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What's Wrong With Michigan's No-Fault Automobile Insurance

A PDF copy of this study is available.

On Oct. 1, 1973, Michigan joined a growing number of states in adopting a “no-fault” automobile insurance law, which has remained in tack ever since. This policy brief outlines the variety of problems plaguing Michigan's auto insurance laws and explains why these issues are leading to the most expensive car insurance premiums in the nation.

The brief also describes several reform ideas for how to fix Michigan's no-fault insurance system. These reforms would maintain the no-fault approach to car insurance, but would put downward pressure on premiums, a benefit that would be enjoyed by all Michigan drivers.

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Five Options for Addressing ‘Transition Costs’ When Closing the MPSERS Pension Plan

Michigan Public School Employee Retirement Plans
in Need of Reform

This study considers the supposed ‘transition costs’ that would be effected by a state switch from a defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement system. In it, the “transition costs” are found to be nonbinding and discretionary. In addition, the study offers the state a series of reforms that would diffuse such costs, as well as consideration for the long-term fiscal improvements that would arise from payment of the pension’s unfunded liabilities. more

Loar v. Michigan Department of Human Services Brief

This booklet contains the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation’s final legal filing in a nationally known case involving the illegal unionization of Michigan’s home-based day care business owners and providers as government employees. Wright argued the case in the Michigan courts on behalf of Sherry Loar, Michelle Berry and Paulette Silverson, who each own home-based day care businesses.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sued to end the DHS' illegal diversion of so-called "union dues" from state subsidy checks received by home-based day care providers who watch children from low-income families. The "dues" were funneled to a government-employee union that purports to represent more than 40,000 of Michigan's home-based day care providers, who are actually private business owners and independent contractors.

The case was ruled moot by the Michigan Supreme Court after the DHS ceased to collect the dues and the DHS director stated that these home-based day care providers are not public employees.

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101 Recommendations to Revitalize Michigan

(Editor's note: These recommendations were originally posted in January 2009. They were updated in January 2011, and a Top 10 list was added. You may view PDFs of the previous versions: the Second Edition, with an introduction by Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman, and the First Edition.)

Michigan is blessed with a wealth of the human and natural resources integral to building vibrant commerce and vigorous communities in the 21st century. At the moment, however, counterproductive public policies have made it harder for our industries to compete nationally and internationally and have reduced our state’s attractiveness to investors and entrepreneurs.

In addition, Michigan is not immune to the gradual erosion of equity and basic human freedom that accompanies a steady growth in the power and scope of government. Related to this, our government’s ability to properly perform many critical functions, including education, has been jeopardized by policymakers’ attempts to do too many things. This lack of focus has even led to confusion among policymakers over whether government exists to serve the people or vice versa.

There’s a lot of work to do to reverse this, but there’s good news. Once growth- and freedom-friendly policies are in place, recovery is likely to occur much more quickly than most people imagine.

For policymakers and voters serious about restoring freedom and economic vitality in the Great Lakes State, the Mackinac Center presents the following 101 recommendations.

This report is a compendium of work authored by Mackinac Center policy analysts and compiled by Senior Legislative Analyst Jack McHugh. The brief recommendations inevitably omit some nuance and detail. These are provided more fully in the online articles cited with each recommendation.

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A Survey of Michigan Parents Who Use School Choice

This report highlights the results of a survey conducted of Michigan parents who exercise some form of public school choice for their children. Among the diverse group of 837 parents from across the state who were interviewed, substantial majorities gave high marks to their chosen schools, said the experience boosted their expectations of their children’s future success and would likely recommend choice options to other parents. Respondents also said that information they receive from other parents influences their school choice decisions, in addition to published school performance data and in-person visits. Survey results further revealed that most parents highly value academics in making their decision, though safety and discipline are leading considerations as well. more

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2017

Click here to view the PDF of the full study.

This is the 15th edition of the Mackinac Center's annual school privatization survey. We ask every school district in the state if they outsource one of the three main noninstructional services — custodial, transportation and food services. The results from this year's survey show that 71.5 percent of school districts contract out for at least one of these services.

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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2010

Privatization of support services has been a method that Michigan school districts have used for several years to lower costs. More than ever before, Michigan school districts are privatizing the three main support services they offer — food, custodial and transportation. Our annual survey finds that 48.8 percent of Michigan school districts are contracting out for these services. This is an 8 percent increase over 2009.

The largest impetus for contracting is cost savings. The survey found that first-year contracts alone are expected to save districts $16.7 million cumulatively.

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Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education

Just what constitutes a public record? Are documents created by a public official on a public computer system “public records” under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act? In this "friend of the court" brief, Mackinac Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright argues the answer is “yes” and warns that a failure to readily disclose such documents would seriously undermine FOIA's value.

