House passes Revenue Sharing Trust Fund Bills – Senate needs to act NOW

In a promising development for Michigan’s counties, the state’s Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF) bills have passed the House this week with overwhelming bipartisan support.  By a vote of 106-4, HB 4274 sponsored by Rep. O’Neal (D-Saginaw) and HB 4275 sponsored by Rep. Tisdel (R-Oakland) now advance to the Senate for consideration.  The timing of Senate action on these bills is critical.  Without a vote in the Senate this week the bills will not go into effect before the next budget cycle.

It is imperative that county commissioners contact their Senators and urge them to vote on the bills that are now in the Senate. 

These bills, if enacted would:

Create a separate “Revenue Sharing Trust Fund” to receive and hold dollars solely for the purpose of fulfilling the state’s promise to local governments on revenue sharing;

Require that 8 percent of the revenue generated by 4 percentage points of the state’s sales tax rate; and

Result in $601.1 million in statutory revenue sharing for all local governments across Michigan based on the May Consensus Revenue Estimate for sales tax. 

Counties would receive 46.14 percent of this total in the first year, $277 million, which would be an increase of nearly $31 million from the current total.

MAC has long sought to create stability and fairness in the revenue sharing system by removing the statutory portion of it from the annual appropriations process and by designating a steady revenue source.  For more information on this issue, please contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org

House passes solar siting legislation

Legislation to preempt local control and grant siting authority for renewable energy facilities to the Public Service Commission (PSC) advanced with some major changes. Following two, twelve-hour session days and more than twenty amendments, House Bill 5120 by Rep. Aiyash (D-Wayne) passed the House just after midnight on Thursday along party lines.

The new amendments require a developer to go through a local unit of government first if the local unit has a “compatible renewable energy ordinance.” The local unit will then have 120 days to either approve or deny the project. If the local unit denies or fails to act on the proposal, then it is escalated to the PSC for review. This applies to all solar projects with a nameplate capacity greater than 50 megawatts, and all wind projects greater than 100 megawatts. 

MAC opposes the new provisions because they give the illusion of local control without providing any real authority. There is virtually no room to tailor an ordinance to the wants and needs of a community under this plan. A renewable energy ordinance is not considered compatible if the requirements are any more restrictive than outlined in the bill. Additionally, counties will be unable to amend their renewable energy ordinances or pass temporary moratoriums for any reason, or the projects will automatically go to the PSC.

Other amendments include a $2,000 per megawatt payment from the energy facility owner to the local unit to be used for police, fire, public safety, or other infrastructure, but it remains unclear if that means the city, village, township, or county.

MAC will continue to fight this legislation in the Senate. The language was drafted quickly and behind closed doors without proper stakeholder input, and is deeply flawed. Session is expected to adjourn next Thursday, November 9, meaning there are just three session days left for the Senate to approve this legislation and get it to the governor’s desk for signature.

For more information, please contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org 

House approves court reporter fee increase legislation

A bill to increase court reporter and recorder fees was approved on the House floor this week with bipartisan support.

Amendments made to House Bill 5046 by the Criminal Justice Committee to address concerns about “double dipping” with county-employed court reporters or recorders producing transcripts have shifted MAC from opposition to support of the legislation.

Sponsored by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Macomb), the bill would increase the amount a court reporter or recorder would receive from $1.75 to $3.75 per page on an original transcript, and 90 cents per page for each copy.

The amendments include updates to what the county and court reporters or recorders shall provide in the capture and production of transcripts, and the prioritization of court-funded transcripts and transcripts produced on county time.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

Medication Aide legislation passed by House

A package to create medication aide registration and permits, supported by the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC), was approved by the House this week.

House Bills 4885 and 4923, sponsored by Reps. Donavan McKinney (D-Wayne) and Joseph Aragona (R-Macomb), respectively, would allow for the training and registration of medication aides, similar to conditions for registration and training for nurse aides, commonly referred to as certified nurse aides, or CNAs.

These bills will address staffing shortages within county medical care facilities, likely increase retention and recruitment for nurses, nurse aides, and medication aides, as well as reduce overall errors by freeing up nurses within facilities.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

Senate committee approves additional judgeships in Kent and Macomb counties

New judgeships could soon exist in Kent and Macomb counties after the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee passed House Bills 4823 and 4920, by Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Macomb) and Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent), respectively. HB 4823 would add a probate court judge in Macomb County, while HB 4920 would add a district judge in Kent County.

The Macomb Probate Court now has two probate judges, so HB 4823 would add a third slot. HB 4920 would add a judge to the 63rd District Court in Kent County. However, the Kent seat would still need approval from the Kent County Board of Commissioners, even after any legislation is signed into state law. After approval from the Board of Commissioners, an election would have to be held in 2024 to elect a new judge.

MAC supports this legislation.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

County-opposed staffing bill gets House committee approval

A bill to require minimum staffing levels as a mandatory subject of collective bargaining between a public employer and the representative of its employees was approved by the House Labor Committee this week.

