited county budgets. I know our members are eager to study the Task Force’s ideas for prudent measures to reduce jail stress while also ensuring public safety isn’t compromised.”

The panel was launched last spring via an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It has been reviewing data in order to study alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay, support crime victims and better align practices with research and constitutional principles.

Counties are represented on the panel by Alpena County Commissioner Bill Peterson and Kent County Commissioner Jim Talen, who will finish out their appointments in September.

A press conference will be held Jan. 14 at the State Capitol to outline specific recommendations and initial steps by legislative leaders in response to them.

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

 

Act by Jan. 17 on intention to pursue veteran funds

Letters of Intent to apply for the FY20 County Veteran Services Fund grant monies are due Jan. 17.

Information released this week by the state Veteran Affairs Agency outlined the process and timeline for counties to receive grants. Per law, each grant award will consist of a $50,000 base payment. Per capita payments also will be processed based on the county’s veteran population.

An FY20 supplemental appropriation included $4 million for the fund after months of negotiations between the Legislature and the Governor’s Office. The letter from the agency states, “(T)he goal and intent of these grant dollars are to enhance and improve county veteran service operations in an effort to connect more veterans to their benefits and provide consistent access to services throughout the state.”

Grant guidance will be distributed by the agency. If counties have any questions about uses of the funds, please consider connecting with surrounding counties or MAC.

For other questions or information, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

Do you have PPT errors to correct?

Local governments were reminded of the opportunity to correct errors associated with incorrect personal property tax (PPT) reimbursement calculations in a memo this week from the Michigan Department of Treasury. For a municipality to determine if there was a reporting error or a calculation error, it will need to review the 2019 PPT reimbursement calculations, millage rates and taxable values posted to Treasury’s PPT Reimbursement website.

If a local unit or county identifies an error, then forms found on the department’s website must be filled out and submitted by the deadlines below. The PPT reimbursement correction forms are intended to be utilized by a local unit that has identified an error in its 2019 PPT reimbursement. In addition to the form(s), local units must provide substantiating documentation to support an adjustment to the reported value or the calculated reimbursement amount.

Forms to correct reimbursement calculations must be submitted by the local municipality to the County Equalization Director by Feb. 28, 2020, and subsequently by the County Equalization Director to Treasury by March 31, 2020. Correction of all other errors, including millage rates, must be submitted by all local units directly to Treasury by March 31, 2020.

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

 

Governor’s State of the State address will be Jan. 29

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has set Jan. 29 for her 2020 State of the State address to the Legislature. The speech will start at 7 p.m.

The yearly address is an opportunity for Michigan’s governor to highlight accomplishments from the past year and chart priorities for the new year.

 

Nominate a ‘Hometown Hero’ boosting local public health

The Michigan Public Health Week Partnership, of which MAC is a part, joins the American Public Health Association in celebrating National Public Health Week in April 2020 with the annual presentation of the Hometown Health Hero awards.

The Hometown Health Hero award is presented to individuals and/or organizations that have made significant contributions to preserve and improve their community’s health in the focus areas listed below. Awardees are selected from nominations received by you. The only way for someone to receive this award is to be nominated. What person or organization in your community deserves this statewide recognition?

Nominations are due by Feb. 14. Details can be found in the nomination form.

 

MCWCF issues $3.2 million in dividends

Members of the Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund (MCWCF) will receive nearly $3.2 million in premium dividends for the 2018 plan year, adding to a dividend total of more than $28 million in the last 10 years alone.

These dividends result from “surplus” funds from policy premiums paid by members but not utilized due to the fund’s excellent claims management and innovative loss prevention strategies, explained Timothy K. McGuire, the fund’s administrator.

“Our consistent focus on employee safety is the story here,” McGuire said. “If employees avoid injuries, our members avoid health costs, thereby keeping costs down for the fund and allowing the fund to release more dollars back to the members.”

 “Another year and another excellent result for our members” said Doug Johnson, president of the fund’s board and a commissioner for Otsego County. “The partnerships we have with CompOne and Midwest Employers Casualty allow the fund to provide top-notch customer service and safety guidance.”

For more information about MCWCF, visit its website.

National news from NACo

Budget talks stuck; your voice needed to propel action

October has come and gone, but Michigan leaders still have not resolved a budget impasse that imperils millions in county funding for key programs.