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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2009

With Michigan’s public school districts facing a decline in per-pupil funding, more districts are contracting out for at least one of the three major school support services — food, custodial and transportation — than ever before. This year’s survey of school districts found that 44.6 percent of all Michigan school districts contract out for at least one of these services, a 5.6 percent increase over 2008. This year, new contracts alone are expected to save $6.9 million.

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The Michigan Economic Development Corporation: A Review and Analysis

Video by Kathy Hoesktra, Mackinac Center communications specialist

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Leveling the Playing Field

What Michigan Public School Academy Leaders Need to Know About Union Organizing

A guide to labor law for charter school staff. This 105-page book explains how Michigan's labor law works and in particular how and why unions are formed. The book also gives advice on how charter schools can maintain good relations between teachers and administrators.

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Michigan School Privatization Survey 2008

Privatization of school support services is a time-tested means for lowering educational costs. The three major services that school districts in Michigan contract out for are food, custodial and transportation. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy's survey of privatization is the longest running and most comprehensive source of school support service data in the nation. more

Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling

A Statistical Analysis and Historical Review

In this study, the authors consider cigarette smuggling from two angles. First, they employ a statistical model to estimate the degree to which cigarette smuggling occurs in 47 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Second, they review the historical experiences of three states — Michigan, New Jersey and California — known to have problems with cigarette smuggling. The author's findings suggest that state policymakers should reassess the value of cigarette taxes as a revenue and public health tool.

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Proposal to Raise Fees on Television Providers is Unnecessary, Likely to Increase Cable Rates

The State should not allow municipal governments to increase public, education and government channel fees when there is no evidence of additional demand.

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Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in In re Complaint of Rovas Against SBC Michigan

The Mackinac Center’s brief urges the Michigan Supreme Court to hold that the judiciary need not defer to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Alternatively, because Michigan courts (unlike federal courts) have not determined that agency rules created through formal adjudication are equivalent to rules created through notice-and-comment rulemaking, the Court could hold simply that there is no judicial deference to rules created through adjudication, leaving aside the question of deference to notice-and-comment rules.

The Michigan Supreme Court decided the case in July 2008. The justices held that the rulings of state agencies should not receive deference from the courts and that the Michigan judiciary hence plays an integral role in reviewing the legality of agency actions. The ruling places a direct check on the power of state agencies to interpret and to act upon laws passed by the Michigan Legislature.

The decision is a landmark in Michigan jurisprudence, particularly since it diverges from federal jurisprudence, which grants almost unlimited power to federal agencies in implementing laws passed by Congress. The court's ruling was substantially in agreement with the arguments presented in this brief.

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A Teacher Quality Primer

For Michigan School Officials, State Policymakers, Media and Residents

While it is true that Michigan students learn a variety of skills in their time at school, perhaps the most important charge of public schools, beyond providing a safe and healthy environment, is to ensure that students are learning "the three R’s." Unfortunately, the achievement levels of Michigan public school students raise doubts about the quality of public education in the state. This volume has been written to assist local and state policymakers who want to initiate and support teacher quality reforms to improve Michigan's primary and secondary schools. more

Hart Enterprises: A Wetland Case Study

This study analyzes a dispute between Hart Enterprises Inc., a medical device manufacturer located north of Grand Rapids, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The department alleges that Hart Enterprises’ property contains a nearly one-acre wetland — an area that lies in the way of the company’s proposed expansion of its parking lot. Because of the DEQ’s ruling, the department expects the company to request a wetland permit — request that might be denied, or that might be granted only with significant conditions attached.

Readers may view a supplemental video of Russ Harding interviewing Alan Taylor of Hart Enterprisesmore

Proposals to Further Regulate Michigan’s Electricity Market: An Assessment

More than a dozen bills are pending in the Michigan Legislature to expand regulation of the electricity industry and to impose new environmental requirements on energy production and sales. As a group, these legislative proposals assume the necessity of government intervention in the production and distribution of energy. This report details the drawbacks for consumers and the economy of substituting political forces for market forces in electricity service. more

Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Michigan Department of Transportation v. Tomkins

On November 16, 2007, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a brief of amicus curiae with the Michigan Supreme Court in the case of Michigan Department of Transportation v Tomkins. The legal dispute involves the amount of compensation a property owner should receive from state government when the state uses eminent domain to take part of the owner’s property. Specifically, the Michigan Supreme Court asked whether a state law that limits the property owner’s compensation to so-called "special-effect" damages violates the common understanding of the "just compensation" guaranteed in eminent domain cases by the Michigan Constitution. more

The Opportunities and Limitations of Biomonitoring

Remarkable advances in analytical chemistry now make it possible to measure minute levels of both natural and synthetic compounds in human tissue and body fluids. This “biomonitoring” allows researchers to determine more precisely than ever the degree to which individuals have been exposed to specific chemicals in the environment, and how exposures change over time. Consequently, federal and state officials increasingly regard biomonitoring as a potential new underpinning of environmental and public health regulations. more

