Studies

Overcriminalizing the Wolverine State: A Primer and Possible Reforms for Michigan

(Editor’s note: This paper was co-authored with James R. Copland and Isaac Gorodetski and jointly published with the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research).
Click here for a PDF of the study.  

Executive Summary


In recent years, Michigan’s criminal law has put into legal jeopardy a woman innocently helping her neighbor’s children board a school bus; a man who unknowingly deposited spare tires with a facility lacking proper state permits; and a business owner who expanded his parking lot on land that state regulators later deemed a “wetland.”
At present, Michigan’s vast, disorganized criminal law inherently places the Wolverine State’s residents at risk of unintentionally violating a growing array of regulatory crimes that are difficult, if not impossible, to discover and understand. For example:
  • Michigan’s penal code contains 918 sections—eight times the number of the Model Penal Code and significantly more than that of neighboring states Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
  • Michigan has at least 3,102 crimes—1,209 felonies and 1,893 misdemeanors—and most of these (48 percent of felonies and more than 76 percent of misdemeanors) lie outside the penal code.
  • Michigan has created, on average, 45 crimes annually over the last six years, 44 percent of which were felonies and 73 percent of which fell outside the penal code.
  • More than 26 percent of felonies and more than 59 percent of misdemeanors on the Michigan books do not explicitly require the state to make a showing of intent (mens rea) on the part of the accused.

The size as well as the breadth of Michigan’s criminal law not only places citizens in legal jeopardy but also creates a serious risk that prosecutions will vary markedly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Further, it threatens to divert scarce resources away from the enforcement of serious violent and property crimes.
To address this overcriminalization, Michigan policymakers should consider:
  • Creating a bipartisan legislative task force to conduct hearings and set guiding principles for lawmakers when creating new criminal offenses, with an emphasis on organizing and clarifying criminal laws for state residents.
  • Creating a commission, or charging the Michigan Law Revision Commission, to review the criminal law and consolidate, clarify, and optimize the state’s current criminal statutes.
  • Enacting a default mens rea provision, ensuring that to be convicted of a crime requires a showing of intent, unless the legislature clearly specifies otherwise.
 … more
S2014-05

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2014

The growth of school support service privatization has slowed. The 2014 survey shows that the percentage of school districts that contract out for food, custodial or transportation services increased just 0.4 percentage points, the smallest growth recorded since the survey began. Each service, however, increased and satisfaction with contracting remains high. … more
S2014-04

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

This paper examines how public school districts responded to Michigan's 2012 “right-to-work” law. It describes the key findings from reviews of more than 500 teacher collective bargaining agreements. It also raises several questions about the legality of some union contracts with regard to this new law.
Approximately 75 percent of districts with contracts subject to the right-to-work law removed language that would require employees to financially support a union as a condition of employment. Both legal and policy questions are raised by the remaining 25 percent of districts, which kept mandatory dues language in one way or another, despite having a contract that took effect or was modified after the law's effective date.
The study describes five issues with these contracts. Twenty-three contracts made no apparent changes and kept mandatory dues language. Eight districts created a separate agreement to require mandatory dues payment. Fifteen contracts were ratified before they would be subject to the right-to-work law, but then didn’t take effect until much later. Five contracts made only the mandatory dues language immediately effective, while delaying the rest of the contract. Finally, at least six districts have modified parts of their contract without making the rest of it compliant with the right-to-work law. … more

Proposal 1 of 2014: Summary and Assessment

Download the full study here.
On Aug. 5 Michigan voters will be asked to approve or reject Proposal 1, which would modify the state’s personal property tax. The legislation that would go into effect if Proposal 1 were approved by voters creates three new exemptions for certain businesses that are currently subject to the personal property tax; it does not eliminate the personal property tax. Commercial and industrial businesses with less than $80,000 of personal property will be exempt, and, eventually, all manufacturing personal property will be exempt. These exemptions amount to an estimated $600 million tax cut when fully implemented.
The package of bills includes a mechanism for reimbursing local government units for the revenue lost from these new exemptions. The state would set aside a portion of the statewide Use tax revenue, and use this revenue to reimburse local governments. It is estimated that local governments will be reimbursed for the entirety of the revenue lost due to the personal property tax cuts.
The state would also levy a new, but relatively small, tax on manufacturing personal property that qualifies for one of the exemptions described above, except the small parcel exemption. The state estimates this to raise $117.5 million, making the overall net tax cut of the legislation package worth about $500 million. … more
S2014-02

