August Issues 2020

Because of the economic uncertainties surrounding the Covid shut downs and extra expenses to deal with efforts to slow the spread of the disease, the Board of Commissioners has instituted a hiring freeze across the board as a method to control our largest expense in the budget salaries and benefits. This Monday we made several decisions that were largely affected by the necessity to maintain a high bond rating and to perform the necessary functions of government while balancing the budget.

 The Board made some divided decisions. The first was to deny the filling of the full-time position of teacher in the jail.  The second vote was   not to give $ 500,000. toward the constructing of a separate building to be used in preparation of meals for Meals on Wheels, which serves all of Livingston and the Western side of Oakland County (with no contribution from that county). These decisions were driven by the anticipated lowering of revenue and increased expenses. I voted “yes” in the 4-4 unsuccessful vote to fill the vital teaching position for those incarcerated in our jail. In my mind, the hiring freeze left room to allow positions to be considered one by one as to their importance, also considering whether the responsibilities could be performed by other current employees for now.  (A real picture of the county’s ability to balance its budget will later be established.)  I voted for this because the position makes a huge difference in the lives of the young people in jail and has been an integral part of our efforts to give offenders the tools and vision to go back into society permanently.  A contributing factor in regards to this job was that the position is 100% paid for by the “commissary funds” that generate income from inmate phone services and other items that are purchased in the jail.  

The Meals on Wheels building vote was 1 to 7. I, sadly, thought it best to join the majority. The biggest reason for saying no was that $500,000. given in a lump-sum at this time had the potential of causing other cuts in the county that would be necessary to maintain a balanced budget. We believe that we will be able revisit this in the next fiscal year. This is a project to which individuals and civic organizations could donate to help the project come to life. I would be happy to share the details to anyone who would like to know more. 

As a citizen, I have read both the majority and the dissenting opinions given by the Michigan Court of Appeals concerning the Governor’s continuing use of emergency orders without the approval of the law -making branch of government.

The majority opinion gave no satisfactory answer to my question: “What are the limits to one-person rule?”

Our system wisely gives one person the authority to act unilaterally under times of crisis and to have broad powers to give “reasonable” rules to bring each “affected area” under “control.” But there are understood limits.

The majority opinion concluded that it was solely the prerogative of the Governor to declare an emergency and it was solely her/his prerogative to declare the end of the emergency and that the Governor retains broad powers to deal with any crisis indefinitely. They gave no direction as to the meaning of “reasonable,” “affected area,” or “under control.” The meaning of these terms are left to the purview of one person, the Governor. They further indicated the words “28 days” of the 1976 law were overridden by the words of the 1945 law which does gives full discretion to only the Governor to declare an end of an emergency.

The Minority ruling stated that both laws should be read together and that all of the provisions of both should be observed to the fullest degree possible and that the 1976 law had the supremacy because it came after the 1945 Law. The later law broadened the meaning of a public crisis to particularly include an “epidemic” as a possible reason to declare a crisis. While broadening the reasons to declare a crisis, it also gave the legislature a part in determining if the condition is still a “crisis” at the end of 28 days.

Just for your consideration, on the day that the crisis is declared to be over, all of the Governor’s orders will have no effect and any policy that draws its authority from an executive order dealing with the virus will be null and void. All of these special powers given to the governor will vanish. We will have to think for ourselves again as free people. We will see when the Governor will trust the legislature to be partners in what has (in my opinion) been a “one-man show”.

I appreciate all of the input that I have received. I give all comments serious consideration. Please fell free to contact me a dhelzerman@livgov.com or 517-375-4869.

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