federal courtoom detroitLegislation filed today by Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Kent) that would keep funding for local trial courts stable and create a special commission to study best practices is an important move toward permanent reform, the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) said today. MAC, representing Michigan’s 83 counties, which have responsibility for local trial courts, has been working diligently with legislators and other stakeholders on an improved court funding model since a 2014 Michigan Supreme Court ruling through the traditional funding system into disarray. In People v. Cunningham in June 2014, the court ruled a lack of statutory authority invalidated the use of fees routinely imposed on convicted defendants. That meant local courts were looking at operating fund losses in the tens of millions of dollars. MAC helped lead a coalition of stakeholders to draft legislation to restore the fee authority, which became law in fall 2014. That fee authority, though, expires this October. Rep. VerHeulen’s bills, House Bills 4612 and 4613, would again extend the fee authority, this time to Oct. 17, 2020, plus direct the formation of a commission to analyze court funding models and make a recommendation to the Legislature for action. The bills were assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. “This is a difficult issue, so we are thankful Rep. VerHeulen is, first, ensuring stable operations for our trial courts and, second, putting together a process to enact a better, permanent funding system,” said Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “Since the proverbial clock is ticking, it’s vital for the Legislature to review and advance this legislation to Gov. Snyder’s desk by September.” For more information on the Michigan Association of Counties, visit www.micounties.org.

michigan-county-mapA new report unveiled at MAC’s 2017 Legislative Conference could help the state take a broader view of the importance of proper funding for county services, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told MIRS News Service Thursday.

The study, Counties in Michigan: An Exercise in Regional Government, details the advantages that counties already offer in the pursuit of greater collaboration on public services and improved efficiency.

“(CRC) is not advocating a one-size-fits-all solution to  regional  government  in  Michigan,  but  rather  a  move to thinking of local government more in terms
of the region and what county government can do in a more effective and economical manner than a city, village, or township can do,” the report concludes.

Speaking at the MAC conference Tuesday, Gov. Rick Snyder said Michigan should look to invest more in local services. MAC will be urging the governor and his administration to work with the Legislature to translate that concept into tangible changes in state budgets and regulations as the legislative session continues in 2017.

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs

Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs

A bill that restores fairness to Michigan’s property tax appeals system was reintroduced in the House March 21 with the strong support of MAC and other local government leaders throughout the state.

House Bill 4397, sponsored by Rep. David Maturen, R-Brady Township, is already backed by a bipartisan group of 54 House members. Officials discussed the legislation and issue at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

“Deed restrictions that prevent commercial property from being utilized by another commercial retailer not only prevent true competition, but also artificially drive down demand for the property, thereby lowering the value.” said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs for MAC in a statement released Tuesday. “That’s the key problem here. Rep. Maturen drew on his experience as a county commissioner and as an appraiser to identify a solution to this and the other problems the Tax Tribunal has created with its Dark Stores rulings.”

HB 4397 would require Tax Tribunal members to apply standard appraisal procedures when reaching their findings of facts and conclusions of law in larger property tax cases. The bill is a reintroduction of legislation that was approved in the state House of Representatives in June 2016 by a 97-11 margin.

To read the complete statement, click here.

deena TV 3-8-17MAC’s Deena Bosworth provided an overview of the funding crisis besetting counties across Michigan during an appearance Wednesday before the House Local Government Committee.

“The Great Recession really hurt our property tax values … you need to understand property tax values can drop as fast as the market drops, but we can’t recover when the value of your home is going up, it takes a long time for that taxable value to go back up,” Bosworth explained. “The demand on our services hasn’t gone down, but the revenue has, when you adjust for inflation.”

Funding reform is a top legislative priority for MAC in 2017.

You can see Bosworth’s complete testimony here.

Bosworth’s presentation also can be found in the members section of MAC’s website.

megaphone imageThe Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) is seeking public comment on the minimum standards now under consideration. Those standards involve education and training, the initial client interview, experts and investigators and counsel during critical court appearances.

Deadline to comment is March 9.

Once the public comment period has ended, LARA will make a decision on approval. If the standards are approved, a 180-day clock for counties to submit their local operational plans will begin.

NOTE: Implementation of those plans does not have to begin until the plans are approved and any additional costs are paid for by the state.

The Michigan Supreme Court conditionally approved these standards, but had constitutional concerns regarding their oversight of the commission. Legislation passed last year addressed this concern by moving the commission from the judicial branch to the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to ensure MIDC is independent of the judiciary. Due to this move, MIDC was required to resubmit the proposed standards to the LARA for approval, which it did the week of Feb. 6.

Comments should be submitted by March 9, 2017, to comments@michiganidc.gov. All comments will be posted on the MIDC website.