House Bill 4688, by Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Calhoun), would amend the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and specifies that “other terms and conditions of employment” would include minimum staffing levels within the bargaining unit and consider minimum staffing levels a condition of employment with respect to a bargaining representative’s collective bargaining responsibilities. The version voted onto the House floor included an amendment that would limit its application to only Public Act 312 employees, which was recently expanded to include corrections officers.

Making minimum staffing levels a mandatory topic of collective bargaining could increase staffing costs to counties. In addition to the potential for increased costs, many counties are facing staffing shortages. Implementing minimum staffing requirements when local governments are struggling to maintain fully staffed facilities will add to the difficulties counties already face when recruiting and retaining employees.

MAC opposes this legislation.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

Liability concerns for counties raised in sexual conduct package

Legislation to alter the statute of limitations on criminal sexual conduct and sexual misconduct was approved this week by the House Committee on Criminal Justice.

Previously opposed by MAC due to the potential for broad, unintended consequences for counties, House Bills 4482–4487 affect private employers and educational institutions. House Bill 4486, by Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Wayne), in particular, previously affected local governments, however, the version approved in committee removed liability for governmental agencies. The bill now only holds public school districts, colleges, and universities liable.

MAC no longer has a position on this legislation, as counties will not be impacted under the most recent version of the bill.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

‘Fiscally Ready Communities’ webinar rescheduled for Nov. 13

A free webinar for local officials focused on fees, fines, purchasing and receipting has been rescheduled to Nov 13. from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST.

The Michigan Department of Treasury and Michigan State University Extension co-host the “Fiscally Ready Communities” webinars to assist appointed and elected officials.

“Building a culture of fiscal sustainability is essential to local government fiscal health. Well-thought-out policies on fees, fines, purchasing and receipting lead to clear rules and fair treatment, which are essential pillars to that culture of fiscal sustainability. This webinar will include a deep dive into best practices related to fees, fines, purchasing, receipting, and more. It will cover what they are, why such policies are necessary, how they contribute to local fiscal health, and how to get started on implementation.”

Building a culture of fiscal sustainability, best practices and case study examples will be featured.

To register, click here.

Controversial energy bills get committee nod despite MAC opposition

MAC’s Madeline Fata testifies before the House Energy Committee in opposition to bills to usurp local control on solar and wind facility locations.

Legislation to usurp local control over the siting of solar and wind power facilities advanced out of a House committee this week, despite voiced opposition from MAC and others.

MAC testified in opposition in another tense hearing of the House Energy Committee hearing on Wednesday on House Bills 5120, by Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Wayne), 5121, by Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Wayne), 5122, by Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-Kent), and 5123 (Puri) that aim to give control of siting and permitting for renewable energy facilities to the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC).

For two weeks in a row, the committee heard strong opposition from residents, local leaders and organizations such as MAC, the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Municipal League. Many expressed a desire to keep siting decisions local, while enabling solar developments to expand across the state.

In her testimony (see 32:25 mark at link), MAC’s Madeline Fata noted 20 counties have countywide zoning ordinances for renewable energy facilities, and that protecting the work those counties have put forth is a priority. Fata emphasized a one-size-fits-all method will not work in this situation, as each community has different preferences for setbacks, berms, trees, panel heights, pollinators, decibel levels, safety plans, etc., that cannot be satisfied by uniform standards. In the existing county ordinances, some are more restrictive and some less than what is proposed in this legislation, but each is tailored to the wants and needs of that specific community.

Fata highlighted the PSC’s lack of expertise in land use and zoning issues, noting all other energy generation facilities currently adhere to local zoning and the PSC’s primary function is ratemaking.

Before passage, the bills were amended to protect property owners from eminent domain, clarify the definition of “public benefit” and create an intervention fund for locals to utilize when contesting a PSC decision. The committee then approved all four bills 9-7-1, with all Democrats except Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Wayne) voting yes and all Republicans voting no.

Fighting the preemption of local control will always to be a top priority for MAC. We will continue to advocate against this legislation as it moves to the House floor for a vote.

Members are encouraged to use an email advocacy campaign available on this issue and a resolution template for counties to adopt.

To date, 30 counties have adopted resolutions to oppose the legislation in its current form: Alcona, Allegan, Alpena, Barry, Bay, Branch, Cass, Chippewa, Clinton, Crawford, Hillsdale, Huron, Ionia, Iosco, Iron, Isabella, Lapeer, Lenawee, Marquette, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Missaukee, Newaygo, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Sanilac, St. Clair and Tuscola.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Registration now open for Dec. 7 MAC Policy Summit

A MAC-commissioned report on the services that counties provide to other local governments will be reviewed at the MAC Policy Summit set for Dec. 7, 2023.

The fee to attend the summit at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing is $50. This includes registration, lunch and continental breakfast.

For members who cannot make it to mid-Michigan, MAC will offer digital access for the $50 fee. (Please note, however, that digital access will be viewing only, not interactive.)

