To-do list: Whitmer sign budget; Legislature pass revenue sharing reforms

It’s been two weeks since the Legislature passed the FY 2025 budget that includes a $30 million increase to county revenue sharing. However, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has yet to sign the legislation so it can be enacted.

MAC does not anticipate line-item vetoes affecting county revenue sharing, but the battle for proper sharing isn’t over.

While MAC is pleased with the FY25 increase, the budget bill falls short of securing county revenue sharing via a trust fund. MAC has been working on bills to carve out a portion of the state sales tax for statutory revenue sharing and secure it for use only as revenue sharing.

The goal is twofold:

  • Create a growing revenue source that tracks with the growth in state revenue
  • Protect the revenue from being allocated to other state priorities

Enacting these reforms will help insulate counties from the line-item veto and from the arbitrary increases and decreases in statutory revenue sharing enacted each year in annual budget bills.

County commissioners, please urge legislators (who are now back in their districts) to adopt the reforms bills, House Bills 4274-75, which passed by overwhelmingly in the House, but has been awaiting action by the Senate Finance Committee since November 2023.

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

 

‘Ax Tax’ ballot drive fails to make November ballot

A ballot drive for the statewide elimination of property taxes will not be on the November 2024 ballot after proponents failed to gain the necessary signatures by a July 8 deadline.

The “Ax MI Tax” proposal aimed to eliminate all real and personal property taxes in Michigan, which would strip more than $17 billion in funding for schools and local governments and provide little in replacement revenue. Further, such replacement revenue proposed for local governments would have prohibited spending on county jails, senior programs, parks and recreation, trash collection and maintenance of any public grounds.

While MAC applauds the decisions of voters not to sign this devastating proposal, it does not mean proponents have given up.

MAC will continue to collaborate with the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Townships Association and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments to inform members of the dangers of this concept. The efforts of county commissioners to brief their constituents of the need for services at the county level contributed to the ballot drive’s failure this year.

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

 

MAC on the road: Washtenaw County

MAC’s director of governmental affairs, Deena Bosworth, was in Ann Arbor Thursday night for a session of the Washtenaw County Board, during which she presented a MAC “County Seals” poster to Washtenaw Chair Justin Hodge. Also in the meeting, the Board, by unanimous vote, authorized a millage for the November ballot for senior services. If it is approved by voters, Washtenaw would become the 81st county to have a dedicated millage for senior services.

Since May 1, MAC has attended conferences or events in Wayne, Benzie, Mackinac, Branch, Grand Traverse, Menominee, Roscommon and Oceana counties. We may be in your county soon!

 

MACPAC is on record-setting pace for collections in 2024

MACPAC, the only political action committee committed to assisting advocates of county government in the Michigan Legislature, has raised nearly $10,000 at the halfway point of its fundraising year.

If MACPAC can maintain this pace of collections through the rest of 2024, it would set a single-year record, said Executive Director Stephan Currie.

“The contributions to date from dozens of county commissioners is much appreciated,” Currie said, “especially when you consider this is an election year and commissioners have their own campaigns to finance.

“I think this success reflects a growing understanding by our members that keeping allies in the Legislature is critical to county government,” he added.

Ionia, Newaygo and Branch counties are currently the top trio for cumulative donations in 2024.

Click here to see a full list of donors this year, as of July 1, 2024. Platinum members have given $500 or more. Gold members have given between $250 and $499. Silver members have given between $100 and $249.

It’s easy to make an electronic donation to MACPAC. Start that process by clicking here.

 

Utility panel seeks public views on Upper Peninsula Energy Study

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is holding a July 30 hearing in Marquette for public comment on the commission’s ongoing UP Energy Study. Public Act 235 of 2023 directs the MPSC to deliver a report by Dec. 31, 2024, detailing the unique conditions influencing electric generation, transmission, and demand in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The hearing will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern at Northern Michigan University’s Northern Center, 1401 Presque Isle Ave., and will be livestreamed over Microsoft Teams. The link will be provided on the Commission’s event page closer to the meeting date.

For those who are unable to attend, written comments can be mailed to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, Michigan 48909. Comments may also be submitted in electronic format via the commission’s E-Dockets website, or for those persons without an E-Dockets account, via email to mpscedockets@michigan.gov.

The Commission is soliciting public comment until 6 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 9. Additional information on the UP Energy Study is available here. Background information on the 2023 energy laws and the MPSC’s implementation efforts is available here.

 

Staff picks

FY25 budget includes $30 million boost in revenue sharing; MAC to continue push in fall for dedicated trust fund

In the wee hours of Thursday morning, the Legislature adopted a fiscal 2025 budget that includes a $30 million increase in county revenue sharing.

This would bring overall county revenue sharing to $291 million, up from the $261 million enacted for fiscal 2024.

“We appreciate the $30 million, which will be on top of what counties received in 2024, though distributed differently,” said Stephan Currie, MAC executive director. “Also beneficial is the elimination of the County Incentive Program, which required counties to comply with reporting requirements for part of their revenue sharing. The process now is streamlined.

“Nevertheless,” Currie added, “counties still need the certainty of a Revenue Sharing Trust Fund, which we will be working to secure the passage of later this year.”

