Fee authority for courts likely to expire without legislative intervention

Legislation to secure key trial court funding still awaits a vote on the House floor.

House Bill 5392, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), extends a quickly approaching May 1, 2024, expiration (“sunset”) of the authority of trial courts to levy fees that constitute a key part of their operational funding.

However, HB 5392 is “tie-barred” to a separate measure through actions of the House Judiciary Committee. The companion bill, HB 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), outlines a plan for the State Court Administrative Office to conduct data collection on certain trial court costs and revenue sources and provide a report to the Legislature with proposals to implement the Trial Court Funding Commission’s recommendations from 2019. A “tie-bar” means both bills must advance together.

MAC sees broad support for the sunset extension, but the prospects for the companion bill are much less clear. If, for political reasons, the legislation is delayed and not signed before May 1, a funding gap will result.

As we approach May 1, and the bills have yet to receive a vote, it is increasing likely fee authority for courts will expire. Courts stand to lose nearly $50 million in operational funding annually if HB 5392 does not pass. This loss of revenue, if not covered by the state, will fall on the counties to cover.

With the likelihood for the fee authority to expire, the State Court Administrative Office sent a memo to courts last week, encouraging them to work with counties to establish a back-up funding plan.

While we are expecting the authority to expire on May 1, MAC anticipates the bills will still be signed in May. MAC is advocating for state funding to be appropriated to counties in the event a funding gap is created, to the tune of $1 million per week.

MAC supports both HB 5392 and 5534, with our priority to move HB 5392 and extend the funding authority prior to May 1.

MAC is asking members to take immediate action to urge quick legislative passage. Please visit MAC’s advocacy center to share your support for HBs 5392 and 5534 with your elected officials. The legislative window is closing, as there are limited days for the Legislature to advance the bills to the governor prior to May 1.

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

 

Executive Director Stephan Currie with official County Government Month resolution.

Legislative resolution recognizes ‘County Government Month’

April has been designated National County Government Month in Michigan after the Senate approved a resolution this week.

Resolution 105, by Sens. Jeff Irwin (D-Washtenaw) and Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne), was requested by MAC as part of National County Government Month festivities led by the National Association of Counties. Irwin is a former Washtenaw County commissioner and a member of MAC’s County Caucus.

This recognition is an opportunity to highlight the hard work of county officials and the multitude of services county governments provide. Since 1991, the National Association of Counties has pushed for all states to celebrate counties throughout the month of April.

 

Impact on counties of federal PFAS rule as yet unclear

The federal government has issued new drinking water standards pertaining to Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week the “first-ever national, legally enforceable drinking water standard.”

There are 66,000 public drinking water systems in the U.S. and the EPA estimates that between 6 percent and 10 percent of those systems will need to take action to meet the new standards. The federal government has made available $1 billion in funding to test and treat both private and public water supplies for PFAS.

Michigan has been a national leader in PFAS testing and treatment since at least 2017 with the creation of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART). While MPART has already sampled every public drinking water system in the state, it is not yet publicly known how many, if any, will be impacted by the new standards.

For more information on MAC’s environmental policy work, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

Trial court legislation still stuck in Lansing calendar, Podcast 83 reports

With legislators returning to Lansing this week, focus again turns to the overdue action on the authority of trial courts to levy fees, MAC’s Samantha Gibson told her fellow Podcast 83 team members in the group’s newest episode.

“So, at this time, unfortunately, we’re still held up on trial court funding legislation in the House,” Gibson said. “What’s becoming increasingly likely, and what I think will end up happening, is once the two vacant house seats are filled after those special elections, April 16, maybe. So, let’s say April 23 or 24, maybe the House will vote the bills out, then the Senate is going to have a hearing on some Senate versions of those bills on the 18th. So, whenever the House bills get over there, they can just get sent right to the Senate floor. … We probably will be looking at a week or so after May 1 for implementation of the new sunset.”

In that case, MAC will be pressing the state to reimburse counties for the approximately $1 million per week that will be lost in operating revenue, as it did the last time the fee authority expired in the fall of 2022.

Also reviewed in this week’s episode are:

The potential effects of legislation just signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on hotel/motel tax authority for Kent and seven other counties.

The timing for the passage of the state’s FY25 budget this spring with the statewide election calendar looming.

View the full episode, recorded on April 8, 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.

 

April 16 webinar set on harm reduction and opioid treatment meds

On Tuesday, April 16, the next webinar in the Opioid Settlement Technical Assistance Learning Series will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., titled “MOUD & Harm Reduction.”

Many people have negative reactions when they hear “methadone” or “needle exchange,” but these are two of several science-backed ways to improve health and prevent deaths among people who use drugs. This presentation provides a broad overview of two kinds of interventions that science shows can help people who use drugs: medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD), sch as methadone, and harm reduction, which includes services like needle and syringe programs. We will explain how these interventions work, show evidence of their effectiveness, and address common misconceptions about them.

Register to attend here.

The series is hosted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State University as part of their Technical Assistance Collaborative.