In addition to the services report, the event will include presentations on:

  • The effects of juvenile justice reform legislation
  • The ongoing challenge of providing health care to county jail inmates
  • Proposals to create a statewide septic code

The event will begin at 9 a.m. on Dec. 7. MAC also has secured a small room block at the Kellogg Center for members wishing to come down the evening of Dec. 6.

To register and for more details on the presentation topics, click here.

 

House approves juvenile justice reform bills

A portion of the 20-bill package to make sweeping reforms to the juvenile justice system gained approval in the Michigan House this week. The Michigan Senate acted on the bills last week.

House Bills 4624-43 and Senate Bills 418-423, 424, 425426427428-429430-431 and 432-437 are a result of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform’s recommendations provided last July. House Bills 4625, 4626, 4628-4629, 4630, 4633, 4636-4637, 4639-4640 and 4643 were passed on the House floor, alongside Senate Bills 418, 421, 425-426, 428-429, 431-432 and 435-436 that were approved in the Senate last Thursday.

The Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform was established in 2021 and tasked with assessing Michigan’s juvenile justice data and identifying ways to improve the system. It made 32 recommendations that were provided to the Legislature last year. The recommendations would improve community safety, reduce disparities and improve youth outcomes.

SB 418, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), enhances the County Child Care Fund (CCF) by establishing a minimum framework of juvenile justice best practices statewide, including the use of risk screening and assessment tools. The best practices will be supported by an increase in the reimbursement rate for community-based services from 50 percent to 75 percent, including 17-year-olds. These changes are essential to ensuring counties have the resources to implement and utilize these approaches. The reimbursement rate for residential services will be 50 percent, including the 17-year-old population.

SBs 419423 and HBs 4625-29  require the consistent use of validated screening and assessment tools to enable more objective decision-making and allow agencies to better match youth to appropriate supervision and services, reducing their likelihood to recidivate. The bills also expand the Diversion Act so that all offenses, with an exception for youth committing a specified juvenile violation, are eligible for pre-court diversion, based on the use of a risk-screening tool and other factors, and limit the time that a youth can be placed on pre-court diversion, unless the court determines that a longer period is needed. While diversion eligibility would be expanded, judicial discretion remains.

SB 424 and HB 4630, by Sen. Sue Shink (D-Washtenaw) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), respectively, would expand the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to include development, oversight, and compliance with youth defense standards in local county defense systems. MAC has worked to ensure there would be no increase in the local share for MIDC services, that 40 percent of the total grant amount would be received up front and that partially indigent reimbursements will remain.

If enacted, this legislation would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.

MAC supports this package. The bills now move across to the other chamber for approval and then would go to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her expected signature.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

House committee approves court reporter fee increase

A bill to increase court reporter and recorder fees advanced to the House floor this week.

Amendments made to House Bill 5046 by the Criminal Justice Committee to address concerns about “double dipping” with county-employed court reporters or recorders producing transcripts have shifted MAC from opposition to support of the legislation.

Sponsored by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Macomb), the bill would increase the amount a court reporter or recorder would receive from $1.75 to $3.75 per page on an original transcript, and 90 cents per page for each copy.

The amendments include updates to what the county and court reporters or recorders shall provide in the capture and production of transcripts, and the prioritization of court-funded transcripts and transcripts produced on county time.

With the Legislature expected to leave Lansing in early November, House floor action is expected soon on the bill.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83: Energy siting legislation remains hot topic at Capitol

Control over who decides the location and details of solar and wind energy generating facilities remains a contentious issue at the Michigan State Capitol, MAC’s Podcast 83 team reported this week in their newest episode.

Madeline Fata, MAC’s point person on the legislation, was scheduled to testify against bills last week to transfer zoning powers to the Michigan Public Service Commission, but she didn’t get the chance, she told her podcast team members, due to the intense questioning of bill sponsors by committee members.

MAC has long opposed any infringement on local control, and the energy zoning bills certainly qualify in their present form, Fata and Deena Bosworth noted to podcast host Stephan Currie.

Meanwhile, MAC’s Samantha Gibson reports, the MAC-supported package to reform the state’s juvenile justice system, which includes increased compensation for counties via the Child Care Fund, made advances in the Michigan Senate, with parallel gains in the Michigan House expected soon.

Looming over every issue, though, is the unsettled legislative calendar, with the Democratic majority still expected to adjourn the body in early November in order to bring into force state law on pension tax changes and the presidential primary on schedule in early 2024.

View the full video of the episode, recorded on Oct. 16, by clicking here.

Previous episodes can be seen at MAC’s YouTube Channel.

And you always can find details about Podcast 83 on the MAC website.

 

Senator wants update to County Soldiers Relief Fund

A bill to allow counties to levy a millage to fund increased aid to honorably discharged indigent veterans and others now awaits a hearing in the Michigan Senate.

Senate Bill 576, by Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Tuscola), would update the Sailors and Solders Relief Fund, which currently dates to 1899, to increase allotted aid amounts and allow counties to implement a millage for such aid.

