Legislative Update 2-28-20

Community corrections, jail pressures discussed at MAC summit

Leaders from groups representing prosecutors and sheriffs came to MAC on Feb. 25 to discuss legislative agendas for 2020.

Leaders of the groups representing Michigan’s sheriffs and prosecutors joined MAC President Veronica Klinefelt and Executive Director Stephan Currie for a discussion this week on legislative goals in 2020.

Among topics raised by MAC were funding for community corrections, the looming sunset on the authority of trial courts to impose fees and a bill that requires defendant competency examinations at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry to be completed within 30 days or allows a court to appoint an outside independent psychiatrist to perform examination.

Key concerns for sheriffs this year are finding a better revenue stream for the state’s Secondary Road Patrol program and full funding for reimbursements to counties holding state prisoners.

Prosecutors want the Legislature to look at greater investment in information technology services and consider the rising demands on prosecutor offices in the wake of the state’s new investments in indigent defense services.

“This was one of the best conversations we have had since we started these gatherings,” said Currie. “Boosting communication and coordination among county groups will pay dividends later this year in the Legislature.”

MAC appreciates the county leaders who were able to attend:

  • Paul Bailey, Berrien County sheriff and past president of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association
  • Matt Saxton, Calhoun County sheriff and incoming executive direct of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association
  • Bill Vailliencourt, Livingston County prosecutor and president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan
  • Jim Miller, a lieutenant in the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and a member of the joint county-state Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration
  • Barbara Hankey, manager of Oakland County Community Corrections

MAC launched these “county summits” in early 2019 to foster communication and cooperation among the various groups representing county government offices in Michigan.

 

Allegan’s Storey urges state action on lakeshore damages

Allegan Commissioner Jim Storey (left) and Ottawa Water Resources Commissioner Joe Bush before their testimony on Feb. 25.

Allegan County Commissioner Jim Storey told a Senate funding panel this week that little has been done to address a “shipwreck on the horizon” for Michigan’s summer tourism season.

Storey, a MAC Board member, was referring to the damage inflicted by rising water levels and wave action along Lake Michigan in his county and elsewhere. He also told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural Resources and the Environment that the state should look at extra emergency funds beyond what becomes available via the regular disaster declaration process. (link to testimony)

Joining Storey during testimony was Joe Bush, water resources commissioner for Ottawa County, who detailed damages in his county on homes, marinas and infrastructure.

“Roads in Grand Haven have been underwater; the city is looking at $3 million-plus to make intersections passable,” Bush said. “Windmill Island (in Holland) will be underwater if we get 8 to 10 inches more (rise in lake levels).

“If water rises, we definitely need to have a plan in place and try to figure out who is going to pay for what,” Bush added.

“We need to get going; time is now,” Storey added. “That’s my essential message.”

For more information on MAC’s work on water issues, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

MIDC details system progress, spending to Senate committee

Michigan is unlike many states in the local control over indigent defense services and 85 percent of the state money appropriated for those services went to attorneys and their staffs in fiscal 2019, Executive Director Loren Khogail and Research Director Jonah Siegel of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) told the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee this week.

The pair also detailed MIDC’s financial monitoring of spending through quarterly financial reports, noting that work has begun on an internal and local system audit component. MAC will be closely monitoring this project and collecting feedback from members, as we recognize the current reporting requirements and additional requests for documentation already are proving burdensome to some systems.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget includes $117 million from the General Fund for FY21 to fully fund systems for compliance of state mandates under standards 1-4. The Legislature is now reviewing those recommendations. If the grant funding is not provided in full by the state, however, local systems are not required to continue to comply, under provisions of state law. MAC is urging legislative approval of the full $117 million.

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

 

MAC releases federal priorities in advance of NACo Conference

In advance of the 2020 NACo Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, MAC has released its federal legislative priorities for the year.

Key points of emphasis include:

  • Greater investment in services to those coping with mental illness or substance abuse disorders (In Michigan rural county jails, 34 percent of the inmates are dealing with mental illness.)
  • Disaster preparedness and resilience (Michigan was 34th out of 50 states in disaster preparedness in a 2018 USA Today report.)
  • Infrastructure (A 2019 report by a business alliance found Michigan needed $12 billion in new spending to update critical water infrastructure.)
  • Broadband access (Fifteen Michigan counties are below 50 percent in resident broadband access, according to the Federal Communications Commission.)
  • Full funding for federal PILT (Michigan has the second-largest amount of land in federal control of states east of the Mississippi River.)

“We will spend several hours on Capitol Hill on March 3 visiting with House members and receive briefings from both of Michigan’s U.S. senators,” said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs. “These issues will be the first topics of conversation in each session.”

For more information on MAC’s federal advocacy, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Longtime MAC staffer Dzurka passes

Yvonne Dzurka, a fixture at MAC since the 1980s and friend to countless county leaders, passed away Sunday, Feb. 22 due to complications from her long battle with cancer.

The then Yvonne Simon joined MAC in 1985. In the subsequent 35 years, Yvonne was involved in just about every aspect of MAC’s work on behalf of county officials, including conference planning, overseeing the MAC newsletter, Michigan Counties, and serving as the secretary for all three of MAC’s governing boards: MAC, Michigan Counties Workers’ Compensation Fund and MAC Service Corp. She also served as the administrative assistant for the Michigan Association of County Administrative Officers (MACAO).

