The MC: The Mackinac Center Blog

Calls to Expand Michigan’s Economic Development Programs Fall Short

New plans don't even claim to develop the economy

Is there taxpayer blood in the water? It’s hard not to ask because a number of groups in Michigan are circling for a bite. Venture capitalists have chewed up the money they received under the 21st Century Jobs Fund and are asking for more. Downtown Detroit investor Dan Gilbert is reportedly testing the waters for new forms of taxpayer support. And new legislation has been introduced to restart tax credits for research and development expenses.

The pitch for more economic development spending doesn’t even promise to add jobs and improve the economy. But taxpayers should ask, "What good is an economic development program that does not make the case that it will develop the economy?" Any growth pledged from these projects needs to be measured against the state’s overall actual performance. In other words, these programs need to demonstrate that they can by themselves have a meaningful and statistically relevant impact on Michigan’s economy.

When it comes to actual economic growth, Michigan is doing well. It leads the country in reducing its unemployment rate during this recovery; personal income is growing at top-tier levels. The state also is a leader in economic output growth. All of this comes at a time when the people in charge of our economic development agencies are saying that Michigan’s economy is uncompetitive and needs more taxpayer subsidies.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

During Michigan’s one-state recession, from 2000 to 2007, Michigan’s economic development programs were “competitive” even when its economy was not. Even this year, we are paying for the profligate promises the state made back then, and the job returns from that spending remain oversold. For example, only 2.3 percent of the deals from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, the program that used to be the state’s main economic development tool, met or exceeded job estimates. Even then, this accounting does not measure all the economic costs of taking money from taxpayers and giving it away to select companies.

While the state government has cut back on new economic development spending, it still adds up to a nontrivial amount of state spending. The most recent budget contains $167.9 million in economic development programs — about $44 per household in Michigan — and that does not include the costs of administering them. Proponents of these new programs aren’t trying to argue that this money is ineffective and should be repurposed. They just want new programs and new favors.

It might be worth considering proposals for more economic development spending if their advocates could quantitatively show that they can actually influence the economic well-being of the state. And that it is the best possible use of state spending, given all other alternatives. And that the economy will be better off than if we just left the money in taxpayers’ own hands to spend or invest as they saw fit. And that all this can be demonstrated empirically. Instead, proponents seem to be arguing that Michigan ought to be as profligate as other states, without evidence that this profligacy is effective. Lawmakers should be skeptical.


Related Articles:

Will Republicans Backtrack on Corporate Welfare Cuts?

Cut Corporate Welfare to Help Balance State Budget

How to Improve Economic Development Transparency

The Problem of Corporate Welfare

Mackinac Center Director of Research to Debate Lansing Mayor on Economic Development

Michigan Crushes Korea in Corporate Welfare Handouts

Nearly $9 billion in crony-capitalism subsidies

The flag of South Korea. Image via Wikipedia.

The Wall Street Journal recently criticized government subsidies that South Korean politicians have granted to the country’s large industrial conglomerates, called “chaebols.” The newspaper’s editorial board wrote:

But the country’s chaebol conglomerates continue to receive massive state support across a range of industries. After a legislator extracted detailed figures from the government, the Hankyoreh newspaper calculated that in 2012 Seoul gave $673.9 million in direct subsidies to the chaebol. That doesn’t count low-interest loans, tax breaks and protection from competition, the main tools of Korea’s industrial policy.

Just $673.9 million? Pikers. Michigan has a population that is just one-fifth of South Korea’s in size. But in in the 2000s, and especially in 2009 and 2010, its politicians and subsidy-granting officials managed to approve nearly $9 billion in subsidies to corporate interests, including the Big 3 automakers.

Granted, the money redistributed from Michigan taxpayers will be given to companies over many years, not just one. But the sums are still large. This year, the state will write $1.031 billion in checks to corporations for “refundable” credits that exceed the amount of taxes they owe.

And this was just one of scores of corporate welfare giveaways approved by this state’s Legislature in the last decade. Thankfully, the pace has slowed (though not stopped) under the current administration, but the decisions of past years are still straining state budgets. They also raise obstacles to returning some of the state’s growing revenues to citizens in the form of a tax cut.

The Wall Street Journal concluded, “South Koreans have begun to question the political pull of the chaebol that allows them to carve out profitable niches at the expense of the consumer and taxpayer.”

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Michigan citizens should be asking the same question.