The bill would provide relief to honorably discharged indigent veterans and members of women’s auxiliaries, spouses, widows or widowers, and minor children of deceased veterans and members of women’s auxiliaries in amounts not to exceed $300. To do so, a county board of commissioners could annually levy a tax, not exceeding 1/10 of a mill, for the creation of a Soldiers Relief Fund.

In addition to the tax, the chief judge of the probate court for each county would appoint three county residents who are honorably discharged veterans to a Soldiers Relief Commission. The commission would determine how aid may be distributed and provide the board of commissioners with an annual report of their activities.

The bill was referred to the Senate Veterans and Emergency Services Committee. MAC supports it.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

MAC Premier Partner offers free cybersecurity webinar

With the average global cost of a data breach at nearly $4.5 million (a 15% increase over three years), protecting your organization is more important than ever.

On Oct. 25, from 11 a.m. to noon Eastern, Rehmann, a MAC Premier Partner, is offering a free webinar to members, “Cybersecurity in the Public Sector: 5 Key Steps for Protecting Your Organization.”

Click here to register.

Navigating cybersecurity can be incredibly overwhelming and complex but implementing an effective (and proactive) plan can help mitigate risk and minimize losses. Rehmann’s public sector cybersecurity experts are here to get your organization on the right path – seamlessly and efficiently – and help ensure your data remains safe.

Join the webinar to learn five simple, effective and applicable steps your organization can take to create a more secure environment. 

 

Staff picks

Senate approves juvenile justice reform bills

A portion of the 20-bill package to make sweeping reforms to the juvenile justice system, and which is backed by MAC, gained approval in the Michigan Senate this week. The Michigan House had planned action on the bills but did not take any.

Senate Bills 418-423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428-429, 430-431 and 432-437 are a result of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform’s recommendations provided last July. SBs 418, 421, 425, 426, 428, 429, 431, 432, 435 and 436 were approved on Thursday. It is expected that the House will approve the remaining bills in the package that the Senate did not address. The House bills are HBs 4624-43.

The Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform was established in 2021 and tasked with assessing Michigan’s juvenile justice data and identifying ways to improve the system. Two county commissioners served on the Task Force, each nominated by MAC. Alisha Bell of Wayne represented a county commissioner from a county with a population over 100,000, and Marlene Webster of Shiawassee represented a county commissioner from a county under 100,000 in population. Rep. Sarah Lightner, R-Jackson and a former county commissioner, also served on the panel.

The task force discovered several challenges to strengthening public safety and improving outcomes for youth. This led to the set of 32 recommendations provided to the Legislature last year. The recommendations would improve community safety, reduce disparities and improve youth outcomes.

SB 418, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), enhances the County Child Care Fund (CCF) by establishing a minimum framework of juvenile justice best practices statewide, including the use of risk screening and assessment tools. The best practices will be supported by an increase in the reimbursement rate for community-based services from 50 percent to 75 percent, including 17-year-olds. These changes are essential to ensuring counties have the resources to implement and utilize these approaches. The reimbursement rate for residential services will be 50 percent, including the 17-year-old population.

SBs 419423 and HBs 4625-29  require the consistent use of validated screening and assessment tools to enable more objective decision-making and allow agencies to better match youth to appropriate supervision and services, reducing their likelihood to recidivate. The bills also expand the Diversion Act so that all offenses, with an exception for youth committing a specified juvenile violation, are eligible for pre-court diversion, based on the use of a risk-screening tool and other factors, and limit the time that a youth can be placed on pre-court diversion, unless the court determines that a longer period is needed. While diversion eligibility would be expanded, judicial discretion remains.

SB 424 and HB 4630, by Sen. Sue Shink (D-Washtenaw) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), respectively, would expand the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to include development, oversight, and compliance with youth defense standards in local county defense systems. MAC has worked to ensure there would be no increase in the local share for MIDC services, that 40 percent of the total grant amount would be received upfront and that partially indigent reimbursements will remain.

If enacted, this legislation would take effect Oct. 1, 2024.

MAC supports this package.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Solar and wind siting legislation sparks contentious hearing

Outspoken residents and frustrated committee members did not hold back during a tense House Energy Committee hearing Wednesday on solar and wind siting legislation, bills that are opposed by MAC.

House Bills 5120, by Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Wayne), 5121 and 5123, by Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Wayne), and 5122 by Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-Kent) aim to usurp local control of siting and permitting for renewable energy facilities and grant the authority to the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The hearing kicked off with the sponsors speaking to the merits of their bills. They emphasized the governor’s efforts to transition toward 100 percent renewable energy and a Senate package that would implement her goals by 2040. Aiyash explained the bills would help to expedite the transition and expand clean energy production in Michigan.

Those pushing for the legislation include the governor’s team, environmentalists and solar development companies. It comes after lawsuits between developers and township officials. Should the PSC take control of siting for renewable energy facilities, developers would no longer need to interface with local units of government, doing business directly with the state.

