Supplemental Budget Bills Passed

Both the House and the Senate have passed the long awaited and finally negotiated supplemental bills that will restore more than $60 million in vetoed state funding for key county services.  The bill now await the Governor’s signature, which MAC is confident will happen before the end of the year. 

Now to be restored in new spending bills are:

$27.4 million in PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) for local governments

$14.8 million in county jail reimbursements for the housing of state prisoners

$13.1 million to aid Secondary Road Patrol services by county sheriffs

$4 million in grant money for veteran services

$3.5 million in reimbursements for foster care services provided by counties

$400,000 in community corrections programs. 

The vetoes and subsequent stalemate had forced counties to begin identifying service cutbacks and layoff targets to balance their fiscal 2020 budgets, as most counties start their budget years on Jan. 1, 2020.  As part of the final deal between the legislature and the Governor is a commitment to get the budgets done by July 1 each year and to also grant the legislature a chance to veto any administrative board transfers proposed by the Governor in future years. 

For more information on MAC’s work on the state budget, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

Sunset Elimination Bills Almost Done

SB 322 and SB 323 sponsored by Sen. Victory (R-Ottawa) moved one step closer to enactment this week by passing the House in the late hours on Wednesday prior to the winter legislative break.  Since 2012, counties have had the option of absorbing their appointed road commissions, or in the cases of an elected road commission, a county could put the question up to the voters.  The law has had a sunset on this authority since its’ original enactment and is set to sunset again on January 1, 2020. 

 

Rep. Wentworth (R-Clare) offered an amendment to require a vote of the people if a county would like to take an elected road commission and make them an appointed road commission.  This amendment was adopted in the House Ways and Means Committee before moving to the House floor.  Because this bill was amended, the Senate must concur in the changes before the bill is sent to the Governor for her signature.  Due to some timing issues, the Senate adjourned before the bills passed the House and therefore the amended bill will have to wait until the Senate’s return in early January before heading to the Governor.  For more information, please contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

Budget deal would restore $60 million in key county funds

Legislative action on Wednesday to restore approximately $60 million in vetoed state funding for key county services was encouraging, said MAC’s executive director this week.  The governor and legislative leaders hammered through a negotiation that ended in an agreement to send a supplemental budget totaling more than $573 million to the governor in exchange for some restrictions on the governor’s ability to transfer budget line items via the Administrative Board. 

The deal, although positive, still requires each chamber to vote again next week to send it all to the governor for her signature. MAC, though, is encouraged by the movement on both sides.  “It’s late and coming after a great deal of stress for our members,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, “but the supplemental spending bills agreed to this week restore the vital funding for our members. We look forward to final passage in the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature – and we applaud her and legislative leaders for finding a compromise that puts people over politics.”

Whitmer’s use of the Administrative Board in the fall had been the key sticking point in resolving the budget impasse arising out of 147 line-item vetoes that, among other things, struck down an array of key county funds.

Now to be restored in new spending bills are:

  • $27.4 million in PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) for local governments
  • $14.8 million in county jail reimbursements for the housing of state prisoners
  • $13.1 million to aid Secondary Road Patrol services by county sheriffs
  • $4 million in grant money for veteran services
  • $3.5 million in payments for foster care services provided by counties

The spending bills raced through legislative votes on Dec. 3.

The vetoes and subsequent stalemate had forced counties to begin identifying service cutbacks and layoff targets to balance their fiscal 2020 budgets, as most counties start their budget years on Jan. 1, 2020.

“The focus today is on getting this deal done and helping our members ensure uninterrupted delivery of public safety, social welfare and other basic services,” Currie said.

For more information on MAC’s work on the state budget, contact Deena Bosworth at bosworth@micounties.org.

 

Four-year terms for county commissioners stall in Lansing

Due to the underlying political current in Lansing, the bills to convert county commissioner terms to four years, beginning with the 2022 election, have stalled in the House. House Bill 4937 and HB 4938, by Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Livingston) and Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Jackson) respectively, were up for consideration in the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this week. But due to disagreement on whether the elections should take place on a gubernatorial election cycle or a presidential election cycle, the bills were held.

MAC continues to support the bills and will continue to work to find common ground on the issue once the Legislature resumes regular sessions in January. 