While MAC is told that discussions between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders are ongoing, no positive results have resulted.

It is vital, therefore, for every county leader who has not already done so to contact their state officials and urge immediate action on supplemental appropriations bills. Your voice is very powerful; MAC needs your support in order to incite movement toward restoring the funding that was slashed by the governor’s vetoes.

  • You can call the governor’s office at 517-373-3400.
  • Click here for the House of Representatives’ phone list.
  • Click here for the Senate’s phone list.

Members also are encouraged to utilize our Advocacy Center to send pre-drafted messages to lawmakers with just a few clicks of your computer.

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

House panel takes up delinquent tax forgiveness

A bill that would authorize a foreclosing governmental unit to forgive some or all unpaid delinquent property taxes, fees and interest for those meeting poverty eligibility guidelines or qualify for disabled veteran property tax exemption received its first hearing this week.

The House Committee on Local Government and Municipal Finance took testimony on House Bill 5124, sponsored by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D-Wayne)., which  was introduced to assist those communities faced with residents in poverty who are losing their homes because they cannot keep up with the taxes, interest, fees and penalties.

MAC has not yet taken a position on the bill, but is encouraged that the bill is permissible, not mandatory, on counties, which preserves local control and allows counties to tailor the program to what best suits their residents.

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

County officials: Community corrections good, but could be better

Leaders in community corrections programs around Michigan gave testimony this week to a House appropriations subcommittee on the state of such programs and ideas to improve them.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Ionia), heard from Andrew Verheek of Kent County Office of Community Corrections (OCC); Mary McLaughlin of Saginaw County OCC; David Stevens of Thumb Area Regional OCC; and Ionia County’s Ron Morseau and Brent Denny.  

All spoke to the benefits of community corrections programming, as well as how the system could be improved with state policy changes. Saginaw’s McLaughlin, for example, noted, “The Pretrial Supervision Program has grown to monitor more than 600 offenders per year with a 70 percent success rate in a community where violent crime was once rated nationally.”

Suggestions for the legislative action included more flexibility between funds for the felony drunken driver jail reduction program and community corrections plans and services funds, since the population typically overlaps. Ideas were shared to improve risk assessment data sharing between state and locals, along with goals to maximize the referrals to programs.

A Department of Corrections representative also spoke to some of the ways the system could be improved, while noting some county programs are recognized nationally for their successful programming.

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

Michigan adopts ‘Raise the Age’ legislation



Michigan will no longer automatically charge 17-year-old defendants as adults, following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature this week on so-called “Raise the Age” legislation.

MAC supported the final version of the package after modifications were made to ensure proper funding for additional juvenile justice services under county purview.

“I’m proud that Michigan has joined 46 other states in ending the unjust practice of charging and punishing our children as adults when they make mistakes,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release. “These bills will strengthen the integrity of our justice system by ensuring that children have access to due process that is more responsive to juveniles.” 

Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, Michigan law will handle most 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system. MAC had long expressed concerns to legislators about the financial and service implications of this shift. However, after much negotiation, changes to the bills addressed those concerns, allowing MAC to support the final versions.

For further information on the final bill package, see the Legislative Update from Oct. 18.

Kent County leaders urge rescue of foster care pilot

Kent County leaders testified before a Senate subcommittee on behalf of a performance-based foster care program now at risk of closure due to the fiscal 2020 budget fights in Lansing.

Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent), chair of the Community Health/Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, took testimony regarding the West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC). MacGregor has been a champion for foster care and this enhanced program in Kent County throughout his time in the Legislature.  

On Oct 1. 2017, responsibility for 800 Kent County children transferred under the new model for WMPC to administer with a front-loaded case rate that incentivizes getting children out of the foster care system sooner. This transition began the first year of a projected five-year pilot.

But with nearly $2 million transferred by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer through the State Administrative Board for FY20, the pilot program is in jeopardy of closing only two years into the five-year trial. WMPC CEO Kristyn Peck told the subcommittee about improved outcomes such as a decreased length of stay for foster children and more immediate permanency, plus the benefits of enhanced wrap-around foster care services.  

Kent County Board Chair Mandy Bolter and Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt urged restoration of the funds as soon as possible. Bolter asked the committee to “work together to restore this funding because if not, we will have to shut the doors on Nov. 14.”