Republican members of the committee questioned Aiyash at length about the elimination of community input, the effect on farmland capacity and the ways in which rural and urban communities will be impacted differently should this legislation pass. Even democratic members shared concerns about how broadly the legislation was drafted. The audience, primarily made up of opponents, could be heard cheering and booing on occasion.

MAC opposes the package and was set to testify, but the committee hearing ran out of time after an hour and a half. Committee Chair Scott (D-Oakland) told the press afterward that it is possible there will be more hearings, but that she is still deciding whether she supports the bills. Should another hearing be scheduled, MAC is prepared to speak out against the pre-emption of local control.

MAC has an email advocacy campaign available on this issue and a resolution template for counties to adopt.

To date, 23 counties have adopted resolutions to oppose the legislation in its current form: Alcona, Bay, Cass, Chippewa, Clinton, Crawford, Hillsdale, Huron, Ionia, Iosco, Iron, Lapeer, Mason, Mecosta, Menominee, Missaukee, Newaygo, Ogemaw, Ontonagon, Osceola, Sanilac, St. Clair and Tuscola.

Another six counties have advised MAC of their intention to adopt such resolutions: Alger, Berrien, Branch, Isabella, Manistee and St. Joseph.

If your county has adopted a resolution or plans to do so and is not on these lists, please contact Amanda Despins at despins@micounties.org.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

PPT reimbursement bills head to governor

Legislation to create a reimbursement process for local governments who will lose money due to Personal Property Tax exemptions this year passed both chambers and now awaits the signature of the governor. 

House Bills 4553 and 4554, by Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent) and Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Macomb), respectively, and Senate Bill 331, by Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-Wayne), received bipartisan support this week. All three bills reflect a key MAC priority for 2023.

MAC began pursuit of legislation after the Legislature, in December 2021, expanded the PPT exemption for businesses from $80,000 in true cash value exemption to $180,000. This move created an estimated $75 million annual loss for local governments.

Because this exemption is not based on the value of property initially exempted in 2014 with the large PPT overhaul legislation, calculating the loss for each county and community needs to be based on a different formula. It took more than a year to determine the best mechanism and methodology for calculating the reimbursements, as reflected in the current bills.

The bills also carve out $75 million from the state’s use tax to fund the reimbursement.

The expansion of the PPT exemption is effective this year and without enactment of these bills, locals would be left with a shortfall. MAC anticipates the governor will sign the bills and the promise of reimbursement will be fulfilled.

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

 

Binding arbitration expansion grinds its way toward passage

Legislation to extend binding arbitration to county correctional officers took another step toward enactment this week, despite opposition from MAC and others.

House Bill 4438, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland). was approved by the Senate Labor Committee unanimously on Thursday. A substitute was adopted during the committee process to include all Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES)-certified law enforcement officers in binding arbitration, adding officers from universities and community colleges.

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

MAC submitted a letter to committee members expressing these concerns. However, the current Legislature has repeatedly demonstrated strong support for unions and collective bargaining units. HB 4438 has been referred to the Senate floor for a final vote before likely advancing to the governor’s desk for signature.

For more information on this issue, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

House committee reviews plan for court reporter fee increase

This week, the House Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony on House Bill 5046, sponsored by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Macomb). This legislation would increase wages for court reporters and recorders. The bill would increase the amount a court reporter or recorder would receive from $1.75 to $3.75 per page on original transcript, and 90 cents per page for each copy.

MAC opposed this legislation in committee; however, MAC supports the increase in fees for court reporters and recorders. We are continuing to work with the bill sponsor to address issues this legislation may pose for county budgets.

For more information on this issue, please contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

House approves additional judgeships in Kent and Macomb counties

New judgeships could soon exist in Kent and Macomb counties after the House passed House Bills 4823 and 4920, by Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Macomb) and Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent), respectively. HB 4823 would add a probate court judge in Macomb County, while HB 4920 would add a district judge in Kent County.

The Macomb Probate Court now has two probate judges, so HB 4823 would add a third slot. HB 4920 would add a judge to the 63rd District Court in Kent County. However, the Kent seat would still need approval from the Kent County Board of Commissioners, even after any legislation is signed into state law. After approval from the Board of Commissioners, an election would have to be held in 2024 to elect a new judge.

MAC supports this legislation.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Counties reminded to make canvasser appointments

As Oct. 16 approaches in what is an odd-numbered year, county boards are reminded of their responsibilities to make appointments to their Board of County Canvassers.

As noted in a new legal update from the firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey:

“The Board of County Canvassers is a four-member board established in every County to canvass election results and conduct recounts. MCL 168.24a(1), (2). Members of the Board of County Canvassers are appointed for four-year terms of office beginning on Nov. 1, following their appointment. MCL 168.24a(7).

“Members of the Board of County Canvassers must be qualified electors of the County. However, no elected official is eligible for membership on the Board of County Canvassers. If any member of the Board of County Canvassers, during their term of office, becomes a candidate for any elective public office, their seat on the Board of County Canvassers becomes vacant. MCL 168.24b.

