House approves extension for trial court funding

Michigan trial courts would continue to have the authority to impose fees, a critical funding element, until May 1, 2024, under House Bill 5956, a MAC-backed bill approved in the House on Wednesday.

The bill is expected to be approved by the Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 28, and it must be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prior to Oct. 1 to avoid a disruption in fee authority.

HB 5956, by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson), was designed to address the crisis caused by the looming expiration of fee authority on Oct. 1. Courts have long relied on fees to help fund operations. In 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court said, however, that courts could levy only fees specifically designated by the Legislature. MAC led a coalition to enact a legislative fix that was adopted in the fall. That legislation, to place “reasonably related” costs, has been extended twice already.

MAC thanks members who have reached out to their legislators, either directly or via MAC’s digital advocacy tool, in support of court funding.

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

 

Permanent fund for road patrol clears Legislature

A permanent funding source for Secondary Road Patrol needs only the governor’s signature to become reality after the Senate approved enabling legislation this week.

House Bills 5732 and 5772, by Reps. Tommy Brann (R-Kent) and David Martin (R-Genesee), would allocate $15 million annually for the program from the excise tax on liquor. HB 5773, by Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Genesee), was introduced to eliminate the $10 fee on traffic tickets that has funded Secondary Road Patrol, but the bill did not receive support in the Senate. We anticipate the fee will remain in place and revenue will be redirected to another source.

The changes brought by these bills will eliminate the fluctuations in funding based on the number of tickets issued in a given year, which created uncertainty for law enforcement and rural communities.

HBs 5732 and 5772 will now be presented to the governor for signature. This stable annual funding is a big win for county sheriffs that will allow them to better patrol secondary roads and protect rural communities.

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

 

Commissioners from Clinton, Macomb and Oakland counties elected to MAC Board of Directors; Kent’s Ponstein becomes 114th Board president

Stan Ponstein of Kent County gives his inaugural address during the President’s Banquet on Sept. 20 at the 2022 Annual Conference.

During regional caucuses held at the Michigan Counties Annual Conference Sept. 18-20 in Port Huron, MAC members elected three new members to the MAC Board of Directors and re-elected two incumbents.

The newest members of the 16-member governing body are:

  • Ken Mitchell of Clinton County
  • Antoinette Wallace of Macomb County
  • William Miller of Oakland County

Returning to the MAC Board for another three-year term are incumbent directors Vaughn Begick of Bay County and Scott Noesen of Midland County. Board members can serve a maximum of three 3-year terms.

Leading the Board will be Stan Ponstein of Kent County, who was sworn in as MAC’s 114th Board president during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Blue Water Convention Center in St. Clair County.

Joining Ponstein as Board officers for the 2022-23 term are Eileen Kowall of Oakland County (first vice president) and Jim Storey of Allegan County (second vice president).

On Sept. 20, during their Annual Business Meeting, MAC members approved policy platforms developed by MAC’s policy committees overseeing issue areas ranging from finance to agriculture and tourism.

“St. Clair County and Port Huron were excellent hosts for us” said Stephan W. Currie, MAC’s executive director. “It is important as a statewide organization to visit and support all sections of the state, so we were pleased to be able to convene in the Thumb.”

MAC will be posting the presentations from the sessions and photos from the event to www.micounties.org during the week of Sept. 26.

MAC’s 2023 Annual Conference will be Oct. 1-4 in Kalamazoo County.

 

House approves County Veteran Service Fund requirement changes

The County Veteran Service Fund, established by the Legislature in 2018, was created to encourage counties to establish and maintain County Veteran Service Offices. The fund ensures that counties are eligible for a $50,000 grant annually, plus additional funding based on the number of veterans living within the county.

House Bill 6377, by Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Isabella), was approved in the House on Wednesday, to modify the distribution structure of the County Veteran Service Fund.