For many months, MAC has been working in concert with cities, villages and townships on a plan to establish a dedicated state account filled by a percentage of the state sales tax. Different versions of that plan had advanced in both legislative chambers, with the Senate version representing the best possible result for counties.

“We need to ensure the state properly shares revenue with locals, providing a growth factor and stability to local governments that count on these funds,” explained Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs. “The good news is we expect consideration of this policy reform to resume in the fall.”

For questions about MAC’s advocacy on the state budget, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Podcast 83 team reviews budget: New $30 million boost in revenue sharing comes with new distribution system

A $30 million boost to county revenue sharing highlights the fiscal 2025 state budget. But this 11.5 percent increase to the revenue sharing total of $291 million will not mean every county will get 11.5 percent more, MAC’s Deena Bosworth explained in a special budget episode of Podcast 83.

The increase of $30 million will be distributed differently than traditional statutory revenue sharing payments. Those payments will be calculated based on an inverse relationship to the taxable value of your county, as compared to the rest of the state

“We don’t have the numbers broken out by county yet, or what that percentage increase is going to be for each county. But as soon as the Department of Treasury puts that together, we will make sure that all of you have it so you know what to anticipate,” Bosworth said.

“So, overall, a very healthy increase. It’s not one-time monies … it is ongoing, the way that it’s written,” Bosworth added.

On other budget fronts affecting counties:

Samantha Gibson noted a new $17 million for county prosecutors to address their hiring and staff retention crisis. “The distribution will go to 15 counties with the highest rates of violent crime per 1,000 residents,” Gibson said. “At this time, I do not have what that list of 15 counties is, but I’m sure we’ll have that very soon here.”

“There is $74.5 million in the transportation budget for 30 individual critical infrastructure projects,” said Madeline Fata, “so some of you might have been lucky enough to be on that list and have some projects coming to your communities.”

Fata also noted two absences from the budget:

  • There are no state dollars for a pilot project on “mileage-based user fees” for road funding; instead, the state will pursue federal aid for that pilot.
  • And the huge increase in tipping fees for solid waste that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had sought was not adopted in the budget.

View the full episode, recorded on June 27, 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.

 

What’s in the FY25 state budget for counties?

MAC’s advocacy team identified the following line items by service area affecting counties in the fiscal 2025 state budget.

Judiciary/Public Safety

  • County Jail Reimbursement Program
    • Requires MDOC to administer county jail reimbursement program, which offers counties per diem payments for housing certain offenders in jails; $5 rate increase to each per diem rate
  • MIDC
    • $37.4 million to support grant distributions to district and circuit court funding units for the state’s share of the FY25 costs for MIDC standards 1-8
      • $24.6 million for standards 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8
      • $12.9 million for standards 6 and 7
  • Kent and Macomb County Judgeships
      • $305,500 for partial year costs of two new judgeships – Kent County district court judge and Macomb County probate court judge
  • Local Prosecutor Support Grants
    • $17 million for grants to offices of county prosecutors to reduce the average caseload per attorney
      • Will be distributed to 15 counties with highest rates of violent crime per 1,000 residents
      • Funding will be population of county multiplied by $7.50
  • Medicaid Coverage for Incarcerated Individuals
    • NOT included
  • Operation Drive
    • $1 million ($500,000 for Oakland County, $500,000 for district courts statewide) for a program to assist individuals with regaining driving privileges by providing guidance on how to address underlying issues that led to driver license suspension, guidance on how to maintain responsibility and guidance on how to address traffic tickets, warrants, court appearances and payment of fees and fines
  • Juvenile Justice
    • $10.4 million, 16 FTEs, in part used to support staffing at the two state residential facilities (Bay Pines and Shawono Center) to help relieve the bed shortage crisis. If additional state beds become available, county juvenile facilities can place their youth with the state and have open beds at the local level

Infrastructure

  • Stormwater
    • $10 million fin on-going funding for stormwater management planning grants and $300,200 in one-time funding
    • All local governments are eligible for these grants
  • Roads
    • No state dollars for pilot project on mileage-based user fees
    • $74.5 million for 30 “Critical Infrastructure Projects”

Environment

  • No Increase in Landfill Tipping Fees
  • EV Charging Infrastructure
    • $25 million for Clean Fuel and Charging Infrastructure
      • 40 percent for “environmental justice communities”
      • Can be used for public transit
    • $5 million for Renewable Energy and Electrification Infrastructure Enhancement and Development
      • Grants to businesses, nonprofits and local governments for planning, developing, designing, acquiring or constructing renewable energy and electrification infrastructure projects

Elections

  • $1.5 million to support counties with implementation costs associated with Proposals 1 and 2 and for financial disclosure investment grants

Health and Human Services

  • Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs)
    • $161.8 million, 12 FTEs to expand into additional counties (includes a study)
  • Opioid Healing and Recovery Fund
    • $10 million on a one-time basis for regional community health entities (PIPHs)
  • Ground Emergency Medical Transport (GEMT)
    • $500,000 (one-time funds) to create a system of recording and accepting Medicaid reimbursement for emergency transport services
  • Medicaid Coverage for Incarcerated Individuals
    • NOT included
  • Runaway and Homeless Youth Grants
    • $5.3 million to support program expansion ($3.2 million to 18 counties that are currently unserved by a runaway and homeless youth program, $1.1 million to 19 counties for infrastructure expansion, $1.1 million to 19 counties to upgrade technology and facilities)
  • County Child Care Fund
    • $9.1 million increase
  • Foster Care Payments
    • $16.9 million
  • Housing
    • $5 million for services to unhoused individuals in Genesee County
    • $10 million for affordable housing in Genesee County

 

State agency releases energy siting guidance document

Developers are encouraged to work with local governments in new recommendations made by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on siting for renewable energy facilities. This week, the MPSC released its comprehensive recommendations for implementing Public Act 233, providing guidance on public meeting requirements, Compatible Renewable Energy Ordinances (CREO), site plans and more.