“The County Board of Commissioners must make its selection within 10 days of convening its annual meeting. MCL 168.24c(3). The Board of Commissioners has a narrow 10-day window of opportunity to appoint two members to the County Board of Canvassers for a new 4-year term commencing on November 1 of an odd numbered year. MCL 168.24c(3). That 10-day window of opportunity commences upon the convening of the County Board’s annual meeting, which must be held each year after Sept. 14, but before Oct. 16. MCL 46.1(1).”

See the complete memo from the firm by clicking here.

 

Check out conference videos on MAC’s YouTube channel

Ed Noyola of CRA answers a question during the road funding workshop on Oct. 1, 2023.

MAC members are encouraged to visit our YouTube channel, where you will find a growing set of videos from the 2023 Annual Conference held earlier this month.

In the first wave of videos from the conference, check out segments of the two-day workshop on road funding and spending put on by the County Road Association, a MAC affiliate.

In coming days, you also will find at the link videos from plenary sessions, including the MAC Legislative Update, and the inaugural address of 2023-24 MAC Board President Jim Storey of Allegan County.

MAC’s YouTube channel also is where you can find episodes of Podcast 83, special webinar videos and more.

Other 2023 Annual Conference resources — such as presentations from workshops, handouts and photos — can be found on the MAC website.

 

MAC conference attendees leave event with potential windfalls

More than $90,000 in claims on property now held by the Michigan Treasury were established for attendees of the 2023 Annual Conference in Kalamazoo this month.

A booth at the conference, staffed by a Treasury official, assisted attendees in using the state’s unclaimed property database. The results were striking:

  • 88 searches performed
  • 41 claims established, totaling $90,225
  • 47 percent“hit” ratio (average hit ratio is 33%)

“We always tout the value of our major events, but this gives new meaning to the term,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “We appreciate the cooperation of the Treasury Department in making this service available to our members.”

Don’t be surprised to see the Treasury booth at a conference next year, so plan accordingly!

 

Staff picks

 

Storey urges county leaders to ‘prepare for four’; MAC members fill board slots, approve policy platforms

Allegan County Commissioner Jim Storey salutes the audience following his inaugural remarks as MAC’s 115th Board president on Oct. 2 at the 2023 MAC Annual Conference in Kalamazoo. (Brooke Peters Photography)

The coming year will be an historic one in Michigan county government, MAC Board President Jim Storey a 2023 Annual Conference audience this week after being sworn in as the association’s 115th Board president.

Speaking on the theme of “Together, preparing for four,” Storey spoke extensively on next year’s elections, which will provide for four-year terms for directly elected county commissioners for the first time:

“In a citizenry more divided than perhaps not since the Civil War, it is impossible for one person to create the pathway for achieving the legislative goals you will consider tomorrow at our plenary session.

“It is, however, possible for the talented, experienced and dedicated team here in this room to achieve lasting and remarkable success,” he said to the President’s Banquet audience on Oct. 2. “It is possible because I believe these county commissioners and our colleagues at home, working with our able and effective association staff, can create the best year yet in the 125-year history of the Michigan Association of Counties.”

The banquet and Storey’s remarks capped a busy conference agenda during MAC’s 125th Anniversary year.

During regional caucuses held earlier on Oct. 2, members re-elected Storey and three other members of the 16-member MAC Board of Directors:

  • Stan Ponstein of Kent County
  • Richard Schmidt of Manistee County
  • Joe Bonovetz of Gogebic County

Officers for the Michigan Association of Counties’ Board of Directors in 2023-24 will be (l-r): Antoinette Wallace of Macomb County (2nd vice president), Jim Storey of Allegan County (president), Melissa Daub of Wayne County (1st vice president) and Stan Ponstein of Kent County (immediate past president).

In turn, Board members voted to create a 2023-24 Executive Committee led by Storey and including:

  • Melissa Daub of Wayne County (first vice president)
  • Antoinette Wallace of Macomb County (second vice president)
  • Stan Ponstein (immediate past president)

On Oct. 3, during their Annual Business Meeting, MAC members approved policy platforms developed by MAC’s policy committees overseeing issue areas ranging from finance to agriculture and tourism.

“The conference was a great opportunity to celebrate MAC’s 125 years of serving Michigan counties,” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director. “Kalamazoo County was an excellent host and attendance was up from our 2022 event.”

For those unable to attend the event, MAC has assembled a variety of conference materials that can be accessed 24/7 at our website.

MAC’s 2024 conference schedule includes:

  • Legislative Conference, April 29-May 1, Doubletree Hotel and Lansing Center in Ingham County
  • Annual Conference, Sept. 24-26, Grand Traverse Resort in Grand Traverse County

 

House and Senate advance PPT reimbursement bills      

Legislation to create a reimbursement process for local governments who will lose money due to Personal Property Tax exemptions this year advanced in both legislative chambers this week.

