Local governments and school districts would not be required to follow any state-imposed mandate until state dollars are put toward covering the cost of that mandate, under a legislative package that received its first hearing today in a Senate committee.
County officials told the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee today that SB 0495, SB 0496, SB 0497 and SB 0498 end years of unfunded mandates passed down from the state on a “go forward basis.” It would not apply to the many past unfunded mandates locals and school districts feel they’ve been hit with through the years that they don’t have the money to fight in court. Ottawa County Administrator Alan VANDERBERG called the legislation a “great compromise” in the sense that the state has imposed $1 billion in new mandates on county governments since the Headlee Amendment allegedly ended the practice in 1978. The legislation would end the new mandates, which on its own is a “huge win for local governments,” he said. The Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) has been leading the charge on a bill package that follows a 2009 recommendation from the Legislative Commission on Statutory Mandates on ways to end unfunded mandates from the state to local governments. A 2010 report from this group found that local governments are on the hook for up to $2.6 billion in unfunded mandates for that year alone (See “Report: Locals Slapped With $2.6B In Unfunded Mandates,” 2/24/10). http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=3269#22841 “We believe that unfunded mandates are just as inappropriate when the federal government does it to the state as when the state does it to local government,” said Sen. Tom CASPERSON (R-Escanaba), the sponsor of the lead bill in the package, SB 0495. Marquette County Administrator Scott ERBISCH spoke of the hardships of declining state dollars at a time when a majority of their revenues go to services — like the courts, health and the jail — continue to go up. In 2011, 22 percent of the county’s general fund came from state sources. In 2013, that was down to 13 percent. From 2001 to 2013, the direct cost to operate the courts rose 23 percent while state funding to operate the courts has decreased by 20 percent. “We ask for your consideration. We support them. We’re looking forward and not backwards.” The unfunded mandates can be as small as an EMS bill that requires further training for those personnel who deal with opiate overdoses or that counties only purchase U.S. flags that are made in the United States, said Deena BOSWORTH of the Michigan Association of Counties. They can also be as large as the increase in costs for public health department to implement a “fantastic public policy” change as the smoking ban. Alger County is a small county that is struggling to get by with its population of less than 10,000 people, said Alger County Commissioner Jerry DOUCETTE. The state is forcing their inmates on the counties for longer periods of time. Meanwhile townships are running so many millages, it’s not advantage for the county to try one its own. “Remember, our state is made up of a lot of small counties,” Doucette said.
-From MIRS Capitol Capsule, Wednesday, April 30,2014 http://www.mirsnews.com/capsule.php?gid=4322#39316