For more information on opioid settlements are technical assistance, contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

New tool provides ‘one-stop shop’ for your grant searches

Help with the perennial challenge of finding and securing grants for county initiatives is here.

The MI Funding Hub is a new effort led by the Michigan Municipal League and state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity to develop one-stop shop for grants. The hub provides open access to a searchable database of federal and state funding sources as well as philanthropic foundations that can be queried based on type of applicant and funding category as funding becomes available.

The hub provides a monthly newsletter announcing new grants, webinars and grant readiness training.

Local officials also have free access to hands-on technical assistance from a team of experts across many fields through the MI Funding Hub helpdesk. After receiving your helpdesk request form, the team will schedule a meeting to discuss funding needs, answer funding questions, direct applicants to appropriate funding sources and coach you on developing application strategies.

Services provided through the MI Funding Hub do not include writing grant applications, but MAC’s CoProPlus subsidiary does have a pre-negotiated grant writing contract available.

Get started by watching a recorded introductory webinar.

 

Use cyber courses to bolster your county’s defenses

It can happen to you.

In early April, Grand Traverse County was hit with a “spear phishing” attack through its email system. The county’s IT team was able to ward off the assault, but this is yet another reminder that digital security is a fundamental duty for any county government in the 21st century.

The NACo Cyberattack Simulation is a reality-based simulation that prepares county risk leaders for cyberattacks by assessing counties’ current state of readiness and identifying gaps. This simulation will help attendees evaluate their incident response procedures and tools and guide them in developing a detailed cyberattack response strategy.

Upcoming sessions will focus on:

  • June 2024: Supplier Management Access
  • September 2024: Financial Access
  • December 2024: Cloud Security

The NACo Cyberattack Simulation is designed for cybersecurity managers, their teams and those responsible for risk defense, protection, and recovery, including HR, policy management, finance, public safety and emergency services. It requires 30-60 minutes per day for one week. Activities can be completed on the participants’ schedule and accessed online anywhere.

The retail price of the one week Cyberattack Simulation is $795 per enrollee; however, the simulations are fully sponsored for all counties, bringing your price down to ZERO.

To learn more or enroll, email moderator@pdaleadership.com.

 

Electronic options now offered on payments from state

The Michigan Municipal Services Authority (MMSA) and Local Community Stabilization Authority (LCSA) are working to ensure local governments are receiving the state reimbursements the Legislature has worked hard to protect. These reimbursements include personal property tax (PPT) reimbursement, Fire Protection Grants, ELPHA and Metro Act payments.

The LCSA issues thousands of checks each year to local governments and a number of these remain uncashed. Issuing physical checks means there’s a greater chance of those funds being lost.

While we do work with the local units to try to locate checks and/or reissue them, if necessary, this process can take months.

As a result, we are commencing an electronic payment outreach program with the goal of ensuring local governments receive payments required under state statute(s). Our partners at Plante Moran are launching an outreach effort to contact local units of government directly to set up electronic payment.

LCSA offers two options for electronic deposit: through an ACH or through a Michigan Class participant-to-participant transfer.

If you would like to begin the simple process of converting to electronic payment, email us at electronicpayment@lcsami.gov.  For questions, please contact Samantha Harkins, ceo@michiganmsa.org.

 

Opioid settlement metrics tool released

The Opioid Settlement Principles Resource and Indicators (OSPRI) interactive online tool is now available. This tool serves as a valuable resource to monitor strategies funded with opioid settlement funds to address the drug overdose crisis and improve public health outcomes in the community. OSPRI assists in determining indicators related to the priorities and needs determined by local governments which will allow for understanding of the effectiveness of and improved ability to report on outcomes associated with investments.

OSPRI was developed by a working group from Vital Strategies and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with additional contributions from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Shatterproof, the CDC Foundation, and the National Association of Counties.

For additional information or technical assistance with monitoring investments, contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

Staff picks

Time grows short to register for 2024 Legislative Conference

If you plan to join your fellow county leaders for two days of policy presentations, legislative discussions and networking in Lansing this month, now is the time to act.

The 2024 Michigan Counties Legislative Conference starts April 29, but MAC’s special room rate at the DoubleTree Hotel expires today. Attendees may be able to still obtain lodging there, but they will be paying the full retail rate.

The next nearest hotel is the Courtyard Marriott (see map). Their room rates are $159 for the night of April 29 and $189 for the night of April 30. Click here for more information or to book a room there.

Digital conference registration continues until April 19 for the event. Leading in times of crisis and change will be the theme of its keynote address.

Retired Adm. Peter Cressy, director of Executive Leadership Programs at the Washington Leadership Institute, will speak on:

Cressy

“Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Churchill: A Strategic Approach to Leading in Times of Crisis and Change: Washington and these other great leaders manifested eight common characteristics in leading during times of crisis and change, ranging from visibility and communication to planning and collaboration. This popular session will explore examples of these traits during the times of crisis each of these outstanding leaders faced, which remain relevant today.”