Related Articles:

Cut Corporate Welfare to Help Balance State Budget

The Problem of Corporate Welfare

Corporate Welfare Isn't 'Essential' to a Vibrant Economy

Center Research Cited in Daily Caller

Will Republicans Backtrack on Corporate Welfare Cuts?

Union Should Secure the Retirement of Their Members

New op-ed discusses Teamster pension problems in Washington Examiner

One of the largest union pension plans is on the brink of insolvency, employers are already on the hook and soon taxpayers could be stuck with the massive bill.

The Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund is underfunded by at least $18 billion and could face complete insolvency in 10 years. The union’s president says taxpayers should bail the fund out. Mackinac Center’s F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy, and adjunct scholar Jeremy Lott wrote about the pending crisis this week in the Washington Examiner.

According to Vernuccio and Lott, the union should help meet the promises they made to their members of a secure retirement before they ask the taxpayers to bailout their failed pension system.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Teamsters helped manage [their members’ pensions] to the brink of insolvency and are not without means. In 2014, the union claimed just under $256 million in assets and $183 million in income, without adding in the locals.

In pension plans like the Teamsters, “Every employer is responsible for the retirement of every worker in the plan — not just those that worked for them. This can make them liable for the costs of other companies' workers.” However, the union, which controls half of the board in the plan, does not have any financial responsibility.

Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, Jr. has suggested a $30 billion taxpayer bailout. Vernuccio and Lott wonder, “Perhaps the union would do a better job of looking after its workers' retirements if it had some skin in the game.”

Read the full op-ed in the Washington Examiner here.


Related Articles:

Unions Should Get Serious About Pension Underfunding

Don’t Blame Employees for Pension Underfunding

Pension Underfunding Has a Cause — But it is Not Smaller Workforces

Schoolchildren, Teachers, Taxpayers Harmed When Pension Managers Assume Too Much

Management Model No Guarantee of County Pension Soundness

July 22, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

Plates for me, plates for thee, plates for the man behind the tree

The House and Senate are on a summer and primary election season break. Therefore, this report explores one of the methods lawmakers use to associate their names with certain interests or causes: granting specialty license plate privileges.

House Bill 5586: Authorize autism specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Tom Barrett (R), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting autism awareness, and give the profits to a private advocacy organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 808: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to MADD

Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R), to authorize a new specialty license plate, with the profits given to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

House Bill 5349: Authorize a no-kill animal shelters license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Charles Brunner (D), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting animal shelters that don’t use euthanasia, and give the profits to a private organization campaigning for this. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5224: Authorize a prostate awareness license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Paul Muxlow (R), to authorize a prostrate cancer awareness specialty license plate, and give the profits to a particular foundation named in the bill (PCUPS Foundation). Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5204: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to libraries

Introduced by Rep. Edward McBroom (R), to authorize a new libraries specialty license plate, with the profits delivered to public libraries. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5108: Authorize a snowsports industry license plate; give profits to industry group

Introduced by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R), to authorize a snowsports industry specialty license plate, and give the profits to a trade and lobbyist organization called the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5083: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Knights of Columbus

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a new Knights of Columbus specialty license plate, with the profits delivered to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5082: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Lions Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Lions Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Lions Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4932: Authorize a Kiwanis specialty license plate; give profits to Kiwanis Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Kiwanis Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Kiwanis Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 367: Authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R), to authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the “Thin Blue Line” organization, to be used solely to assist and support the families of injured or deceased law enforcement officers within the state. Reported from committee, pending before full Senate.

Senate Bill 308: Authorize black Greek letter organizations specialty license plate; give profits to United Negro College Fund

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring several African American fraternities and sororities specified in the bill, with the premium revenue going to the United Negro College Fund. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 264: Authorize wild turkey specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the National Wild Turkey Federation, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 223 and House Bill 4360: Authorize Women’s Health license plate; use profits for government programs

Introduced by Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D) and Rep. Pam Faris (D), respectively, to require the Secretary of State to develop a Women’s Health license plate, with fees collected from its sale added to amounts spent for government programs to reduce unintended pregnancies, reduce child obesity, reduce sexually transmitted diseases and more. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4348: Authorize Girl Scouts specialty license plate; give profits to Scouts

Introduced by Rep. Pam Faris (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the Girl Scouts of America, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 186: Authorize professional sports teams specialty license plates; give profits to team charities

Introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas (R), to authorize a specialty license plate for professional sports teams, including the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers and the Michigan International Speedway. Proceeds from the sale of the license plates would go to charitable organizations created by these entities. Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate on May 26, 2015, referred to House committee.