“We are devastated,” said Executive Director Stephan Currie. “Our hearts and prayers go out to her husband, Scott Dzurka, her son and daughter in-law, Jason and Amanda Simon, and the rest of her family. Each of us at MAC has lost a dear friend whose gentle spirit and ready smile never failed to brighten the day.”

“Yvonne was my right hand in planning the MACAO conference for last two decades,” said Bridgette Gransden, Midland County administrator and a close friend. “She made sure all the details were taken care of and I couldn’t have done it without her — at least not nearly as well.

“Yvonne was a huge supporter of other women — ‘girls,’ as she would lovingly refer to us as. She was all about boosting up other women and encouraging them to follow their dreams. It was common in our conversations for her to say, ‘Of course we can do that — we’re girls!’ We had the power to change the world. Yvonne had the power to change lives,” Gransden added.

On top of climbing the ladder to become MAC’s lead finance staffer, Yvonne also encountered her future husband, Scott, then working in governmental affairs for MAC. The couple traveled, golfed and were big fans of the Michigan State University Spartans.

In remarks in January for a planned feature on her duties at MAC, Yvonne wrote:

 “I love my job … I love the people I work with and the people I work for. Every day, I learn something new about county government or about my job.”

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to Court Appointed Special Advocates: The Voice for Clinton County’s Children (1207 N. Old U.S. 27, St. Johns, MI 48879) or St. Joseph Catholic School’s Educational Trust Fund. 

 

DHHS provides opioid broadcast for local leaders

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chair of the Michigan Opioid Task Force, led an Opioid Crises Response Broadcast for local officials Thursday. For those that were not able to view live, the department will be posting slides from the presentation at its site.

Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive continues, to educate about the crisis, which is killing five people per day in Michigan and has reverberating impacts through the child welfare and criminal justice systems —both huge systems largely supported financially by county government. Khaldun noted that in 2018 trends indicated racial disparities across the opioid effects and access to treatment. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is ensuring all this data is considered when targeting interventions. Finally, responses will build on current efforts such as expansion of naloxone distribution and syringe service programs.

The governor created the Opioid Task Force to drive action and policy changes with the goal to decrease opioid deaths in half in five years. MAC is part of the Opioid Advisory Group that provides feedback and suggestions to the Task Force. The Task Force also will be holding town halls around the state. MAC encourages members to attend, promote to constituents and provide input on this important topic affecting county residents.

Town hall dates and more information can be found here https://www.michigan.gov/opioids. Please contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org with questions.

 

MAC Membership Directory arriving in mailboxes

The 2020 MAC Membership Directory is the ultimate guide to county elected officials across Michigan.

Each of Michigan’s 83 counties has a full listing with names, addresses, phone numbers and emails for all county elected officials. The directory also carries a list of board chairs and vice chairs; full administrator listings; and contact information for human resources and purchasing.

Complimentary copies of the 2020 MAC Membership Directory should have arrived, or be arriving, for county commissioners, county administrators and county board offices.

Readers also will find background materials on MAC’s services, full listings for Michigan legislators, both state and federal, and Michigan legislative committee assignments.

Members also can access a digital version of the directory here. Your password information is found on the Table of Contents page of your directory.

 

CLOSUP: Local government financing system is broken

Tom Ivacko and Debra Horner of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy led a Lansing briefing on local government officials’ thinking on fiscal resources. (photo: U-M Social)

“Michigan is experiencing its longest-ever period of sustained economic growth, but because of a web of policy factors, local governments are not reaping the benefits,” Tom Ivacko, interim director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) told a Wolverine Caucus event in Lansing on Tuesday attended by some 40 officials and policy-makers.

CLOSUP, part of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, presented its case that the system of funding for local government in Michigan is broken at the briefing. Confidence levels of officials across the state to meet their fiscal needs have been stagnant for the past three years despite a growing economy. The root of local leaders’ concerns is a system that has been constricting local governments’ ability to raise enough money to keep up with rising service costs and demands.

Costs for health insurance for public employees, infrastructure repairs and capital expenditure have been rising faster than revenues, as funding streams for municipalities, counties, townships and villages are restricted because of a number of factors, including caps on property tax revenue increases, reduced state government revenue-sharing, state-imposed unfunded mandates on local governments, and rules limiting the types of revenues that can be raised and kept locally, Ivacko noted.

The data come from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS), which CLOSUP has been conducting since 2009, and which seeks data from the 1,856 general purpose local governments in the state, with an average participation rate above 70 percent. The program is conducted in partnership with the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association.

“If the situation does not change, less than half of local leaders say they will be able to maintain local services at current levels,” said Debra Horner, MPPS project manager at CLOSUP.

The survey does indicate a majority of respondents see three possible solutions which require statewide action: pay for unfunded mandates; return revenue-sharing to full funding levels; and state constitution reform to allow greater property tax revenue growth.

 

Time to get REAL about your identification

Michigan residents are being urged by the Secretary of State’s Office to ensure their personal identification is compliant for REAL ID.

This federally required standard for identification means anyone who travels by air within the United States will be unable to board a plane without a REAL ID-compliant document beginning on Oct. 1, 2020. A REAL ID also will be required to enter certain federal facilities.

A REAL ID can be a U.S. Passport or an Enhanced Driver’s License – or you can turn your standard driver’s license into a REAL ID at the Secretary of State’s office. Learn more about the law and what documents you need to bring to get a REAL ID at Michigan.gov/REALID.

 

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