Updating the Open Meetings Act to meet the 21st century needs of state residents and preventing an ill-advised attempt to privatize Michigan’s locally directed system of public mental health services head the list of legislative priorities for Michigan counties this year, the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) announced Jan. 26.
Legislative action in 2020-21 allowed county boards and other local panels to address the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the changes also resulted in making the act less responsive in 2022 by barring the votes of public officials participating remotely when a physical quorum was present at a meeting.
“Quick action by the state in 2020 allowed county boards to meet remotely during the pandemic in a safe manner, but those changes ended up removing a key option for local officials to participate in governance in specific situations,” explained Deena Bosworth, MAC’s director of governmental affairs. “We will be focused on OMA reform with legislators to resolve this problem as soon as possible.”
MAC also will continue its efforts with a broad coalition opposed to a mental health privatization scheme embedded in Senate Bill 597-598, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson). Boards in more than 40 counties already have passed resolutions opposing privatization of mental health services, which face growing demands for care and persistent state underfunding.
Other goals for 2022 in Lansing are:
- Enacting Reforms to Ensure Proper Funding of Local Courts
- Creating a Fair Revenue Sharing System for Counties
- Compensating Local Governments for Funds Diverted by the Veterans Property Tax Exemption
- Revamping the PPT Exemption to Provide Annual Reimbursement to Locals
- Adopting the MI Roadmap to Use ARP Funds for Historic Investments in Michigan
“These goals reflect months of meetings and discussions by our policy committees of elected county leaders, by our Board of Directors and by our membership,” said Stephan Currie, MAC’s executive director. “These items constitute the ‘Regional Agenda,’ if you will, from Michigan’s original regional governments, our 83 counties.”