State leaders ‘pleased’ with vaccine progress

During a hastily arranged video briefing for county leaders and others on Thursday, senior staffers of the Whitmer administration insisted that the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is accelerating.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said she was “pleased” with the progress made to date. Data shared this week showed fewer than 900,000 doses of vaccine had been given to residents or were scheduled for delivery. The state’s goal is to vaccinated 5.6 million people, or 70 percent of the state’s population that is age 16 or older.

Among other points made during the briefing, which did not allow time for Q&A:

  • The limiting factor right now is the supply of vaccines to Michigan
  • Supply issues have forced the state to scale back its original plan to delivery 60,000 doses per day
  • The state is following federal guidance on vaccine protocols and schedules
  • The phases for which groups gain access when (see newest chart above) always were expected to overlap each other, meaning that some members of a later vaccine group could be getting vaccinated even if not everyone in an earlier group had finished their vaccinations
  • Providers are asked to get 90 percent of their available doses in arms within seven days
  • For most employers, vaccine access will be “more complicated” than it is with initial groups such as nursing home residents and health workers; the state is working with local health departments, pharmacies and others to speed the process
  • Those vaccinated still need to mask, distance, etc. until a large share of the state’s population is covered

For the latest information on the state’s vaccine plans, visit this website.

 

Biden relief plan includes $350 billion in aid to states and locals

A proposed COVID-19 relief package from President-elect Joe Biden includes $350 billion in critical aid to state, local and territorial governments, the National Association of Counties reported Thursday.

Additional details are expected soon on the next potential round of COVID-19 federal relief is called the American Rescue Plan, a two-part strategy focusing on rescue and recovery.

“We thank President-elect Biden for introducing a plan that recognizes the vital, frontline role of America’s counties in mitigating and ending the COVID-19 pandemic. For our county leaders, our focus remains on ensuring the public health, personal safety and economic wellbeing of our residents,” said NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase.

America’s 3,069 county governments support more than 1,900 local public health departments, nearly 1,000 hospitals and critical access clinics, more than 800 long-term care facilities and 750 behavioral health centers.

Additionally, county governments are responsible for emergency operations centers and 911 services, court and jail management, public safety and emergency response, protective services for children, seniors and veterans, and the “last of the first responders” with coroners and medical examiners, among many other essential public services.

NACo’s coronavirus online hub includes county level examples of response efforts, interactive maps and analyses of federal actions.

 

Legislature opens for 101st session

The 101st Legislature kicked off session on Wednesday with the swearing in of members, adoption of chamber rules and introduction of bills.

The House rules have new limited remote capabilities for members. Under HR 1, members of a committee may participate, but not vote on any bill, resolution or motion before the committee. The chair and clerk of the committee must be physically present.

New committees were also created, but committee chairs and members have not been announced. The chamber will continue a modified 2-committee process, as the new Rules and Competitiveness Committee will be similar to last term’s Ways and Means Committee, but not all bills will have to go through it to reach the floor.

The first bill introduced this session, House Bill 4001, by House Speaker Pro Tem Pamela Hornberger (R-Macomb), would prohibit a legislator’s ability to vote on a bill when a conflict of interest exists.

The Senate also opened its 2021-22 session with a second attempt to cap emergency orders issued by the Department of Health and Human Services at 28 days and requiring legislative approval for an extension. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Livingston) was referred to the Government Operations Committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson).

Other notable bills, either newly introduced or reintroduced due to incompletion last term, that counties should follow include:

  • SB 10 (Theis): Allows veteran services boards to hold closed sessions when interviewing veterans’ applications for benefits
  • SB 11 (Theis): Mandates the CPL licenses must be processed during a declared emergency
  • SBs 14-15 (Zorn): Allow a prosecutor to bring charges in the drug-overdose death of a resident in the county, even if the illegal drugs were purchased in another county

 

Revenue Conference sees stable General Fund; low inflation

Michigan’s Revenue Estimating Conference met Friday as part of the state’s annual budget process and adopted a consensus report for the fiscal years of 2021-2023 that will be marked by a relatively stable General Fund and low inflation for the general economy.

While significant job gains are expected in the three-year period, they will not be equal to the number of jobs lost in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The General Fund — key because it is the source of county revenue sharing payments each year — will be total between $10 billion and $11 billion each year for the three-year period. the $10 billion mark, as it has been for several years.

Strong performance in home sales in recent months should result in property tax value “pop ups” under Proposal A in locations that can do Headlee rollbacks.

 

 

Sign up now for 10th local government webinar from Michigan Treasury

The 10th webinar in a series co-sponsored by MAC, the Michigan Treasury and other local government groups will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Topics will include an overview of the Michigan Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference and information regarding the requirements for single audits.

Participants can register and submit questions on the webinar’s registration page.

Additionally, the Michigan Department of Treasury has developed a webpage with numbered letters, memorandums, webinars and resources regarding COVID-19 updates for local governments and school districts. This webpage was created to ensure that Michigan communities have access to the most up-to-date guidance and is updated frequently with information and resources as they become available. A recorded copy of this webinar and the PowerPoint will be made available within 24 hours after the webinar is completed on this webpage.

