Changes to emergency manager law among recommendations from bipartisan committee on Flint

Oct 20, 2016
Originally published on October 21, 2016 1:14 pm

Lawmakers have ideas for how to ensure there is not a repeat of the Flint water crisis.

A report released Wednesday by State Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, makes 36 recommendations.

The recommendations include smaller, quicker fixes like increasing the criminal penalty for misconduct by public officials if someone experiences bodily harm as a result, and reestablishing the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Commission.

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The report also includes longer term ideas like overhauling lead standards, establishing a commission to oversee Michigan’s environmental protection department, and testing children’s teeth for lead.

Stamas released the report after months of meetings of a joint House and Senate committee.

“Not all of our members have agreed with everything in it,” Stamas says, “but at the same time I think we’ve covered a very large part of what these issues were.”

One of the recommendations is to replace emergency managers with a three-person "Financial Management Team." The team would be made up of a financial expert, a local government operations expert, and a local ombudsman.

Stamas said having more than one person in the emergency manager role ensures a better balance. 

“Having three individuals is how I think, a better approach to ensure that we have a more balanced look at how we’re affecting the communities as we take a very difficult situation and try to rectify it,” he says.  

However, some members of the committee were unaware the report was being released.

State Representative Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, says he did not see the report in advance and he has some concerns.

“I’m disappointed with the level of specificity,” he says. “I’m disappointed with the dearth of real solutions. There are so many places here in the report where they kind of punt the tough issues to future Legislature.”

The report could yield legislation to enact the recommendations – although it’s not clear when. 

You can listen to Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta and State Senator Jim Ananich, D-Flint, talk about the recommendations made in the report released today.

 

Reporters caught up with Sens. Stamas and Ananich in Lansing today. See this clip from MLive:

 
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