Legislative Update 4-3-20

AG warns on meeting ‘hijackings’; MAC offers guidance on virtual sessions

As counties (large and small) and other public bodies adapt to physical distancing with virtual meetings, issues are arising with disruptions.

This week, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a warning about examples of meetings being “hijacked”: 

“We were alerted to this problem by a Michigan reporter who participated in a Zoom conference that was hijacked,” Nessel said. “Since then we have learned of other incidents around the country. There are steps people can take to protect their cybersecurity and we encourage all users to follow the proper procedures to ensure their teleconferences are secure.” 

The warning taken by the Attorney General’s office follows a similar alert made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

To aid counties, MAC has created a tips sheet for running effective virtual sessions.

In addition, the Lansing firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey drafted a memo on the legal questions arising out of virtual sessions.

The key to remember is that counties must provide opportunities for the public to listen to and participate in the meeting. However, a county can still set rules for public comment, as you would with a physical meeting, and limit callers to a set time, plus cut off callers who are disturbing the peace/disrupting the meeting with threats, hate speech, etc.

After consulting these documents, if a county has any questions about virtual meetings, send them to melot@micounties.org.


MIDC FY21 compliance plan deadline extended 

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission held a special public meeting March 27 to address immediate needs related to COVID-19. A letter was sent to funding units this week outlining the commission decisions and their guidance to counties as they work through these unprecedented times. 

 First, the commission approved a motion that reiterates standards 2 and 4 remain in effect through this crisis. MIDC staff will work to ensure funding units have plans and budgets that can accommodate remote capabilities during this state of emergency.

Additionally, the commission voted to keep standard 1 in effect with strong recommendation to local funding units to lift any restrictions they may have on videoconferencing (webinars) for CLE training.

The commission also approved a motion made by MAC representatives of the Commission to extend the upcoming plan submission deadline from April 30 to May 31. There is no restriction for funding units to submit earlier, and MIDC encourages doing so. However, in the event counties need flexibility or have limited ability to submit plans because of the current circumstances, the required submission deadline will now be May 31.

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


MAC webinar goes over Michigan status, fields county questions

During an hour-plus session with administrators and board chairs on April 1, MAC staffers led by Executive Director Stephan Currie detailed Michigan’s current situation and key issues affecting county governments on the front lines of the corona response.

In an extensive Q&A period at the end of the webinar, commissioners and administrators raised the following issues:

Status of filing deadlines for local and state candidates for the 2020 elections: The governor has not issued an EO on this topic. Also, the Michigan Association of County Clerks has advised MAC that they are opposed to such an extension for operational reasons. The clerks understand the difficulties of achieving the signature requirements and instead of an EO that moves the deadline, they are proposing an alternative to achieve the same goal. 

 “I believe we had about 70 people participate, and I know several others wanted to but were themselves on different calls or digital meetings,” said Currie. “So many of these issues are moving targets, but we are doing our best to get answers for our members. As always, I urge everyone to regularly check our resources page at micounties.org for the latest information we have.”


Help us tell county stories during crisis

MAC is reaching out to our members to help us collect special stories about county employees responding to the corona crisis. They need not be extensive – just items that show how hard county employees are working for their neighbors in this crisis.

Any photos you have tied to such stories are most appreciated. Please send any material to melot@micounties.org.

We are collecting information our website and will share via our social media channels.

Here’s an example of such stories/vignettes that we are looking for: https://www.naco.org/articles/coronavirus-counties-move-protect-elderly-vulnerable-residents


Webinar to support county ‘Stepping Up’ partnerships

On April 30, from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET, join a webinar on information to aid counties participating in the “Stepping Up” initiative on mental health in county jails.

Click here to register.

Partnerships and collaboration are considered essential ingredients in establishing an effective continuum of services across the Sequential Intercept Model. SAMHSA’s GAINS Center presents a webinar discussion with practitioners who have established effective partnerships and collaboration across the intercepts to increase services for justice-involved individuals with mental and substance use disorders.

Presenters will share the perspectives and strategies that have been critical to their success.


In difficult times, it’s important to focus on gratitude and well-being

Midland Administrator/Controller Bridgette Gransden shared these thoughts with MAC:

Merci. Arigato. Danke. Grazie. Mahalo. Gracias. Thank you. No matter what language, the words that mean thank you have a way of making us feel better. There are many types of happiness: mood, emotions, affective style, life satisfaction, wellbeing, and flourishing. Showing gratitude is an intentional activity that can help us increase life satisfaction and make us happier. Happy people are more likely to succeed, have more fulfilling relationships, and be both physically and mentally healthier — who wouldn’t want that?

Showing gratitude sounds easy. As a child you were likely taught to say please and thank you and right on cue that’s what you do. Although a general “thank you” is positive, research has shown that we get more of a happiness boost when we describe in detail what we are grateful for and so does the person to whom we are expressing our gratitude. What exactly are we grateful for? What was the emotional impact? How did that make you feel? You get the idea. … READ MORE

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