On March 1, township officials from across the state convened in Lansing today for the Michigan Townships Association’s (MTA) 2023 Capital Conference to gather insights and information on key township issues at the forefront in Lansing, including the need for investments in local communities, preservation of local control and modernizing local governance.
“Your commitment to public service and advocating on behalf of township government is vital,” MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan told attendees. “Legislation eroding local control and preempting township authority is introduced and debated every day at the Capitol. We need your help to ensure that townships can continue to provide valued and essential services to more than half of Michigan’s residents.”
Following Sheridan’s remarks, 2022 MTA President Bill Deater also welcomed attendees, noting that the day represents the unity of townships coming together to support local government. “Today is about townships and speaking with one voice—united to ensure state legislators and departments are thinking about townships when they discuss new laws and policy that affect our communities and our residents.”
MTA’s Capital Conference allowed attendees—who traveled from as far as Luce County to attend the annual event—to hear firsthand from experts on critical issues that will impact townships and their residents. The morning general sessions explored two topics impacting townships in all areas of the state: an overview from the state Bureau of Elections of the changes to local elections due to Proposal 2022-2, approved by voters in November, followed by considerations and available resources when considering renewable energy projects, by expert Dr. Sarah Banas Mills from the University of Michigan.
Following a networking lunch where officials were able to share their perspectives and experiences with lawmakers and legislative staff, attendees took part in a State Department Expo. Afternoon breakout sessions at the annual event included state efforts to improve access to broadband, an update on the new Part 115 changes to state solid waste laws, transportation funding and marijuana regulation. Attendees heard from staff of the Michigan Office of High-Speed Internet and the federal National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Michigan Recycling Coalition, state Cannabis Regulatory Agency, and House Fiscal Agency.
The afternoon concluded with a panel of legislators who held township office prior to their election to statewide office, sharing their experiences at both the local and state level and advice for engaging with state leaders. Panelists included Sens. Kevin Daley (R-Arcadia Twp.) and Sue Shink (D-Northfield Twp.) and Reps. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Chtr. Twp.) and Donni Steele (R-Orion Chtr. Twp.).
“Being involved in township government, you are part of the change in the community where you live and can see the results of what you put forth,” Steele said, who began her township participation as the Safety Path Committee before being elected trustee and then as treasurer. “I wanted to do the same thing at the state level, and be part of the growth and change at the state level, similar to what you experience at the local level.”