The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

McHugh: Campaign Finance Laws 'Weaponized'

Poses threat to political free speech

Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh writes in this month’s Greater Lansing Business Monthly that political free speech is in jeopardy due to the “weaponization” of campaign finance laws by politicians.

August Opt Out Featured in Detroit News

MEA window "can be extremely confusing"

Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio was quoted in a Detroit News commentary by Ingrid Jacques, deputy editorial page editor, about the importance of teachers knowing their worker freedom rights.

“It can be extremely confusing,” he said, referring to the Michigan Education Association’s insistence that its “August window” bylaw trumps state law.

To help inform teachers of their options, the Center has created www.Augustoptout.org, a website that includes testimonials from teachers who have left the MEA and a sample form letter that teachers can use to resign from the union.

Lehman Cited in National Review

Critique of Gov. Snyder's performance

Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman is cited in an article about Gov. Rick Snyder in the upcoming issue of National Review.

The story, which calls Gov. Snyder “The Turnaround Governor,” highlights several of his administration, including eliminating the Michigan Business Tax and signing right-to-work legislation.

It also notes his push for a $1.2 billion gas tax increase as the state showers millions of dollars in corporate welfare on movie makers.

“Ideally, a government this large is plenty big enough to pay for good roads,” Lehman said of the state’s $53 billion budget. “We’re facing gas-tax increases now because lawmakers irresponsibly spent money on other things while the roads crumbled.”

What the 4th of July Means to Me

Counting my blessings

As we watch countless numbers of human beings struggle for freedom and liberty around the globe, it is good to reflect upon the blessings we enjoy in the land that we love — this United States of America.

This is my 67th Fourth of July celebration and my memories of the day are some of those very blessings…family time in many places. All were amazing…captivated by fireworks in small-town America…aboard a small boat on the Mississippi River and also a huge cruise liner in Alaska…on the Palace Green in Williamsburg, Va.…in several baseball parks…attending the Baltimore Symphony at Oregon Ridge…attending the Detroit Symphony at the Henry Ford…and zooming across the night sky on a flight to Europe. My blessings include travel to all 50 states and there is something of interest and beauty to be found in each. The US of A is one of my greatest blessings in life.

Our late Senior Vice President Joseph P. Overton penned the following many years ago to be included in our holiday policy:

All staff are encouraged to celebrate Independence Day with passion and verve, remembering it as the signatory day of a document embodying the most sublime of political ideals, an apogee in mankind's quest for liberty of thought and action, the restoration of which is the vision of our organization.

I remember reading this for the first time and being so grateful I had landed in an organization representing so well my own values! One of my nicknames is "the red, white and blue grandma" and I am delighted that a young child recognized what is important to me. Those colors are seen in my apparel, my jewelry, my home and office décor and in the flag that flies 24 hours a day at my home.

My pride in being an American knows no bounds. I am a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution because of a patriot whose service I documented. I am the proud daughter of a father who served his country stateside as a factory worker supplying goods to troops during WWII and the proud daughter-in-law of an Omaha Beach hero. From my patriot great-great-great-great grandfather to my fathers from the greatest generation, my heritage is strong and greatly appreciated.

I will celebrate with passion and verve and count my blessings. As my favorite stanza from "My Country 'Tis of Thee" says, may freedom's holy light be forever bright!

July 3, 2014, MichiganVotes Weekly Vote Report

See who voted for bills on drug testing welfare applicants, vehicle trade-in tax, killing unlicensed dogs, among other issues

While the Legislature is adjourned for a primary election campaign break, the Roll Call Report is reviewing key votes of the 2013-2014 session.

