Legislative Update 11-15-19

No end in sight on stalemate; send us your budget plans

Another legislative week has ended in Lansing with no resolution in sight over vetoes to the fiscal 2020 state budget. In statements to the media and to constituents, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and legislative leaders are saying the same two things: 1. We are willing to negotiate; and 2. The deadlock is the other side’s fault.

The sticking point remains the governor’s use of the administrative board to transfer funds within departments. It was an unprecedented move and those unrestricted powers undermine the role of the Legislature as the appropriations body. Imagine having the county executive (if you had one) or the treasurer taking your board-approved budget and moving money around, ignoring the funding priorities the board established. It has the Legislature outraged. 

With that said, the governor and the legislature both failed to negotiate a budget in the first place. We don’t know who is to blame, because we were not behind the closed doors.

As our MAC staffers continue to make the case for restoration of county funding in the budget, we are calling upon you to help us tell the story. In a letter today to county board chairs, President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie asked them to tell us the following: What actions are being taken in your county to prepare for a 2020 budget year without these state funds? What concrete examples can you share of how much you will draw down from reserve funds, the overall condition of those reserves and what programs are being cut and which employees laid off?

Please email any information you can to ruddock@micounties.org. This will allow us to compile a statewide picture of the veto effects.

MAC continues to urge any county commissioner who has not already done so to convey urgency to state leaders via our Advocacy Center.

If you have any questions, contact Director of Governmental Affairs Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Jail Task Force will meet Nov. 19 in Lansing

MAC encourages county leaders to attend the next public hearing of the Jail and Pretrial Detention Task Force, a joint project of Michigan’s counties and the state.

The session starts at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 19 at the Boji Tower (124 W. Allegan St.) in downtown Lansing and will include public testimony from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. The session will be livestreamed by Senate TV.

This is the fifth and final public meeting in advance of the task force’s release of its report, which will occur in a public session on Jan. 9, 2020, in Lansing.

Pew Trusts, which is providing technical assistance to the task force, has reported that Michigan spent $478 million in county jail/correction costs. Pew also has advised the task force that:

  • Jail populations have tripled since the mid-1980s
  • Rural counties have seen substantial growth in their jail populations
  • Jail populations have grown even as crime rates have declined

“Pew has told us that the last time the crime rate was this low, in 1960, the jail incarceration rate was a third of what it is today,” noted Stephan Currie, MAC executive director. “Courts and public safety take up the biggest slices of the county budget, but how we operate jails is mostly mandated by state law. The recommendations of this task force will help counties and the state to work together on best practices to address cost and capacity issues.

“Those recommendations, of course, should be built on the broadest possible feedback from county leaders, which is why we have urged our members to attend task force sessions wherever possible,” he added.

For more information on this issue, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org.

 

PFAS standards move into new phase of rule-making process

The Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC), established in 2018 by statute, voted to advance this week further guidelines for seven PFAS/PFOS chemicals found in Michigan drinking water. The committee is tasked with “overseeing all rule-making of the Department of Environmental Quality (now Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy).” This includes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s priority of regulating harmful PFAS chemicals.

Different variations of PFAS/PFOS can be found in thousands of unique chemical strains. The Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART), created under Gov. Rick Snyder, relied on the expertise of a scientific subcommittee to identify seven of the most harmful chemicals using Health Based Values (HBVs): PFNA, PFOA, PFHxA, PFOS, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX. After finding HBVs for those chemicals, EGLE and MPART created Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) to help with the rule-making process. 

That’s where the ERRC comes into play. Before those departmental rules can be adopted and implemented, the rules must go through a secondary screening by the committee that is comprised of industry professionals, environmental organizations and business stakeholders. The rules approved by the ERRC include mandatory testing for all community waters supplies. Initial test results would determine if a source will have to follow up with quarterly or annual testing to ensure compliance with those maximum contaminant levels. 

Next up is a public comment phase, with sessions around the state in January. After that, EGLE will incorporate feedback into the existing rules before sending them to a final vote of the ERRC by April 2020.

MAC will continue to monitor the rule-making process.

For more information on this issue, contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org.

 

National news from NACo

 

Applications open for 2020 NACo Achievement Awards

Applications are now open for the National Association of Counties 2020 Achievement Awards! Join us in celebrating 50 years of county innovation by applying today.

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. By participating, your county can earn national recognition.

The 18 “best of category” winners will be recognized on stage at the 2020 NACo Annual Conference in Orange County/Orlando, Fla., and all winners will be recognized in the program book and online. We also provide a customizable press release for you to share the good news with the media and county residents.

  • Early-bird application deadline: March 9, 2020 (save $25 off the application fee)
  • Final application deadline: March 30, 2020

Please view the online brochure or email awards@naco.org with any questions about this year’s application process.

 

State seeks feedback on plans for forest roads

The state of Michigan has announced its intent to open or close certain forest roads on state lands to off-road vehicles, conventional vehicles, or both. The specific proposed changes and road locations are now available by visiting Michigan.gov/ForestRoads.

The proposed changes are based on site reviews by Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff and comments received from the public. Additional details are on the website.

Comments may be submitted until Dec. 1. Use the interactive map on the website or send an email. The formal information memo to the DNR director will be submitted at the scheduled January 2020 Natural Resources Commission meeting. The final land use order will be submitted for action by the director at the February 2020 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting. Comments will also be accepted at each of the NRC meetings.

If you have any questions, contact Kerry Wieber at 989-348-6371, ext. 7441.

 

County-by-county revenue sharing estimates for FY20 released

Click here to see the House Fiscal Agency’s estimates for county revenue sharing payments in fiscal 2020.

Overall, the state is expected to disburse $226.5 million in such payments to counties.

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