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

 

State ships out $10 million for public health shortfalls

Counties across Michigan are receiving $10 million from the state after authorization by the Local Community Stabilization Authority. These funds are in addition to the funding received via the regular state budget process.

During the Personal Property Tax revisions made in late 2018, MAC negotiated an additional supplemental payment for counties to help fund public health departments. These funds are authorized to make up for the shortfall that occurs each year from state cost-sharing.

For a list of the amounts to each funding unit, please click here.

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

 

DHHS unveils post-298 ‘vision’ on behavioral health

Just weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer struck section 298 mental health funding with her line item veto pen, the Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon had announced the completion of the pilot projects. Stakeholders could not agree to a path forward and ultimately ended the 298 model. That announcement also stated that the director would be sharing the “department’s vision for a stronger behavioral health system” in the coming weeks. This week, the director did just that before joint Senate and House subcommittees on Health and Human Services

The director’s presentation outlined strengths of the locally based public system, as well as challenges for people using services. He highlighted the main goals of the department as: broaden access to quality care, improve coordination and cut red tape, increase behavioral health investment and financial stability.

The director outlined a new tactic toward mental and physical health integration, through “specialty integrated plans,” that would manage individuals with significant behavioral health needs. The director outlined the vision for a system led by a statewide association of CMHs that will have new functions and partnerships.  Additionally, other options will be provided to consumers, but much work is needed to develop a full plan.

The department expects “the new Medicaid-funded integrated health plan will launch in 2022.”

Four public forums will be scheduled in January 2020 to hear feedback and questions as policy design and planning move forward.

Additional information can be found at Michigan.gov/FutureOfBehavioralHealth, where there is opportunity to provide comment on this proposal. MAC will also keep members informed of the upcoming public forums hosted by DHHS.

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

 

Erosion raises attention on high water levels

Michigan’s 3,300 miles of Great Lakes coastline, as well as inland shoreline, continue to severely erode due to record high water levels in the Great Lakes, causing millions of dollars in losses to public and private property.

All five Great Lakes are at, or above, record high water levels. While water levels rise and fall cyclically, experts suggest levels will continue to rise into 2020. Substantial damage to property, infrastructure and natural resources have occurred over the last three years with higher water levels, but it has become catastrophic in some areas in recent months, with homes slowly falling into the lake and roads being washed out.

The Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) is working with local governments and coastal communities to spread awareness and provide insight into its efforts: expediting and streamlining permits for homeowners to protect their homes before they’re lost and creation of a new shoreline erosion webpage and customer assistance phone line. To listen an EGLE hosted with local government officials and coastal communities, click here.

In response to a lack of available funding for those who are experiencing erosion issues, a bipartisan group of legislators are urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a State of Emergency. An official declaration by the governor would allow the state and federal government to aid with cleanup and prevention costs. Additionally, two counties have passed resolutions urging a state of emergency: Manistee and Berrien.

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

 

Mental health briefings set for Waterford, Escanaba, Gaylord

“Managing Mental Health Crisis” is a series of one-day events designed to provide participants with a better understanding of mental illness as it relates to law enforcement.

“Managing a Mental Health Crisis (MMHC) is a culmination of knowledge and skills developed by law enforcement and mental health professionals with the intention of promoting effective and high-quality responses to mental health related incidents,” stated the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is co-hosting the events with the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA) and The Cardinal Group.

The dates and locations are:

Each session runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there is limited seating at each, so act quickly. To make your free registration, contact jericwaddell@thecardinalgroup2.com.

 

Crawford, Isabella land ‘critical community facility’ loans

Crawford and Isabella counties will share in approximately $10 million in federal loans for “critical community facilities,” the USDA Office of Rural Development has announced.

Isabella County will use a $9,950,000 loan to construct a new facility for the Isabella County Road Commission. The project features an 8,245-square-foot administration building and a 51,780-square-foot maintenance building. This will replace the current 1950s-era facilities.

Crawford County will use a $428,000 loan to purchase a building to be renovated for the county Commission on Aging in a subsequent phase of the project.

The loans were among four issued to Michigan projects included in nearly $400 million in such loans granted nationwide by the USDA.

“Each of these investments will have long-term positive effects on their respective communities as well as the surrounding area,” said USDA Rural Development State Director for Michigan Jason Allen.  “By strengthening rural areas and increasing their prosperity, we’re also helping Michigan as a whole move forward.”