Senate Bill 76: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to private organization

Introduced by Sen. Vincent Gregory (D), to authorize a new women veterans specialty license plate, and turn over the profits to the American Cancer Society. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5447: Cap the number of fundraising specialty license plates

Introduced by Rep. Peter Pettalia (R), to cap the number of specialty fundraising license plates at 10, and revise details of this program including the amount an interest must pay to get this privilege, and how many of their plates must sell each year to keep it. Passed 90 to 18 in the House, referred to committee in the Senate.


Related Articles:

August 5, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

March 20, 2015, MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call

Money Rolling Into Lansing from State License Plate Tax

August 26, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

May 13, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

Governing Magazine recently used data from the Census Bureau to show that Michigan has the lowest per-capita public employment. MIRS News spoke with some public unions that said this is a travesty.

But it is not an indicator of much — neither cost, or quality, or even the government's importance to residents.

Consider the largest service provided by state and local government — elementary and secondary schooling. There are 168 school employees for every 10,000 Michigan residents, putting the state at the low end of public employment for this function. The national average was 208 employees per 10,000 residents.

Michigan has a few quirks that depress these numbers, though. It is a leader among the states in offering education through charter schools, which are public schools that are largely staffed by private employees. The best evidence we have on Michigan charters shows that, on average, they add extra value to student learning.

Our school districts also contract out more support services than districts in other states. The vast majority of districts report being satisfied with their contractors, and if they are not, they can switch, or perform the service themselves.

In addition to those complicating factors, just counting how many people get a government paycheck also says little about the actual costs of government services. State employment has been declining for decades, for instance, yet the costs of the state’s employees keep increasing. The state's workforce dropped 25 percent from 2001 to 2015 — from 62,057 full-time equivalent employees to 46,588 — while the costs of state employees actually increased from $3.9 billion to $5.4 billion, growth that even outpaced inflation.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

There are plenty of ways to measure the size and scope of government. I recommend the Fraser Institute's index of economic freedom in North America. Measuring the quality of government services is hard and rarely done.

Statistics like the ones used by Governing Magazine are interesting to consider, but we should be careful about assuming what they tell about the value of government services. They don’t tell us much about the costs nor the quality of these services, but these are (or should be) the primary concerns of taxpayers and recipients of public services.


Related Articles:

Supreme Court Tone Appears to Favor Ending Agency Fees to Unions

U.S. Supreme Court Accepts Case to Give 'Right-to-Work' to All Public Employees

Right-to-Work Could Come to Public Employment

Illegal Strike by Detroit Teachers Shuts Down 18 Schools

Making Michigan Right-to-Work: Implementation Problems in Public Schools

A Federal Bill to Loosen Licensing Requirements

And a step for Michigan to follow suit

A bill that could serve as a model for states looking to grant their residents economic freedom has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. The “Alternatives to Licensing that Lowers Obstacles to Work,” or ALLOW Act was submitted by Sen. Mike Lee R-Utah and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.

If passed, the law would allow members of the armed services and their spouses to use their occupational license in any state or military base. This would help many people, including my sister, who recently married a member of the military and is moving from one state to another. As a teacher, my sister is licensed in one state, but sometimes that license doesn’t transfer to other states. Hairdressers, cosmetologists, contractors and many other professionals often cannot transfer their license easily and have to go back, take more classes and pay high fees simply to be able to do what they were already licensed to do.

This bill would also put in “sunrise” and “sunset” provisions for licensing laws (which would ensure that they are regularly reviewed), restrict arbitrary licensing laws in Washington D.C., allow people to legally operate as tour guides in some federal parks without a license and more.

The state of Michigan could pass a similar law on its own. But an even easier bill would allow teeth whiteners to operate legally without needing a dental license. This would ensure the state is complying with the U.S. Constitution.

In many states, including Michigan, teeth whiteners — people who typically set up kiosks to offer whitening services — are restricted from practice unless they are a licensed dentist or operating under one. But a 2015 Supreme Court case changed this: North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC held that “a state occupational licensing board that was primarily composed of persons active in the market it regulates has immunity from antitrust law only when it is actively supervised by the state.”