Additional plenary sessions will feature:

  • A Legislative Panel discussion with key lawmakers from the House and Senate
  • Remarks from National Association of Counties (NACo) President Mary Jo McGuire of Ramsey County, Minnesota
  • MAC Legislative Update
  • Remarks from MAC President Jim Storey of Allegan County
  • Presentation of certificates to the 2024 graduating class of County Commissioner Academy

Breakout sessions on current challenges for county leaders, including broadband funding updates, lessons learned from the opioid settlements, impact of renewable energy siting legislation, options for infrastructure funding to address the expansion of electric vehicles and much more!

For any conference-related question, send an email to connell@micounties.org.

 

New law expands hotel/motel tax authority for 8 counties

Eight counties gain an expanded ability to tax temporary lodgings under a 2023 bill finally signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week.

House Bill 5048, by Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent), uses population thresholds that qualify these counties to increase what they can charge on hotel and motel rooms. The counties are Calhoun, Genesee, Ingham, Kalamazoo, Kent, Muskegon, Saginaw and Washtenaw. 

MAC had backed a bid for this option for all 83 counties to give them another economic development tool. Leaders in Kent County, in particular, pushed hard for change as they are seeking revenue for a new sports complex and an aquarium.

MAC’s broader efforts were opposed by the Restaurant and Lodging Association and convention and visitors bureaus, leading to this more restricted law.

These projects hold immense promise for Kent County, not only in terms of providing recreational and cultural amenities but also in driving economic growth through increased tourism and job creation. The sports complex promises to be a hub for sports enthusiasts, attracting both local fans and visitors from afar. Similarly, the aquarium offers an immersive experience for residents and tourists alike, showcasing the region’s aquatic biodiversity and educational opportunities.

Under the law, an increase will require a vote of the people to increase the excise tax from 5 percent to 8 percent for eligible counties. A separate provision for an additional 2 percent excise tax by local governments is limited to Kent County.

MAC will continue to advocate for the ability of all counties to raise revenue to fund economic growth and to provide for the public safety needs that come along with increased tourism and recreation in this state. 

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

 

Legislation introduced to return local control on tobacco sales

Legislation to allow counties to place tighter restrictions on the sale of tobacco products is now before the Senate Regulatory Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 647, by Sen. Sue Shink (D-Washtenaw), is one piece of a larger package enforcing limitations on tobacco product sales.

SBs 647654 would ban all sales of flavored tobacco products, require tobacco retailers to be licensed and create an excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapes with nicotine. The package would also repeal current statutory penalties on youth for possessing tobacco products.

MAC has taken a position of support for SB 647 due to its focus on returning control to counties for the regulation of tobacco sales.

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

 

CoPro+ program can be ally in procurement work

Were you aware that a MAC program offers your procurement team more than 150 contracts for goods and services, all pre-negotiated and in full compliance with state law?

MAC’s CoProPlus subsidiary, now entering its second decade of service to public entities, stands ready to assist MAC members in expansive ways, explained CoPro+ staffers in a new episode of MAC’s Podcast 83.

“One thing that makes us unique is that we will go into an entity that needs our services and offer a full range of end-to-end procurement services,” said Penny Saites of CoPro+. “(We offer) everything from writing bid specs, to writing the bid document, to assisting through the procurement process and all the way to evaluation and contract execution.”

“Any public agency is eligible to participate in the program,” added Chuck Wolford. “And that could be a county, a city, a township, a public school, a college or a university. And you can use the contracts at absolutely no cost to you and save you the time for procuring it again, we’ve already done the work for you. It’s already been vetted. And you’re always going have something that’s done the right way through this program.”

While the figure changes regularly, CoPro+ has about 150 contracts in place. About 20 counties have made use of at least one such contract.

“We have contracts in commodities, IT professional services and maintenance and repair type contracts. So, if you’re a facility guy, you’re going want to look at some of those building services contracts that we have, like we have a really nice overhead door contract where those vendors also do HVAC and other building services,” Saites explained.

“We are looking at some of the professional services contracts; grant writing I know is one of them. We get a lot of questions from MAC (on that issue),” Saites added. “There’s also compensation studies available on there, if folks would like to engage with that group.”

View the full episode, recorded on Feb. 28, 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.

 

EGLE event will focus on environmental compliance challenges

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will host the 2024 Michigan Environmental Compliance Conference (MECC) June 5-6 at the Lansing Center. The MECC is EGLE’s premier compliance assistance event designed to help businesses, municipalities, and environmental professionals across Michigan comply with their environmental requirements.

Get up-to-date information on regulatory topics, environmental requirements, best practices, EGLE hot topics and more.

Network with regulators, clients, and potential customers from around the state.

Choose from more than 70 concurrent technical presentations delivered by program experts on topics related to air quality, hazardous waste and materials management, drinking water requirements, water quality regulations, remediation, and emergency planning.

Take advantage of opportunities for specialized one-on-one assistance from EGLE staff and get your questions answered.

A full conference registration is $200. The deadline to register is May 27. See more details at Michigan.gov/EGLEevents.

 

Lenawee commissioner explains beginnings of ballot campaign on energy sites

“This is strictly a question of who decides how to site these things, the (Michigan Public Service Commission) or local units of government.”