Under HB 6377, counties must maintain a minimum county veteran service funding level of 70 percent of the funding level from FY 2017 in order to receive the $50,000 grant from the County Veteran Service Fund. The 70 percent funding level requirement was previously only for FYs 2021 and 2022, however, HB 6377 extends the requirement to FY 2023 and beyond.

The bill now moves to the Senate. MAC is neutral on the bill.

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

 

Join NACo on Sept. 23 for broadband mapping update

Join NACo staff and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Data Task Force (BDTF) on a webinar on Sept. 23 at 2 p.m. (Eastern) for an overview of the ongoing Broadband Data Collection process, which will be used to create an updated national broadband availability map.

The forthcoming broadband availability maps will be instrumental in determining the flow of funds for over $42 billion in funds for broadband deployment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

On Sept. 15, the FCC announced the process for state, local and Tribal governments to file bulk challenges to the data in the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric (the “Fabric”), which serves as the foundation for the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) fixed availability maps. Counties will be able to challenge broadband availability data within the FCC’s national maps, if necessary, following their release this November.

To register for the webinar, click here.

 

Staff picks

County leaders gather in St. Clair County next week

The installation of Kent County’s Stan Ponstein as MAC’s 114th Board President is one of many highlights planned for the 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference, which begins Sunday, Sept. 18 in St. Clair County.

MAC, along with partner Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MCMCFC), will set up shop in the county’s Blue Water Convention Center along the shores of the St. Clair River, just south of Lake Huron. On Monday, Sept. 19, attendees will be welcomed by former St. Clair commissioner Howard Heidemann, who was tireless in his efforts to convince MAC to visit his county and use the facility.

Serving as master of ceremonies for the event will be current MAC Board President Phil Kuyers of Ottawa County.

Plenary events include panels on the current challenges in broadband expansion, the energy industry’s impact on and future in Michigan and the biennial MAC Legislative Update from Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth and State of MAC report from Executive Director Stephan Currie.

Conference attendees will enjoy this view of the St. Clair River and the Blue Water Bridge at the 2022 Annual Conference next week.

The conference also will provide 12 policy breakouts designed for MAC attendees and specialized workshops for MCMCFC members, who can earn Continuing Education credits.

“The past two weeks have been a bit of blur, of course, as all of the numerous details for the conferences are worked out,” said Currie. “We think we are ready. We are excited to have St. Clair County host us. And we hope everyone has a good time.”

County leaders who have not registered can do so at the conference site beginning on Sunday at noon. MAC is advising that hotel space remains available, too (though not at the special conference rates).

Commissioners attending the full conference also will perform their duties in choosing MAC Board directors for five seats (1 at-large, 1 in Region 5, 1 in Region 4 and 2 in Region 6) and review and approve MAC’s policy platforms for 2022-23.

The culminating event for the conference will be the President’s Banquet on Tuesday, Sept. 20, sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where Ponstein will give his inaugural address.

For information on conference activities, click here or email conference@micounties.org.

 

MAC recognizes Lenawee on its bicentennial

MAC’s Stephan Currie below the dome of Lenawee’s refurbished courthouse.

Executive Director Stephan Currie had extra duties this week as he arrived at the Lenawee County Courthouse in Adrian.

In addition to making one of his regular “County Visits” to brief members on MAC’s advocacy, educational and business services, Currie also delivered a Proclamation of Tribute from MAC to the county on its 200th anniversary.

“On Sept. 10, 1822 by order of Michigan Territory Governor Lewis Cass, and five years after Monroe County was divided from Wayne County, the expansive state border land was split further to the west to form Lenawee County,” states the county’s bicentennial webpage. “The county had rolling hills and deciduous woods to the north, the Great Black Swamp to the south and east. Lake after lake dotted the northern boundaries of Lenawee County, a name derived from the local indigenous word for ‘man.’”

After his appearance before the Lenawee Board, Currie also had time to tour the county’s old courthouse, refurbished at the cost of about $8.8 million earlier this year.