 

Treasury sets next ‘Chart Chat’ for Jan. 28

The Michigan Department of Treasury is pleased to announce our next “Chart Chat” webinar at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.

The Chart Chat Webinar Series provides updates to local government officials on accounting-related topics, updates from the Michigan Department of Treasury and information on sound fiscal management. Participation is valuable for any local government employee, including clerks, treasurers, elected officials, finance directors, city, township, or village managers, auditors and accounting staff, among others.

This Chart Chat webinar will cover:

  • Changes to the Uniform Chart of Accounts
  • F-65 Annual Local Unit Fiscal Report uses and problems
  • How to monitor fiscal health using general fund balance indicators
  • What local governments need to know about single audits

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

To submit questions for the Q&A section, email LAFD_Audits@Michigan.gov by Friday, Jan. 22.

 

Sweeney joins MAC’s Governmental Affairs Team

Hannah Sweeney, an Ubly native with legislative staff experience and a public policy degree from Michigan State University, will join MAC in January as governmental affairs assistant.

“Hannah will be a great addition to Governmental Affairs Team,” said Deena Bosworth, director of governmental affairs. “She has a background in education public policy and is looking forward to translating that into tackling the issues our counties face in a daily basis.”

“I am excited to join MAC and advocate for all 83 counties in Michigan,” Sweeney said. “I wanted to work with the organization to bridge the gap between the state and local governments to ensure every community receives the resources that are needed.”

Sweeney has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Saginaw Valley State University and a master’s in public policy from Michigan State University. She also served as a policy fellow at the Institute of Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University and has worked in two legislative offices. She can be reached at sweeney@micounties.org.

 

MAC offices will close for MLK Holiday

Please note that MAC’s offices and operations will be closed on Monday, Jan. 18 to observe the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

MAC will resume normal operations on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 8 a.m. Of course, if you have an emergency need, you may contact the relevant MAC staffer by cell.

 

County Government Guide still available at a discount

Copies of the Fifth Edition of the Guide to Michigan County Government are still available at discounted pricing, MSU Extension announced this week.

The guide is the definitive published source for background and materials on county government in Michigan and is on every desk at MAC’s Lansing headquarters.

The discounts are:

  • Code MIGOV for 25% off on single copies
  • Automatic 30% off for orders of 4 copies or more

The discounts continue through May 31.

To order, go to https://shop.msu.edu/product_p/bulletin-e3209.htm

 

DNR sets recreation grants workshop for Jan. 21

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is hosting a virtual recreation grants workshop on Jan. 21 to assist you in applying for funding through the Natural Resources Trust Fund, Land and Water Conservation Fund and Recreation Passport Grant Programs. The workshop covers the process and requirements to apply for grants supporting the acquisition or development of a public outdoor recreation facility. 

There is no cost to participate, but registration is required.  You can register to attend the workshop on the DNR’s Website or by clicking here. A recording of the workshop will also be made available following the event on the DNR’s recreation grants workshop page.

 

State expands vaccination eligibility; fewer than 500,000 vaccinated so far

State leaders announced this week an expansion of the vaccination effort against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state has moved to phase 1B of distribution, which includes individuals 65+, teachers, local frontline workers and jail staff. The state has given county health departments the approval to start scheduling phase 1B vaccinations beginning Monday, Jan 11.  Due to limited vaccine availability and cold chain storage restrictions, not all health departments are able to begin vaccinating phase 1B eligible individuals on Monday. Information on the process and to determine if your local health department is scheduling individuals eligible for phase 1B vaccination can be found here.

To date, 80 percent of deaths due to COVID have occurred among those age 65 and older. Michigan has administered more than 150,000 doses of the 700,000 vaccines shipped.

Many health departments are reporting uncertainty on when more vaccines will become available and growing concerns to identify and schedule those who may not have the tools to navigate an online appointment system. The governor has seen criticism on the numbers as reports show Michigan 11th in the nation when it comes to total vaccines administered, yet a joint letter from a coalition of governors was sent to federal officials this week requesting a release of more vaccines as the roll out grows to more eligible recipients.

County commissioners should ensure they have the most up-to-date information from their local health directors to share with constituents.

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

 

Whitmer signs stack of bills spurred by county-state jail task force

A huge legislative package of reforms suggested by a joint county-state task force on jail policies was signed into law recently by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The laws are the product of months of input from around the state and legislative work from the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration.

Among the bills signed into law were Senate Bills 1046-1051, House Bills 5844 and 5854-57 and HB 5846.

MAC largely supported all these measures but was neutral on SBs 1046 and 1048.

While MAC applauds the progress made in 2020, we support further legislative efforts to act on recommendations pertaining to behavioral health in our jails. State support for mental health diversion, screening tools and increased financial resources is greatly needed to serve this jail population.

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

 

Whitmer lets automation tax break bills expire

A push by the retail giant Meijer for a sales, use and Personal Property Tax (PPT) exemption for large retailers who are installing and utilizing automation equipment to assist with their distribution systems failed this week after the clock ran out for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign it, thereby creating a “pocket vote.”