Choice Leadership

Popular literature is full of praises for “the common man,” but as these two essays by Ben Stafford illustrate, it’s usually the uncommon men and women who make big things happen. Virginia Walden Ford and Alberta C. Wilson are too modest and focused on others to tell you themselves, but Ben makes it clear that many inner-city children and parents have benefited from the uncommonness of these two women. They are courageous, forward-thinking, can-do citizens. They understand the value of a good education and a strong character, and they have been willing to stand up for those values at no small expense to themselves. more

Replacing Michigan’s New Taxes With Budget Reductions: Curing $1.358 Billion in Overspending With 55 Specific Recommendations

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has regularly recommended specific state spending reductions to balance the state’s budget and improve Michigan’s public policy. The following list shows how the state could reduce spending immediately to help balance the state budget if policymakers chose to forgo the projected $1.358 billion in fiscal 2008 revenue from the recent state income tax hike and the new sales tax on certain services. more

The Edmonton Public Schools Story

Internationally Renowned Superintendent Angus McBeath Chronicles His District’s Successes and Failures

Faced with budget battles, declining enrollments and tense contract negotiations, Michigan school leaders could seize upon the advice of a superintendent and educator who has faced the very same issues for 30 years and who now consults with school districts. more

A Model Right-to-Work Amendment to the Michigan Constitution

This policy brief discusses several foundational legal concepts and sets forth model language for a legally sound right-to-work amendment to the Michigan Constitution. more

The Economic Effects of Right-to-Work Laws: 2007

Many states have given workers complete discretion to decline membership in, and financial support of, a union that they individually oppose. Enacting a right-to-work law abolishes agency fees and allows workers themselves to decide if a union deserves their financial support. more

The Effects of Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Law

Michigan’s prevailing wage law adds unnecessary costs to construction projects at taxpayers’ expense. more

Survey 2007: More Growth in School Support Service Privatization

Privatization is a time-tested management tool used by governments around the world. It can take many forms, but competitive contracting is the most prevalent in the United States whether in municipalities or within the realm of public education. In some regards, Michigan is a national leader in competitive contracting in education; in other areas it is a laggard. more

Michigan Higher Education: Facts and Fiction

The observed shrinkage in state appropriations over the first half of the decade was actually a positive development: one that dampened, albeit modestly, the real relative economic decline of the state. Moreover, it calls into question a growth strategy based on expansion of higher education. Indeed, other results included in the econometric estimation suggest that a better growth strategy would be to put the entire Michigan state government on a diet in order to finance a reduction in the overall tax burden. While higher education expenditures are not growth-inducing, the evidence shows that tax reductions are.
NOT AVAILABLE IN PRINT more

Road Funding: Time for a Change

A Collective Bargaining Primer

For Michigan School Board Members

Collective bargaining determines not only the quality and responsiveness of a school district’s teachers and support personnel, but the amount of money remaining to school board members to benefit the children under their care. Thus, while labor negotiations may sometimes feel remote from the process of helping children learn in the classroom, the results of this bargaining often affect a school board’s ability to implement educational policies.

This book is designed to assist school board members in understanding the basic principles and laws of collective bargaining, including some of the major substantive and procedural challenges facing Michigan school boards. In addition, the text is full of quotations from school board members and other education professionals concerning their experiences with collective bargaining and school employee unions. The combination of informational content and personal reflections provides new insights to school board members — and to policymakers, journalists and the general public, as well. more

Assessing Stricter Mercury Controls in Michigan

On April 17, 2006, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm directed the Department of Environmental Quality to draft a rule under the state’s Clean Air Act to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent. The governor ordered the reductions to occur in two phases. The first phase is supposed to entail the reduction schedule established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year. The second phase is supposed to exceed the federal requirements by reducing emissions 90 percent by the year 2015. more

Proposal 4: A Legal Review and Analysis

Proposal 4 of 2006, which will appear on the November ballot, is a proposed state constitutional amendment that would alter state law regarding eminent domain, the legal theory that permits the government to take private property for public use if the government pays just compensation. more

School Choice Snapshot: A 2006 Survey of U.S. Policy and Advocacy Organizations

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy worked on this survey project from November 2005 through September 2006. We provided assistance to the survey researcher, Adam B. Schaeffer, who was then a National Research Initiative Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., by collaborating on the survey instrument, offering relevant and limited information from our database, handling technical details of inviting and following up with participants, and editing and publishing this document. more

The Stop Overspending Michigan Initiative: A Review and Analysis

The proposed “Stop Overspending” state constitutional amendment, which failed to gain ballot status in the November 2006 election, addressed four major areas ... more

Assessing the Case for Cable Franchise Reform

Advances in technology now make it possible for both cable firms and telecommunications companies to provide voice, data and video services to most homes and businesses. This constitutes a dramatic change from the days of cable dominance in the video market, and that of the “Baby Bells” in telephone service. What hasn’t changed, however, is the franchise regime that has long limited access to the local market and thus inhibited competition. In this paper, Diane S. Katz examines the effects of this obsolete regulation on consumers and the economy, as well as the myriad benefits of reform. more