 

MAC offices will close for conference

MAC offices in Lansing will be closed Sept. 19-21 and Sept. 23 due to 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference. The MAC offices will be open on Thursday, Sept. 22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

Massive reform of county revenue sharing introduced

Sen. Wayne Schmidt finalizes paperwork to file legislation for a massive reform of county revenue sharing in Michigan.

Legislation to increase county revenue sharing and protect it from the annual appropriations process is now before the Michigan Legislature.

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Grand Traverse), Senate Bills 1160 and 1161 earmark 10 percent of the state’s sales tax for deposit each year into a new “Revenue Sharing Trust Fund.” Money in the fund has to be sent out each year, so the state can’t divert the dollars into its General Fund for other uses.

In addition, the bills require that 50 percent of that 10 percent be distributed to counties, with the other half going to cities, villages and townships in accordance with the distribution methodology in the FY23 budget (except for Emmet County, the last county back in the state revenue sharing formula, which would be treated as if it was a full year).

If enacted, counties could see an increase of at least 43 percent on their current revenue sharing dollars in the first year.  Additional increases would be based on the growth of the state’s sales tax.

The bills, developed by MAC in consultation with Schmidt and others, have been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In the coming weeks, MAC will be sending out a digital advocacy campaign link and additional talking points for counties to use when reaching out to their legislators in support of these bills.

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

 

Opioids payment notice is out; review your document carefully

Counties will soon receive their first payment from the national Opioid Distributor Settlement. On Sept. 7, the notice regarding Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor settlement was sent to local governments.

Please note, however, that this notice reflects only Payment 1 of the Opioid Distributor Settlement and does not include any funds from the Janssen Distributor Settlement. A separate notice will be sent regarding the Janssen funds.

Once counties have received the notice for Payment 1, they must take action as provided in the notice to receive payment as soon as possible.

BrownGreer, the national settlement administrator for both settlements, is responsible for providing notice to counties for settlement payments. This notice is crucial to receiving payment and outlines the Michigan State-Subdivision Agreement, how to receive payment, how to reallocate payment and information regarding the Special Circumstance Fund.

The Special Circumstance Fund provides additional opioid abatement funding to address a special circumstance of the opioid epidemic that was not addressed by the original calculations for local government’s allocation percentage. Counties are eligible to apply to the Special Circumstance Fund by Oct. 28. In addition to applying to the Special Circumstance Fund, counties have the right to dispute the calculation of the payment they will receive within 21 calendar days of receiving their settlement payment notice.

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

 

Solar PILT bills receive Senate hearing

Legislation to create an optional structure for the taxes levied on solar facilities in Michigan received a hearing this week before the Senate Committee on Energy and Technology.

After years of participation on workgroups to ensure local options, a stable funding source, appropriate zoning considerations and adequate local reimbursements, MAC has taken a neutral position on the legislation.

Senate Bills 1106 and 1107, by Sens. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason) and Kevin Daley (R-Lapeer), would allow for the creation of solar energy districts by local municipalities after a mandatory public hearing.  Subsequently, solar energy developers could apply for an exemption from local property taxes and instead pay a flat rate of $7,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity for the proposed solar energy facility, instead of ad valorem property taxes. The payment would be locked in for 20 years and distributed based on the proportions of normal taxes that would have been paid to each taxing unit. 

An additional financial incentive would be offered for developers that choose to site their facilities on brownfield properties, in opportunity zones, as a secondary use on already improved real property (i.e., roof tops) or on state-owned property. In such cases, the reimbursement rate would be $2,000 per megawatt of nameplate capacity. 

The impetus behind the legislation is twofold. First, this methodology for compensating locals for lost taxes will provide financial predictability for the developers and the locals, hopefully avoiding the same problems we have had with the challenges to the evaluation of wind turbines.  Second, the rate and process should serve as incentives for developers to build more renewable energy facilities in the state.  

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

 

Counties can again apply for rural broadband funds

Applications are now open for another round of funding for rural broadband through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service program, ReConnect. 