Senate Bills 1149-1150 and 1153 sought to exempt property, advocates said, that is industrial in nature and the same types of exemptions enjoyed by those same types of companies located in the state’s renaissance zones. They also claimed the automation equipment does not reduce jobs because these employees are redeployed into other areas of their company or they retire. MAC disagreed with those claims, opposed the bills and urged the governor to reject the legislation.

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

 

Solar equipment tax bill rejected by governor

Legislation to exempt solar equipment from ad valorem property taxes and replace the levy with a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) system was vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Although a PILT system, as opposed to a valuation and depreciation model, has its merits, MAC opposed the bills and urged the governor to reject the legislation. MAC expects the policy discussion will resume later in 2021.

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

 

Legislative chambers release session calendars for 2021

The Michigan House of Representatives and Senate have released their session schedules for 2021.

The 110-member House has identified 100 days as session days. The 38-member Senate has only released a schedule through June, which calls for 65 session days by June 30.

The National Conference of State Legislatures rates Michigan’s as one of four “green” bodies among the 50 states, meaning they are “full-time, well-paid” and with a “large staff.” The other “green” legislatures are in California, New York and Pennsylvania.

Michigan also is one of just 11 states that have no limits on the number of session days.

 

FAA sponsoring drone session on Jan. 14

County officials are invited to attend a kickoff meeting led by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on new rules governing the use of drones.

The FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Office of Safety and Integration is launching a UAS local government networking group with the first session on Jan. 14, 2021, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST, with a 30-minute virtual social to follow.  There is no cost to attend this virtual event.

If you are interested, contact Diana Robinson of the FAA at diana.robinson@faa.gov.

 

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Ottawa’s Vanderberg earns national honor

Ottawa County Administrator Al Vanderberg was recently named a recipient of the 2020 Engaging Local Government Leaders Traeger Award, which recognizes the 100 top local government influencers in the nation.

In the nomination statement for him, Vanderberg was described “a top influencer. Not only does he work tirelessly for what’s best for Ottawa County, but places a high premium on training staff and helping emerging leaders fulfill their utmost potential. He also serves as a role model and a leader for his colleagues across the country. He’s not afraid to try innovative things while consistently keeping top of mind the goal of ensuring the county is serving its citizens.”

The awards are given by Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL, an “accidental professional association” that began in Portland, Ore., in 2012 with a 16-member dinner group. Focused on all levels of local government (from analysts to mayors; librarians to planners; and everyone in between), ELGL’s mission is to engage the brightest minds in local government by providing timely and relevant content through podcasts, blogs, webinars, social media and conference gathering, with the objective of fostering authentic and meaningful connections that are grounded in practices of equity and inclusion.

 

Counties can apply for federal rental assistance funds

The U.S. Treasury just released information for the new $25 billion emergency rental assistance program authorized under the year-end COVID-19 relief and omnibus spending package, the National Association of Counties reported this week. Under the legislation, counties with populations above 200,000 residents are eligible to receive direct payments from the U.S. Treasury. Other counties may receive an allocation from their state, similar to the original CRF program under the CARES Act.

This is Treasury’s new rental assistance webpage that provides information directly from the U.S. Treasury on the new program. This link will take eligible recipients to the submission process for receiving funds. The deadline to submit is Jan. 12, 2021.

 

Video of workplace safety seminar available to counties

A recording of a Dec. 17, 2020, webinar on workplace safety co-sponsored by MAC and its CoPro+ procurement subsidiary is now available to all county members.

CoPro+ and SPACE have been awarded a contract that can be accessed by MAC members for the purchase of hand sanitizers, plexiglass dividers and Anew Facility Armor, powered by the BioprotectUS system.

 

Staff picks

Legislature approves ‘no reason’ virtual sessions until March 31, 2021

The Legislature voted to extend the ability for local boards to meet remotely, under any circumstance, through March 31, 2021. Senate Bill 1246, by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Livingston), would maintain the ability for a board to meet remotely past March 31 if a local emergency is declared pursuant to the Emergency Management Act or by a local ordinance. The ability for local declarations to serve as a means for remote meetings still expires Dec. 31, 2021. (Please see the local emergency declaration template provided by Cohl, Stoker and Toskey.)

The bill also clarifies that if a public body meets in person before April 1, 2021, the body must, to the extent feasible, abide by social distancing and mitigation measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Any public body that meets in person must have adopted cleaning standards to limit any exposure to COVID-19.

MAC has received questions about announcing locations of local board meetings. That is still required under the law. Each board member that is meeting remotely must announce the county, city, village or township and state from which you are attending.

The bill now goes to the governor, who is expected to sign it into law before the end of the year.

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

 

State extends health orders to Jan. 15, 2021

Revised public health orders announced Friday loosen some restrictions on public activity while extending the state’s COVID-19 response to Jan. 15, 2021.

The new orders go into effect Dec. 21 and replace the ones instituted on Dec. 7.