An Analysis of Proposal 5: The ‘K-16’ Michigan Ballot Measure

On Nov. 7, 2006, Michigan voters will be asked to consider a proposed new law that would, if passed, require annual state spending to increase at no less than the inflation rate for the following state budget areas: public school districts and charter schools; certain specific budget items in state spending on public school districts and charter schools; and state universities and community colleges. The proposal also contains new requirements for state payments to districts with declining enrollment and places liability for school employee pension cost increases on state government, rather than school districts. The proposed new law will appear as “Proposal 5”on the ballot, and its mandates would take effect in the 2006-2007 school year. more

Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Attorney General v. Michigan Public Service Commission

A Mackinac Center “friend of the court” filing to the Michigan Supreme Court in a case involving the Michigan Public Service Commission’s renewable-energy surcharge on electrical bills. more

Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in DPG York v. Michigan

A Mackinac Center “friend of the court” filing to the Michigan Court of Appeals in a case involving the preferential sale of state land. more

Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief in Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States Army Corps of Engineers

A Mackinac Center “friend of the court” filing to the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases involving federal wetlands regulation of Michigan properties. more

Groundwater Regulation: An Assessment

In proposing the Water Legacy Act, Gov. Jennifer Granholm is attempting to increase state regulation of groundwater use through a costly and intrusive permit regime. If enacted, this drastic change would upend longstanding water rights and further weaken Michigan’s economy. more

MEGA: A Retrospective Assessment

April 18, 2005 marks the 10th anniversary of The Michigan Economic Growth Authority, a program established by Michigan government with the mission of spurring in-state job creation and business investment. The authority is the state of Michigan’s agent for selecting firms to receive Single Business Tax credits in return for creating new facilities and jobs in Michigan. more

Outsourcing Benefits Michigan Economy and Taxpayers

Lawmakers in Congress and in more than 30 state legislatures have targeted foreign outsourcing as a threat to U.S. employment and prosperity. Along with certain critics in the news media, such as CNN’s Lou Dobbs, they charge that U.S. companies are firing American workers in significant numbers and replacing them with foreign service workers in low-wage countries such as India. Legislative proposals in Michigan and elsewhere have focused on barring federal or state contracts with companies that would “offshore” the work to call centers or information technology providers abroad. more

Union Members' Attitudes Toward Their Unions' Performance

Zogby International and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy undertook a nationwide survey of union members to determine their views of their unions’ performance. We asked union members about union effectiveness, union responsibilities, union political spending, ways for workers to create a union and how unions should treat workers. more

A Telecommunications Policy Primer

20 Comprehensive Answers to 20 Basic Questions

A guide to understanding telecommunications law and regulation in Michigan and the United States. more

Assessing Electric Choice in Michigan

Ending the regional monopoly structure in the generation of electricity was intended to provide customers with lower rates and improved service quality, while also increasing generating capacity for electricity in the state. But attempts are underway to reverse the course of this restructuring. more

Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan’s State Budget — 2nd Edition

An Analysis of Fiscal-Year 2003-04 Appropriations and Recommendations for 2004-05. more

Forging Consensus

Can the School Choice Community Come Together on an Explicit Goal and a Plan for Achieving It? more

Crossed Lines: Regulatory Missteps in Telecom Policy

An analysis of forced access in Michigan

Violation of property rights is the defining feature of current telecom policy. more

Recommendations to Strengthen Civil Society and Balance Michigan's State Budget

An Analysis of Fiscal-Year 2002-03 Appropriations and Recommendations for 2003-04

If Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Michigan Legislature need specifics on how to close Michigan’s looming $1.7 billion budget deficit, they need look no further than the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new report on balancing the state budget, released today.

More than 200 specific recommendations from Mackinac Center analysts total more than $2 billion in cost savings and revenue enhancements. All budget reductions, including those involving federal funds, total $3.7 billion. 157 pages. more

Proposed Budget Reductions for the Michigan Department of Agriculture

Gov. Granholm and the Michigan Legislature can save $34 million in the state agriculture budget, and sell state land for another $59 million.

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The Six Habits of Fiscally Responsible Public School Districts

An Assessment of What Michigan Public School Districts Can Do to Save Money Without Laying Off Teachers or Other Essential Staff more

The Clean Michigan Initiative: An Assessment

An Examination of the Goals, Results and Fiscal Consequences of Michigan's Most Ambitious Environmental Bond Program more

Proposal 3: Establishing a Constitutional Requirement Extending Mandatory Collective Bargaining and Binding Arbitration to State Government Employees

On Nov. 5, 2002, Michigan voters will consider Proposal 02-03 ("Proposal 3"), an amendment to the state constitution that, if passed, would fundamentally alter the relationship between the State of Michigan and its employees. more

