Executive Director Steve Currie discusses county participation in a partnership with the state and Pew at an event in Lansing on April 17, 2019, as (left to right) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Attorney General Dana Nessel look on.

Michigan’s 83 counties helped announce an innovative partnership with the state of Michigan and a national nonpartisan research group today to use data to identify best practices for jails.

The Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, (#MICJReform) an interbranch, bipartisan body will develop recommendations to expand alternatives to jail, safely reduce jail admissions and length of stay, support crime victims and better align practices with research and constitutional principles, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today at a press conference at the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

Speaking at the same event, MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie said, “Our focus is specifically on county jails and easing the burden on county budgets. Although created by executive order, this task force puts counties squarely at the center, and we’re very happy to launch this partnership together. We’ll all benefit from studying our practices.”

Click here to watch a video of the event.

Public safety, including jails, constitutes the single largest financial commitment from county governments. As detailed at today’s event:

  • National sources show Michigan jail populations have tripled in the last 35 years, growing regardless of whether crime was going up or down.
  • With crime now at a 50-year low, hundreds of thousands are still admitted to Michigan jails every year, and people are staying in jail longer on average than before.
  • Today, half of the people in Michigan’s local jails are un-convicted and constitutionally presumed innocent while they await trial.
  • Many of these individuals are in jail because they cannot afford bail, not necessarily because they are a flight risk or threat to public safety.

The task force will be supported by technical assistance staff from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“The focus here will be on using data to drive solutions. Everyone is entering this effort with no preconceived notions and we are eager to partner with the state, Pew and others to make Michigan a leader in public safety,” Currie said.

 

LANSING, MICH. – A state panel charged with recommending reforms to Michigan’s trial court system issued an interim report today with five proposals that offer promise for solutions to this longstanding challenge, but counties see much work remains in Lansing on this issue. The Trial Court Funding Commission released its work early due to pending litigation (People v. Cameron) at the Michigan Supreme Court that could affect the current funding streams for trial courts.

“These recommendations are a solid beginning on this vital issue. MAC is grateful for the work of Monroe County Administrator Michael Bosanac and his colleagues on the commission,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC). “However, the central challenge remains – finding a stable, comprehensive funding system for our courts. With the potential effects of a Cameron decision looming, counties are eager to get to work with lawmakers on a permanent funding fix.” The commission’s interim report highlights five recommendations:

· Establish a stable court funding system

· Provide all court technology needs

· Establish uniform assessments and centralized collections

· Move toward a uniform employment system

· Establish a transition plan for a new court funding model to be established by the Legislature

Trial courts are the largest unfunded mandate on county governments in Michigan, with local funding accounting for nearly half the $1.14 billion to $1.44 billion in estimated costs. The commission was formed by the Legislature in response to People v. Cunningham, a Michigan Supreme Court decision that determined state law does not provide trial courts with independent authority to impose any court cost on a convicted defendant. The commission will continue to meet until its statutory expiration of Sept. 28, 2019.

More than 300 county leaders from across Michigan heard Gov. Gretchen Whitmer make her case for increased infrastructure funding, arguing that Michigan must fund such work “at the pump.”

Whitmer made her comments during her keynote address to the conference on Tuesday, March 26 at the Lansing Center.

“On behalf of our members, I thank Gov. Whitmer for giving so generously of her time to talk to us this week about the challenges facing Michigan, particularly road funding,” said MAC Board President Ken Borton of Otsego County. “As front-line elected officials, county commissioners know all too well the frustrations of Michigan residents on infrastructure. We are eager to work with the governor and Legislature to find the necessary revenue and distribute it properly to get our roads back in proper shape.”

See her presentation in the 2019 Legislative Conference Presentations folder of the MAC archives.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget carries many positive notes for county government in Michigan, said the executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties.

“Obviously, it’s great to see the 3 percent increase in county revenue sharing funds, as revenue sharing is the key promise from the state to counties to help with delivery of vital local services,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

Whitmer’s budget, released today during a presentation in downtown Lansing, would move county revenue sharing totals to just over $228 million, up from the $221.4 million in the fiscal 2019 budget.

MAC’s Deena Bosworth sat down with her advocacy counterparts from the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association recently to discuss “the power of numbers and how we’re able to get more things done when we work together” on MML’s podcast, “Michigan Politics, Huh?”

“We are kind of like the social safety net. What we do isn’t necessarily sexy but until you are in that system you don’t pay attention to it, but once you are there it’s very, very important,” Bosworth said to explain the myriad responsibilities of county government in Michigan in the 21st century.