So explained Lenawee County Commissioner Kevon Martis about the ballot campaign he and other concerned citizens formed now to contest Public Act 233, the controversial state law adopted in 2023 on the siting of renewable energy facilities.

“Public Act 233 has really taken away any meaningful local control of wind, solar and battery storage regulation,” Martis explained to Podcast 83 host Stephan Currie in a new special episode. “We’ve taken the approach that people should have a vote on this, and we’re trying to place the repeal of that local zoning preemption on the ballot this November.”

Under the name “Citizens for Local Choice,” this group wants voters to have a chance to modify the law to protect local control.

“We introduced this as initiated legislation and that legislation targets only the local zoning preemption (in the law),” Martis explained. “We’re not touching any of the energy policy side of this.”

The group, of which MAC is now a part, needs 357,000 signatures by May 29 to meet its goal of reaching the November 2024 ballot.

“My strong recommendation to (Michigan’s county commissioners) is if each of you go out and collect one or two pages of signatures ― and each page has 12 signatures ― that will make a meaningful difference in our efforts,” Martis said.

View the full episode, recorded on March 22, 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.

 

Use new portal to help state direct broadband investments

The State Challenge Process is open for residents and businesses to test the quality of their high-speed internet. The $1.55 billion Michigan is set to receive through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program (BEAD) will go toward unserved and underserved locations. But, for the Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI) to determine which locations truly meet that criterion, people must participate in the challenge process.

The maps were initially built using data from internet service providers, state, and federal entities. The challenge process is meant to fact-check that data and ensure funds are being allocated accurately. The challenge began on March 25 and will run through April 23.

Residents are unable to submit challenge results directly to the state, however, Merit has generated a portal for this purpose. Merit is a nonprofit regional research and education network which will gather residential data from the portal and submit it to the state on behalf of individuals. Community leaders should refer their constituents to the Merit platform to participate in the challenge.

For more information on MAC’s advocacy on broadband, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

MAC-backed bill to expand drug courts awaits House vote

Legislation to expand drug treatment court availability remains on the House floor, likely until a majority is reinstated after upcoming special elections in mid-April.

House Bill 4525, by Rep. Graham Filler (R-Clinton), would amend state law to allow certain offenders to be admitted to a drug treatment court with the approval of the judge, prosecutor and any known victim.

HB 4525 is part of a three-bill package, including HBs 4523 and 4524, by Reps. Kara Hope (D-Ingham) and Joey Andrews (D-Berrien), respectively. The package would expand the use of mental health and drug treatment courts, which are currently limited to nonviolent offenders, to include certain violent offenders ― but again only with approval from a judge and prosecutor and consent of any victim.

The bills were voted out of the Senate; however, they were sent back to the House, as they are required to provide a concurrence vote due to amendments made in the Senate. Despite prior approval in the House, HBs 4523 and 4525 failed to move, and likely will not receive another vote until later this spring.

MAC supports this legislation.

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

 

NACo webinar to give update on ‘elective pay’ under federal IRA

An April 16 webinar from the National Association of Counties is designed to answer county questions about the “elective pay” portion of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

On March 5, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) issued final regulations for the elective pay mechanism established in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Using elective pay, also known as direct pay, counties and other tax-exempt entities can monetize certain clean energy tax credits that they have previously been unable to access due to their lack of tax liability. Treasury also unveiled a new proposed rule to provide criteria regarding the eligibility of certain ownership structures to claim elective pay. During this webinar, counties will hear from Treasury and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on these new regulations and other funding opportunities available under IRA.

To register for the webinar on April 16, which will run from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern, click here.

 

County efforts earn Hometown Health Hero awards

The Michigan Public Health Week Partnership, in which MAC participates, has named the recipients for its 2024 Hometown Health Hero awards.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the award, which is presented to individuals and/or organizations that have made significant and measurable contributions to preserve and improve their community’s health. Awardees are selected solely from nominations received. 

Washtenaw County’s Community Voices for Health Equity will receive one of 10 awards this year.

Honorable Mentions will be awarded to:

  • Ottawa County Migrant Health Task Force
  • Kathy Moore, Muskegon County health officer
  • Oakland County Health Division, Maternal and Child Nutrition
  • Cass County Medical Care Facility
  • Women of Ottawa County Health Department

All the awards will be presented on April 10 at 11:30 a.m. in the Atrium of Heritage Hall in the State Capitol. The event is open to the public. The event is held during Michigan Public Health Week, whose theme this year is f “Protecting, Connecting and Thriving: We Are All Public Health.”

 

Trial court funding reform bills pass House committee

Time-sensitive legislation to secure key trial court funding took its first step toward passage this week.

House Bill 5392, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), extends a quickly approaching May 1, 2024, expiration (“sunset”) of the authority of trial courts to levy fees that constitute a key part of their operational funding.

However, HB 5392 is now “tie-barred” to a separate measure through actions of the House Judiciary Committee. The companion bill, HB 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), outlines a plan for the State Court Administrative Office to conduct data collection on certain trial court costs and revenue sources and provide a report to the Legislature with proposals to implement the Trial Court Funding Commission’s recommendations from 2019. A “tie-bar” means both bills must advance together.

