DALLAS – Reforms of Michigan's emergency manager law were among the 30 policy changes recommended in a report released Wednesday by a special state legislative committee formed to examine the Flint water.
"From the start, I have emphasized that the committee's role was not to find fault or blame, but to offer solutions to help the people of Flint and to prevent a similar event from happening anywhere else in Michigan," Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, chairman of the Joint Select Committee on the Flint Water Emergency, said in a press statement.
The bipartisan committee, which also included Senate Majority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, who served as vice chair -- met six times between March and May and took over 18 hours of testimony from more than 60 witnesses.
"The report does not focus on the cost associated with each proposal but does specify that these proposals are for consideration and would be subjected to the legislative process," said Senate Republican spokeswoman Amber McCann.
. Michigan's emergency management system, in which the state governor appoints a manager with extensive powers over a troubled municipality or school district that meets certain criteria, was launched in 1990. It's the state's go-to method for dealing with local government financial trouble.
Gov. Rick Snyder has been criticized for EM-driven decisions that led Flint to break off from Detroit Water and Sewerage System in 2014 when its contract to receive Detroit-supplied water ended and to improperly treat its new source of water.
The report proposes replacing the emergency management system with a three-person panel that consists of a financial expert, a local government operations expert, and an ombudsman to local officials and residents.
The report also proposes prohibit an emergency manager from changing a public drinking water source without the approval of experts and a majority of the electors of the locality.
"The families in Flint are most interested in results, and that's what we must deliver," said Ananich in a press statement. "The challenge for this legislature now is whether we can get results on some of these reforms I've said all along we need to change the state's emergency manager law and this misguided culture."
Michigan is spending $240 million as part of the 2017 budget to deal with the Flint water crisis. The state has allocated funding for items like corrosion control, water quality testing, nutritional services, lead investigations and educational supports.
Flint elected to use Flint River water as it awaited the completion, expected this year, of the bond-financed Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline being built by Genesee County. It didn't properly treat the river water, leading to corroded pipes that remained lead-contaminated even after the system returned to Detroit-supplied water last year.
Members of the House and Senate have already introduced legislation to further some of the other short-term goals in the report, such as the use of the Health Endowment Fund to provide relief services in Flint and the ability for Flint to create a recovery authority.