Everything from high schools to casinos could offer in-person services under the revisions but indoor dining, nightclubs and indoor sports are still banned by order of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said cases in Michigan are still six times higher than they were at the start of September, but the figures are trending in the right direction.

For the latest coronavirus news affecting counties, visit MAC’s Resources Page.

 

Legislature fails to act on 4-year terms for commissioners

Among items that officially died in the lame duck session was the MAC-led legislation to increase county commissioner terms to four years from the current two. Despite numerous last-ditch efforts to get Senate Bills 504-505, by Sen. Ed McBroom (R- Dickinson), moved out of the Senate Local Government Committee to give it a chance this month, the bills were never taken up by Chairman Dale Zorn (R-Monroe).  

The House versions of the legislation never made it past the House Ways and Means Committee after union opposition led to debate over which election cycle the term would fall on: presidential or gubernatorial. As this issue got lost in politics, MAC tried to overcome the arguments, but, in the end, it was not enough to get it done before the close of the 2019-20 session.

MAC greatly appreciates all efforts by our members to reach out to legislators, respond to action alerts and stress the importance of this legislation. We certainly expect to bring this back up early in 2021. With a growing number of former county commissioners represented in the Legislature, and on both sides of the aisle, MAC is hopeful for progress next year.

 

Bills spurred by county-state jail task force about to become law

Executive Director Steve Currie discusses county participation in a partnership with the state and Pew at an event in Lansing on April 17, 2019, as (left to right) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and Attorney General Dana Nessel look on.

After months of input from around the state and legislative work from the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, a huge package of bills stemming from the task force recommendations goes to the governor’s desk for final approval.

In the late days of lame duck session, Senate Bills 1046-51 were approved, with last minute changes to safeguard victim protections and address the concerns of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence.

House Bills 5844 and 5854-57 also garnered unanimous support from both chambers, to eliminate mandatory minimum jail sentences for certain offenses.

The various bills eliminating license suspension for violations of the law unrelated to dangerous driving were also overwhelmingly approved.  

MAC largely supported all these measures but was neutral on SBs 1046 and 1048. All the bills will go before the governor, who is expected to sign them.

While several task force recommendations will become law, MAC still supports further legislative efforts to act on recommendations pertaining to behavioral health in our jails. State support for mental health diversion, screening tools and increased financial resources is greatly needed to serve this jail population.

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

 

Tax foreclosure bills sent to the governor

MAC-supported bills to address a court decision that upended the tax foreclosure system on property in Michigan were approved by the Legislature this week.

In July, the Michigan Supreme Court, in Rafaeli, LLC v Oakland County, ruled the surplus proceeds from the sale of foreclosed property lawfully belong to the former property owner, not to the foreclosing governmental unit.

In response, Sens. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland) and Pete Lucido (R-Macomb) have been working on Senate Bills 1137 and 676 to create a statutory process by which county treasurers can comply with the decision. The two bills, supported by MAC, the Michigan Association of County Treasurers and other local government groups, establish a new process of notification, allowable expenses, fair disposition of property and the method by which former owners may claim surplus proceeds. Such proceeds 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.

Unfortunately, there are situations when the property will sell for less than the taxes owed. In such a case, counties can charge back those losses to other local units with interest. But there could be losses that exceed the amount counties can charge back. Where that money will come from is unclear since the bills provide no provision for financial relief in those cases.

Tracking these chargebacks and losses was included in the final version of the bills, however, so future evaluations of the financial harm to local governments can be ascertained.

The bills now head to the governor, who is expected to sign them.

Next year, MAC will pursue legislation granting counties the ability to relinquish their foreclosing governmental unit responsibilities to the state, should they so choose. At present, the state acts as the foreclosing governmental unit in seven Michigan counties.

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

 

Commission rejects Wayne’s request for construction costs

At its last meeting of 2020 this week, the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) approved a final set of local proposals for spending plans to defend indigent residents accused of crimes.

Prior to the session, the commission had approved plans for 110 of 120 systems, many of which have already received their initial grant distribution. MAC worked diligently with the MIDC to ensure grant contracts and funds were distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

At this week’s session, counties that gained full approval included Alger, Kalamazoo and Roscommon.

But the largest system in the state, Wayne County, generated a great deal of debate. Wayne County General Counsel James Heath urged the commission to give full support for the plan, arguing the request for MIDC grant money cover about $5 million for new construction at the criminal justice complex helps Wayne comply with standards requiring confidential meeting space.

MIDC staff, however, recommended a conditional approval with everything except the $5 million. Commissioner Jim Fisher moved to adopt the staff recommendation, while Commissioner Andrew DeLeeuw (Washtenaw County) offered an amendment to also approve the new construction. DeLeeuw, supported by Commissioner Margaret McAvoy (Isabella County), argued the spending was easily justifiable per statute and standard 2 and the state is responsible for funding compliance with the standards beyond the local share. Commissioner Tom McMillan asked if the approval of the $5 million would put the MIDC over its budget for FY21, necessitating a request for a supplemental outlay from the Legislature. Executive Director Loren Khogali assured the commission there would be enough in their current budget and they would not need to seek additional funds.