Overall, the recommendations reflect much of the feedback provided by MAC during the drafting phase.

The MPSC clarified that only the affected local governments with zoning authority will need to adopt a renewable energy ordinance. It is urging developers to work directly with the local government, regardless of whether the government has adopted a CREO or a “workable ordinance.” A workable ordinance is an ordinance that is considered reasonable but does not match the standards prescribed by the new law.

There were some additions made by the MPSC that are not explicit in PA 233. For example, prior to breaking ground on a project, the developer must consult with local first responders and road commissioners, and they must agree to repair or replace any drainage systems or county roads damaged during construction.

The biggest discrepancy between the MPSC recommendations and MAC’s feedback pertains to intervenor grant funds. If a project is approved by the MPSC rather than a local government, each affected local will receive up to $75,000, but not more than $150,000 in total, to contest a case. MAC asked that any unexpended funds remain with the local government, as that is how grants traditionally operate. However, the MPSC recommends that funds not utilized be refunded to the applicant.

The MSPC is seeking one last round of feedback on these recommendations, due by July 17. It will be hosting a virtual public meeting on July 10 to discuss this proposal ahead of the feedback deadline. Next, MPSC staff will review the public comments and submit final guidance on Aug. 9. The new law will then take effect in November. (See the latest edition of Michigan Counties for expert advice on compliance with the new law.)

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

 

Staff investments coming from budget for medical care facilities

Investments in staff and training highlight the fiscal 2025 state budget items affecting the membership of the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council:

  • $1.9 million GF/GP and authorization for 12 FTE positions to hire additional staff to offset increased workloads associated with health and long-term care facilities and to conduct surveys and investigations of nursing homes. The increased staffing would assist with federal performance measure compliance.
  • $1.1 million of state restricted funding authorization from the Nurse Aide and Medication Aide Registration Fund and authorization for 7 FTE positions to hire additional staff to administer medication aide training and certification requirements created by Public Act 273 of 2023. Funding would also be used to develop and implement a medication aide training curriculum, testing requirements, and to improve regulatory compliance.
  • $9.2 million GF/GP, on a one-time basis, to provide student loan repayment for eligible nurses employed by public and private health facilities in the state.
  • $49 million for long-term care direct care wages ($14 million from federal dollars, $35 million from GF/GP).
  • $10.4 million to cover increased costs associated with utilizing contracted nursing staff.
  • $28.7 million to provide a 20-cent per hour direct care wage increase.

 

MAC holiday information released

MAC’s Lansing offices will be closed July 4-5 to observe the Independence Day holiday. Normal office hours will resume at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 8.

There will not be a Legislative Update email blast on July 5. The next Legislative Update email will be released on Friday, July 12.

To see the complete text of the Declaration of Independence, click here.

 

Filing period opens for MAC Board elections at Annual Conference

County commissioners interested in serving on the MAC Board of Directors have until Aug. 23, 2024, to file for elections to fill five seats on the Board at the 2024 Michigan Counties Annual Conference.

The elections will be held on Sept. 25 at the conference at the Grand Traverse Resort. To be an official candidate, commissioners must file official notice of their intent to run. Applications are due by 4 p.m. on Aug. 23, 2024.

Four seats available represent regions, so will be decided by a vote in that specific region. The at-large seat is determined by votes in all six MAC regions.

To download an application form, go to https://bit.ly/2024appform.

The MAC Board of Directors is the key body in guiding the legislative and organizational strategies of MAC. Board terms are three years in length and individuals may serve up to three terms.

Following seats are vacant and will be filled at the 2024 Annual Conference:

  • Region I, Seat A (Open seat)
  • Region II, Seat A (Bryan Kolk of Newaygo County is the incumbent)
  • Region III, Seat A (Rick Shaffer of St. Joseph County is the incumbent)
  • Region V, Seat B (Sarah Lucido of Macomb County is the incumbent)
  • At-large, Seat C (Melissa Daub of Wayne County is the incumbent)

No director shall serve more than three full three-year terms, except in certain situations where a director is filling a vacancy in an unexpired term. If the elected replacement shall serve more than half of the unexpired term, it shall be considered as if such person has served one full term for purposes of term limits. If the person filling the vacancy shall serve less than half of the unexpired term, that person shall be permitted to serve up to three additional full 3-year terms.

Candidates who file are also encouraged to submit a statement of up to 400 words on why members should support them. These statements will be posted to the MAC website in late August.

If you have any questions about Board duties, please contact Executive Director Stephan W. Currie at 517-372-5374 or scurrie@micounties.org.