Roadblocks to Reform?: A Review of Union Contracts in Michigan Schools

This study focuses on Public Act 103 of 2011, which made teacher evaluation, layoff policies and teacher placement prohibited subjects of bargaining, among other things. After surveying 200 Michigan school district collective bargaining agreements, this study finds that as many as 60 percent of districts could have collective bargaining agreements in place that contain language prohibited by PA 103.
Some districts negotiated with their unions to add language stating that if circumstances changed, pages of prohibited language would take immediate effect. Others simply changed the word “teacher” in order to keep the prohibited language but have it apply to other staff members. Finally, some districts appear to have kept prohibited language without explanation.
This study includes further examples and lists of districts that kept the prohibited language in their contracts. As a solution, penalties could be added to the collective bargaining reform laws in order to encourage district compliance. … more
S2014-01

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2013

Michigan’s school districts have saved money by turning to the private-sector to provide support services. This 2013 survey shows that 65.5 percent of districts now contract out food, custodial or transportation services to private-sector vendors. This is an increase from 31.0 percent in 2001. The survey covers the three services, satisfaction and insourcing among Michigan’s public school districts and has been performed in 2001, 2003, and annually since 2005. … more
S2013-11

The Public School Market in Michigan: An Analysis of Schools of Choice

This study examines the use of Schools of Choice throughout Michigan over the last decade. Nearly 100,000 Michigan students use Schools of Choice to attend a school outside of the district in which they live. Participation has grown steadily, with enrollment growing by 144 percent over the past 10 years.
This study finds that students enter districts that have higher graduation rates and higher test scores. On average, Schools of Choice students chose districts with higher pupil-teacher ratios, lower expenditures per pupil and higher average teacher salaries.
 … more
S2013-12

A New Turnaround Model: Michigan's Highland Park Goes Charter

This brief examines the series of events that led to the Highland Park school district being converted to a system of charter public schools in 2012. Used as a strategy to help the district eliminate its large fiscal debt while still providing resident students with a local public school option, Highland Park's charter conversion is one of the first of its kind in the state and even the nation.
During the first year of charter school operation, students demonstrated significant learning gains, with some grades posting academic growth far above the average Michigan student. … more
S2013-10

Criminal Minds: Defining Culpability in Michigan Criminal Law

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “Criminal Minds: Defining Culpability in Michigan Criminal Law,” which addresses the element of intent in Michigan statutes and case law. The policy brief is authored by Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Michael Reitz.
Conviction of a crime traditionally required a combination of a wrongful act and criminal intent. But frequently the criminal code is used for regulatory purposes, and those laws often omit a requirement that the prosecution prove the existence of criminal intent for a conviction to occur. Consequently, individuals can be charged, convicted and imprisoned for committing crimes without possessing a culpable state of mind — often for behavior a reasonable person would not think of as criminal.
The policy brief proposes a reform that would clarify the element of intent in criminal statutes. If the Legislature enacts a criminal statute that is silent on intent, a default intent provision would be incorporated. Such a reform could make for a more orderly criminal justice system and protect the rights of individuals. … more
S2013-09

Electricity Choice Policies in Michigan: Comment on "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Electric Choice"

This policy brief is written by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in response to the report issued on Oct. 15, 2013, by the Michigan Public Service Commission titled "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Electric Choice," (the "Draft Report") authored by Chairman John Quackenbush and Michigan Energy Office Director Steve Bakkal.

Between the years 2000 and 2012 two distinct changes emerged. Between 2000 and 2008 new suppliers were allowed to start entering the Michigan market and competing with incumbent utilities. Between 2008 and 2012 competition was restricted to guarantee a 90 percent market share for the largest utilities. The analysis of these two periods suggests that market competition tends to bring innovation and lower prices to Michigan electricity consumers, while monopolistic policies tend to raise prices. Michigan should once again embrace opening its electricity market to more entrants to see if they can perform better than the incumbent firms, which will drive down prices for electricity consumers. Michigan allowed such competition to start to emerge during its brief era of Full Customer Choice, and the early results were promising. The initial results from a more tightly regulated and protectionist experiment have been by contrast disappointing.

A video recording of the January 22, 2014 Issues and Ideas Forum featuring the author discussing the topic of expanding the electricity market can be viewed here… more
S2013-08

Benefits in Balance: Benchmarking Public Sector Employee Benefits in Michigan

This policy brief reviews the growth of Michigan’s state and local government expenditures from 2000 to 2010 and finds that government employee contributions, particularly the cost of employment benefits, were a primary contributor to the increase in spending. This brief explores the kinds of employment benefits that can be received by employees, as well as the recent changes made to benefits in the government and private sectors. It finds that bringing benefits in line with private-sector averages would save Michigan $5.8 billion and provides recommendations for implementing this policy. … more
S2013-07

Michigan's Top-to-Bottom Ranking: A Measure of School Quality or Student Poverty?