The amendment by DeLeeuw was rejected. The staff recommendation to conditionally approve Wayne’s plan without the new construction costs was approved. The commission meets again on Feb. 23, 2021. (See the agenda.)

For questions, please contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.com

 

Solar energy PILT bills headed to governor

Legislation to exempt solar equipment from ad valorem property taxes and replace the levy with a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) system cleared the Legislature this week. Although a PILT system, as opposed to a valuation and depreciation model, has its merits, MAC is opposed to the bills and has urged the governor to reject the legislation so the policy discussion can resume in 2021 on a system that addresses some key points.

The legislation before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would cap the reimbursements to local governments at $4,000 per megawatt of nameplate alternating current capacity (what they are capable of generating, not what they actually generate). This statutorily mandated payment level has not been fully vetted and evaluated by the State Tax Commission or the Department of Treasury to determine whether this is a fair value and reimbursement rate for each taxing jurisdiction. Also, MAC favors legislation that ensures local governments will not be forced to accept solar developments; that ensures the PILT payments will be collectable throughout the duration of the agreement; that ensures the equipment will be removed from the site once operations cease; and that includes language to clarify the real property on which the solar development is located is still subject to real property tax.   

The bills now go to the governor for her consideration.

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

 

Extension of poverty-based tax exemptions on homes passes

Senate Bill 1234, a measure by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland) to allow local assessing units to extend a poverty-based tax exemption for a primary residence that was originally granted in 2019 or 2020 for three years, cleared the Legislature this week with unanimous support. The bill now goes to the governor for her signature.

Full and partial exemptions may be granted and continued. The bill also allows, for three years, poverty-based exemptions granted in 2021, 2022 and 2023 to be granted for three years if the owner of the principal residence is on a fixed income such as Social Security or a pension. Again, the local assessing unit can grant full or partial exemptions based on stated criteria.

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

 

Bill for property tax penalties and interest waiver gets legislative OK

For the better part of 2020, the House and the Senate have been working on a bill to forgive the penalties and interest for those who could not afford to make their summer property tax payments.

Senate Bill 943, by Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent),  was thought dead for the better half of 2020, however, due to the inability of stakeholders to reach a consensus on how to pay for the anticipated costs of forgiving taxes, penalties and interest. But the Senate scaled back the proposal to qualifying businesses in the restaurant, bar, gym and entertainment industries and the bill moved through the Legislature.

If signed by the governor, forgiveness of the penalties and interest for unpaid summer property taxes will be on a first come, first served basis, based on the level of appropriation dedicated to the program. It will be up to the Department of Treasury to take applications, grant deferments of summer taxes through Feb. 15, 2021, and to reimburse local governments for their losses in penalties and interest. The bill does not provide exemption from the taxes, nor does it provide any relief for residential customers or those businesses who have already paid their summer taxes.

MAC is supportive of the revised version of SB 943.

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

 

Legislature backs tax exemption for automation tech

Final legislative approval was given this week to Senate Bills 1149-1150 and 1153, which would give sales, use and Personal Property Tax (PPT) exemptions to large retailers who are installing and utilizing automation equipment to assist with their distribution systems.

Advocates argue the property they are seeking to exempt is industrial in nature and the same types of exemptions enjoyed by those same types of companies located in renaissance zones. They also claim the automation equipment does not reduce jobs because these employees are redeployed into other areas of their company or they retire.

MAC disagrees with those claims and opposes the bills.

The sales and use tax exemptions are one-time hits to the state’s General Fund and School Aid Fund, but the PPT exemptions are annual losses of revenue to local units of government. The bills do not provide any replacement revenue for local governments. This is a yet another example of the Legislature passing bills that affect local government without any attempt to reimburse locals for the lost revenue.

The bills now head to the governor. MAC has urged her to reject them and is optimistic she will do so.

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

 

State creates Vaccine Dashboard to track access

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has updated information in its priority groups for vaccination administration document and launched a COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard to help Michiganders track information about the vaccine across the state, the department announced in a statement.

“MDHHS expanded its guidance to allow Michiganders 16 years of age and older to receive the vaccine and also provided updated information on pregnant women and the vaccine. While there is not currently data on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that pregnant women may be offered the vaccine within the priority groups upon consultation with their medical provider.

“The COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard includes data from the Michigan Care Improvement Registry on the number of providers enrolled to provide the vaccine, the amount of vaccine received and doses administered. The dashboard will be expanded over the coming weeks to include vaccination coverage rates by age and race.

“MDHHS is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for prioritization of distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines. CDC recommendations are based on input from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP is a federal advisory committee made up of medical and public health experts who develop recommendations on the use of vaccines in the United States. MDHHS has also obtained input from a stakeholder group of Michigan public health and health care leaders and reviewed correspondence from the public.

Phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1A includes paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Phase 1B includes some workers in essential and critical industries, including workers with unique skill sets such as non-hospital or non-public health laboratories and mortuary services. 
  • Phase 1C includes individuals age 16 years or older who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older.
  • Phase 2 is a mass vaccination campaign for all individuals aged 16 years or older.

