The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5274

March 6, 1978


Authority to deny state or federal grant to a local unit of government.

There is no requirement that a governmental unit be a member of a regional planning commission in order to receive a federal or state grant.

The Honorable Jack Welborn

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48902

You have asked three questions concerning regional planning councils or commissions: each question will be considered in turn.

1. 'Can a local unit of government, which is not a member of a regional planning council or commission, be denied State or Federal dollars or services simply on the basis of non-membership?'

You have called my attention to 1945 PA 281, as amended, being MCLA 125.11 et seq; MSA 5.3008(1) et seq;--the state's Regional Planning Act which, in section 2, permits two or more local governmental units to create a regional planning commission.

As to state funds and services, there is no statute which requires membership in regional planning commissions as a prerequisite to receiving a federal or state grant. It is noted that state funds are often appropriated to local governments through various formulas without any regional planning membership requirements, e.g. distribution of single business tax revenues [Chapter 6 of 1975 PA 228, as amended, being MCLA 208.131 et seq; MSA 7.558(131)] et seq; and funds for highway purposes from the motor vehicle highway fund [Secs. 12 and 13 of 1951 PA 51 as last amended by 1976 PA 41, being MCLA 247.662 and 663; MSA 9.1097(12) and (13)].

The activities of the regional planning commissions are set forth in section 9 of 1945 PA 281, supra:

'The regional planning commission may conduct all types of research studies, collect and analyze data, prepare maps, charts and tables, and conduct all necessary studies for the accomplishment of its other duties; it may make plans for the physical, social and economic development of the region, and may adopt by resolution of a majority of its full membership any plan or the portion of any plan so prepared as its official recommendation for the development of the region, it may publicize and advertise its purposes, objectives and findings, and may distribute reports thereon; it may provide advisory services to the participating local governmental units and to other public and private agencies in matters relative to its functions and objectives, and may act as a coordinating agency for programs and activities of such agencies as they relate to its objectives. The regional planning commission shall make an annual report of its activities to the legislative bodies of the participating local governmental units.'

The foregoing provision permits regional planning commissions to provide advisory services to participating local governmental units and other public agencies. There is, however, no requirement that advisory services be provided to non-participating local governments. In summary, the state's Regional Planning Act permits, rather than requires, participation by local governmental units.

As to federal funds and services, the federal government has broad powers to outline the conditions under which it provides grants to local units of government. Oklahoma v U.S. Civil Service Commission, 330 US 127; 67 S Ct 544; 91 L Ed 794 (1947). In that case, the court noted at 330 US 144; 67 S Ct at 554; 91 L Ed at 807, that:

'. . . The offer of benefits to a state by the United States dependent upon cooperation by the state with federal plans, assumedly for the general welfare, is not unusual.' (Footnote omitted).

Application by local governments for many categories of federal funds includes a process whereby regional clearinghouses are notified of the application for review and comment. OMB Circular, A-95, revised, Federal Register, Vol 41, No. 8, Tuesday, January 13, 1976, Part IV. These clearinghouses are also required to seek comments from other local governmental units in the region which may have an interest in the subject matter of the application. Federal agencies take these comments into consideration in awarding federal grants.

Various regional planning groups have been designated in Michigan by the Governor to act as regional clearinghouses for this A-95 review. While the regional planning group may comment on such matters as the application's feasibility and compatibility with existing regional plans, it may not consider the applicant's non-membership in the regional planning group as a basis for unfavorable comment on the application.

2. 'If Federal and/or State Planning Funds are earmarked for the County of Kalamazoo, can the funds be sent directly to the county or is it mandatory that these funds be processed through the Region III Planning Council?'

As to state funds, 1963 Const, art 9, Sec. 17, provides:

'No money shall be paid out of the state treasury except in pursuance of appropriations made by law.'

If the appropriation specifically designates the County of Kalamazoo as the recipient then the appropriated funds should go directly to the county without any involvement of a regional planning council. Similarly, if a state agency allocates funds pursuant to an appropriation directly to the county, the funds would not be processed through a regional planning council.

As to federal funds, the current general appropriation bill, 1977 PA 98, for the Department of Management and Budget which administers certain planning funds provides in section 7 in relevant part:

'Federal pass-through funds to local organizations and governments which do not require additional state matching funds are appropriated for the purposes intended by the federal government.'

Thus, federal funds specifically designated to the County of Kalamazoo would go directly to the county in accordance with the federal designation.

Certain state and federal planning funds may be directed to regional planning councils either by direct appropriation or, indirectly, by appropriation to another governmental agency to be distributed in accordance with standards. These regional planning councils may, in turn, contract with local governments and others to assist them in the planning process. The terms of those contracts, including the amount of planning funds to be paid for such services, are to be negotiated by those parties.

3. 'If the funds must be sent through Region III, is it legal for the Region III Planning Council to deduct 15% of the total funds for their administration costs?'

Since funds earmarked for a specific county government are not required to be processed through a regional planning council, it is not necessary to answer this question.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General