In other words, a board of dentists is not allowed to pass rules restricting their competition. Michigan’s licensing agency has confirmed that its interpretation of state law would not allow teeth whiteners to operate a business without a dental license. The Institute for Justice, which has been involved in the issue for years, has model legislation for states to comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!


Related Articles:

Vet Saves Dog's Life, Family is Happy – State Sanctions Him

Michigan Can Do More On Occupational Licensing

Occupational Licensing Costs Hurt Working Class Michiganders

Michigan Requires More Than 200 Occupational Licenses

Tackle Licensing for Good Policy in Michigan

Department of Environmental Quality Must Be Transparent

Michigan media reports on latest Mackinac Center lawsuit

People and the press have a right to transparency, even when it’s inconvenient for government.

That’s why the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit last week against the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which continues to skirt state transparency laws by not responding a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Foundation Director Patrick Wright spoke with The Detroit News about the lawsuit, which seeks emails related to the Flint water crisis.

Thousands of pages of MDEQ emails were posted online last month in the name of openness, yet the department is still balking at Michigan’s transparency laws. … The fact that the state is claiming to be transparent in public yet still ignoring open records law highlights the need for the legislature to reform FOIA to create hard, enforceable response deadlines.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

The Center has been waiting since March for emails related to the crisis and has already paid $114.35 for the records. Though the MDEQ estimated it would take approximately 4.5 hours of staff time to respond to the request and cashed the Center’s check in May, it has yet to provide the documents.

“We have been waiting for essentially four hours of bureaucratic work. It’s going to take them four months to complete that,” Wright told WILS host Michael Cohen. “We’re talking about public insight into an important crisis that is ongoing in state government and we shouldn’t have to wait for the convenience of government for them to respond.”

In an op-ed published by The Detroit News, Maria Servold — Assistant Director of the Herbert H. Dow II Program in American Journalism at Hillsdale College — questioned whether FOIA reform is needed to prevent such delays from occurring and ensure real transparency. “Regarding Flint, it doesn’t matter. The public needs information now,” she wrote.

Wright told Fox News’ M.L. Elrick on The Frank Beckmann Show that the Legislature needs to examine FOIA and strengthen Michigan’s transparency laws.

“If you leave it up to government discretion, then you’re going to have biases slip in,” he said. “No matter what the political perspective, you want to guarantee that people are going to have access to the information and that the government is not playing politics or is biased against whoever is (asking). We’re just trying to make sure this statute and this process works well for the people who are governed.”

Read The Detroit News article here.

Listen to the full interview with Michael Cohen here

Listen to the full interview with M.L. Elrick here.

Read Maria Servold’s op-ed here.


Related Articles:

Mackinac Center Files Open Records Lawsuit Against State Government Over Flint Water Documents

How a Government Transparency Request Can Take Months

State Officials Lose Official Representation in Flint Water Lawsuit

Children Poisoned by Lead Shouldn't Be Turned Into A Limerick

Gov. Snyder Releases 21,730 Flint Documents, No Charge; City Wants $172,000

Criminal Justice in a Free Society

Mackinac Center announces criminal justice initiative

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is often labeled a “free market think tank,” which is correct but incomplete. The Center describes its purpose in part as, “broadening the debate on issues that has for many years been dominated by the belief that government intervention should be the standard solution.” In light of this, we’ve decided to extend that debate to include the issue of criminal justice reform.

Although it has not been a major focus, Mackinac Center analysts have studied and written on issues in this area for many years. We published our first civil asset forfeiture study nearly 20 years ago, and one of our first projects was a study on jail overcrowding. Our more recent work in this area includes papers on overcriminalization, criminal intent and civil asset forfeiture.

Today Mackinac is part of a growing network of organizations around the country that feel compelled to focus more effort on topics like overcriminalization, incarceration and the rule of law. Before addressing the specifics, it is worth pausing to consider what criminal justice should mean in a free society.

A society’s understanding of justice is most concretely expressed in the form of laws — particularly laws that identify actions the society considers wrong. We choose consequences for deliberate wrongdoing, and then empower government to enforce them. Civil society requires this arrangement for three reasons.

First, just (and justified) punishment prevents the chaos of retaliation and vigilantism, and helps victims heal. Second, offenders retain their human dignity by being punished humanely and rehabilitated effectively. Finally, punishing criminal activity helps deter future crime, allowing people and businesses to flourish in a safe environment and encouraging investment, innovation and trade. It’s hard to imagine a functioning society without these elements.