The Effect of Right-to-Work Laws on Economic Development

The right to decide for yourself whether or not to support a union in your workplace: union officials dismiss it as "the right to starve", but for the last thirty years Right-to-Work states have been outperforming compuslory unionism states such as Michigan. This report demonstrates how individual freedom and higher productivity give workers in Right-to-Work states the edge in job opportunities, employment, and purchasing power. more

Keeping Michigan on Track:

A Blueprint for a Freer, More Prosperous State

New legislative opportunities will come with the fall elections for the Michigan House, Senate, and governorship. Read the Mackinac Center's policy recommendations for the next Legislature and governor below. more

The Michigan Union Accountability Act:

A Step Toward Accountability and Democracy in Labor Organizations

Unions in Michigan represent over 900,000 workers and take in more than $250 million in membership dues annually. But in spite of their expansive wealth and political power, requirements that unions disclose their financial dealings are minimal. Reform of the federal reporting system, which governs private-sector unions, is needed but unlikely in the current political climate. Michigan can take the lead by passing its own Union Accountability Act, requiring annual financial disclosure reports and independent audits of public-sector union affiliates active in the Great Lakes State. more
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The Case for Choice in Schooling:

Restoring Parental Control of Education

After 40 years of struggle, school choice is now at the center of the debate over school reform in America, and it is of primary importance that the public understand the facts-and avoid the myths-surrounding this issue. This three-part primer is designed to educate and inform citizens about all aspects of school choice and equip them to participate in the debate as fully informed members of their communities. The report contains a historical overview of tax-funded schooling, demonstrates the failure of many popular reforms of the past and present, explains the various types of school choice, identifies the barriers to education reform, dispels myths surrounding school choice, and outlines strategic plans parents and other concerned citizens can follow to advance the cause of greater school choice. more

The Cost of Remedial Education

More than a third of Michigan students leave high school without possessing basic academic skills including reading, writing, and arithmetic. This forces employers and post-secondary schools to take up the slack. This study conservatively estimates that Michigan businesses and institutions of higher education spend over $600 million annually to teach employees and students skills they should have learned in high school. The comparable national figure is $16.6 billion, but the human costs of K-12 educational failure are incalculable, according to experts' essays included in the study's appendices. more

The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts

Case studies of how school districts in Michigan's largest county are responding to competition from charter schools and public "schools-of-choice" more

Religious Liberty and Compulsory Unionism: A Worker's Guide to Using Union Dues for Charity

Many employees in unionized workplaces do not know that if they harbor religious objections to joining, financing, or otherwise associating with labor unions, they have legal recourse if their union or employer or both violate those rights. This report explains the statutes and developing case law that protect religious employees' freedom of conscience in the workplace by allowing them to refrain from union membership and divert their compulsory dues to a charity of their choice. more

Environmental Quality 2000: Michigan and America at the 30th Anniversary of Earth Day

Public opinion about the environment is often marked by unwarranted pessimism about the state of our air, water, and natural resources. But the most recent government data show that America in general, and Michigan in particular, have seen impressive gains in environmental quality since the first Earth Day 30 years ago. This report presents decades of facts and figures on Michigan and U.S. air and water quality, land use, and other environmental factors to show that, far from worsening, environmental conditions have actually improved substantially-and are likely to continue improving. more

Internet Purchases: To Tax or Not to Tax, Here Are the Questions

Has the growth of tax-free Internet sales hurt state revenues or education funding? Is it "unfair" for sales over the Internet not to be taxed while other sales are taxed? Would imposing new taxes on the Internet do serious damage to the ability of this new form of commerce to thrive? Does the growth of tax-free online shopping pose a threat to traditional "bricks-and-mortar" retailers? This study addresses these and other questions in order to provide state, local, and federal policy-makers with the intellectual and empirical ammunition they need to keep the taxman at bay. more

Trade Liberalization: The North American Free Trade Agreement's Economic Impact on Michigan

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is six years old. Has it benefited Michigan's economy? Or has it destroyed jobs and hampered prosperity, as predicted by many who participated in the national debate that raged for two years prior to its ratification? The verdict is in, and the available data clearly show that free trade is proving to be a significant boon to Michigan businesses and citizens. This study analyzes five years of import and export figures to show that the tariff cuts enacted by NAFTA have led to significantly increased Michigan exports to Canada and Mexico. The study concludes that while some businesses may have been hurt by NAFTA, on balance, removing government barriers to trade has been a positive step toward increasing the prosperity and standards of living for Michigan citizens-and citizens throughout America, Canada, and Mexico. more

Internet Access: Government Intervention or Private Innovation?