This study examines the state’s “Top-to-Bottom” ranking, which has been repeatedly criticized by educators for appearing to be correlated with school poverty rates. Mackinac Center research finds that schools that serve more lower-income students tend to receive lower scores on the TTB list.
These results matters because TTB rankings are used to impose consequences on low-ranking schools. This study suggests that Michigan should look at how other states rank schools in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of penalizing schools that serve lower-income students. It also makes the case that a choice-based accountability system is preferred, as it would allow students to escape schools that are not serving their needs and reduce the risk of penalizing undeservedly low-ranked schools. … more
S2013-05

Economic Growth and Right-to-Work Laws

This study aims to measure the impact of right-to-work laws on states’ economic performance. It uses average annual growth rates in employment, real (inflation-adjusted) personal income and population to measure the economic well-being of right-to-work states. On the whole, the results of this analysis show that right-to-work laws have a statistically significant and economically meaningful positive impact, although the results vary. … more
S2013-06

Medicaid: Waivers are Temporary, Expansion is Forever

This study, jointly published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, examines whether states can rely on using federally granted “waivers” to avoid some federal rules and regulations in hopes of expanding their Medicaid programs in a more cost-effective manner. It reports that there are three limitations to such a strategy: waivers are temporary, subject to the discretion of federal agencies and vulnerable to judicial review. … more
CS2013-01

Berrien Springs Public Schools: Reinventing School — Becoming a District of Choices

Michigan’s Schools of Innovation

In this latest installment of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's new "Schools of Innovation" series, we discuss how Berrien Springs school district is reinventing public school. This study examines how the district has become more racially diverse, enrollment is growing rapidly, and they are using that growth to inject some much needed balance to the school funds. All this has been due to the district’s expansion of digital learning options, becoming a “district of choices.” The effectiveness of virtual learning and the resulting increase in district enrollment have fueled the expansion of other school programs — a marked contrast to the many Michigan school districts that have struggled to maintain their offerings during the state's economic slump. … more
S2013-03

An Analysis of the Proposed Medicaid Expansion in Michigan

Michigan lawmakers are currently deciding whether to expand the state's Medicaid program to cover people newly eligible for federal Medicaid subsidies under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as "Obamacare." A target population for Medicaid subsidies are the uninsured and those with incomes between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The authors estimate that in 2014, approximately 177,000 uninsured Michiganders will fall into this category. Assuming 70 percent sign up for Medicaid, the authors estimate the additional taxpayer cost will be $475 million to state taxpayers, and $7 billion to federal taxpayers. 

The study considers several factors, including potential enrollees that are not considered in typical enrollment projections: uninsured people who are already eligible for Medicaid but have not yet enrolled, low-income, privately insured individuals who would switch to Medicaid, and childless adults and others who live below the poverty line and who would now qualify based on the broader definitions of the expansion. 
The study determines that a Medicaid expansion would likely shift many insurance costs to state taxpayers, while other studies have found that as many as 50 percent or 60 percent of new enrollees following Medicaid expansions dropped existing private insurance to do so. Further, both local and federal studies have indicated that Medicaid often delivers substandard health outcomes and access to medical services. Therefore, lawmakers should think twice before widening the program's scope.  … more
Michigan vs. Florida

Michigan vs. Florida

Student achievement, education policies and proposals for reform

This study is an examination of Florida and Michigan's performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress's (NAEP) standardized test, often referred to as "the nation's report card." Immediately prior to and during Florida's immense improvement on these scores from the past 15 years, the state made substantial changes to its public education system. Some of these policies have been rigorously studied and have shown a positive impact on Florida students that Michigan should emulate to improve its static performance. … more
S2012-11

Proposal 5 of 2012: An Assessment of the Supermajority Tax Vote Requirement

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “Proposal 5 of 2012: An Assessment of the Supermajority Tax Vote Requirement,” which addresses Proposal 5 on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot.
The study examines the amendment to the state constitution that proposes to require a two-thirds supermajority vote of both the Michigan House and Senate, or a simple majority vote of the people in a November election, to impose new state taxes or increase any state taxes that currently require only a majority vote of the Legislature. The study concludes that Proposal 5 is likely to provide additional protection against state tax increases, though it may be appropriate to ensure state lawmakers take further steps to ensure the original intent of the proposal.
The Policy Brief was authored by Michael D. LaFaive, director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.  … more
S2012-10