The Michigan House approved House Bills 4553 and 4554, by Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent) and Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Macomb) respectively, while the Senate approved Senate Bill 331, by Sen. Kevin Hertel (D-Wayne). All three bills reflect a key MAC priority for 2023.

The House bills now move to the Senate, while the Senate bill heads to the House for review.

MAC began pursuit of legislation after the Legislature, in December 2021, expanded the PPT exemption for businesses from $80,000 in true cash value exemption to $180,000. This move created an estimated $75 million annual loss for local governments.

Because this exemption is not based on the value of property initially exempted in 2014 with the large PPT overhaul legislation, calculating the loss for each county and community needs to be based on a different formula. It took more than a year to determine the best mechanism and methodology for calculating the reimbursements, as reflected in the current bills.

The bills also carve out $75 million from the state’s use tax to fund the reimbursement.

The expansion of the PPT exemption is effective this year and without enactment of these bills, locals would be left with a shortfall. MAC will continue to work to ensure these bills are enacted before the Legislature’s anticipated adjournment in early November.

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

 

Download list of contact numbers for rail emergencies

The Michigan Railroads Association (MRA) has updated their emergency contact numbers for freight railroads operating in Michigan. The MRA Railroad Emergency Contact brochure contains a map and key for rail lines within Michigan, along with the emergency contact numbers for these railroads.

At each crossing there should be a blue and white Emergency Notification Signs with the railroad name, emergency contact number, and USDOT National Crossing Inventory Number.

The MRA is working to ensure all Michigan first responders have access to this brochure, as well as any others that may find the document useful. 

 

NACo partner offers training deal on cybersecurity

This October marks 20 years of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

As security education expands across organizations, so do the cyberthreats they face. In response, local governments across the country are joining the NACo Cybersecurity Leadership Academy: a 12-week virtual course with the latest insights from industry experts and current CIOs/CISOs in the field, as well as the opportunity to network with cybersecurity professionals across the nation.

It coaches participants on what it means to think and act as a cybersecurity leader. Throughout the month of October, every municipality can enroll one employee in the program ($1,995), and a second can join the Leadership Academy for free.

The next session kicks off Jan. 8, 2024. You can find out more here or reach out to our Academy contact, Matt Barnard (mattb@pdaleadership.com) to claim your BOGO.

 

Juvenile justice reform package clears House, Senate committees

A 20-bill package to reform juvenile justice work in Michigan cleared House and Senate committees this week. Senate Bills 418437 and House Bills 46244643 are a result of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform’s recommendations provided last July.

The Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform was established in 2021 to assess Michigan’s juvenile justice data and identify ways to improve the system. The bipartisan group was led by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and included members from all three branches of government, as well as state and local level juvenile justice leaders and advocates. Two county commissioners served on the task force, each nominated by MAC. Alisha Bell of Wayne represented a county with a population over 100,000, while Marlene Webster of Shiawassee represented a county under 100,000 in population. Rep. Sarah Lightner, a former county commissioner, also served on the group.

The task force discovered several challenges to strengthening public safety and improving outcomes for youth. Those challenges, however, led to the set of thirty-two recommendations provided to the legislature last year. The recommendations are set to improve community safety, reduce disparities, and improve youth outcomes. Six priority areas have been identified and translated into the 20-bill package.

Senate Bill 418, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne) and House Bill 4624, by Rep. Christine Morse (D-Kalamazoo), enhance the County Child Care Fund (CCF) by establishing a minimum framework of juvenile justice best practices statewide, including the use of risk screening and assessment tools. The best practices will be supported by an increase in the reimbursement rate for community-based services from 50 percent to 75 percent, including 17-year-olds. These changes are essential for ensuring counties have the resources to implement and utilize these approaches. The reimbursement rate for residential services will be 50 percent, including the 17-year-old population.

SBs 419423 require the consistent use of validated screening and assessment tools to enable more objective decision-making and allow agencies to better match youth to appropriate supervision and services, reducing their likelihood to recidivate. The bills also expand the Diversion Act so that all offenses, with an exception for youth committing a specified juvenile violation, are eligible for pre-court diversion, based on the use of a risk-screening tool and other factors and limit the time that a youth can be placed on pre-court diversion, unless the court determines that a longer period is needed. While diversion eligibility would be expanded, judicial discretion remains.

SB 424 and HB 4630, by Sen. Sue Shink (D-Washtenaw) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), would expand the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to include development, oversight and compliance with youth defense standards in local county defense systems. MAC has worked to ensure there would be no increase in the local share for MIDC services, that 40 percent of the total grant amount would be received upfront and that partially indigent reimbursements will remain.

MAC supports this package and has worked alongside legislators, state departments and other stakeholders to ensure our concerns were met.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Changes to disabled veterans tax exemption sent to governor

Three policy bills aimed at alleviating some of the administrative problems for disabled veterans and their spouses passed the Legislature and are now headed to the governor for her signature.

