Government Matters: Week in review, April 24-28

Kent County names Interim Administrator to start July 1

By Lisa LaPlante, Kent County

The Kent County Board of Commissioners has announced that Assistant County Administrator Wayman Britt will take over as Interim County Administrator/Controller on July 1, 2017. Britt has been with Kent County since 2004, serving as management oversight for the Kent County Health Department, the Community Development and Housing Department, and the Veterans Services Department.

In addition, he is the liaison for the State Department of Health and Human Services, and is responsible for several community initiatives such as the Kent County Family and Children’s Coordinating Council.

Prior to beginning his career with the County in 2004, Britt held several management positions at Steelcase, Inc. and Michigan National Bank – Central. Britt holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Michigan.

Britt has served on numerous boards and councils, including the Gerald R. Ford Council Boy Scouts of America, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Board of Trustees, Treasurer of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market Board of Directors, the West Michigan Sports Commission, Grand Rapids Job Corps Community Relations Council, and Kent County American Red Cross Executive Board.

Current Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio retires on June 30, 2017, wrapping up a career spanning four decades in municipal management.

Peters, Gardner introduce bill to keep government research data publicly available

By Allison Green

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced bipartisan legislation to help federal agencies maintain open access to machine-readable databases and datasets created by taxpayer-funded research. The Preserving Data in Government Act would require federal agencies to preserve public access to existing open datasets, and prevent the removal of existing datasets without sufficient public notice. Small businesses rely on a range of publicly available machine-readable datasets to launch or grow their companies, and researchers and scientists use data to conduct studies for a variety of fields and industries.

“Research data that has been collected using taxpayer dollars should be publicly accessible and easily searchable,” said Senator Peters. “Small businesses and individuals rely on federally produced information for everything from long-term planning to innovative product development to help grow their companies and create jobs.”

Stabenow introduces bipartisan Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act to protect Michigan Seniors’ access to ambulance services

By Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has introduced the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act, which would make permanent key Medicare reimbursements to ambulance service providers and would ensure seniors and other people in Michigan continue to have access to life-saving services.

Ambulance service providers are an essential part of our local and national health care and emergency response systems, and are often the only provider of emergency medical services for their communities. There more than 200 ambulance service providers in Michigan, including small businesses, fire departments, hospitals, cities, and counties, that rely on Medicare reimbursements to provide emergency care and support jobs in local communities.

Senator Stabenow’s bill makes permanent the 2% urban and 3% rural reimbursement as well as a 25.6% reimbursement for areas that are classified as “super-rural,” meaning they represent the lowest measure of population density. If the Medicare reimbursements are not extended before they expire at the end of 2017, Michigan ambulance providers could lose up to $4 million per year.

Stabenow joins group of 19 senators calling on Republican leaders to focus on funding for opioid crisis and medical research

By Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has joined a group of 19 senators calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to include a substantial increase in funds for the fight against the nation’s opioid epidemic and additional investments in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as part of the Continuing Resolution currently being negotiated in Congress to avert a government shutdown. Last year in Michigan, research funding for the NIH supported 10,817 jobs and $1.7 billion in economic activity.

The senators asked for additional resources to address the nation’s opioid crisis, particularly those communities which have been hit hardest by the epidemic, noting that only ten percent of people with substance abuse disorder receive specialty treatment due in large part to lack of funding for services. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan had the 7th most drug overdose deaths of any state in 2015, a 13 percent increase from the year before.


Senator Stabenow’s statement following Great Lakes Task Force meeting on Asian carp

By Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has released the following statement after a bicameral meeting on near- and long-term measures to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, including the status on the Tentatively Selected Plan for the Brandon Road Study:

“It’s deeply irresponsible for the Trump Administration to continue to block the Army Corp from releasing a critical plan to permanently address the threat of Asian carp to our Great Lakes. There is no reason to gamble with the future of our Great Lakes because a narrow group of special interests do not recognize that Asian carp is a problem. In our bipartisan, bicameral meeting today, we sent a clear message that it’s past time to take action to create a permanent solution to the threat of Asian carp.”

Senator Stabenow led the Great Lakes Task Force meeting, which was attended by officials from the White House, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Service. In February, the Trump Administration prevented the Army Corps from releasing the draft plan for stopping further movement of Asian carp in the Illinois River.


Peters urges colleagues to support funding for farm loans

By Allison Green

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke on the Senate Floor on the need to support Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan programs. The Farm Service Agency works with lenders to guarantee and deliver loans to the small farms that need them the most. In June 2016, FSA operating loans faced a significant funding shortfall due to high demand, and hundreds of farmers whose loans had already been approved could not receive the funds they needed until Congress passed emergency appropriations in December 2016. Peters is leading a bipartisan letter urging Congressional appropriators to provide robust funding for Farm Service Agency loan programs in the 2018 budget.



“Small farms that are just starting out — or are facing tough economic conditions — sometimes struggle to secure affordable credit. That is why I am working across the aisle with Senator Tillis to urge Congressional Appropriators to fully fund Farm Service Agency loan programs as Congress considers government funding bills for 2018.

“Access to capital is critical across a range of businesses, but it is incredibly important for our farmers,” said Peters. “They can lose out on entire growing seasons if they can’t buy the equipment and supplies they need while they wait on Congress to fund the Farm Service Agency.”


Michigan delegation members join bipartisan push to keep EPA Region 5 Office open

By Miranda Margowsky

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Representatives John Conyers Jr, Sander Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, and Brenda Lawrence sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stressing the importance of the Great Lakes.

Following reports that the Trump Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — which serves Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio — as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget, U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Representatives John Conyers Jr., Sander Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, and Brenda Lawrence joined a bipartisan push calling for the Region 5 office to remain intact and fully supported. In a bicameral letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, members of Congress from the Great Lakes region stressed the importance of the Great Lakes, which provide 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and are a source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.

“We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget. EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5,” the members wrote.