The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

AP Story on Teacher Opt Outs Goes National

More than 100 news outlets have coverage

An Associated Press story about teachers opting out of the Michigan Education Association this month has drawn large-scale attention, appearing in more than 100 news outlets around the country, including The Detroit NewsHuffington Post, Education Week, Bloomberg Businessweek, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Antonio News-Express, Townhall, the Las Vegas Sun, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Investor’s Business Daily, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, the Houston Chronicle, the Albany Times-Union, Salon, Crain’s Detroit Business, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, WJRT-TV12 in Flint and WILX-TV10 in Lansing.

Teachers looking for information about their rights can visit to learn more.

Gov. Granholm Teaching Class on Job Creation

LaFaive: "Recommend students stay away"

Fox News and The College Fix are reporting on the irony of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm teaching a graduate-level course this fall at the University of California-Berkeley that will focus on “creating jobs through better government policies.”

The College Fix noted that Michigan unemployment was 6.6 percent when Gov. Granholm first took office, but more than doubled — to 14.2 percent — by 2009.

Michael LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, said that spike came about after Gov. Granholm pushed for an 11 percent tax hike.

“My reaction is to recommend students stay away unless her section of the class is a lesson in what not to do,” LaFaive told Fox News.

As LaFaive noted in 2011, Gov. Granholm was just one of many Michiganders who left the state to find work after her time in office was over.

While the Legislature is on a summer break the Roll Call Report is reviewing key votes of the 2013-2014 session.

Note: There will be no Roll Call Report next week. The House has a session scheduled for Aug. 27, and if there are any noteworthy votes they will be reported in the following week's report.

House Bill 4782, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime: Passed 87 to 23 in the House on November 14, 2013

To authorize creation of a sixth “Next Michigan Development Corporation,” which is a government agency that gives tax breaks and subsidies to particular corporations and developers selected by political appointees, for projects meeting extremely broad "multi-modal commerce" criteria (basically, any form of goods-related commerce). The new entity would be in the Upper Peninsula.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4688, Repeal licensure mandates for dietitians and nutritionists: Passed 71 to 39 in the House on November 13, 2013

To repeal a law that imposes a licensure mandate on dietitians and nutritionists. The mandate has not been enforced since it was authorized in 2006 because the state licensure agency was unable to devise acceptable credentialing and education requirements.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4044, Ban mandating all health insurance go through the "exchange": Passed 72 to 37 in the House on December 12, 2013.

To prohibit a state “exchange” created under the federal health care law from mandating that insurance companies must sell all health insurance policies through the exchange. The Michigan legislature elected to let the federal government create an exchange here rather than create a state-run version, so the measure would only have effect if that choice is later reversed. The Senate has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4816, Require insurers disclose federal health care law price hikes in bills: Passed 67 to 42 in the House on December 12, 2013

To require that customer health insurance bills include an estimate of how much of any price increase was caused by mandates and regulations imposed by the federal health care law. The Senate has not taken up this bill.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4576, Regulate federal health care law “navigators”: Passed 102 to 7 in the House on December 12, 2013

To impose regulation and a "certification" requirement on the “navigators” authorized by the federal health care law to assist persons applying for government-subsidized health insurance benefits through the "exchange." The bill authorizes background checks, testing and training requirements, and more. The Senate has passed a similar bill (Senate Bill 324), but neither bill has yet been passed by the other body.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 5104, Authorize medical “marijuana infused products”: Passed 100 to 9 in the House on December 12, 2013

To authorize the use of “marijuana infused products” under the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana law. This is defined to include any "topical formulation, tincture, beverage, edible substance, or similar product intended for human consumption in a manner other than smoking." The bill is currently pending on the Senate floor.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4271, Authorize and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries: Passed 95 to 14 in the House on December 12, 2013

To authorize and establish a comprehensive regulatory regime for medical marijuana dispensaries, including municipal licensure or prohibition, with civil and criminal penalties for violations. The provisions of the state's voter-initiated medical marijuana law were ambiguous about dispensaries, and the state Supreme Court banned them early in 2013. The bill is pending on the Senate floor.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4486, Authorize involuntary treatment for substance abuse: Passed 102 to 8 in the House on February 13, 2014

To allow relatives or a health care professional to petition a court to take an individual abusing drugs or alcohol into protective custody for involuntary treatment if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person presents an imminent danger or threat to himself or others. The bill prescribes specific procedures, requirements and limitations on involuntary treatment.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4782, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime: Passed 31 to 6 in the Senate on December 11, 2013

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on Dec. 21, 2013.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4688, Repeal licensure mandates for dietitians and nutritionists: Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate on June 11, 2014

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on July 1.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

House Bill 4486, Authorize involuntary treatment for substance abuse: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate on June 3, 2014

The Senate vote on the bill described above. This was signed into law on June. 24.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE:, 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

Media Continues to Cover MEA's 'August Window'

Union still threatening those who stopped paying dues

The Lansing State Journal and WZZM TV-13 in Grand Rapids are both reporting on efforts by Michigan Education Association members to opt out of the union and the roadblocks they are facing. MEA members can visit for more information.