“MDHHS has provided additional prioritization guidance within these categories. It is important to note that vaccination in one phase may not be complete before vaccination in another phase begins. Vaccination in these phases will likely overlap. The timing of the start of vaccination in a phase is dependent on guidance from CDC and ACIP, the supply of vaccine from the manufacturer, how vaccine is allocated from the federal level to Michigan and the capacity to administer the vaccine to populations.

“Vaccine distribution will roll out over a series of weeks, and current estimates are that by late spring 2021 enough vaccine will be available for everyone who is recommended to receive it. There will be no out-of-pocket costs to individuals for the vaccine, however, healthcare providers may bill insurance for administrative costs. The COVID-19 vaccine will require two doses, separated by three or four weeks depending on the manufacturer. Michiganders should receive both doses in order to have full protection from the virus. Individuals who receive the vaccine may experience mild side effects such as low-grade fever, sore arm and fatigue, which indicate that the vaccine is working. There is a robust state and national process for tracking vaccines and reporting side effects.

“MDHHS stresses Michiganders should continue to wear masks, social distance from those not in their household and wash their hands often, even after receiving the vaccine.”

 

Legislature advances variety of nursing regulatory measures

Bills that the Michigan County Medical Care Facilities Council (MMCFC) has been tracking for many months cleared the Legislature this week. Senate Bill 77, by Sen. Jim Runestad (R-Oakland) would require a nursing home to allow a resident or their representative to monitor the resident using an electronic monitoring device. Under the bill, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) could promulgate rules, in consultation with the long-term care ombudsman program, to establish procedures for residents to request a camera and requirements for when the camera must be turned off or blocked to protect residents’ privacy.

The House amended the bill on the floor, however, so that audio recordings are disallowed. After the Senate agreed to the new version, the bill heads to the governor’s desk for review.

House Bill 4098, by Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Shiawassee), passed the Legislature this week as well and now goes to the governor. It would create a medication aide training and permit program that will undoubtedly enhance resident safety and help address the workforce issues all facilities are facing. The legislation closely mirrors the statutory framework in place for a certified nurse aide (CNA), and would allow a CNA to complete additional education and testing to become a medication aide. Responsibilities of medication aides are limited in scope and the aide would not be allowed to administer controlled substances, medications in injectable forms or the initial administration of medications. This additional support to nursing staff would help with routine care.

Union groups have opposed this, leading to a partisan divide. It is not certain if the governor will approve or reject this bill. MCMCFC sent an alert to MCF administrators to urge enactment of this bill.

Lastly, extending health provider immunity was passed to ensure protections from March 29 through July 13, 2020, and from Oct. 30, 2020, through Feb. 13, 2021. Similar to the recently passed “Pandemic Health Care Immunity Act,” Senate Bill 1185, by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Mason), would extend COVID-19 liability protections for most health care facilities, including MCFs, to psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric units, and nursing home care and recovery centers. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

The Senate passed a $465 million supplemental budget late Friday night, which included $22.55 million for coronavirus response activities for testing of vulnerable populations in nursing homes, adult foster care, homes for the aged, community testing sites, homeless and domestic violence shelters, rapid/mobile response teams for hospitals and nursing homes. However, this will not be finalized until Monday, when the House chamber is slated to have their final session day.
 
The governor is expected to review, sign or reject bills after the Christmas holiday.

 

Barry County’s Parker passes

Barry County Commissioner Dan Parker died Dec. 11 after contracting COVID-19

According to a report from WOODTV in Grand Rapids, “Fellow Commissioner Ben Geiger said Parker had just been elected Thornapple Township Supervisor. Geiger said Parker owned a publishing business and held public service positions in Thornapple Kellogg Schools and the village of Middleville.

‘Our hearts are broken in losing Dan Parker,’ Geiger said in a Monday statement. ‘But he wouldn’t want us to be sad. He would want us to find peace.’”

Heather Wing, chair of the Barry County Board of Commissioners, said, “It was such an honor to have been able to work with Dan Parker. He was perpetually looking for the compromise to settle uncomfortable situations for a win for both sides. He was passionate about Barry County and promoted every aspect of our great resources. Dan was one of a kind and his legacy will be difficult to duplicate.”

Parker first served on the Barry board from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012. He rejoined the board on Jan. 1, 2017.

 

Double-check your PPT reimbursement calculations

Counties now can contest state calculations on FY20 Personal Property Tax reimbursements until March 31, 2021.

In a memo sent to County Equalization Directors, the department instructs counties to double-check their reimbursement amounts and the calculations used to determine those amounts. If any errors are found, counties are to fill out form 5651 and submit to the department by March 31, 2021.

For questions, contact the revenue sharing and grants division of the Michigan Department of Treasury at TreasORTAPPT@michigan.gov or 517-335-7484.