Britt explained how the pilot model “simplifies our child-care funding system to focus on results and not who pays.” He added, “This is an opportunity to create a quality system that focused on the kids and their time in care.”

Proponents see the pilot as the first step in improvements for foster care efforts around the state.

If funding is not restored, WMPC’s caseload would move to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). To help advocate for Kent County and WMPC, click here.

Survey finds wide variance in county recession prep

Less than half of Michigan counties have taken preparatory steps in advance of the next recession, a new survey of local public officials found.

In its new release, the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) at the University of Michigan found: “Although most of Michigan’s local governments report slow but steady improvement in fiscal health over the decade since the Great Recession, many local leaders express concerns about weathering the next recession, whenever it arrives.”

In county-only data provided by CLOSUP to MAC, 45 percent of respondents said preparatory steps had been taken, with big differences by county size. For larger counties, those with more than 30,000 residents, nearly 57 percent had reported actions, while the same was true for only 29 percent of smaller counties.

CLOSUP emphasized that this is a self-reported survey with a small sample size for counties.

To see all the CLOSUP data, click here.

State sends scrap tire grants to two dozen county entities

About 25 counties and count entities will receive nearly $700,000 in state grants to support scrap tire collections and other tire cleanup efforts.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced the grants this week to 72 such events, awarding $1,277,351; another five grant projects will fund the removal of old tire piles at private properties, the department said.

Counties and county entities receiving funds:

  • Alcona, $4,000
  • Superior Watershed Partnership, $70,000
  • SW Michigan Solid Waste Consortium, $94,000
  • NE Michigan Council of Governments, $6,255
  • Bay County Mosquito Control, $8,000
  • Benzie County Solid Waste Dept., $8,032
  • Charlevoix, $11,444
  • Crawford, $6,108
  • Emmet County Dept. of Public Works, $14,550
  • Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, $10,000
  • Grand Traverse County Resource Recovery Dept., $8,000
  • Kalkaska County Recycling Center, $4,000
  • Leelanau, $4,216
  • Lenawee, $6,000
  • Livingston, $10,000
  • Manistee, $12,000
  • Marquette County Solid Waste Mgt. Authority, $65,000
  • Mecosta, $200,000
  • Midland County Mosquito Control, $4,000
  • Monroe County, $20,000
  • Muskegon County, $56,376
  • Newaygo County Board of Public Works, $8,152
  • Ottawa, $14,500
  • Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission, $10,000
  • Sanilac, $4,000
  • Schoolcraft, $2,000
  • St. Joseph, $4,000
  • Tuscola County Recycling, $22,000
  • Washtenaw County Public Works, $8,000

For more information, call the EGLE’s Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278, or visit Michigan’s Scrap Tire Program at Michigan.gov/ScrapTires. To stay up to date on other EGLE news follow us at Michigan.gov/MiEnvironment.

State sets Nov. 12 webinar on shoreline erosion issues

County leaders are encouraged to participate in a Nov. 12 webinar that will review shoreline erosion issues and work by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE)

The webinar will run from 11 a.m. to noon. Click here to register.

“Due to higher water levels in the Great Lakes, Michigan’s shoreline communities and residents are experiencing an increase in shoreline erosion,” the department stated. “This webinar is an opportunity for local officials to learn more about EGLE’s response to Great Lakes shoreline erosion, the basic rules and processes for obtaining permits for shoreline protection projects, efforts EGLE is taking to expedite permits, and how you and your constituents can communicate and partner most effectively with us.  The webinar will include a short presentation followed by time for questions from attendees.” 

EGLE also has a new webpage dedicated to the topic, Michigan.gov/HighWater, with resources for local readers and residents.

For more information or assistance, send a note to EGLE-Assist@Michigan.gov

Learn about ‘myths’ of tax incentives in Michigan

A longtime analyst of Michigan’s economy will lead a webinar on Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. to address common myths about the value of tax incentives in economic development.

In “Making Sense of Incentives: Taming Business Incentives to Promote Prosperity,” Timothy J. Bartik, a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute, will show how:

  • Incentives don’t tip every location decisions of assisted businesses
  • Once one accounts for the public service needs caused by job growth, typical incentives do not pay for themselves
  • Incentives only have slight “fiscal benefits” (fiscal benefits are the increase in tax revenue minus the increase in needed public services’ spending)

To join the free webinar, go to http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd1, “enter as a guest” is by default already chosen. Type your name into the text box provided and click on “Enter Room.” To facilitate Q&A’s, participants submit questions/comments via the Chat Function in Adobe Connect. See the event flier for more information.

