As previously reported, Michigan has nearly 1,000 ‘interlocal agreements’ (ILAs) on the books. While many of these agreements may do what was intended when written into the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967, (such as allow two or more governmental units to share so-called ‘core functions’ like public safety or water usage) others have been manipulated to accomplish such underhanded schemes like turning private residents into government employee union members or forming economic development agencies that hand out tax breaks and subsidies to select industries and businesses.

As a service to the public and in the interest of transparency, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has built and made available a searchable database of all interlocal agreements on file with the Secretary of State.

Again, of note, are 58 ILAs involving the Michigan Economic Development Corporation which itself is a product of an interlocal agreement; the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3); the (now dissolved) Michigan Home-Based Child Care Council (MHBCCC) and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC).  

In the meantime, Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, has proposed what he calls a “series of solutions” to the ILA problem. He says the governor should be responsible for interlocal agreements and on a yearly basis verify the agreements’ efficacy, appropriateness and legality.

Manipulation of ILA is not the only form of such administrative exploitation that has gotten lawmakers’ attention. In January, Rep. Paul Opsommer, R-DeWitt, introduced HB 4116, which requires the Attorney General to approve all agreements with other states or the federal government. These agreements include “any memorandum of understanding, agreement, compact or similar binding agreement.”

For instance a May 12, 2008,Memorandum of Understanding” between Michigan and the United Kingdom pledged that the state and the UK would “work jointly to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and increase climate-friendly commerce”.

Opsommer says these agreements are even more egregious than ILAs in that there’s no requirement for tracking them. That’s why his measure also calls for the AG to keep a website of all such agreements, including the ones that were not approved and reasons for rejection, Opsommer told the Mackinac Center.  

"I was shocked to find out how little even the Legislative Service Bureau could find on MOAs," he said. "No one knows how many we have or what they all do. Some may just be innocuous pieces of paper lying in a drawer somewhere while others carry the force of law and guide policy behind the scenes. But since there is no central repository for them we just don't know.”

Opsommer also correctly encapsulates what can happen without proper oversight: “Just like rogue administrative rules are sometimes not authorized in statute, or go beyond their authorized scope, we need to make sure MOAs aren't being used to skirt the legislature."