 

Prisoner release credit bills get first look in Senate

Legislation to allow certain prisoners to earn productivity credits to reduce their sentence received its first hearing this week in the Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety.

Senate Bills 861864 would only apply to future sentences in allowing prisoners to receive productivity credits. Under the legislation, prosecutors are required to notify victims at the time of sentencing that an earlier release date is possible, if the offender completes productivity credits.  

While completing productivity credits would deem a prisoner eligible for early release, the parole board will still make final decisions regarding release dates, with final discretion remaining with judges and prosecutors.  

SBs 861-864 would remove truth-in-sentencing, leaving many victims of crime with uncertainty regarding the minimum sentence their offender would serve.

MAC is opposing the legislation, alongside the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.

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

 

Bill to expand options for opioid ‘antagonists’ gets Senate hearing

Legislation to expand the available options of opioid “antagonists,” or medication that blocks the effects of opioids, to local governments and others received a hearing in the Senate Committee on Health Policy this week.

Senate Bill 542 would allow a government entity that received an opioid antagonist from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) at no cost to choose the formulation, type of delivery service, method of administration or dosage of the opioid antagonist. The ability to decide on formulation or dosage only applies if the formulation or dosage chosen would not result in a loss of Federal funding.

Counties currently can utilize the MDHHS naloxone (an opioid antagonist) portal to access naloxone at no cost. SB 542 expands the type of opioid antagonist available to government entities through the MDHHS portal.

MAC supports SB 542 and efforts to expand resources to counties for reduction, treatment and prevention of the opioid epidemic.

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

 

Targets set, legislative sessions in question

All budget subcommittee chairs, save those responsible for the School Aid budget, have received their target numbers for their respective fiscal 2025 budgets. Targets are key to negotiating the final version of state budget between the legislative chambers and the administration and setting them is the next to last step to completing the budget for the year starting Oct. 1.

Following the negotiations between chambers to rectify the differences in their budget bills is the passage of the bills in conference committees, with both chambers set to take a concurrence vote. The major hold-up has been the battle between the parties on $670 million that the Democrats want to use to fund the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). By allocating these dollars to MPSERS, school employees would be relieved of paying 3 percent of their salaries to cover retiree health care.

Should the chambers agree to allocate this $670 million, the Republicans in the Senate, however, may not be willing to join Democrats in granting immediate effect to the budget, meaning the Legislature would have to adjourn sine die early for the budget bills to take effect by Oct. 1.  We faced this same issue last year during budget negotiations and a messy dispute was avoided. But this year is an election year for the House and the Republicans could disrupt any plans the Democrats have for “lame duck” sessions in late 2024 by forcing an early adjournment.

More will be known next week when the Legislature is supposed to vote on budget bills.

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

 

Clock is ticking on compliance with energy siting law, expert tells Podcast 83

County officials need to be taking concrete actions now to prepare for the November implementation of a controversial state law on siting renewable energy facilities, a University of Michigan analyst told Podcast 83 in a new episode.

“If you hire outside legal counsel, or if you have outside planning experts, like you need to get them on retainer now because everybody is going to be changing their ordinances between August and the end of the year,” said Sarah Mills of the university’s Center for EmPowering Communities.

Public Act 233 was adopted in 2023 despite opposition from MAC and others due to its assault on local control by giving ultimate authority on siting decisions to the unelected Public Service Commission (PSC).

In a wide-ranging discussion with host Stephan Currie and MAC’s Madeline Fata, Mills explained that the law still leaves local governments with responsibilities ― and opportunities.

“One of the things that’s really important is to think about what the law does, and what it doesn’t do,” Mills said. “So zoning is still in effect; local governments can still zone for renewables. It’s just for those biggest projects. So solar projects that are over about 400 acres, wind projects that are like 330 or so and then energy storage projects, which we don’t have very many of right now. But this kind of scale of project that we’re talking about is something that could be on as little as five acres of land.”

Mills noted that the PSC will be issuing its final draft recommendations on how to implement the law on June 21, then the body will take feedback on them (click here to see where to provide such feedback) before issuing the final official plan around Aug. 9.

In the meantime, Mills said, counties need to decide whether they’ll adopt an ordinance at all, a compatible renewable energy ordinance (CREO) or a workable ordinance that allows locals to set criteria outside of the law but that might still be attractive to developers.

View the full episode, recorded on June 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.

 

Treasury booth at MAC conferences sparks $250,000 in potential repayments

A booth at MAC’s 2024 Legislative Conference has started the process for claims that could mean thousands of dollars in currently unclaimed property.

Twenty-one claims were established by the Michigan Department of Treasury staff at the conference after they performed 64 searches on April 29 during the first day of the conference. Treasury says the total amount being claimed, both by individuals and counties themselves, is $172,300.

This is on top of the $90,225 in claims begun via a similar booth at MAC’s 2023 Annual Conference last fall.

For those who have questions about their claim status, call Treasury’s claim assistance line at 517-636-5320 between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday-Friday.

 

NACo academy can help your key employees hone their skills

Strengthen your team and improve your county’s future performance by giving your emerging all-stars — or yourself — an opportunity to level up.

Do you oversee program directors or other managers that you’d like to catapult into progressively more responsibility and growing effectiveness? Then send them through the National Association of Counties’ High Performance Leadership Academy, a virtual course that will run from Aug. 6 to Nov. 8.