Eligible applicants can apply through the Rural Utilities Service portal by clicking here.  The application deadline is Nov. 2.

The ReConnect Loan and Grant Program furnishes loans and grants to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas.

Award funds may be used to pay for the following costs:

  • To fund the construction or improvement of facilities required to provide fixed terrestrial broadband service.
  • To fund reasonable pre-application expenses.
  • To fund the acquisition of an existing system that does not currently provide sufficient access to broadband (eligible for 100 percent loan requests only).

Only projects that USDA determines to be financially feasible and sustainable will be eligible for an award. An eligible project must demonstrate a positive ending cash balance as reflected in the cash flow statement for each year of the forecast period and demonstrate positive cash flow from operations by the end of the forecast period. Eligible projects must also meet at least two of the following requirements: a minimum Times Interest Earned Ratio (TIER) requirement of 1.2, a minimum Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR) requirement of 1.2, and a minimum Current Ratio of 1.2.

For more details on the program, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

 

Juvenile justice reform bills would boost funds for counties

Earlier this summer, the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform released its report and recommendations, including a higher reimbursement rate for counties on certain juvenile justice services. New legislation filed this week in Lansing would bring that recommendation into law.

Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) has introduced a set of bills to raise reimbursement rates and adopt the task force recommendation for a statewide juvenile public defense system. Her House Bills 634445 would expand the state’s indigent defense system to include juveniles, ensuring juveniles are eligible to receive these legal services. HB 6345 would expand the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission to include representatives that are experienced and knowledgeable of the juvenile justice system, making certain that the best interests of youth within the juvenile justice system are accurately and adequately represented on the commission.

MAC supports the task force’s recommendations and efforts to better care for youth in the juvenile justice system. MAC has not yet taken a position on HBs 6344-6345, as we need to ensure adequate funding is provided to counties by the state to implement the juvenile indigent defense system. Conversations between MAC, the Legislature and other stakeholders regarding these bills are expected to take place in the coming months. 

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

 

Podcast 83 unveils expanded MAC advocacy team; details need for immediate action on court fees

MAC’s Podcast 83 returned from its summer hiatus with an expanded team this week as newly hired Governmental Affairs Associates Madeline Fata and Samantha Gibson joined the broadcast with Executive Director Stephan Currie and Governmental Affairs Director Deena Bosworth.

The team discussed a looming Oct. 1 deadline to renew the authority for trial courts to impose fees, a key funding source, and the upcoming 2022 Annual Conference in Port Huron, Sept. 18-21.

Watch a video of the session here.

Previous episodes in 2022 can be seen at MAC’s YouTube Channel.

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

 

NACo sets webinar on opioids settlement for Aug. 31

Join the National Association of Counties (NACo) on Aug. 31, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern), for a webinar updating the latest news on the national opioid settlement.

Click here to register.

“Counties across the nation are on the front lines of the opioid and stimulant crisis providing essential public services. To enhance these efforts, refine approaches, fill gaps and help counties achieve their goals, NACo has partnered with the Opioid Response Network (ORN). ORN is a coalition of over 40 national organizations working to address the opioid crisis and stimulant use across all U.S. states and territories. ORN, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides free, localized education and training in evidence-based practices for the prevention, treatment and recovery of all substance use disorders. If you are in need of on-demand technical assistance, education, or training, ORN can help.

“In this webinar you will learn how ORN works and case examples of ways in which ORN has supported communities to explore, plan and implement locally designed strategies. Not sure where to begin? ORN can help. Participants will leave this webinar with an understanding of how counties can utilize this resource to support their work.”

Visit the event page for the most up-to-date information. Questions? Contact ahurley@naco.org.

 

Ottawa County teams up with local historian to commemorate original West Michigan highway

Local historian Blaine Knoll (left) and Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski install a new West Michigan Pike sign in Holland earlier this month. (photo: Rich Lakeberg)

The West Michigan Pike was once the premier way to travel along Michigan’s western shores. This highway running along Lake Michigan was conceived of and built during the second decade of the 20th century to accommodate the “horseless carriage,” opening up the region to tourism and the development it would bring.