 

Mental health trainings resume in early January

A new set of free “Managing Mental Health Crisis” sessions will begin in early January. County officials have until Jan. 5, 2021, to register for:

  • Jan. 6, 2021 – Mental Health Stigma, Mental Health Illness & Violence, Mental Illness and Disorders
  • Jan. 7, 2021 – Michigan Mental Health Code, De-Escalation, Mood Disorders
  • Jan. 13, 2021 – Trauma, Psychotic Disorders, Personality Disorders and Youth Interactions
  • Jan. 14, 2021 – Substance Use Disorder, Medications, Alzheimer’s, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Excited Delirium, Recovery

Managing Mental Health Crisis is designed specifically for Michigan law enforcement, public safety and community mental health responders. Funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, it is endorsed by the state’s Diversion Council, is approved by MCOLES and meets with MCOLES recommended annual officer trainings

Click here to register.

For questions, contact J. Eric Waddell at jericwaddell@thecardinalgroup2.com.

By Matt Nordfjord, Esq.

With a new year comes the responsibility for county boards to elect chairs and vice chairs. This process is governed by Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) 46.3.

The county board of commissioners is required to elect one of its members as chair and one member as vice chair, per MCL 46.3(4).

The chair shall be elected each odd-numbered year for a 2-year term, unless the board provides by resolution or board rule that the chair shall be elected annually, for a 1-year term.  The vice chair is required to be elected annually for a 1-year term.

The election of a chair or vice chair must occur at the first meeting of the county board of commissioners in a year in which a chair or vice chair is to be elected. The term of a chair or vice chair begins upon their election.

The board does not have the option of electing a vice chair for a 2-year term. Rather, the election of the vice chair must occur annually at the first meeting of the board, regardless whether the election of the board chair occurs annually. The election of a chair and vice chair is determined by a majority vote of the county board members elected and serving, as per MCL 46.3(2).

A unique aspect of an election for a board chair (but not the vice chair) is that state law allows for a secret ballot. (See MCL 46.3a.) The law does not mandate a secret ballot, but it allow for one in this specific circumstance. If the board chooses to conduct the election of the board chair by secret ballot, a majority of the board must vote to authorize this mechanism.

Matt Nordfjord is a shareholder with the law firm of Cohl, Stoker & Toskey, P.C.

 

Further OMA changes expected by end of year

With the House session delayed due to COVID positive cases (see below), a bill to extend the “no reason” option for virtual local board meetings remains stuck on the House floor.

House Bill 6207, by Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Ottawa), awaits further action. However, the Senate was able to meet, so Senate Bill 1246, by Sen. Lana Theis (R-Livingston), could gain traction. SB 1246 is identical to HB 6207 in that it extends the ability for local boards to meet remotely, for any reason, through March 31, 2021.

After March 31, 2021, remote meetings could be held if a local emergency is declared or to accommodate a member that has a medical condition that would put them at risk during an in-person meeting. The medical condition exception only applies to that individual member for remote ability- not the entire body. (See MAC’s COVID resources page for a link to a state of emergency resolution template developed by the Lansing firm of Cohl, Stoker and Toskey.)

The bill would also accommodate local jurisdictions that must pass an ordinance of local emergency. For county boards, a declaration can still be made pursuant to current law as allowed under the Emergency Management Act

The legislation is expected to get to the governor’s desk before the end of the year. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign it.

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

 

Medical officer outlines Michigan’s plan on vaccines

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media as Dr. Joneigh Khaldun looks on in this Detroit Free Press photo.

Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, outlined the state’s vaccination plan this week, pending federal decisions. In addition, Khaldun and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a bipartisan commission to educate Michiganders on the COVID-19 vaccine.

Interested candidates can apply for the commission by clicking here and selecting “Protect Michigan Commission” from the dropdown menu of the application. The deadline to apply is Dec. 28.

The vaccine will be deployed in phases beginning with health care providers and those in long-term care facilities. Essential workers, such as educators, police and fire, follow, as well as adults 65 and older or with high-risk medical conditions.

Earlier this month, Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, told a legislative committee there is no plan to mandate a vaccine.

With a goal of 70 percent of Michigan adults vaccinated by the end of 2021, the administration of the vaccine will be a collaborative effort with hospitals, local health departments and the Michigan National Guard. Allocations are pending federal approval and manufacturing ability, but vaccinations are expected to begin before the end of this year.

The full presentation can be found here.

For questions on the vaccine, please call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 or email COVID19@michigan.gov.

 

COVID cases prompt cancellations of House activities

The Michigan House of Representatives largely ground to a halt this week as additional COVID-19 cases and exposures were reported around House members and staff.

As it stands, the House has just three scheduled session days left next week before the end of the 2019-2020 term.

Eight members of the state House and 21 staffers are reported to have tested positive so far this year. The Senate has reported three of its members and 16 of its staff have had COVID-19, for a total of 11 elected members and 37 legislative staffers who have confirmed they’ve had COVID-19.

As of Friday, MAC presumes the House will return to normal operations for Tuesday, Dec. 15. It is not clear if the delays of the past week will lead the Legislature to remain in session well into late December.

 

Podcast 83 continues ‘lame duck’ episodes

MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie led the Podcast 83 team through a review of legislative activity as 2020 comes to a close in the latest episode of Podcast 83 on Dec. 7.