MAC sees broad support for the sunset extension, but the prospects for the companion bill are much less clear. If, for political reasons, the legislation is delayed and not signed before May 1, a funding gap will result.

Courts stand to lose nearly $50 million in operational funding annually if HB 5392 does not pass. This loss of revenue, if not covered by the state, will fall on the counties to cover.

MAC supports both HB 5392 and 5534, with our first priority to move HB 5392 and extend the sunset prior to May 1, as was testified to last Wednesday.

These bills now move to the House floor.

MAC is asking members to take immediate action to urge quick legislative passage. Please visit MAC’s advocacy center to share your support for HBs 5392 and 5534 with your elected officials. The legislative window is closing, as there are limited days for the Legislature to advance the bills to the governor prior to May 1.

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

 

MAC joins campaign to repeal state control of energy siting

The MAC Board of Directors has voted to join the Citizens for Local Choice, a coalition of groups pushing for a statewide vote to repeal sections of a state law that put an unelected state panel in final charge of siting of energy generation facilities.

“What we have heard from our own counties, and from colleagues across the state, is that this law enacted last year is a clear attack on local control, an attack Michigan’s 83 counties cannot allow to continue,” said Jim Storey, president of the MAC Board of Directors and chair of the Allegan County Board. MAC is aware of at least nine counties that already have passed resolutions in support of the ballot campaign.

MAC consistently opposed the act as it worked its way through the State Capitol last year, testifying on the consequences of usurping local control and suggesting changes that could facilitate the generation of clean energy without making the state Public Service Commission the final answer on local land use.

“It’s unfortunate we have reached this point, but this measure is so ill-conceived, so counter to the interests of communities and good governance, that MAC has to take this stand,” added Stephan Currie, executive director.

What’s next?

MAC encourages county leaders to support the coalition’s work in several ways:

  1. Pass a county resolution in support of it. The coalition has a template you can use for this purpose. Click here for it.

  2. Consider circulating petitions for it. Click here to request a petition from the coalition. (Please note there are specific rules on the collection process, so be sure to familiarize yourself with them; the coalition has text and video briefings on that process.)

The coalition now has petitions in the field to collect the 550,000 signatures the group thinks is advisable to meet state requirements for ballot proposals. Only 356,958 valid signatures are needed under state law, but the coalition has set a higher goal to ensure the legal requirement is easily met.)

Time is short, though, as the deadline to collect signatures is approaching on May 29, the deadline to reach the November 2024 ballot.

  1. Contact your county captain or volunteer to be one. The coalition has at least one county captain in 62 counties, but more are needed, particularly in Southeast Michigan. To volunteer as one, sign up on the website or send a note to citizensforlocalchoice@gmail.com.

  2. Donate to the campaign. While the coalition is having success using volunteer petition collectors and not using paid ones, unlike other ballot efforts, a full statewide campaign to convince voters this fall will not come cheap. To donate directly to the coalition, click here.

For more information on MAC’s work in defense of local control, contact Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

‘Polluter pay’ package would bring problems for counties

Action could occur in coming weeks on a so-called “polluter pay” package that MAC opposes due to the burdens it would impose on county agencies.

Senate Bills 605-611, led by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Washtenaw), add new regulations for businesses and local units of government to own and operate brownfield sites, making it difficult and undesirable to do so. Environmentalists are referring to the package as “polluter pay,” while industry representatives are calling it an attack on brownfield redevelopment.

The lead bill would require all owners of a contaminated property, whether they are responsible for the contamination or not, to conduct a baseline environmental assessment and submit a “due care plan” to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) every five years. A due care plan must include specific actions, plus monitoring and reporting requirements.

Contaminated sites will need to be cleaned up to residential standards, the highest level possible. Even if the site is meant to be used as a parking lot, the owner will need to follow remediation guidelines as if the site were to be a neighborhood. Financial considerations are not factored into this requirement in any way.

There is a stipulation for financial assurance on any facility that houses a pollutant. Many counties or their road agencies own salt sheds and oil brine tanks for road maintenance activities. For each of these facilities, a county would need to take out a bond for 70 percent of the cost to remediate the release of all pollutants on site. The response cost would be estimated per pound, or by a third party approved by EGLE.

Other provisions include medical monitoring, allowing EGLE to circumvent the rules-making process and changes to the statute of limitations for discovering contaminants. Aside from brownfield sites and road agencies, county airports also could be affected by this legislation.

MAC anticipates a hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment sometime in April. MAC will share updates as they become available.

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

 

Podcast 83 discusses court funding, energy conundrums

What should have been a simple extension on state authority for local courts to levy fees for their operations has turned into a complicated bout of legislative gamesmanship, the Podcast 83 team reported in its newest episode.

On May 1, the state law that allows trial courts to impose fees on defendants, a key part of the overall court funding system, expires. For many months, MAC has been working to, at minimum, get that authority extended to 2026, but the extension may not come until after the authority expires, Samantha Gibson explained.

