A legal challenge to Michigan’s law on local court costs was turned aside July 10 by the Michigan Supreme Court.

The court declined to take up a decision in People v. Cameron from the Michigan Court of Appeals that deemed state law authorizing court costs constitutional.

This decision removes an immediate threat to a key source of funds for Michigan’s trial court system, whose operations constitute the largest unfunded mandate on counties. But legislative action is needed soon to establish a stable funding structure for our courts.

Figures compiled by MAC show that local and court funds constitute more than $900 million for the trial court system, with purely state and federal funds covering about $200 million.

In a concurrence to the order rejecting the appeal, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack wrote, “I recognize that denying leave to appeal in this case will allow our current system of trial court funding in Michigan to limp forward — at least until MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) sunsets next year. Yet our coordinate branches have recognized the long-simmering problems. The interim report of the Trial Court Funding Commission shows a potential way forward that promises to address these (and other) concerns. I urge the Legislature to take seriously the recommendations of the Commission, before the pressure placed on local courts causes the system to boil over.”


With an eye on the then-unresolved Cameron case, the Trial Court Funding Commission (TCFC) released an interim report this spring with five recommendations, including a dedicated trial court fund, more equitable funding across courts, uniform assessments and centralized collections to free court personnel from non-court operations.

MAC supported the creation of the commission and supports its recommendations to ensure a more balanced funding system between state and local governments, more streamlined court operations and separating judicial decisions from operating budgets to improve administration of justice.

“The key point out of this week’s order is that the chief justice is pointing to the commission’s recommendations and this is why we need to ensure the Legislature solves this before the expiration of current law allowing these costs,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director.

MAC will continue to monitor the progress of the commission and advocate for a fair cost structure that does not expand any unfunded mandates on an already underfunded system.

In late spring, MAC asked county commissioners to respond to a survey so we could answer the question, “Who are Michigan’s county commissioners?” MAC received 205 responses from 622 county commissioners as part of this effort.

Based on these results, commissioners are: predominantly male, overwhelmingly white and over the age of 50.*

“While MAC staffers strive to meet and help every commissioner in Michigan, the fact is, we probably only see or speak with about one-third each year,” said Executive Director Stephan Currie. “Their input on what we do and how we should do it is invaluable, but this survey was part of our strategy to reach the other two-thirds of our members: Who are they? How do they approach their public duties? How do they use MAC services – or not?”

For more information on MAC’s survey, contact Derek Melot at melot@micounties.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Note: These results may not exactly reflect the overall demographic profile of Michigan commissioners. A review of the results by staff at the Center for Local, Urban and State Policy at the University of Michigan suggested the respondents to the MAC survey may be older than the commissioner average, for example.

The 2019 Michigan Counties Annual Conference, “People and Places,” will be held Aug. 18-20 at the Grand Traverse Resort in Grand Traverse County.

More than 300 county leaders and others are expected to attend this year’s event, which will include:

  • Three plenary sessions featuring addresses from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (invited), MAC Executive Director Stephan Currie, incoming MAC Board President Veronica Klinefelt of Macomb County and more.
  • Fifteen policy breakout sessions on trending topics ranging from the tips on hiring in the 21st century and the Open Meetings Act, to electric vehicle tech and trends in Michigan’s economy. (See the Attendee Registration Packet for details.)
  • The annual President’s Banquet, with after-dinner entertainment from “Jasen Magic.”
  • Two receptions with complimentary beverages and snacks.
  • Regional caucuses to fill five seats on the MAC Board of Directors
  • The annual MAC Business Meeting, during which members will approve our policy platforms for 2019-20.
  • An Exhibitor Show with dozens of vendors that provide services of use to counties big and small.

For complete details, please review the Attendee Registration Packet.

Or you may begin your registration process immediately at our online conference portal.

This will be the largest gathering of county leaders in Michigan this year! Don’t miss out!

At the 2019 Michigan Counties Conference, MAC members will vote on five seats on the MAC Board of Directors.

Commissioners wishing to serve on the Board, whether incumbents or new candidates, have until July 18 to file official notice of their intent to run.

Seats representing regions are filled by a vote in regional caucuses at the conference. At-large seats are filled by the candidate that wins a majority of the six regional caucuses.

The MAC Board of Directors is the key body in guiding the legislative and organizational strategies of MAC.

2019 Board seats

  • Region 4 — 2 seats
  • Region 6 — 2 seats
  • At-large — 1 seat

Any member wishing to run in the election must download the application form and return it by July 18, 2019, to Derek Melot to be eligible.

If you have any questions about Board duties, please contact Executive Director Stephan W. Currie at 517-372-5374.

 

 

 

Actions by Senate appropriators this week would worsen the state’s disinvestment in county government and further stress the ability of counties to effectively serve Michigan residents, said the executive director of the Michigan Association of Counties.

“By rejecting the governor’s proposed increase in statutory revenue sharing for counties, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government is making a bad problem worse,” said Stephan Currie. “Legislators continue to ignore their responsibility to properly fund county governments – the governments that serve all 10 million Michigan residents.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget has a 3 percent increase for county revenue sharing to just over $228 million, up from the $221.4 million for the current fiscal year. The governor’s budget recommendations were based on increase revenue for roads, but the Senate appropriators have chosen to not increase revenue along with the budget.

This would worsen a long-standing gap between funding for counties and for CVTs (cities, villages and townships) under Michigan’s two-pronged support for municipal government. Unlike the CVTs, counties do not receive constitutional revenue sharing. In fiscal 2019, CVTs received $859 million in constitutional aid and then another $255 million in statutory payments, for more than $1 billion. Counties received $221 million in statutory support only.

“We serve the same population as CVTs and have more mandated services,” said Currie. “And still they are getting a $33 million increase (in constitutional dollars).

“We are not suggesting that fewer dollars go to local governments,” Currie added, “but we do believe more should go to counties out of Michigan’s General Fund. If we can’t properly fund services during this long period of economic growth, when do state leaders think they can?”

Since 2004, the state has saved itself more than $2.4 billion by not making revenue sharing payments to counties that it should have.