The webinar will be recorded and archived at http://ncrcrd.msu.edu/ncrcrd/chronological_archive.

Share your county experiences on energy issues

A new survey effort from the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy — the Michigan Local Energy Survey (MiLES) — seeks county leaders’ responses on your county’s engagement (or not) with energy policies such as energy efficiency and reducing energy waste, renewable energy on county land, electric vehicle infrastructure and more. If someone from your county hasn’t already participated in the survey, please be on the lookout for an email with an online link or a hard copy in the mail.

Your county’s answers to the MiLES survey will remain strictly confidential. However, at the end of the survey, respondents have the opportunity to indicate whether their county would like to be contacted about resources for, or assistance with, specific energy issues, like communicating with residents and local businesses — including agriculture — about energy issues, energy audits or benchmarking for public buildings, energy-related funding opportunities, and more.

For more information, contact CLOSUP at closup@umich.edu or 734-647-4091.

In an unprecedented move, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday issued 147 line-item vetoes in the FY20 budget, affecting more than $947 million in state spending. Although the 2.3 percent increase (about $5 million) for county revenue sharing evaded the vetoes, other line items for specific programs and services provided by counties were hit, stripping away about $60 million in funding for county programs.

“While we see that counties were collateral damage in a fight between the governor and the Legislature, there’s no way to sugarcoat what $60 million in cuts mean to our members,” said Stephan Currie, MAC executive director. “These are significant, troubling reductions. We plan to make a vigorous case to both sides that these results need to be reversed as quickly as possible with a supplemental appropriations bill.”

Among the reductions to county services affected by Whitmer’s moves are:

  • $27 million taken from the PILT (payments in lieu of taxes) program that counties rely on to be compensated for public lands that do not pay taxes (49.5 percent of all land in Crawford County, for example, is owned by the state)
  • $14.9 million taken from the state’s program to reimburse county jails for housing state inmates
  • $13 million taken from funds to aid sheriffs in providing road patrols around their counties
  • $4 million taken from funding to counties under the Child Care Fund, which covers Michigan’s foster care system
  • $4 million taken from grants meant for county services to veterans
  • $2.7 million taken from reimbursements for court-appointed guardians
  • $1 million taken from grants meant for county fairs and other exhibitions

Learn more about the situation by listening to a new episode of MAC’s Podcast 83.

A legal challenge to Michigan’s law on local court costs was turned aside July 10 by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The court declined to take up a decision in People v. Cameron from the Michigan Court of Appeals that deemed state law authorizing court costs constitutional.

This decision removes an immediate threat to a key source of funds for Michigan’s trial court system, whose operations constitute the largest unfunded mandate on counties. But legislative action is needed soon to establish a stable funding structure for our courts.

Figures compiled by MAC show that local and court funds constitute more than $900 million for the trial court system, with purely state and federal funds covering about $200 million.

In a concurrence to the order rejecting the appeal, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack wrote, “I recognize that denying leave to appeal in this case will allow our current system of trial court funding in Michigan to limp forward — at least until MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) sunsets next year. Yet our coordinate branches have recognized the long-simmering problems. The interim report of the Trial Court Funding Commission shows a potential way forward that promises to address these (and other) concerns. I urge the Legislature to take seriously the recommendations of the Commission, before the pressure placed on local courts causes the system to boil over.”


With an eye on the then-unresolved Cameron case, the Trial Court Funding Commission (TCFC) released an interim report this spring with five recommendations, including a dedicated trial court fund, more equitable funding across courts, uniform assessments and centralized collections to free court personnel from non-court operations.

MAC supported the creation of the commission and supports its recommendations to ensure a more balanced funding system between state and local governments, more streamlined court operations and separating judicial decisions from operating budgets to improve administration of justice.

“The key point out of this week’s order is that the chief justice is pointing to the commission’s recommendations and this is why we need to ensure the Legislature solves this before the expiration of current law allowing these costs,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

MAC will continue to monitor the progress of the commission and advocate for a fair cost structure that does not expand any unfunded mandates on an already underfunded system.