So a criminal justice system is necessary, but ours has become increasingly complex. Making the system work requires resources from all three branches of government, at every government level, consuming a significant portion of tax dollars. From the passage of laws to their enforcement on the streets and in the courts, to the custody of offenders in jails, prisons, treatment centers and transitional housing and their continued supervision after release — upholding and implementing the rule of law is a huge task.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

And we are all invested in the outcome, whether as taxpayers, as individuals impacted by crime at a personal level, or simply as citizens seeking to live the good life in a prosperous society. That is why it is so important that our criminal justice system works the way that it should.

Reforming criminal justice policy is about examining the way we do things now and identifying opportunities to do better, whether that’s in reducing crime, supporting victims or ensuring taxpayer dollars are used efficiently and effectively. The United States is already much better at enforcing laws and respecting civil rights than most other nations, but there’s still considerable room for improvement.

This applies even more in Michigan, a state that enacts more laws, spends more money, and imprisons more people than most others. The Mackinac Center’s goal is to help identify how to most effectively administer justice and to determine what works and what does not, so that we may all work together to produce a safer, freer and more prosperous Michigan. We look forward to partnering with you on this new initiative.


Related Articles:

Finding Agreement in Criminal Justice Reform

Reitz Quoted on Criminal Justice Reform Efforts

Gov. Snyder Announces Criminal Justice Reforms

Gov. Snyder Signs Bill That Makes 'Guilty Mind' Necessary For Convictions

State Media Features Overcriminalization Fight

Imaginary Murder Pets Versus Michelle Obama

Society uses the free market: It’s super effective!

In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama used a White House press release to announce a massive public-private-nonprofit campaign with “an ambitious national goal of solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation so that children born today will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.” It took on childhood nutrition, exercise and much more. The resulting initiative is often known by its “Let’s Move” website name.

Last week, the Pokémon Go mobile game launched. It encourages users to venture out into the real world to find and collect imaginary cartoon monsters at specific geographic points. Gamers then send their pets into virtual arenas to battle against other players’ Pokémon collections for bragging rights or in-game control of a particular location.

Both Mrs. Obama and Pokémon are trying to get our kids off the couch and out of the house. Unsurprisingly, the fun cartoon creatures motivated by profit for their developers seem to be doing a better job at it than the well-intentioned First Lady, whose elliptical trainers and stationary exercise bikes at the White House Easter Egg Roll and whole-grain pizza crusts in school cafeterias have left schoolchildren mostly unimpressed.

A friend of mine recently called Pokémon “imaginary murder pets,” which may be my new favorite phrase. While I’ve been told by my colleague James Hohman that Pokémon are actually knocked unconscious rather than killed when they lose a battle, the fact remains that these little gladiators are popular at a historic level: Within a week of its launch, Pokémon Go became the most successful mobile game ever in the United States with an estimated 21 million daily active users playing the game for an average of more than a half hour every day.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Apart from its popularity, what makes Pokémon Go different from most other video games is that it incentivizes its players to walk around outside, in the “real world.” It does this not only by hiding Pokémon throughout neighborhoods that show up superimposed on a phone camera’s view of the world and designating other neighborhood locations as sites for Pokémon battles, but also by giving players the ability to purchase “incubators” for “eggs” that hatch powerful Pokémon if the user walks between two and 10 kilometers while playing the game. The more incubators the player purchases with real-world money, the more eggs they can hatch at a time while they walk.

While players looking down at their phones and creating pedestrian traffic jams, not being aware of safety issues in their surroundings or playing the game in inappropriate locations have made headlines, the real news is that a game is getting 21 million Americans to walk around for a half-hour a day.

While the outcomes of the “Let’s Move” program are debatable, it certainly never got 15 percent of Americans to start a daily exercise program in the same week.

While I don’t play Pokémon Go, I do have personal experience with this phenomenon. My 11-year-old son normally approaches the idea of going for a walk with his father with the excitement otherwise reserved for visits to the orthodontist. But when I offered to walk with him around the neighborhood while he caught Pokémon, we ended up taking almost a two-mile walk together on a beautiful summer evening. It wasn’t or or any other government program that got us out there, but the promise of those little digital monsters.