House Bill 4369, Codify "education achievement authority" for failed schools: Passed 57 to 53 in the House on March 21, 2013

To codify in statute the powers and structure of a state "education achievement authority" (already created by means of an administrative "interlocal agreement"), which is an office in the Department of Education tasked with managing, overseeing or contracting out the operations of public schools deemed to have failed academically. Since this vote the measure has bounced between the House and Senate twice with many amendments adopted but no final agreement.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4378, Repeal interior designer registration: Passed 110 to 0 in the House on March 21, 2013

To repeal a law that establishes a government interior designer registry and makes it available to state or local government agencies. To be included on the registry a designer must have passed a test created by a national organization of incumbent interior designers. This organization has sought repeatedly in this state to impose a full licensure and regulatory regime on interior designers, with several bills introduced in previous legislatures.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4026, Require posting of agency agreements with feds, other states: Passed 109 to 0 in the House on April 10, 2013

To require that before a state agency or a local government enters a cross-border memorandum of understanding, agreement, compact, or similar binding agreement with the federal government or another state, it must do a review to determine it does not exceed its authority or violate the state constitution. New and existing agreements would be posted on this state website. In 2012, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a nearly identical bill that passed the legislature with no opposition. The measure has not been taken up by the Senate.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4139, Eliminate “peace bonds”: Passed 88 to 22 in the House on April 11, 2013

To repeal a section of criminal law that authorizes a judge to order a "peace bond" from an individual who has threatened to commit an offense against the person or property of another. This is not the same as the much more common "personal protection orders" used in domestic violence, stalking and similar cases, and there are concerns that peace bonds have been used to abridge individuals' free speech rights. The Senate has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4118, Require drug testing of welfare applicants: Passed 77 to 33 in the House on May 1, 2013

To require drug testing of state welfare benefit recipients or applicants if an "empirical screening tool" indicates a reasonable suspicion, and prohibit benefits for six months if a person tests positive a second time (or refuses "treatment" the first time). If the recipient has children, an appropriate "protective payee" would be designated to receive welfare benefits on their behalf. This would begin as a one-year pilot program in three counties.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4363, Ban local governmental body "phone-in" voting: Passed 92 to 14 in the House on May 16, 2013

To establish that if a member of a public body is allowed to cast a vote on a decision by the body without being physically present, it is a violation of the state Open Meetings Act. The Senate has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4168, Repeal mandate for sheriffs to kill unlicensed dogs: Passed 106 to 0 in the House on May 16, 2013

To repeal a 1919 law that requires county sheriffs to locate and kill all unlicensed dogs, and which defines failure to do so as nonfeasance in office.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4234, Vehicle trade-in "sales tax on the difference": Passed 100 to 7 in the House on June 6, 2013

To exempt from sales tax the value of a trade-in on the purchase of a new vehicle, recreational vehicle or titled watercraft. The buyer would only pay sales tax on the difference between the value of the trade-in and the purchase price of the new item. This would eventually save new car buyers (and/or dealers) some $220 million annually when fully phased-in after six years.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4369, Codify "education achievement authority" for failed schools

The Senate vote on the "education achievement authority" bill described above. The House subsequently made additional changes (including adding a cap on the number of academically failed schools the authority can take over) and the measure is still pending.

House Bill 4378, Repeal interior designer registration: Passed 27 to 10 in the Senate on June 2, 2014

The Senate vote on the bill described above. Gov. Rick Snyder signed this into law on June 21.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4118, Require drug testing of welfare applicants: Passed 25 to 11 in the Senate on March 20, 2014

The Senate vote on the bill described above. The Senate changed some details, and concurrence is still pending in the House.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4168, Repeal mandate for sheriffs to kill unlicensed dogs: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate on February 27, 2014

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on March 11.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4234, Vehicle trade-in "sales tax on the difference": Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate on October 22, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. The Senate version did not extend this tax break to boat buyers. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Nov. 5, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE: MichiganVotes.org, a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, non-partisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit http://www.MichiganVotes.org.

Detroit News: MERC Ruling a 'Win' for Students

Center provided legal help for U-M grad students

An editorial today in The Detroit News declares the recent ruling by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that graduate student research assistants cannot be forced into a union a “win” for the students.

MERC recently confirmed its 1981 decision that said GSRAs at public universities were students and not employees, and therefore could not be unionized. The editorial cited the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which represented about 370 GSRAs who objected to the unionization attempts.

“Were pleased that MERC recognized that our clients are students and not employees,” Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs, told The News. “They were simply trying to further their education.”