The Internet has transformed our way of life; and new "broadband" technologies promise even greater benefits through high-speed Internet access and communications. Unfortunately, because major cable companies currently have the capacity to provide this technology to their clients, other Internet service providers (ISPs) are crying foul. They are calling the cable companies' "head start" unfair and forming alliances to get the government to force cable companies to make their high-speed broadband lines available for use by all ISPs on equal terms. This study explains why this government intervention would be a terrible idea. It analyzes market trends and technological possibilities to show that "forced access" would significantly increase costs for consumers with no benefit to show for the added expense. The study concludes that "forced access" would stifle the innovation that naturally emerges from the free play of market forces. It shows why government should not only refrain from interfering with broadband technology, but should allow competition between local cable providers in order to maximize the potential of this exciting new technology. more

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Law and Its Effects on Government Spending and Construction Employment

Michigan's Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 requires contractors to pay artificially high union wages on all state-financed projects from road repair to school construction. This study examined the performance of Michigan's economy for two 30-month periods prior to and during the law's suspension by a federal district court and found that taxpayers could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually if the law were permanently repealed. The study also reveals prevailing wage laws' negative effect on job creation in the construction industry and their discriminatory impact on black and other minority workers. 21 pages. more

Michigan Labor Law: What Every Citizen Should Know

Michigan is one of the most unionized states in the country, with a long and sometimes troubled labor history that powerfully affects every citizen in the state from blue-collar factory workers to suburban soccer moms. Yet few understand how modern labor unions and state and federal labor laws operate. This study clearly and concisely explains the history of organized labor in America, how government unions affect the democratic process, how compulsory unionism interferes with workers' rights of free speech and association, and much more. Several recommendations for reform point the way toward restoring a more balanced, government-neutral approach to Michigan labor relations. more

School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education

  School choice--the right, freedom, and ability of parents to choose for their children the safest and best schools--has moved front and center in the debate over how to improve education in Michigan. This three-part primer equips parents, educators, and policy makers with the facts they need to understand and advance market-based reforms that will help all Michigan schools perform at higher levels of quality and efficiency.
  The primer examines the history of government-funded and operated schooling, explains why nonmarket-oriented school reform efforts ultimately fail, and describes various school choice proposals including charter schools, inter-district choice, vouchers, tax credits, and universal tuition tax credits. Helpful appendices explain ways for grass-roots citizens to help advance school choice. more

The Impact of School Choice on School Employee Labor Unions

  As school choice heads for the 2000 ballot in Michigan, it is important for citizens to understand how proposals including K-12 vouchers and tuition tax credits will affect the school employee unions that exert such a powerful influence on the state’s public school system.
  This study examines union membership rates among Michigan’s public, charter, and private school teachers and found that while teachers in every public school district are represented by-and pay dues to-a union, only 5 out of 139 charter and 2 out of over one thousand private schools employ unionized workforces.
  The study concludes that school employee unions-including the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Federation of Teachers-have powerful political and financial incentives to spend millions of dollars to prevent more parents from being able to choose non-unionized charter or private schools for their children. more

How Reliable Are Michigan High School Economics Textbooks?

  A strong knowledge of sound economic principles is not only important in the twenty-first century global marketplace, it is essential for the maintenance of a free society. Are Michigan high school students being taught what they need to know in order to succeed and prosper?
  This review of 16 of the most commonly used economics textbooks in Michigan high schools uses 12 criteria-including issues of trade, taxation, and the role of government-to evaluate which texts are and are not effective at presenting students with a balanced and accurate perspective on the modern market economy. Each text is graded, from A to F, on its ability to clearly instruct students in the "economic way of thinking."
  An abridged 27-page written copy of the report may be ordered normally, or the full reviews of each textbook may be downloaded at no charge via www.mackinac.orgmore

Unused Capacity in Privately Funded Michigan Schools

Many Michigan education reformers are exploring proposals to use private schools to help fix public school problems, including student overcrowding and a lack of incentives for improving student performance. The proposals, whether they involve public-to-private student transfers or expanded parental choice among all schools, depend on private schools' willingness and ability to accommodate new students. This study, which surveyed 342 of Michigan's 1,058 private schools, confirms that private schools have the classroom capacity and desire to accept a significantly larger role in providing more of the state's children with quality education. 10 pages. more

Keeping Michigan on Track

A Blueprint for Governor Engler and the 90th Legislature

The close of the twentieth century finds Michigan in a position that seemed impossible barely a decade ago: record low unemployment, a thriving economy, growing educational opportunities, and a sense of accomplishment and high spirits. But much can be done to make Michigan an even better place to live and work.
  This report's five sections offer the Governor and the Legislature 41 specific recommendations that will strengthen property rights protection, reform labor law to protect worker rights, improve education for Michigan children, spur economic growth and development, and enhance the state's transportation infrastructure. more
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Saving Retirement in Michigan

Responsible Alternatives to Social Security

Social Security is going bankrupt, threatening the financial security of Michigan citizens. Retiring Baby Boomers are estimated to double the number of retirees in America by 2015, when Social Security will no longer collect enough in taxes to pay the benefits promised to recipients.

Privatizing Social Security-allowing individuals to privately invest their own retirement savings-can avert the financial crisis. Countries including Chile and Great Britain have privatized all or part of their state pension programs, yielding retiree benefits much higher than the government systems, including Social Security's paltry 2.2 percent annual rate of return.