Small Tent or Big Tent?

Why political parties are missing the larger picture

An analogy used to describe the extent to which a political party is exclusive or inclusive is whether or not it is a “big tent” or a “small tent.” This analogy is most commonly employed in reference to the Republican Party. In essence, the terms “big tent” and “small tent” are used to describe the width and depth of a party’s political appeal.

When the Republican Party is said to be a “small tent,” the intimation is that the political positions it holds represent too narrow a segment of the voting public. Frequently this accusation is accompanied by a list of issues upon which the party supposedly needs to change its policy position.

How often these suggested changes are the result of analysis is questionable. Sometimes polling is cited to support making the policy changes. The idea of standing up for principle is almost never cited and those recommending the changes virtually always oppose the positions they recommend be changed.

No doubt, the Republican Party too easily slips into presenting itself too narrowly. To varying degrees it does so most of the time — and suffers for doing so at the ballot box. However, despite claims to the contrary, the GOP does not fall into the “small tent” trap when it refuses to adopt positions held by its opponents. It does so again and again when it represents business and management at the expense of freedom and liberty.

Arguably the same observation could be applied to the Democratic Party; when it subordinates freedom and liberty to unionism.

As both major political parties fail to fully embrace freedom and liberty, the power struggle between them devolves to contests of short-term populism, misinformation campaigns and rhetorical prowess. Under these circumstances the open path to the “big tent,” which the advancement of freedom and liberty offers, becomes a nearly abandoned road.

If its quest is to become a “big tent” party, the GOP must stand with freedom and liberty, even when adopting such positions collides with the immediate interests of business and management. To do otherwise means losing all claims of representing anything more than a limited, though powerful, strata of society. And is there any doubt that this narrower vision of the Republican Party is the image it maintains with large portions of the voting public today?

Think of how often Republican candidates and officials sound as though they believed every voter owned a businesses. Time and again, Republicans mistakenly use issues that are primarily attractive to the business community as if the issues had more general appeal.

Of course, creating conditions under which businesses and the economy can thrive is vital. But in and of itself the message falls far short of what it could be and opens the door to all of the traditional disagreements between labor and management.

Couple that better economy and jobs message with a dedication to real reforms that bring about more freedom and liberty and its potential positive impact increases exponentially. This is not a combination that will appeal only to conservatives. If, and only if, freedom and liberty are placed on the first rank — above all other considerations — does the message call to the full spectrum of voters.

Contrary to what many believe, liberals in general do not love government. They simply distrust and fear other entities and conditions in the world and see government as their primary protector against those elements. Conservatives distrust and fear the same entities and conditions but believe giving more power government will likely make matters worse.

Liberty and freedom are concepts that transcend these differing perspectives.

Based on recent polling, neither major political party in this nation can, with a straight face, claim to have a “big tent” appeal. For years polling has shown that voters tend to want smaller government and to see government more as a problem than as a solution. Make no mistake about it; both of these sentiments are joined at the hip with the fear of freedom and liberty diminishing.

Theoretically this should be an advantage for Republicans. But in recent years it has been an advantage Republicans love to speak to but very rarely deliver on.

The more the game of politics comes down to Republicans representing business and the Democrats representing labor, the more the debate becomes pedantic. It’s too often “our” special interests versus “their” special interests. Each side strives to turn out its base and key elections are decided by voters in the middle who see little virtue on either side. Meanwhile, in a political sense, the eternal and potential “big tent” producing issues — freedom and liberty — remain available and up for grabs.

(Editor’s note: Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential and a veteran Lansing-based journalist. His columns do not necessarily represent viewpoints of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy or Michigan Capitol Confidential.)



Michigan Education Digest

Who should control DPS?

The new edition of Michigan Education Digest is now available online. Topics include charter public school operations, inaccurate student counts and control of Detroit Public Schools.