Senate Bill 176, by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), will allow 100 percent disabled veterans to file for the property tax exemption one time and eliminate the need to apply for the exemption each year. The bill also will allow the surviving spouse of a qualifying veteran to continue to receive the exemption after the veteran passes, so long as the surviving spouse continues to use the home as a homestead and is the sole person remaining on the deed. The exemption would remain in perpetuity until rescinded by the veteran or their spouse.

SB 330, by Sen. Mary Cavanaugh (D-Wayne), establishes the procedure for the recission of the exemption within 45 days of either a change in the status of eligibility or if the property was no longer being used as a homestead. The bill also requires a local assessing unit to establish a procedure for auditing exemptions through guidance provided by the State Tax Commission. The bill also prohibits an audit more than once every three years, unless there is reason to believe that circumstances have changed.

SB 364, by Sen. John Damoose (R-Emmet), allows for the local board of review to consider the denial of an eligible surviving spouse a qualified error and allows for the exemption to be granted in such circumstances.

MAC was neutral on these policy changes but remains diligent in expressing the need for reimbursement of the property tax losses from the State for such losses.

There are six bills in the House and Senate that set up a process to reimburse local governments, but those bills have not seen any movement due to opposition from the Department of Treasury.  MAC will continue to work to resolve the financial losses for counties as the session continues.

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

 

Bill to allow opioid fatality review teams advances

A bill to allow a county or group of counties to establish an Opioid Fatality Review Team, by creating the Overdose Fatality Review Act, was approved by the Senate Committee on Health Policy this week.

Senate Bill 133, by Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), says, if a county chooses, an opioid fatality review team would consist of county officials, individuals from law enforcement and those from public health agencies. The main goal of a team would be to identify potential causes of drug overdose in their community and recommend law or policy changes for the prevention of those causes and overdoses.

MAC supports this legislation.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

MAC has concerns on new court reporter fee legislation

A bill to boost wages for court reporters and recorders has been filed in the Michigan House.

House Bill 5046, by Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Macomb), would increase the amount a court reporter or recorder would receive from $1.75 to $3.75 per page on an original transcript, and 90 cents per page for each copy.

MAC has not yet taken a position on this legislation; however, we do have concerns and will work alongside the bill sponsor to address issues this bill may pose for county budgets.

For more information on this issue, contact Samantha Gibson at gibson@micounties.org.

 

Annual Conference starts on Sunday, Oct. 1

MAC’s 125th Anniversary celebration continues on Oct. 1 with the opening of the 2023 Annual Conference in Kalamazoo County.

More than 300 county elected officials, staffers and others are expected to attend the event at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo.

Among the association activities at the conference:

  • MAC members will re-elect four members to the Board of Directors, including 2023-24 President Jim Storey of Allegan County. (Incumbents in Regions 1, 2 and 3 and for an at-large seat are all running unopposed.)
  • Storey will be sworn in as MAC’s 115th president and give his inaugural remarks at the President’s Banquet on the night of Oct. 2.
  • MAC members will review and approve policy platforms to guide the association’s work in 2023-24 during the Annual Business Meeting on Oct. 3.

Digital registration has closed, but MAC members may register at the conference site, with the on-site Registration Desk opening on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Following the conference, MAC will post presentations from plenary and workshop sessions, along with some video content.

 

Podcast 83: What policy trend ‘fascinates and terrifies’?

In their last episode prior to MAC’s 2023 Annual Conference, the Podcast 83 team reviews the unsettled legislative situation in Lansing and previews the conference offerings in Kalamazoo Oct. 1 -3.

Host Stephan Currie and MAC staffers Deena Bosworth, Madeline Fata and Samantha Gibson detail the State Capitol news, including:

  • The ongoing march of binding arbitration expansion, despite MAC’s opposition; and
  • Continuing work on juvenile justice reform.

Also discussed is the rapidly shrinking legislative calendar for the rest of 2023, with Bosworth expressing concern that the lack of session days could prevent passage of key MAC priorities until calendar 2024.

Currie turned the conversation to next week’s MAC Annual Conference, which will feature policy presentations on road funding, the affordable housing crisis and a topic that “fascinates and terrifies” Currie: AI developments.

View the full video of the episode, recorded on Sept. 26, by clicking here.

Previous episodes can be seen at MAC’s YouTube Channel.

And you always can find details about Podcast 83 on the MAC website.

 

Treasury sets Oct. 5 webinar for local leaders

The Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce its next Chart Chat webinar at 2 p.m. on Oct. 5.

The Chart Chat webinar series provides local governments with critical information related to accounting and auditing topics, measuring local government fiscal health, and other important updates from Treasury.

Topics covered will include:

  • Fiscally Ready Communities
  • ELITE System Updates  
  • Treasury Resources for Local Governments 
  • Uniform Reporting Format
  • Statutory Revenue Sharing Updates

Participants can register and submit questions prior to the webinar at: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_wKYuUiLtRyKtyP1hxbn3QQ#/registration

Presentations and recordings from this webinar, along with previous webinars, can be found at TREASURY – BLGSS Learning Center. Utilize TREASURY – Contact Information for support related to Treasury’s local government services. 

 

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