Legislative Update 10-2-20

OMA changes advance out of Senate committee

Revisions to the state’s Open Meetings Act advanced this week in the Legislature, as the Senate Committee on Local Government approved Senate Bill 1108, by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Livingston). The bill, which MAC supports, would allow a public body to meet electronically under certain circumstances, with protections to ensure notice and public participation.

Under current law, a public body can accommodate, by allowing remote participation, the absence of a member of the body due to military duty. SB 1108 would extend this provision to accommodate a member due to a medical condition or due to a state or local emergency declaration. The bill requires an electronic meeting to have notice posted at least 18 hours before the meeting begins and must explain why the public body is holding the meeting electronically and how the public may participate.

The bill awaits action by the full Senate. A House bill that would make the similar changes, House Bill 6207 by Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Ottawa), has yet to receive a hearing.

For questions, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

Broadband grants bill headed to governor

A bill to create a new broadband grant program flew through the Senate this week, despite opposition from MAC, other local government groups and education groups.  

House Bill 4288, by Michele Hoitenga (R-Wexford), would require the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to award grants for projects that extend broadband service into unserved areas. It also, however, prohibits the DTMB from awarding money to a governmental entity or educational institution, to own, purchase, construct or operate a communications network, which is why MAC opposes the legislation.

The state’s FY21 budget includes $14 million for the grant program; however, the bill will prohibit local governments and educational institutions from accessing the funds.

HB 4288 now goes to the governor for her signature.

For questions, contact Meghann Keit at Keit@micounties.org.

 

Governor proposes $500 million for water infrastructure around Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced this week a $500 million proposal to invest in water infrastructure across Michigan. Thanks to a recent federal amendment by Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), states have a one-time window to transfer federal funds for clean water into their drinking water revolving fund for investment into the assessment and replacement of drinking water lines.  Of the $500 million proposed by the governor, $207 million, which does not require legislative approval, will be allocated for:   

  • Lead Service Line Replacement in Disadvantaged Communities Program – $102 million 
  • Lead and Copper – Drinking Water Asset Management Grants – $37.5 million 
  • PFAS and Emerging Contaminants – Contamination and Consolidation Grants – $25 million 
  • Non-Lead Drinking Water Infrastructure Grants – $35 million 
  • Affordability and Planning Grants – $7.5 million 

These funds will be in addition to the $14 million appropriated by the Legislature in the FY21 budget for additional lead service line replacements. 

On the other side of the clean water equation, the governor proposes utilizing the remaining $293 million in available Great Lakes Water Quality bond authority. All proposed expenditures under this category will require legislative approval.  The proposal calls for a series of expenditures for:

  • Clean Water Infrastructure Grants (eliminating sanitary sewer overflows; correcting combined sewer overflows; increasing green infrastructure) – $235 million   
  • Substantial Public Health Risk Grants (removing direct and continuous discharges of raw sewage from surface or ground water) – $20 million 
  • Failing Septic System Elimination Program – $35 million 
  • Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater Grants – $3 million 

Although this proposal is nowhere near enough to fully address the clean water and drinking water issues in Michigan, it is nonetheless a start to solving the problems. During a brief call this week, the governor and the director of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy gave a brief overview of the sources of revenue and the proposed expenditures. More details on how to apply for the grants will be forthcoming on another webinar slated for Oct. 14, 2020. MAC will send out information on how to participate on the webinar once details are provided.

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

 

Tax foreclosure legislation gets Senate committee’s nod

Bills to adopt a new process for handling property tax foreclosures in the wake of the Rafaeli v Oakland County decision were passed out of the Senate Finance Committee this week.

Senate Bill 1137, by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland), and SB 676, by Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Macomb), would create a process by which a previous property owner would be eligible to claim excess proceeds once a property that was foreclosed upon for non-payment of taxes and subsequently sold to either a local unit of government or auctioned off to the highest bidder. Proceeds from these sales are subject to reimbursement first to the foreclosing governmental unit for deposit into the delinquent tax revolving fund, and for reimbursement of costs associated with the foreclosure process. Claims by a former owner would have to be evaluated by a circuit court before proceeds would be disbursed to them.

There are no provisions in this legislation, however, to provide financial relief to the foreclosing governmental entity should a property sell for less than the amount of the taxes and expenses. MAC is seeking an amendment to the bills to require an annual report that would calculate the total chargebacks to local units under such shortfall scenarios, as well as the additional unredeemed expenses on counties. This will be a critical piece of information so we may determine, in the future, the financial harm to local governments. In addition, MAC is pursuing a bill to give counties the opportunity to surrender their status as the foreclosing governmental unit to the state. Right now, seven counties in Michigan have the state handle these foreclosures.

More action is anticipated on this issue during the lame duck session of the Legislature in November and December.