Attendees will learn to plan, lead and sustain positive innovations across county government in the context of growing uncertainty and cascading challenges.

The 12-week course uses real-time webinars, self-paced activities and cohort-based learning, totaling about five hours per week. Request more information for your county at www.naco.org/skills today!

 

Staff picks

MAC releases huge survey report on opioid settlement funds

MAC is excited to announce the updating of the MAC Opioid Settlement Dashboard and the release of the Michigan County Opioid Settlement Reporting: Data Overview.

The Michigan County Opioid Settlement Reporting: Data Overview and the related MAC Opioid Settlement Dashboard are the product of months of work with Michigan’s 83 counties, which are now in the process of deploying millions of dollars derived from various legal settlements with drug manufacturers. Between now and 2040, those settlements will result in $800 million for Michigan counties.

“This is the first and only comprehensive picture of what is happening at the county level in Michigan,” said MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie. “It results from our ongoing partnership with Vital Strategies, a global public health organization, to aid our members to make the most of this historic opportunity to aid those struggling with substance use disorder.”

Data included on the dashboard and in the report are pulled from the Annual Opioid Settlement County Reporting Survey. The survey was administered between April and May of 2024 and was intended to capture data associated with calendar year 2023. Information collected included county activities associated with planning efforts, stakeholder engagement, management of funds and spending.

“Most counties are focused on thoughtful planning efforts to ensure funds are used in meaningful ways while understanding the urgency of drug overdose crisis,” said Amy Dolinky, the technical adviser who led the survey work. MAC is expecting to do annual surveys to gauge changes over time and continued updating of the dashboard and reporting.

Seventy-seven percent of counties responded to the survey, allowing for the most comprehensive picture of local government efforts associated with opioid settlement funds available.

County leaders can learn more about the report and the latest on opioid planning by attending the 2024 Policy Summit on June 25 in Lansing or via Zoom. For details, including registration, click here.

For questions or for technical assistance, contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

Economic development vote pulls rug out from under locals

A huge state fund for community investments, accessible by counties and others, was suddenly and unexpectedly eliminated from legislation in a House committee this week.

The House Committee on Economic Development and Small Business adopted substitute bills that eliminate the proposed “Michigan 360” program.

The prior versions of Senate Bills 559, by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Oakland) and 562, by Mary Cavanaugh (D-Wayne) would have created “Michigan 360” as part of a revamp of the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund.  “Michigan 360” would have dedicated funds for local housing, infrastructure, regional transit, job training, business assistance and child care development.

The state’s current economic development programs, which traditionally have focused on winning large corporate investments, have been criticized in recent years because the return on investment was unclear and because they failed to recognize the needs of the communities the companies were going in to.

MAC opposes the abandonment of the Michigan 360 program and sees it as a step backward for economic development. Businesses need talent and talent needs attractive, functional and affordable places to live, work and play. This turn of events is likely due to continued budget negotiations and concerns over the amount of funds available for the program.

MAC will continue to urge restoration of the program as the bills move through the legislative process.

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

 

Contentious election bills advance in Senate on party-line vote

An amended version of the “Michigan Voting Rights Act,” Senate Bills 401-404, passed the Senate Elections and Ethic Committee this week with all Democrats voting yes and Republican members voting no. The bills are meant to bolster federal law and voting rights in the state for members of a protected class and for disabled electors and locals have expressed support for this concept. However, the practical implementation and potential legal liability are quite troublesome for county governments.

Under the initial proposal, a member of a protected class could file a complaint with a local unit of government if they felt impaired from participating in elections or the political process. Many of the listed impairments are beyond the control of a local government or conflict with existing election laws.

MAC participated in workgroups with bill sponsors, Senate policy staff, clerks and other local government associations. Many changes were made, including the creation of a fund for the reimbursement of legal fees, softer language to ensure malintent is evident and certain stipulations for meetings between plaintiffs and defendants.

MAC appreciates the many concessions that sponsors made in acknowledgement of county concerns. However, MAC does not have a position on the bills, as we remain uneasy about exposing locals to frivolous legal challenges and placing additional burdens on local clerks. The bills are expected to be scheduled for a full Senate prior to the Legislature’s summer recess.

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

 

MAC joins call to reset state course on mental health services

A state plan to alert delivery of mental health services should be considered, MAC and one of its affiliates said this week.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has proposed new requirements for those utilizing mental health services through the public mental health system. These proposals, a result of the federal Conflict Free-Access and Planning (CFAP) guidelines, would create service delays, additional costs to providers and barriers to access for individuals seeking care from the public mental health system.

County commissioners may receive requests from their local Community Mental Health organization or PIHP to adopt resolutions opposing the proposed changes regarding CFAP from MDHHS and urging collaboration between MDHHS and the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan (CMHA), a MAC affiliate. (Download a CMHAM resolution template here.)

CMHA’s alternative to MDHHS’ plan better fits the needs of Michigan’s public health system and its patients.

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

 

Map of inland lakes

Bill to ease county burden on setting lake levels advances

Legislation to help counties streamline the setting of inland lake levels advanced to the House floor this week.

