Commissioners Reject Court Budget Approval Over Abortion Coverage

Once again, the issue of abortion has taken center-stage with the Livingston County Board of Commissioners.

A resolution was rejected by a tie-vote Monday requesting approval of the tentative three-year agreement between the Courts, Michigan Association of Public Employees. Commissioners Carol Griffith, Kate Lawrence, Dennis Dolan and Don Parker supported the measure, while Commissioners Bob Bezotte, Doug Helzerman, William Green, and Wes Nakagiri voted against it. Commissioner Gary Childs was absent.

While Nakagiri says his primary reason for voting no was court overstaffing as determined by the findings of the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) which, in 2011, concluded that Livingston County courts were overstaffed. He says a subsequent report issued in 2019 by SCAO concludes that the courts are still overstaffed. The overstaffing, according to Nakagiri, is the primary reason why he voted against adoption of the entire County/Court budget last November. Speaking to the resolution presented to the Board of Commissioners Monday, Nakagiri tells WHMI he “could not in good conscience vote to approve a contract which further exacerbates the overspending on Court salaries and benefits.”

Nakagiri also cites Resolution 2019-08-121, which he proposed and the Board passed in August. The resolution terminated taxpayer funding of elective abortion coverage in Livingston County’s employee health insurance plans. The court agreement retained that coverage. Nakagiri says Livingston County Court leadership has decided they do not wish to comply with the resolution, but that it’s unclear whether the Court system has the authority to do that or not. Nakagiri adds that issue must first be resolved before the Board can have further discussions. He alleges Court leadership characterized the resolution as a “reduction of benefits” that he says “they are unwilling to accept.”

Also speaking Monday on the issue was Commissioner Helzerman, who said all life, no matter how small, is worthwhile. Former Commissioner Dave Domas also addressed the board and congratulated them for standing up for the unborn. The Courts technically do not need the Board’s approval so long as they stay within their budget, but it is said to be good practice to agree.

WHMI has reached out to Board Chair Don Parker and Chief Judge Michael Hatty, but has not received a response. (DK/JK)

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