MAC advocates Deena Bosworth and Meghann Keit detailed their work on further changes to the Open Meetings Act on allowing remote sessions, changes to property tax collections and news out of Washington, D.C., on additional federal aid for COVID-19 response.

The team also took questions from county leaders who participated in the live session.

To view a recording of this episode, or others, visit the Podcast 83 webpage.

 

MIDC to hold final 2020 session on Dec. 15; some plans still pending

The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission (MIDC) will hold its final meeting of 2020 on Dec. 15 starting at 9 a.m. (See the agenda here.)

In October, the commission approved 110 of 120 system plans for FY 2021 and cost analyses and had distributed grant contracts to those systems. The outstanding plans and cost analyses are on the agenda next week, including those for the largest system, Wayne County.

The Legislature approved $117 million for grants in FY 2021. However, it is uncertain if this will cover the full cost for all plans until the MIDC has approved all systems. MAC supports full funding for all systems to comply with the state standards 1-4 and all future minimum standards.

The most recent standard (no. 5), which requires that indigent criminal defense services be independent of judicial influence, was approved by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in October. A plan for compliance with Standard 5 will be due to MIDC by April 27, 2021. Submission of a plan for compliance with Standard 5 will correspond with the annual compliance planning cycle for all approved standards.

MAC will provide an update next week from the commission’s Dec. 15 session.

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

 

Bill for property tax penalties and interest waiver regains traction

For the better part of 2020, the House and the Senate have been working on a bill to forgive the penalties and interest for those who could not afford to make their summer property tax payments.

Senate Bill 943, by Sen. Peter MacGregor (R-Kent), was thought dead for the better half of 2020, however, due to the inability of stakeholders to reach a consensus on how to pay for the anticipated costs of forgiving taxes, penalties and interest. But on Thursday, the Senate scaled back the proposal and placed the burden on the Department of Treasury to take applications, provide deferments of summer taxes and to reimburse local governments for their losses.

The bill does not provide an exemption from the taxes, nor does it provide any relief for residential customers or those businesses who have already paid their summer taxes. It does, though, provide a mechanism to forgive the penalties and interest for those qualifying businesses who have not already paid their summer property taxes. The bill is targeted for restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues.

MAC is supportive of the revised version of SB 943.

The House will have to consider the bill when they return to session next week.

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

 

Jewel Ware, longtime Wayne commissioner, passes

Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware died unexpectedly this week from a heart attack.

“The Wayne County Commission family is devastated by the sudden passing of Jewel Ware this morning,” Wayne Chair Alisha Bell said in a statement. “Commissioner Ware was a trusted member of the commission family and her experience in county government and knowledge of county issues were immeasurable. … Residents of the Commission’s 2nd District have lost a true champion and our heartfelt condolences go out to her loving family.”

Ware was first elected to the Wayne County Commission in 1994 and served as chair of the panel from 2003 through 2008. Most recently, she served as the commission’s vice chair pro tem. She represented District 2, which included much of the East Side of Detroit, downtown and the East Riverfront neighborhoods.

During her 2003-08 tenure as commission chair, she established the commission’s Office of Policy Research and Analysis to provide in-depth review of county contracts and operations. Throughout her tenure on the commission, Ware was an advocate for improved health care for the uninsured and underserved, including improved mental health care, and an advocate for issues affecting senior citizens and young people.

In her district, Ware was involved in such initiatives as the Mittens and Socks Winter Drive for Children and cleanup programs sponsored by the Midtown Alliance. Ware received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Detroit Mercy and was a certified social worker.

“Jewel Ware’s service to her community and constituents, especially on behalf of her seniors to which she was devoted, were second to none,” said Joe Palamara, Wayne vice chair and member of the MAC Board of Directors. “She was beloved by her friends and colleagues, and all who knew her. She always had a smile and something nice to say. Her caring compassion set her apart from all others. She will be dearly missed.”

 

MAC, CoPro co-sponsor webinar on workplace safety

Protect your work environment and increase peace of mind for you and your team. Join MAC, CoPro+ and SPACE for a short webinar to help you and your employees “Stay Safe, Stay Working and Move Forward.” The webinar will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, Dec. 17.

CoPro+, MAC’s procurement service for local governments, and SPACE have been awarded a contract that can be accessed by MAC members for the purchase of hand sanitizers, plexiglass dividers and Anew Facility Armor, powered by the BioprotectUS system.

Guest speaker is Dr. Curt White, renowned scientist and inventor. Discover the scientific measures you can take to prevent microbial growth in your workplace.

Click here to register.

Treasury webinar details economic prospects for ’21, ‘22

In the latest Treasury webinar in a series co-sponsored by MAC and others, state experts detailed projections for the economy in 2021 and 2022, emphasizing that a rebound in those years should be robust from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Projections are for unemployment in the state to continue falling, reaching under 6 percent by 2022. However, that’s still well above the pre-pandemic jobless rate.

Personal income also is bouncing back strongly but will not reach its pre-pandemic levels within the projection period (2021-22).

To see the presentation and recording of the webinar, click here.

 

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