This study recommends that the Michigan Legislature call on Congress to either privatize Social Security or allow Michigan to design for its citizens a sounder and more beneficial retirement plan. more
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"Urban Sprawl" and the Michigan Landscape: A Market-Oriented Approach

Government officials and environmental activists use "stopping urban sprawl" as a mantra to support greater government control over private land use decisions in Michigan through central planning aimed at farmland preservation and urban revitalization. This study critically examines suburbanization and land use in Michigan to determine that the state's economy and farmland and citizens' quality of life are not threatened by economic growth and development, or what activists have dubbed "sprawl." The study argues that restrictions on suburban growth do not address the causes of why people move out of inner cities any more than the Berlin Wall addressed the problems of East Germany's repressive socialist economy. The study concludes by recommending a market-based approach to land use policy and identifying "urban sprawl" as the natural evolution of free people pursuing peaceful ends and their shot at the American Dream. more

Paycheck Protection in Michigan

The U. S. Supreme Court's 1988 landmark decision Communication Workers v. Beck established the rights of employees working under union contracts to pay only those union dues or fees necessary to cover the costs of a union's employee representation duties. However, the majority of Michigan's nearly one million union workers are unaware of their rights under the Beck decision for the simple reason that their unions neglect to inform them. This report shows how "paycheck protection" legislation would help safeguard worker Beck rights by requiring unions to obtain up-front, written approval from individual workers each year before they could spend the dues money on political or other non-workplace-related activities. The report recommends that Michigan policy makers adopt a paycheck protection proposal to help union workers enjoy their freedoms of speech and association as they refrain from involuntarily contributing money to union causes with which they disagree. more
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Collective Bargaining: Bringing Education to the Table

Michigan parents, citizens, and policy makers have begun an earnest discussion over the issues that affect the quality of children's education, but one issue that is rarely considered in discussions about education reform is public school union collective bargaining. This Mackinac Center for Public Policy study is the first ever to systematically analyze the hundreds of collective bargaining agreements for every school district in a state. It examines collective bargaining's impact on Michigan public education and makes recommendations that school boards should incorporate into their union contracts to improve their ability to direct maximum resources to the classroom and deliver quality education to students. The study also explains the historical and legal framework of public employee collective bargaining in Michigan, analyzes seven important court rulings that affect public collective bargaining issues, and advises districts on which subjects to negotiate or not negotiate into their labor contracts. Three appendices compare costs and benefits of various health care plans and present contract and financial data from the survey of Michigan's 583 school districts. more

Reforming Property Forfeiture Laws to Protect Citizens’ Rights

The Framers of the United States Constitution understood that freedom depends upon the vigorous protection of private property rights and that this protection was therefore the most sacred obligation of government. However, despite Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees, recent years have witnessed a massive expansion of a legal practice known as "asset forfeiture," which allows government to violate the very property rights it is charged with protecting. Hundreds of asset forfeiture laws-many of them intended to stop illegal drug trafficking-give state and federal law enforcement agents the power to seize property even without proof of the owners' guilt in a criminal trial because, in many cases, the government considers the property itself to be the criminal. This study recommends nine reforms that will help guarantee that Michigan citizens enjoy the benefits of private property rights, limited government, and individual liberty, and remain protected from unjustified and arbitrary seizure of their personal possessions. more

The Need for Debt Policy in Michigan Public Schools

Public school construction is booming across Michigan, but due to citizens' negative perceptions, many districts are finding it harder and harder to gain voter approval for bond proposals to fund needed projects. This analysis of Michigan public school bonding concludes that development of formal debt policies can help schools earn essential voter trust by managing bond monies in the most efficient and effective manner. The report recommends fifteen elements for a sound debt policy that school districts should adopt to avoid common pitfalls and problems in bonding, including excessive borrowing, improper accounting, and conflict of interest in debt issuance. 17 pages more

The Universal Tuition Tax Credit: A Proposal to Advance Parental Choice in Education

This pathbreaking approach to expanding parental choice in education embodies a proposal to amend the Michigan constitution and establish a Universal Tuition Tax Credit (UTTC). The tax credit would offset a portion of private or public school tuition and would be claimed against state tax liabilities. In addition to improving education, the UTTC would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Unlike other tax credit plans, the UTTC would help needy families with low state tax liabilities by encouraging the creation of corporate scholarships to offset tuition costs not covered by the UTTC. The per-student credit could be claimed against the Michigan tax liability of any person or corporation. Unlike vouchers, the UTTC would not allow state funds to support religious schools, would not drain funds from the public schools, and would not spawn new entitlements or overregulation of private schools. The study includes detailed fiscal models, a discussion of school choice, a history of Michigan's constitutional impediments to education reform, and proposed language for a constitutional amendment. 76 pages more

Do Private Schools Serve Difficult-to-Educate Students?