More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities program funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less.

Those interested in loans should contact the Michigan Rural Development Office. Also see the Community Facilities Direct Loan Program Guidance Book for Applicants, a detailed overview of the application process.

 

National news from NACo

 

Legislative action on Wednesday to restore approximately $60 million in vetoed state funding for key county services was encouraging, said MAC’s executive director.

“It’s late and coming after a great deal of stress for our members,” said Stephan Currie, executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties, “but the supplemental spending bills agreed to this week restore the vital funding for our members. We look forward to final passage in the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s signature – and we applaud her and legislative leaders for finding a compromise that puts people over politics.”

 The deal announced Dec. 3 will make modifications to the legislative budget process and the governor’s use of the State Administrative Board. Whitmer’s use of that board in the fall had been the key sticking point in resolving the budget impasse arising out of 147 line-item vetoes that, among other things, struck down an array of key county funds.

Now to be restored in new spending bills are:

  • $27.4 million in PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) for local governments
  • $14.8 million in county jail reimbursements for the housing of state prisoners
  • $13.1 million to aid Secondary Road Patrol services by county sheriffs
  • $4 million in grant money for veteran services
  • $3.5 million in payments for foster care services provided by counties
  • $400,000 in community corrections funds

The spending bills raced through legislative votes on Dec. 3 but cannot be finalized until next week.

The vetoes and subsequent stalemate had forced counties to begin identifying service cutbacks and layoff targets to balance their fiscal 2020 budgets, as most counties start their budget years on Jan. 1, 2020.

“The focus today is on getting this deal done and helping our members ensure uninterrupted delivery of public safety, social welfare and other basic services,” Currie said.

Initial policy ideas shared by Jail Task Force

The Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration held their fifth meeting which included public discussion about proposed changes to state laws and policies regarding county jail incarceration. Outside of public meetings, task force members have been working diligently in subcommittees dedicated to analyze data collected from 20 sample counties around the state. After reviewing the data and trends, the subcommittees deliberated policy proposals and brought those forward to colleagues and the public for further input.

Some of the potential recommendations include:

-reclassification of low-level offenses such as driving without a license. Under a policy change, a person would receive a ticket rather than being charged with a misdemeanor. According to PEW data, 64% of people stayed 1 day or less in jail for driving without a valid license.

-increase funding for diversion programs, including more resources for mental health and additional services. Additionally, the group discussed the need for better data-sharing between law enforcement and mental health offices and more training for mental health crisis response.

-Mandatory 48 hour appearance in front of a judge or magistrate after arrest. The group discussed various timeframes that may be appropriate, taking in to consideration some concerns from domestic violence victim advocates.  

The task force subgroups will continue to meet over December before voting on final policy recommendations on Jan. 9 in Lansing. After a final report is agreed upon, the task force will present it to the Legislature for further deliberation.

More information can be found here. For questions, contact Meghann Keit at keit@micounties.org. 

MAC attends sustainability conference focused on local government

Earlier this week, MAC staff attended the 2019 Sustainability Conference, hosted by the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and MI Greening Communities; an organization that highlights and works with municipalities and counties to promote sustainable action and initiatives.

The sold-out conference held in Lansing at the Lansing Center, was an opportunity for stakeholders from local government and the private sector to network and learn about good work being done that creates a more efficient and sustainable Michigan. Presentations included topics like: planning for sustainability in big and small communities alike, a presentation on the current recycling market, a breakout on energy and sustainability from EGLE, how to build a triple bottom-line business, climate and health impacts, and many more. You can look at the various presentations that were given here. Presentations will be available within a few weeks: if you see one you’d like to obtain, flag Michael Ruddock and he’ll make sure to get it to you when it has become available. 

MAC also wants to extend a congratulations to Monroe county, who was awarded the Bronze award from MI Greening Communities for administering the Monroe County Environmental Fund Grant and accomplishing 6 of the 12 action-items!

For more information please contact Michael Ruddock at ruddock@micounties.org

MAC offices closed for Thanksgiving holiday

MAC’s Lansing offices will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 28 and Friday, Nov. 29 to observe the Thanksgiving holiday.

Normal office hours will resume on Monday, Dec. 2 at 8 a.m. MAC staffers wish you and your families a warm and pleasant Thanksgiving.

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.