Senate Bill 662, by Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Oakland), which cleared the House Committee on Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation this week, redefines “normal lake level” to allow for temporary fluctuations caused by weather conditions and water control structure construction or repair activities. The current statute and recent court decision to require counties to maintain a static lake level or to petition circuit courts to amend lake level orders when deviations occur result in a time-consuming and costly process.

SB 662 would improve this process by retroactively changing the definition to include the variations. By broadening the definition, counties and lake level districts should be able to avoid unnecessary lawsuits and repeated court proceedings, ultimately conserving both financial and administrative resources. The bill is supported by the Michigan Association of County Drain Commissioners, a MAC affiliate, and the Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment.

There are 62,798 inland lakes in Michigan with a surface area of at least 0.1 acres or larger. Michigan enjoys 1,300 square miles of inland lakes or 1.3 percent of Michigan’s total area. (mymlsa.org)

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

 

Counties would gain flexibility on drain maintenance under bill before House

Legislation to ease financial limitations on the maintenance of drains was voted out of a House committee this week.

The House Committee on Local Government voted out House Bill 5188, by Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw), which increases the statutory cap on drain maintenance. Current law limits the amount of maintenance work drain commissioners can perform on a single drain in a year to $5,000 per mile. This bill would raise that to $10,000 per mile per year and then allow the cap to rise with inflation each year.

The rise in construction costs and the impact of extreme weather events necessitate the increase, argue advocates. Whether the existing drainage system is an open channel ditch/watercourse or an enclosed underground system, much of the necessary maintenance of drainage infrastructure cannot be efficiently done now, causing drain commissioners to maintain smaller sections each year and redeploying equipment and personnel in subsequent years to properly maintain the drain.

HB 5188 now moves to the House floor.

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

 

Podcast 83: County hiring legislation, mobility funding in the spotlight

While the Legislature’s work on the fiscal 2025 state budget remains behind closed doors, MAC’s advocates at the State Capitol have been shepherding forward policy reforms to boost county hiring, investments in public services and assist jurors.

Podcast 83 host Stephan Currie and guests Deena Bosworth, Madeline Fata and Samantha Gibson engaged in a wide-ranging discussion on policy in Lansing in the podcast’s newest episode on June 11.

County hiring legislation

“(House Bill 5203) would allow those counties that have their own retirement system that are not a member of MERS … to rehire sheriff’s people for the sheriff’s department. And MAC was supportive of the endeavor (since) all those counties that are in the MERS system already have that ability. But it was those 13 counties that are not in that system that this would extend that ability to them,” Bosworth explained.

MAC worked to expand the legislation, though, so it can be used to bolster employment in other departments. “There are situations where you’ve got experts who have retired and the county really needs to bring them back without any significant limitations on it,” Bosworth noted.

MAC’s expectation is HB 5203 will clear the Senate committee this week and may reach the governor’s desk for signature before the Legislature leaves Lansing for the summer.

Economic/public investment strategies

The lion’s share of legislative attention in Lansing right now surrounds a Democratic proposal to revamp the state’s economic development strategic into a two-pronged approach that could mean billions of dollars for mobility investments by local governments.

The complicated legislative package involves bills from both the Senate (SBs 599/562) and House (HBs 5768-70) that are “tie-barred,” or required to move together.

A major portion of the work of interest to MAC, “Michigan 360,” was suddenly and unexpectedly junked this week, Bosworth said.

What remains is the “Michigan Mobility Trust Fund,” which would be provided with $200 million a year for 10 years, for total of $2 billion. Local governments will be eligible for these funds, as would regional transit authorities and public transportation providers.

Juror compensation

“So, a while back, a jury reform task force met and came up with a set of policy recommendations,” said Gibson. “House Bills 5689-5693 do a wide variety of things to reform the jury process; but most importantly to counties is the bills would increase the hourly rate that you would receive as a juror, and it ties it to minimum wage.

“That in and of itself, not an issue. The issue lies in what’s called the juror compensation fund. That is quickly dwindling. … So, when you have an ever-decreasing pot of money, and an attempt to increase the hourly rate that jurors are receiving, it begs the question: Who is then responsible for making up the difference? …

“(M)y goal is to ensure that that responsibility does not fall onto the county,” Gibson added.

Negotiations continue on the bills, which won’t be taken up until the fall.

View the full episode, recorded on June 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.

 

Asset council seeks award nominees

The Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) is seeking agencies and individuals to recognize for their efforts in asset management and best practices.

The TAMC has established the Organizational Achievement Award to acknowledge those agencies that have incorporated the principles of asset management and adopted an asset management plan to help guide their investment decisions. In addition, the TAMC Awards Program provides agencies around the state with excellent examples to establish their own programs and practices. All Public Act 51 road agencies are eligible to be nominated for this award.

See criteria here.

The TAMC also wants to recognize individuals providing outstanding support of asset management and the TAMC. Nominees for the Carmine Palombo Individual Achievement Award can include elected officials (state or local), support staff from state agencies, regional and metropolitan planning organizations, county road agencies, local units of government, the education community or other individuals involved in promoting asset management in Michigan.

MAC and its members are represented on the TAMC by Kelly Jones, managing director of the Ingham County Road Department.

Submissions are due on June 21, 2024, to Gloria Strong, TAMC departmental technician, at Strongg@Michigan.gov. Direct questions to 517-402-3599.