We don’t know whether the popularity of Pokémon Go will hold up, and we don’t know what the newfound willingness of Americans to bring their video gaming out onto the streets will spark from the creativity of other game developers. (Personally, I wonder what happens when someone starts moving first-person shooter games like the Call of Duty or Battlefield series outside and we have running digital battles through the streets.)

Regardless, what we do know is that, if history’s a guide, whatever’s “next” will likely have far more power to improve our lives than the most well-funded, well-meaning and well-thought-out government programs. Millions of Americans finally got moving in response to a video game that entertains but also encourages initiative, persistence and creativity. It’s an important reminder of the power and promise of a free and civil society, but also the limits of the inherently top-down government approach to social problems.


Related Articles:

MSU Car Smoking Ban Increases Potential for Community-Police Tensions

Three Reforms to Bring Down Michigan Health Care Costs

Rural School Districts Hit Hard by Federal Health Care Mandate

It's Time for Scope of Practice Reform

Wisconsin Wind Turbines Declared Health Hazard

July 15, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

More government energy debt; more subsidies for college, grocery stores and water; pension reform and more

The House and Senate held pro-forma sessions this week with no votes. Therefore, this report continues its series of describing some of the interesting bills that have been introduced in the current Legislature.

Senate Bill 642: Allow more municipal debt for home efficiency loans

Introduced by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D), to allow local governments to take on general obligation debt to pay for a program authorized by a 2010 law that allows them to lend money to a property owner for energy efficiency improvements or a renewable energy system. The bill would also remove a requirement that a homeowner’s mortgage lender must agree to the taking on the additional burden. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Stay Engaged

Receive our weekly emails!

Senate Bill 645: Ban misclassifying employees

Introduced by Sen. Mike Kowall (R), to prohibit an employer from “misclassifying” an employee as an independent contractor, as defined by a 20-factor test announced by the Internal Revenue Service. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 662: Require Detroit school district forensic audit

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to require a forensic audit of the Detroit school district's financial operations and records. A "forensic audit" means an audit designed to determine whether there has been any violation of law or generally accepted accounting principles. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 664: Authorize more college subsidies

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to authorize a pilot program that would have the state pay a student’s tuition at a state college or university if the student signs a contract to repay this by turning over a percentage of his or her gross income for a specified number of years after graduation. The colleges and universities would get the full tuition and fee payments from the state up front, but would be at risk if the student fails to graduate or make a decent living afterwards. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 678: Let Detroit water system "cross subsidize" residential customers

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to allow the Detroit water and sewer water authority to charge higher rates on customers who use higher volumes of water. This would be a method of subsidizing residential customers by charging business and industry more per gallon. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 703: Repeal new restrictions on taxpayer-funded tax hike electioneering

Introduced by Sen. Dale W. Zorn (R), to repeal a provision of a law passed in 2015 that prohibits taxpayer-funded communications from local governments and school districts that reference their own property tax hike or other ballot measures during the 60 days before the election. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5171: Require drivers over 75 to renew license at SOS office

Introduced by Rep. Ben Glardon (R), to require drivers age 75 or older to renew their license in person at a Secretary of State office. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5180: Give subsidies to some grocery stores

Introduced by Rep. David Pagel (R), to authorize selective state subsidies for grocery stores in “underserved” communities. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5200: Repeal concealed pistol “gun-free zone” provision

Introduced by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R), to repeal the “gun-free zone” provision of the concealed pistol permit law, which prohibits those who have received a permit after meeting the background check and training requirements, from carrying a pistol in schools, day care facilities, sports stadiums or arenas, bars, restaurants, places of worship, colleges, hospitals, casinos, entertainment facilities and courts. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5209: Exclude emergency managers from liability waiver

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to require emergency managers appointed to run fiscally failed municipalities or school districts to post a performance bond, and to not include them in the immunity from personal lawsuits that generally apply to other school and local government officials acting in their official capacity. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5218: Give new school employees 401(k), not pensions

Introduced by Rep. Tim Kelly (R) to close the current "defined benefit" pension system to new school employees, and instead provide 401(k) benefits. Employees could contribute up to 5 percent of salary to their account, and the local school district would have to contribute an amount equal to 80 percent of this. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5234: Exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax

Introduced by Rep. Sarah Roberts (D), to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

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


Related Articles:

July 1, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

August 26, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

August 12, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

August 19, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report

July 29, 2016 MichiganVotes Weekly Roll Call Report