LANSING, MICH. – A state panel charged with recommending reforms to Michigan’s trial court system issued an interim report today with five proposals that offer promise for solutions to this longstanding challenge, but counties see much work remains in Lansing on this issue. The Trial Court Funding Commission released its work early due to pending litigation (People v. Cameron) at the Michigan Supreme Court that could affect the current funding streams for trial courts.
“These recommendations are a solid beginning on this vital issue. MAC is grateful for the work of Monroe County Administrator Michael Bosanac and his colleagues on the commission,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC). “However, the central challenge remains – finding a stable, comprehensive funding system for our courts. With the potential effects of a Cameron decision looming, counties are eager to get to work with lawmakers on a permanent funding fix.” The commission’s interim report highlights five recommendations:
· Establish a stable court funding system
· Provide all court technology needs
· Establish uniform assessments and centralized collections
· Move toward a uniform employment system
· Establish a transition plan for a new court funding model to be established by the Legislature
Trial courts are the largest unfunded mandate on county governments in Michigan, with local funding accounting for nearly half the $1.14 billion to $1.44 billion in estimated costs. The commission was formed by the Legislature in response to People v. Cunningham, a Michigan Supreme Court decision that determined state law does not provide trial courts with independent authority to impose any court cost on a convicted defendant. The commission will continue to meet until its statutory expiration of Sept. 28, 2019.
Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth told the House Local Government Committee on Feb. 6 that financial trends continue to run against county governments that are trying to deliver vital local services.
During her presentation, Bosworth noted that counties have not recovered from the Great Recession of the last decade due to the constraints on growth in taxable values on property. Counties rely heavily on the property tax to fund local services, unlike the state government, which has a much more diversified revenue base, Bosworth noted.
Bosworth was among representatives of local government groups to testify before the House panel on the current situation in local services and what the state can and should do to aid their local counterparts.
See Bosworth’s testimony here, starting at the 55:30 mark.
For a complete look at MAC’s 2019 legislative priorities, click here.
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