Teacher Explains Why He Left the MEA

No longer a pawn in union's "big money political game"

Rob Wiersema, a long-time teacher at Hopkins High School in Allegan County, explains in today’s Detroit News why he opted out of the Michigan Education Association. You can find out more about Rob and other teachers who have left the MEA here.

He also wrote about his decision to leave the union in the Lansing State Journal.

Teachers looking for more information about how to resign from the MEA can visit

Detroit News Editorial on MEA's 'August Window'

Teachers can resign now, save $1,000 annually

Today’s editorial in The Detroit News alerts members of the Michigan Education Association that they only have until the end of August to opt out of the union if they choose to do so. More information can be found at

Audrey Spalding, director of education policy, writes about the issue in The Tecumseh Herald.

August 15, 2014, MichiganVotes Weekly Vote Report

Wolf hunts, terminal patients and Medicaid.

The Senate held one session this week with several votes on substantive measures. The House remains out until Aug. 27.

Initiated Legislation 2, Preempt referendum banning wolf hunt: Passed 23 to 10 in the Senate

To preempt the effect of a referendum placed on the November ballot by interests opposed to wolf hunting. Specifically, this measure would make “referendum-proof” a 2013 law giving the legislature and Natural Resources Commission exclusive authority to decide which species may be hunted in Michigan. It would do so by making a small change to that law and adding a modest appropriation, which under a 2001 Supreme Court ruling makes the law not subject to referendum. This measure (Initiated Legislation 2) was sponsored by groups in favor of a wolf hunt. If the House also passes it, the initiative banning wolf hunts that has already been approved for the November 2014 ballot will not go into effect, even if a majority of voters approve it.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 991, Let terminal patients try non-FDA approved treatments: Passed 31 to 2 in the Senate

To establish that a person diagnosed with a terminal illness has a “right to try” experimental drugs or therapies not approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, subject to various conditions specified in the bill. The bill would prohibit state officials from interfering, and ban licensing boards from sanctioning health care providers who participate, subject to specified conditions. Drug makers who comply with the specified conditions would be immune from liability if the patient is harmed. The bill responds to criticism that FDA “safe and effective” standards are not appropriate in these cases.

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

Senate Bill 616, Revise Medicaid funding sources: Passed 26 to 7 in the Senate

To shift Medicaid fund sources to reflect the transition from a 1 percent "health insurance claims tax" to the imposition of the 6 percent "use tax" on Medicaid managed care health care providers (hospitals). These levies are designed to “game” the federal Medicaid program in ways that result in higher federal payments to Michigan’s medical welfare establishment (including those same hospitals).

Who Voted "Yes" and Who Voted "No"

SOURCE:, 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

'Competitiveness' Outlook Ranks Michigan 12th Best

State has a way to go to overcome past policies

Michigan's economic outlook rank

They 7th edition of “Rich States, Poor States” was released recently and it ranks Michigan 12th best among the 50 states for its “economic outlook” based on 15 public policy variables, such as tax, business and labor policies. The higher position may signal better economic times ahead for Michigan.

This is the highest rank achieved by the Great Lake State since the index’s creation. Since 2009, Michigan has steadily moved from near the bottom (34th) to where it is now.

The index is created from 15 variables that the authors believe contribute to a states’ economic well-being: marginal personal tax rates; marginal corporate tax rates; personal income tax progressivity; property tax burden; sales tax burden; remaining tax burden; estate tax levy (if any); recent tax changes; debt service as a share of tax revenue; public employees per 10,000 of state population; the state’s liability system; state minimum wages; average worker’s compensation costs; whether or not a state has a right-to-work law and whether or not a state maintains expenditure limits like the Headlee Amendment.

The good news is that these variables — measured through 2012 — rank Michigan relatively high for future economic performance. The bad news is that the authors still rank Michigan low (dead last, actually) for actual performance based on three major metrics: state gross domestic product, domestic migration and non-farm payroll employment over the previous 10 years.

These measures will keep Michigan ranked very low in the index’s ranking due to the state’s performance during the 2000-2009 time frame. As Mackinac Center analysts have pointed out repeatedly, Michigan was the only state in the union to have negative state GDP and a net loss of population during the past full decade. During that time period, Michigan was adopting several harmful policies: large tax hikes, a failure to truly balance its budget, paying more and more for public employees and grappling with forced unionization.

The good news is that our outlook is encouraging. In addition, “Rich States, Poor States” is not the only index that ranks performance in vital policy variables. The Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index has also noted Michigan’s policy improvements in recent years and that, too, bodes well for the state’s future.

There have been some recent set-backs, but Michigan has been steadily improving its economic policies. Lawmakers should keep it up.