Private K-12 schools are sometimes criticized for accepting only those students most likely to succeed academically, and for leaving the most difficult-to-educate children to the public school system. Is this true? The diversity of private schools includes those that serve exclusively at-risk, incarcerated, or disabled children. The report describes private schools that educate each of these populations, reviews how public schools are contracting with private schools to serve difficult-to-educate students, examines policy implications including cost and school choice, and presents six case studies of Michigan private schools that serve exclusively students with special needs. 71 page more

Energizing Michigan's Electricity Market

Michigan is about to allow customer choice in the electric power market and, by doing so, end nearly a century of monopoly protection and guaranteed profits for electric utilities. How the state makes this free market transition will impact Michigan's competitiveness and cost of living. The report reviews key decisions before the legislature; analyzes the Public Service Commission proposals; shows the technical, environmental, and economic impact of deregulation; compares Michigan to other states; and recommends ten specific actions to ensure fair, timely, and comprehensive customer choice. The effects of so-called stranded cost payments to utilities are assessed in detail. A four-page glossary of technical terms is included. 33 pages. more

Compulsory Union Dues in Michigan

Nearly one million Michigan workers are forced to financially support a union in order to keep their jobs. Although federal law permits unions and employers to force workers to pay for union representation in the workplace, the law does not extend to forcing workers to pay unions for representation in the political arena. Over three-fourths of union workers are not aware that they do not have to fund their unions' political, social, and ideological agendas. This report documents the developing law surrounding compulsory union dues in Michigan, shows workers how to exercise their rights to a dues refund, presents positive union strategies for making workers aware of their rights, and calls for executive action by the governor. 28 pp. more

Declining Standards at Michigan Universities

Reflecting a national problem, Michigan public universities are producing graduates who are unprepared for K-12 teaching careers and the business world. The demise of the traditional core curriculum, indoctrination in the classroom, and questionable teaching methods that emphasize emotion and subjectivity over rigor and critical thinking are to blame. The study documents extensive evidence cited by employers that college graduates lack crucial communications and thinking skills, and it finds a link between poor training of aspiring teachers and declining K-12 student performance. Analysis of over 300 undergraduate course syllabi reveal the dominance of trendy, politicized course content. 88 pages. more
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Reforming the Law of Takings in Michigan

If the state of Michigan takes from a land owner some, but not all, of the use or value of his land, the owner is not entitled to any compensation. This forces a few land owners to bear the entire cost of these takings that are intended to benefit the public as a whole. Many states have initiated reforms that would permit land owners to be more fairly compensated. This study outlines the practice of takings jurisprudence in Michigan, reviews the legislative responses in Michigan and other states, and makes specific recommendations for reform in Michigan. 40 pages. more

Advancing Civil Society: A State Budget to Strengthen Michigan Culture

At its core, the budget of the state of Michigan is not about money-it is about people and the way they organize their society. This line-by-line analysis of Michigan's 1995-96 state budget reflects a principled vision for Michigan culture by asking this question about each budget item: Should this program or activity be done by the authority of the state and financed by taxes, or should it be done by its individual citizens acting in voluntary cooperation and private contract with one another? The study recommends over $2 billion in spending reductions (over 7 percent of the state budget) achieved by eliminating unnecessary and counterproductive programs, rolling back unjustified program growth, and contracting out for services that can be handled more efficiently by the private sector. This landmark analysis will help citizens, candidates, and officials of any state craft budgets that promote the strengthening of private institutions and civil society. 97 pages. more
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Are Michigan's History Textbooks Reliable?

When history texts are poorly written, students are merely bored. But when they are distorted and biased, students may act on false ideas and live out a lie. How reliable are Michigan's history texts at presenting the past in ways which are well organized, accurate, clear, and free of bias? In this study, four Michigan history textbooks are analyzed and reviewed against these criteria. The reliability of these texts is especially important since Michigan history is a required subject for Michigan fourth graders, and it is studied by many junior high and high schoolers too. Parents, teachers, and school officials will find this study a valuable tool for making the best choices for their students. 28 pages. more
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Stress Claims in Michigan: Worker's Compensation Entitlement for Mental Disability

The worker's compensation system was developed as a way for workers who suffer on-the-job physical injuries to be compensated fairly and quickly for medical expenses and loss of income. In recent years, however, it has expanded into a new area fraught with vagueness: mental stress. Though the focus of this report is on Michigan, which has been in the forefront among states in mental stress claims, its searching analysis of the inherent difficulty in evaluating these claims will be useful for anyone interested in this growing area of workplace abuse. 36 pages. more
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Outcome-Based Education: Miracle Cure or Plague?

This report explains why there is so much conflict over outcome-based education (OBE). When states began to institute OBE programs, they turned the crucial task of defining outcomes over to the very education establishment threatened by the process. Having adopted in principle the laudable focus on education results, the educrats then went on to propose a list of outcomes that emphasizes not academic achievement but rather, attitudes and behavior that often reflect quasi-political or ideologically correct positions. 24 pages. more