“Last Wednesday, I testified in the House Judiciary Committee in support of two bills. One … extends the quickly approaching May 1 sunset date … (T)he other bill that MAC supports … that’s a plan for a plan, if you will, that requires the State Court Administrator’s Office to do data collection on court costs, revenue, judicial caseload and a few other things to then give a report to legislators in May of 2026,” Gibson said.

The plan, as of March 11, was to “tie-bar” the bills, meaning either both advance or neither. This complicates passage of the fee authority, especially in light of the Legislature’s upcoming calendar and the continued 54-54 seat deadlock in the House, Gibson said.

In the end, MAC expects fee authority to be extended, but there could be a gap in “coverage,” which would mean missing funds from courts that would have to be made up by someone. “It’s MAC’s position that if the Legislature withholds the bills, and a funding gap occurs that the state is responsible for backfilling those funding and allocating that to local courts, which we saw back in October of 2022,” Gibson added.

In other news:

Madeline Fata reported on a “town hall” held by the state Public Service Commission about the new law giving it the final say on the siting of wind and solar facilities.

“There certainly were a lot of red flags raised (on interpreting the law),” Fata said, “but they’re not done. There’s another meeting on March 19 at 1:30 p.m. There’s a virtual link available. I think it’s great for members to participate on those. They’re also accepting public comment between now and March 25.”

Deena Bosworth reviewed her testimony before the House Local Government Committee on House Bill 5353, a measure to require legislators to consider the fiscal effects of their decisions in order to deter any new unfunded mandates on local governments.

“We’ve seen iterations of this bill in the past. Is there anything different in this bill that would kind of help it or hurt it or anything? As you know, we obviously haven’t seen much action in the past,” Bosworth noted.

View the full video of the episode, recorded on March 11, 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.

 

Local governments explain concerns on energy siting law to state panel

Local governments voiced concerns over implementing the new renewable energy siting law in the first in a series of public meetings hosted by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) last week.

MPSC staff heard from local governments and planning professionals about their many concerns for implementing Public Act 233, which takes effect this November. Among concerns raised were the short timeline for local units to adopt compatible renewable energy ordinances; whether or not locals can include provisions for buffering or screening in their plans; and who enforces compliance after the permitting process is completed.

MAC vigorously opposed the legislation in 2023 that became PA 233.

While the MPSC did not specifically address these concerns, the session served as more of a learning opportunity for their team. MAC notes that the MPSC is an appointed body whose primary function is ratemaking; it has little experience in land use planning or zoning.

The next session is set for March 19 at 1:30 p.m. and is open to the public. We encourage members to tune in and learn more about the upcoming changes.

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

 

Bill to help curb sheriff staffing shortages advances to Senate

Legislation aimed at addressing staffing shortages in sheriff offices cleared the Michigan House this week in a broad, bipartisan vote.

House Bill 5203, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), would allow county boards of commissioners to choose if retired county employees who work at a sheriff’s office can continue to receive retirement benefits during a period of re-employment.

By 94-12, HB 5203 was passed out of the House this week. It now moves to the Senate Local Government Committee.

Currently, if a person who has retired and receives retirement benefits becomes re-employed by the same county, their retirement benefit payment is suspended for the length of their re-employment.  The bill would allow retirement benefits to continue during re-employment if a retiree becomes employed by a county sheriff’s office.

Allowing counties to re-employ sheriff’s office employees and maintain their retirement benefits will address the severe staffing shortages seen within county sheriff’s offices.

MAC supports this legislation.

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

 

Healthy Climate Conference will focus on ‘Accelerating Action’

With unprecedented climate investments from federal and state sources, recently passed legislation, and executive actions to help meet the goals in the MI Healthy Climate Plan (Plan), Michigan is positioned better than ever to achieve the main goal in the Plan of a healthy, prosperous, carbon-neutral Michigan for all residents by 2050.

To learn more, join the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) for the 2024 Michigan Healthy Climate Conference at the Lansing Center on May 16-17, 2024.

Building on these actions and the success of last year’s conference, the department is hosting this two-day conference to continue the mobilization of engaged stakeholders and review the actions being taken around the state to implement the goals in the Plan. This year’s conference is expected to draw more than 500 attendees from local, state, federal, and tribal governments, universities, nonprofits, community groups and businesses.

With the theme of this year’s conference being “Accelerating Action,” speakers will share about their success stories, challenges, funding opportunities, technical assistance, and other actions they are taking in the six priority areas of the Plan:

  • Commit to environmental justice and pursue a just transition
  • Clean the electric grid
  • Electrify vehicles and increase public transit
  • Repair and decarbonize homes and businesses
  • Drive clean innovation in industry
  • Protect Michigan’s land and water

Click here to start your registration.

 

House committee hears testimony as trial court funding deadline looms

Trial court funding sources (April 2023).

Legislative efforts ramped up this week to address funding for Michigan’s trial courts, which are now facing the legal expiration of a key funding source.

Action is now in the House Judiciary Committee and focused on two bills: House Bill 5392, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), extends the current May 1, 2024, sunset date on the authority of courts to levy fees to May 1, 2026; and House Bill 5534, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), which outlines a plan for the State Court Administrative Office to collect data on trial court costs and revenue sources and provide a report to the Legislature with proposals to implement the Trial Court Funding Commission’s recommendations from 2019.