 

Staff picks

 

MAC extends support to huge economic development package

MAC gave its support this week at the State Capitol to legislation to revamp state economic development spending.

Senate Bills 559, by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Oakland) and 562, by Mary Cavanaugh (D-Wayne) would amend the Michigan Strategic Fund Act and the Michigan Trust Fund Act to alter how the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund works.

The Make it in Michigan Fund would have a new program, “Michigan 360,” which would dedicate funds for local housing, infrastructure, regional transit, job training, business assistance and child care development. The state’s current development programs, which traditionally have focused on winning large corporate investments, have been criticized in recent years because the return on investment was unclear and because they failed to recognize the needs of the communities the companies were going in to. 

In a House committee hearing this week, the bill sponsors and advocates stressed the need to attract talent and provide attractive and functional places for this talent the businesses need to thrive. SB 559 allows for investment directly into the communities where businesses would be located. Advocates argue that business attraction requires more than just financial incentive, they need available talent, transit, housing, education and child care to attract such talent.

SB 562 requires that 50 percent of the money deposited into the Make it in Michigan Fund be allocated for “Michigan 360.”

For the $750 million anticipated to be in “Michigan 360,” eligible applicants would include counties, cities and townships, education institutions, nonprofits, local economic development corporations and the land bank fast track authority.

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

 

MAC leaders to study $2B transport trust fund proposal

A $6 billion economic development package with a focus on public transit was unveiled before a House panel this week.

House Bill 5770, by Rep. Mike McFall (D-Oakland), creates the Michigan Mobility Trust Fund, dedicating $2 billion ($200 million per year for 10 years) toward public transportation and “transformational mobility projects.” The funding comes from a reconfiguration of the governor’s Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve, or SOAR fund, with revenue being generated by corporate income tax. The other $4 billion in the package will go toward housing, placemaking, and traditional economic development incentives for attracting businesses.

Local governments and transit authorities will be eligible to receive funding for a variety of projects. The intent is to promote economic development by attracting talent and businesses to areas with robust public transportation networks.

In the past, 100 percent of SOAR funding went directly toward big businesses. This new distribution and the creation of the Mobility Trust Fund will benefit local governments more directly and could shape communities in a more tangible way, advocates argue.

MAC has not taken a position on the package, but it will be reviewed at the next meeting of MAC’s Transportation Policy Committee.

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

 

Judicial protection legislation concerns county registers of deeds

County departments may need to conceal judge’s personal information under proposed legislation. House Bill 5724, by Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Oakland), would allow a judge to request their personal information, including street address, phone number, and tax id number, be shielded from the public.

This bill would codify federal legislation at the state level. The initial legislation was crafted in response to the 2020 murder of federal Judge Esther Salas’ son at their family home. Judge Salas testified virtually at the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Judges often determine the fate of a person’s life or family, making them targets for disgruntled defendants or attorneys.

Under HB 5724, a judge would need to submit a written request to a public body to prevent disclosure of or remove a public posting or display of certain personal identifying information. Should a public body fail to comply, the judge could commence a civil action to compel compliance. The Michigan Association of Registers of Deeds testified to the technical complications of implementing such legislation. Breen, serving as both bill sponsor and chair of the committee, expressed a willingness to work on amendments so it is more practical for public bodies to adhere to.

MAC has not taken a position on the legislation but will continue to track its movement.

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

 

Podcast 83: Back from island, Legislature still has budget to finish

With legislative activity largely squelched last week due to the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, lawmakers return to Lansing this week with lots of budget and policy matters still on their plate.

Podcast 83 host Stephan Currie discussed with guests Deena Bosworth, Madeline Fata and Samantha Gibson what the next “20 to 30 days” will look like at the State Capitol in the latest episode of Podcast 83.

Budgets/revenue sharing

“We are waiting for them to finalize each and every one of their budgets,” Bosworth said, including those that affect MAC’s proposal for a Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.

Negotiations continue over the differing approaches taken by the House and Senate, with MAC strongly favoring the Senate approach, which would mean a $52 million boost in the first year for counties, Bosworth explained.

County hiring rules

“At a Senate Local Government Committee meeting tomorrow, they’re going to take up House Bill 5203,” Bosworth said. MAC is backing an amendment to expand the bill’s provisions to allow any county department, not just sheriffs, to rehire retirees without the retiree’s benefits being jeopardized. “We know how hard it is for county government right now to hire. And sometimes you need that expertise in different departments to come back and help teach new generations of employees. So we’re hopeful that that gets moved to the process this week.”

Medicaid coverage for jail inmates

“Something we’ve talked about at length at the policy summit last December and on this podcast is the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy,” said Gibson. “The (Michigan Department of Health and Human Services) is in the process of applying for what’s called the Section 1115 Re-entry Waiver, which would allow county jail inmates, juvenile detention, detainees and then also MDOC inmates to have their uninsured health care costs covered; they would have otherwise been eligible for Medicaid upon incarceration, but you’re no longer eligible, which as we know, is incredibly costly to counties. MDHHS is in the third step of their six-step process towards applying and implementing the waiver approval. … So they’re chugging along, And there’s that $30.5 million proposal in the governor’s and House’s budget plans to cover the uninsured costs of jail inmates.”