Eventually, the Pike was replaced by state and U.S. highway systems and was mostly forgotten. But now, thanks to local historian Blaine Knoll, the Ottawa County Department of Strategic Impact, and Grand Haven Area Community Foundation funds, the West Michigan Pike lives again. New signs commemorating this key piece of West Michigan tourism and automotive history are being installed along the original route.

“Beginning at the Ottawa-Allegan County line, the newly marked route stays as true to the original route as possible,” said Knoll. “It winds through the southwest side of Holland, follows a series of secondary roads, part of U.S.-31, then heads through Grand Haven and into Ferrysburg.”

The effort to recognize the original historic route doesn’t end with signs. Knoll and County staff are also developing a commemorative plaque to be placed where an original Pike marker from 1916 still stands along 152nd Avenue in Olive Township.

“The plaque recognizes the last known standing marker of the West Michigan Pike Historical Route. The installation of all the concrete pikes along the route was never completed due to the everchanging roadways. Witnessing this pike’s original location is significant to the route, and we are proud to highlight it,” said Ottawa County Land Use Specialist Andrew Roszkowski. …

READ MORE

 

Comedian to entertain at 2022 President’s Banquet; early-bird pricing continues through Sept. 2

Chris Young, a comedian who has performed across Michigan and was a finalist in Dave Coulier’s “Clean Guys of Comedy/Unbleepable Contest,” will be the after-dinner entertainer at the 2022 President’s Banquet on Sept. 20.

The banquet is the final event of the 2022 Michigan Counties Annual Conference, to be held Sept. 18-21 at the Blue Water Convention Center in Port Huron. Registration continues for the event, which will include:

  • Four plenary sessions featuring key issues now before Michigan and a MAC Legislative Update
  • 12 breakout sessions for MAC members and 6 workshops for MCMCFC members
  • A Welcome Reception and Strolling Dinner on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 18
  • A lavish President’s Banquet on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 20
  • Plenty of free time in the afternoons for attendees to enjoy sights and sounds of Port Huron, including the St. Clair River

Meanwhile, early-bird pricing of $395 for members has been extended through Sept. 2, so act fast.

To register and for complete conference details, click here.

Young

Hotel Update: There are some rooms left at the Comfort Inn (1720 Hancock St. in Port Huron) for the special room rate of $129 per night (rate is good through Sept. 4). To make a reservation, call 810-987-5999.

To meet demand, we’ve added a third hotel option for conference-goers, the Holiday Inn Express (2021 Water St. in Port Huron). Twenty-five (25) rooms are now available there for the conference rate of $129 per night (rate is good through Aug. 19). To reserve a room, click here or call 810-662-3400 and use the group name of “Michigan Association of Counties.” 

A special shuttle will operate between the conference headquarters at the Blue Water Convention Center and the Comfort Inn and HI Express. Also, plenty of free and convenient parking is available outside the convention center.

 

FY23 county-by-county revenue sharing estimates

 

Eight Michigan officials graduate from national leadership academy

Join the 1,710 county leaders already benefiting from the effectiveness of the NACo Leadership Academy, the 12-week, online leadership program led by General Colin Powell.

The academy is now accepting registrations through Sept. 9 for its upcoming cohort.

MAC would like to acknowledge and congratulate the Michigan county officials who graduated in April from the academy:

  • Aaron Edlefson, VA Director, Calhoun County
  • TJ Fields, Chief Information Security Officer, Oakland County
  • Jennifer Laymon, Infrastructure Manager, Macomb County
  • Matthew Pence, IT Security Specialist, Oakland County
  • Joyson Peters, Security Administrator, Macomb County
  • Megan Smith, Junior Business System Analyst, Macomb County
  • Jako van Blerk, Chief Information Officer, Macomb County
  • Sandy Wilson, Deputy Director, Macomb County

 

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