MAC is supporting both efforts, though its immediate focus is on HB 5392, since inaction would create an immediate funding gap.  MAC testified to this point on Wednesday.

Courts stand to lose nearly $50 million in operational funding annually if HB 5392 does not pass. This loss of revenue, if not supplemented by the state, will fall on the counties to cover.

It is expected that HB 5392 will advance out of committee in an amended form to set a Dec. 31, 2026, sunset on fee authority.

Political dynamics in the House, however, could delay passage of both bills. The bills are expected to be tie-barred, meaning one cannot move through the legislative process without the other.

The bills are likely to be voted out by the committee next week and move to the House floor.

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

 

MAC urges passage of bill to deter unfunded mandates on locals

Deena Bosworth testifies on HB 5353 before the House Local Government Committee.

A renewed effort to require legislators to consider the fiscal implications of new mandates on local governments prior to enacting them received MAC’s support in testimony before the House Local Government Committee this week.

House Bill 5353, by Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Kent), is a re-introduction of legislation that’s been introduced every legislative session since the Legislative Commission on Unfunded Mandates issued its report in 2009. In the last Legislature, Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Dickinson) was able to move SB 449 out of committee before it stalled on the Senate floor.

HB 5353, as with previous iterations, seeks a fiscal note process for legislation and departmental rules that increase or create new mandates on local units of government. It requires the identification of additional mandated services and a cost estimate for those services prior to the third reading of the bills in the originating legislative chamber or prior to the implementation of new departmental rules. This approach will allow legislators to have prior knowledge of the potential costs and be able to weigh their support or opposition based on complete information.

Funds required to perform the new mandates must be appropriated and sent out to local units before the locals would have to comply with the new mandates. The bill would affect new bills and rules only.

Twenty-eight states have similar reporting requirements, and many states have requirements that mandates must be funded. Michigan’s “Headlee Amendment” already requires that our mandates be funded. However, this requirement has not been routinely met.

With county-controlled resources (property taxes) already constrained by Headlee and Proposal A, additional service requirements imposed on counties by the state must come with the resources to meet them, MAC’s Deena Bosworth told committee members this week during her testimony (see 39:00 mark).

No vote was taken on the bill this week, but MAC is hopeful the bill will advance this spring.

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

 

Senate appropriations panel hears from MAC on juvenile justice reforms

Severe shortages in staffing and bed space are limiting the effects of juvenile justice reforms enacted last year, MAC told a Senate appropriations subcommittee this week.

Panel Chair Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Wayne) convened a hearing to gauge the state of juvenile justice reform at the state and county level and determine the needs of counties and courts providing juvenile justice services.

MAC’s Samantha Gibson was among stakeholders who spoke to the struggles faced at the county level in providing care and support to youth in the justice system.

Among the reforms from enacted last year and now being implemented, the Child Care Fund reimbursement rate increase from 50 percent to 75 percent is most beneficial, Gibson told the panel, allowing courts and counties to expand on previously provided programs or possibly create new ones they could not fund prior to the increased reimbursement rate.

MAC once again called on legislators and the Department of Health and Human Services to assist in addressing the staffing shortage in juvenile detention facilities. More funding to counties is needed to boost staff wages and, in turn, promote more effective recruitment and retention efforts.

Additional hearings on this topic are expected in coming weeks.

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

 

State gets federal grant for juvenile services

Treatment options in counties for justice-involved or high-risk youth will be expanded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) with a $825,000 grant from the federal government.

The department intends to use these federal dollars to create more beds and more appropriate placement options for high-risk youth in need of long-term residential treatment. According to MDHHS, Project activities include:

  • Starting a Juvenile Justice Planning Council that will advance efforts to reduce the number of youth placed in detention or secure residential placements through effective prevention, intervention, diversion and re-entry services.
  • Identifying evidence-based practices, and culturally appropriate strategies that advance the long-term well-being and success of youth and their families.
  • Developing strategies to evaluate the economic impact of changes that result in cost savings and identifying how those cost savings can be reinvested into the larger continuum of care.
  • Creating a sustainable framework that supports reducing incarceration of youth and their diversion into community programs through a coordinated, collaborative strategy that also promotes safe communities.

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

 

House committee backs bill to address sheriff staffing

Legislation to allow county boards of commissioners to choose if retired county employees who work at a sheriff’s office can continue to receive retirement benefits during a period of re-employment advanced out of committee this week.

House Bill 5203, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), received unanimous support from the House Local Government Committee and now moves to the House floor.

At present, if a person receiving retirement benefits becomes re-employed by the same county, their retirement payments are suspended for the length of their re-employment.  The bill would allow retirement benefits to continue during re-employment if a retiree is hired by a sheriff’s office.

Allowing this practice would help address the severe staffing shortages seen within county sheriff’s offices.

MAC supports this legislation.