Wilcox in Detroit News

SCOTUS decision's Michigan roots

Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox explains in The Detroit News how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn Monday has its roots in a legal battle the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation first drew attention to in 2011.

The Court’s ruling brings an end nationwide to the type of stealth unionization and dues skim that in Michigan took $34 million away from our state’s most vulnerable residents before it ended.

Reitz in The American Spectator

Commentary on SEIU defeat

Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz has a commentary online at The American Spectator about Monday’s Supreme Court ruling that put an end to the forced unionization scheme of home-based caregivers across the country.

Reitz noted the similarities of the case to a similar dues skim that occurred here in Michigan, and how Justice Alito, writing for the majority, echoed a point the Center made in amicus brief we filed in the case.

Media Cite Center on Supreme Court Case

SEIU-type dues skim outlawed

Patrick J. Wright, vice president for legal affairs, told The Detroit News that today’s Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn that outlaws the forced unionization of home-based caregivers in Illinois and several other states is “similar to what we went through in Michigan with the SEIU’s stealth unionization of caregivers and the ensuing dues skim.”

Wright also told the Detroit Free Press that the ruling “could potentially be helpful in ongoing litigation aimed at returning some of the dues money” skimmed by the SEIU, and he was cited by Fox News on the same issue.

Wright discussed the ruling on “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR AM760 just moments after it was released Monday morning and told Michigan Radio that this "settles the issue in Michigan and nationally." He told the MIRS Capitol Capsule that the Center has contended all along that "you can't force a person into a public-sector union simply because a portion of their income is derived from public dollars."

Paul Kersey, labor policy director at the Illinois Policy Institute who formerly held the same position at the Center, wrote about the decision in USA Today.

Insurance 52% to 119% Costlier Under Obamacare

County level comparisons now available

The Manhattan Institute has just released an interactive map comparing on a county-by-county basis the least expensive individual health insurance policies available before and after the federal health care law went into effect.

To make the analysis more fair, the earlier rates are adjusted to reflect higher prices paid by individuals with pre-existing conditions (the methodology is explained here). These are then compared to the lowest rates currently available on the federal exchange.

In Michigan, statewide average rates for men ages 27, 40 and 64 rose 107 percent, 73 percent and 52 percent, respectively. For women of the same ages, statewide average rates rose 119 percent, 57 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Those changes vary widely by county, however. Here is a sample:

InsurancePolicies

These are the rates of the underlying insurance policies. Individuals in households with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty rate are eligible for the law's sliding-scale subsidies. However, even with subsidies it appears many or most households are paying more. The map's website also provides the statewide average income level at which insurance costs for representative households exceed the pre-Obamacare rates even when subsidies are included.

For example, the break-even point for a 40-year-old man in a household of three is a family income of $37,226. Above that level, insurance costs are higher even with an Obamacare subsidy. Statewide, the median income level for such households is $61,700. In other words, far more households of this size may be paying more under the new law than are benefitting from it. In many, if not all parts of the state, this is certainly the case.

For women age 27 in a household with three people, the statewide break-even point is $32,262. The median income level for such households is $37,100 in Michigan.

On a statewide basis both men and women age 64 at the median income for this group appear to be net winners under the law. With subsidies, their insurance costs are the same or less under the new law as before it went into effect. In many counties that may not be the case, however.

According to recent press reports, Michigan rates are about to increase even more. Blue Cross Blue Shield, which controls more than 70 percent of the market for those who buy their own insurance rather than getting it from an employer, says these rates will increase more than 9 percent in 2015. (According to one analysis, the really big increases will happen in 2017.)

Barring another extra-legal administrative fiat further suspending enforcement of Obamacare's employer mandate, the number of individuals affected by these individual rates may expand as the mandate phases-in in 2015 and 2016. That's because the law's penalty for employers who don't provide insurance is considerably less than the cost of providing it, creating an incentive to drop insurance and let employees find their own coverage on the federal exchange.

Forbes senior editor Avik Roy provides more details about the interactive map here, and responds to criticism from supporters of the federal health care law here.