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

 

Changes to utility Personal Property Tax reviewed by Senate panel

Bills to eliminate the Personal Property Tax (PPT) on solar energy facilities and energy storage systems were reviewed this week by the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland).

Senate Bill 1105, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), and SB 1106, by Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Tuscola), would exempt these renewable energy facilities from PPT and replace the tax with a payment in life of taxes (PILT) model at the rate of $3,500 per megawatt.

Testimony from solar industry officials reflected their desire for a standardized tax liability on this equipment; to eliminate the court challenges to assessed value; for a steady financial liability as opposed to an annual assessment and depreciation schedule; and for a more attractive environment for investment.

MAC, however, testified in opposition to the legislation for several reasons, while acknowledging some potential benefits to such a scheme for counties. On the plus side, this type of proposal, if financially beneficial and fair, would provide a predictable and steady revenue stream to local governments since there would no longer be a depreciation schedule and declining revenue over the life of the project. In addition, there would be significantly fewer court battles with the developers.

But MAC opposes the legislation right now because the proposed PILT payment may or may not be an appropriate level of payment, compared to the current system of assessment and taxation in any given community. In recent weeks, MAC has participated in many conversations regarding the proposal and is pleased to report the State Tax Commission (STC) has convened an ad hoc committee to come up with a consistent methodology to assess this equipment. That recommendation should be completed before the end of 2020. MAC is awaiting these recommendations before determining if the proposed $3,500 per megawatt rate is an equitable exchange.

The bills were not voted out of committee this week and won’t be addressed again until the lame duck session begins in November.

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

 

Designated assessor deadline is Dec. 31

Public Act 660 of 2018 requires each county in the state to have a Designated Assessor of Record on file with the State Tax Commission by Dec. 31, 2020. House Bill 6049, by Rep. James Lower (R-Ionia), would establish quality assessing requirements and a process by which to address those assessing districts that failed to achieve substantial compliance with those requirements.

The Michigan Department of Treasury has issued guidance on the process for identifying a designated assessor, a checklist for the interlocal agreement and the forms necessary for approval. For more information on this issue, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Behavioral health transformation put on ‘pause’

The state Department of Health and Human Services announced this week it was putting its behavioral health transformation efforts on pause, given the challenges and response around COVID-19.  

Starting in late 2019, the DHHS began the process to develop a new strategy for Michigan’s behavioral health systems. Earlier this year, Department Director Robert Gordon and Deputy Director George Mellos presented on the department’s behavioral health system transformation project that would include new specialty integrated Medicaid plans. The department wants SIPs to manage physical and behavioral health for those with significant needs and allow the community mental health providers to provide safety net services.

Forums around the state were held and concerns were raised by public mental health providers and county leaders related to the state’s proposal. MAC members are strongly supportive of the county structure remaining central to ensure public oversight and response is in the best interest of persons served through the mental health system.

While the current transformation project has been put on hold, MAC will continue to stay engaged and stand ready to partner with the state and industry stakeholders to ensure the systems supports are in the best interest of all residents.

 

$80 million in opioid grants announced by state

The state will issue $80 million in federal State Opioid Response (SOR) funds to “support prevention, treatment and harm reduction services,” the Governor’s Office and the state’s Opioid Task Force announced this week. The funding includes $36.4 million from the new State Opioid Response II (SOR II) grant and $43.1 million from an extension of the current State Opioid Response I (SOR I) grant.

MAC is a member of the Michigan Opioids Task Force Stakeholder Advisory Group, which is tasked with identifying barriers and improve coordinated services for individual with opioid use disorder. The group has identified needs such as expansion of medication assisted treatment, access to transportation and housing services, and improving diversion efforts so individuals with OUD are not in county jails.

A summary of how the new SOR II grant supports the state’s opioids strategic plan is available here

A summary of current projects supported by SOR I funding is available here

A number of county jails have participated in programs in coordination with the Wayne State University Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. For more information, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

Organizations interested in participating in these programs – including treatment providers, hospitals, community organizations, law enforcement agencies and others – are encouraged to reach out to regional representatives. Inquiries about statewide strategy can be directed to MDHHS-OpioidsTaskForce@michigan.gov.

For more information on the state’s opioids crisis response, visit https://www.michigan.gov/Opioids.

 

Register for Treasury’s Chart Chat webinar on Oct. 15

The Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce its next Chart Chat webinar on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m. This Chart Chat will cover changes to the Uniform Chart of Accounts, implementation dates for the Chart of Accounts, information about yearly qualifying statement submissions, and how to monitor fiscal health using cash ratio.

To register for this event, please visit https://chartchat.eventbrite.com.

Treasury is accepting questions for the Q&A portion of the webinar. To submit a question, please email LAFD_Audits@Michigan.gov by Friday, Oct.9.

 

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