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

 

Podcast team discusses MAC’s behind-the-scenes efforts at Capitol

While the State Capitol might not be dominating headlines with passage of major legislation so far in 2024, the work there for MAC is as expansive as ever, members of the Podcast 83 Team note in their newest episode.

The legislative slowdown continues from the results of last November’s elections when the Democrats lost their majority in the House, leaving a 54-54 chamber that will remain tied until the end of April when new members are seated for two vacancies.

MAC, however, continues to crisscross the Capitol campus to brief legislators on county priorities and needs.

MAC, for example, testified last week before a Senate appropriations panel on the association’s opioid settlement efforts and the reaction was widely positive, Samantha Gibson reported.

“Our feeling on feedback from senators after that committee hearing was that they were really glad and impressed to hear about what was going on at MAC,” Gibson said. “It is important to note that I don’t believe anyone has started spending their settlement dollars yet and that’s because counties are really taking the time to hear from stakeholders and make sure that as many people as possible are engaged in the process, that they’re going to spend those dollars as effectively as they can.”

Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth spoke about her planned testimony on  House Bill 5353 (see item above).

“MAC has always been supportive of any kind of unfunded mandates legislation dating back to 2009, when the legislative commission on unfunded mandates issued their report,” Bosworth explained. “We have not been successful in getting this all the way through the process and enacted. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can cross that threshold this time.

“The only teeth (in the bill) are that we don’t have to comply … if they don’t follow the fiscal note process,” Bosworth added. “

View the full video of the episode, recorded on March 4, 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.

 

Webinars explain how to challenge internet connection maps

The Michigan High-Speed Internet Office (MIHI) will soon be testing the unserved, underserved and served status of homes, businesses and community anchor institutes across the state. Individuals will be able to complete the BEAD Challenge Process to determine the status of their internet connection, verifying the accuracy of the maps determined by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The challenge process will be open March 25-April 23.

While individuals may complete the testing process, they cannot submit the data themselves. Only local units of government, tribal governments, internet service providers and nonprofit can submit this data to MIHI.

Many county buildings are considered community anchor institutes, so they are able to challenge their connection status through the process.

MAC will share reminders as the start of the challenge process nears. In the meantime, MIHI will be hosting two upcoming webinars for participants to learn more:

  • Designed for Eligible Challengers – Tuesday, March 12, 1 p.m.-2m.
    • Eligible Challengers are local units of government, tribal governments and nonprofits.This session will cover what types of challenges will be accepted, what type of evidence will be required, and how to use the State Challenge Portal to submit challenges and evidence.
  • Designed for Community Anchor Institutions – Thursday, March 14, 1:30 p.m.-2:15m.
    • CAIs are organizations that serve as hubs for digital access in their communities and, as a result, have increased connectivity. This session will cover how CAIs can verify whether they are correctly represented on the map and how they may monitor and respond to any challenge about whether they fit the definition of a CAI.

For more information on MAC’s work on broadband issues, contact Madeline Fata at fata@micounties.org.

 

EPA opens grant program on hazardous waste

Funding opportunities for household hazardous waste collections and setting up waste diversion centers will soon be available to counties. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shared the following information with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy:

“U.S. EPA Region 5 has opened the FY2024-2025 Source Reduction Assistance Notice of Funding Opportunity. This regional competitive grant program provides funding for projects that promote practical source reduction practices, tools, and training or Pollution Prevention (P2) approaches, such as reducing single-use plastics or using green cleaning or other safer chemical alternatives.

“Tribes, States, local governments and not-for-profit organizations are eligible for funding.  Region 5 anticipates awarding 1-4 projects ranging from $40,000-$240,000 up to a total of $240,000 in federal funds. The number of awards is subject to the availability of funds, the quality of applications received, and other applicable considerations. The application deadline is April 15, 2024.”

While a variety of projects are eligible, the program’s priority areas are:

  1. Prevention of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  2. Hazardous Materials Source Reduction
  3. Innovative approaches to conservation of materials and resources
  4. Environmental Justice through P2 Actions

For additional support, contact Claudia Santiago at 312-886-0674 or Santiago.claudia@epa.gov.

 

NACo continues to accept Achievement Award applications

Since 1970, the NACo Achievement Awards have recognized outstanding county government programs and services. Through a non-competitive application process, noteworthy programs receive awards in 18 categories that cover a vast range of county responsibilities.

Applications are due March 30, 2024.

Michigan counties have won numerous awards in recent years for efforts ranging from the use of recycled materials for roads to cyber defense strategies to specialty courts.

Click here for more information or to begin your application process.

 

Opioid commission releases annual report

The Opioid Advisory Commission (OAC) is excited to share its 2024 Annual Report.

Please find the report, available here. It is also publicly accessible on the OAC’s website under “Commission Documents” > “Annual Reports.”

Also available is the 2024 supplemental brief. This document covers overarching themes, key takeaways/needs, and primary funding recommendations for appropriation from the Michigan Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund.

The OAC is also in the process of finalizing its “Action Guide”, anticipated for release later this month. The Action Guide will lay out steps that state leaders can take to support/adopt OAC recommendations.

For information about MAC’s work on opioid settlements, click the image or contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

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