Voting regulations

“Something kind of bigger that I do anticipate movement before they break for the summer is Michigan Voting Rights Act package. We’ve had some stakeholder meetings with the Senate policy team, and we received new drafts just this morning (June 3). So I do believe that they’ll leave the Senate Elections Committee before they break, which is good news,” Fata said.

Those bills are meant to codify the federal Voting Rights Act, but the way they were initially written puts a massive burden on our local clerks. And it could potentially expose local governments to some legal challenges and lawsuits. But in stakeholder meetings, I think we’ve made some great progress to mirror the federal act more closely. So, we’ve made some progress, and we have to review those drafts more closely. We’ll keep you posted on some movement.”

Energy siting law

With the pivot of the ballot group Citizens for Local Choice from the 2024 ballot to the 2026 one, counties need to start working on complying with the state law passed in 2023 that encroaches deeply on local control on renewable energy locations:

“For those counties who do handle zoning, if you were holding out hope that this would be successful, unfortunately, come November of this year, that law takes effect,” said Fata. “So, you will need to get your plans in order. Sarah Mills and Madeleine Krol from the University of Michigan have put together an excellent article that will be in our June magazine later this month that details the three paths that a local government may take moving forward. So, stay tuned for that. But you’re going have to get your ducks in a row in the coming months: either adopt an ordinance, don’t adopt an ordinance, it’ll be up to each individual municipality.”

View the full episode, recorded on June 3, 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.

 

Macomb, Kent, Washtenaw honored in NACo awards

Three Michigan counties earned recognition for five separate programs in the 2024 Achievement Awards announced by the National Association of Counties on June 7.

The program is a non-competitive awards program recognizing innovative county government programs in 18 categories covering a wide spectrum of county responsibilities. 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.

  • Macomb County garnered three different citations in the field of “Criminal Justice and Public Safety” for efforts around a Hate Crimes Unit, the streamlining of witness fee requests and a text-based access system to aid the victims of crime.
  • Kent County was honored for its “Getting Ahead of Lead” project to boost delivery of certified lead-reducing water filters to eligible households in the county.
  • Washtenaw County Treasurer Catherine McClary and Chief Judge Carol Kuhnke were honored for work on a Tax Foreclosure Prevention Specialty Docket that has “created a higher level of access to justice and to legal resources for vulnerable and disenfranchised homeowners.”

To see a full list of honorees, click here.

 

Check out NACo tool on opioid harm reduction

Five Questions for Counties Considering Harm Reduction as an Opioid Abatement Strategy was released by the National Association of Counties this past spring. The tool provides answers to the following questions and examples of counties associated with each question.

  • What is harm reduction and what would it mean for our community?
  • What if our county isn’t involved in the delivery of substance use services?
  • What if community-based organizations already offer harm reduction services?
  • What if harm reduction is restricted at the state level?
  • How can opioid settlement funds support harm reduction?

Based on data from MAC’s recent Annual Opioid Settlement County Reporting Survey, which 64 counties responded to, harm reduction is one of the lowest funded activities with local settlement funds (5%). The National Harm Reduction Coalition identifies harm reduction as, “Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use” (National Harm Reduction Coalition).

Harm reduction extends well beyond access to naloxone, the overdose reversal medication, and can include peer support, referrals to treatment, wound care, safe use supplies, communicable disease testing, and other services focused on meeting people where they are at. To learn more about how to meaningfully engage with individuals with lived and living experience with substance use, see MAC’s Lived Experience Key Takeaways Document from our previous webinar.

For more information on this issue, contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

Sign up now for free cybersecurity training pod

County leaders have free access to an upcoming cybersecurity training unit sponsored by the National Association of Counties:

  • Simulation Topic: Supplier Management Access
  • Virtual: June 17-21
  • Register Here– No Cost

Effective supplier management is integral to the operational efficiency of any organization, yet it poses inherent cybersecurity risks, especially concerning supplier access to sensitive systems and data. This cyber attack simulation focuses on evaluating the vulnerabilities and potential threats associated with supplier access including third-party vendor breaches, unauthorized use of supplier credentials, and supplier-initiated cyber threats. The simulation aims to foster a deeper comprehension of the complexities surrounding supplier access risks and to facilitate the development and testing of robust strategies for mitigating these risks effectively.

Designed with a daily commitment of 45 to 90 minutes for the duration of one week, activities can be accessed anywhere online and can be completed at the convenience of the participant’s schedule. The cyberattack simulation is designed for any cybersecurity manager as well as teams responsible for risk defense, protection, and recovery (including managers in HR, policy, finance, public safety and emergency services).

For questions, email moderator@pdaleadership.com.

 

Webinar to feature San Francisco’s naloxone access work

“Partnership for Healthy Cities is hosting Overdose Prevention Webinar: Partnering with Community to Enhance Overdose Prevention Strategies” will be held on Monday, June 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Individuals can register here.

The webinar will highlight San Francisco’s approach to increasing access to naloxone, the overdose reversal medication. They will share, “the process and benefits of partnering with community-based organizations and people with lived and living experience.”

For more information on this issue, contact Amy Dolinky at dolinky@micounties.org.

 

Staff picks

  • CoPro Web Ad 2018
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