Proposal 1 of 2012: The Referendum on Public Act 4

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “Proposal 1 of 2012: The Referendum on Public Act 4,” which addresses Proposal 1 on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot, also referred to as the “emergency manager” referendum.
The study examines the claim that local control will diminish if Proposal 1 passes and Public Act 4 is nullified. Public Act 4 had provided expanded powers to state-appointed emergency managers of local governments and school districts that are in a state of serious “fiscal stress or “fiscal emergency.” The study determined that the question in Michigan has not been whether state-appointed managers or court-appointed receivers may replace local elected officials in running a local unit of government; they have been able to do so for decades. The only question is whether state government will participate in the effort to avoid local fiscal insolvency and how it will do so.
The Policy Brief was authored by James M. Hohman, assistant director of Fiscal Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.  … more
S2012-09

An Analysis of Proposal 4 of 2012: The Unionization of In-Home Caregivers

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “An Analysis of Proposal 4 of 2012: The Unionization of In-Home Caregivers,” which addresses Proposal 4 on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot. The policy brief is authored by Mackinac Center Legal Analyst Derk Wilcox.
The proposed constitutional amendment would authorize the forced unionization of tens of thousands of home-based caregivers in Michigan, allowing the Service Employees International Union to continue skimming millions of dollars in dues from Medicaid stipends meant to help Michigan’s most vulnerable residents. A line-by-line review of Proposal 4 shows that it would not provide any programs or services to in-home care recipients that are not already available, including any improved care, new options for care recipients or taxpayer cost savings. … more
S2012-08

Proposal 2 of 2012: An Assessment

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published “Proposal 2 of 2012: An Assessment,” which addresses Proposal 2 on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot, also referred to as the “collective bargaining” amendment.
The study examines how the proposed constitutional amendment would enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution, which would allow government union collective bargaining agreements to invalidate numerous state laws meant to improve the quality of public services and would likely negate a projected $1.6 billion in annual taxpayer savings.
The Policy Brief was co-authored by Vernuccio and other Mackinac Center analysts: Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright, Executive Vice President Michael J. Reitz and Assistant Fiscal Policy Director James M. Hohman. Also co-authoring was Paul Kersey, director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. … more
S2012-07

The Projected Economic Impact of Proposal 3 and Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently published with the Beacon Hill Institute “The Projected Economic Impact of Proposal 3 and Michigan’s Renewable Energy Standard,” which addresses Proposal 3, the so-called “25 x 25” initiative, on the Nov. 6,  2012 ballot. The policy brief is authored by David G. Tuerck, Paul Bachman and Michael Head of the Beacon Hill Institute.
The proposed constitutional amendment would mandate a 25 percent renewable energy standard for Michigan by 2025. The policy brief estimates the cost of the mandates using  the State Tax Analysis Modeling Program – or STAMP – to determine the economic impact on Michigan. They determine that the ballot measure would impose higher electricity prices and economic costs than are sustainable or environmentally friendly. … more
S2012-04

The Shortage of Generic Sterile Injectable Drugs: Diagnosis and Solutions

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the number of times drugs were in short supply almost tripled from 61 in 2005 to 178 in 2010. The figure reached more than 250 in 2011. This means that manufacturers reported to the FDA that they were unable to meet demand for the drugs. Hospital and health-system pharmacists, as well as oncologists, anesthesiologists and other specialists have also increasingly reported difficulties acquiring drugs.

These are mostly injectable drugs for cancer and other important therapies, and they are frequently produced by generic drugmakers. These drugs are not dispensed by community pharmacies, but rather administered by health professionals in clinical settings.
Currently proposed solutions are unlikely to address the crisis satisfactorily. Congress appears ready to give more power to the FDA, but making FDA regulations more onerous will not alleviate the current shortage of crucial medicines.
A more promising approach is to make it easier for competitors to enter the market in response to forthcoming shortages. In general, this means reducing and ultimately removing the FDA’s monopoly on the approval of drugs for medical use. Shifting these medicines to Medicare Part D insurance may also stabilize supply by helping ensure manufacturers receive adequate compensation for the medicine, even as taxpayers are protected from escalating costs. … more
S2012-02

Alcohol Control Reform and Public Health and Safety

Michigan regulates the sale of beer, wine and “spirituous” (hard) liquor through state statute and rules promulgated by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. As part of this system, state government intervenes in the spirituous liquor market as a monopoly wholesaler, a role it has filled since the end of Prohibition. The state also mandates that most suppliers of beer and wine grant exclusive sales territories to a select group of wholesalers. These and other restrictions artificially raise prices and reduce the availability of alcohol to Michigan’s consumers.

Last year, a state Liquor Control Advisory Rules Committee was charged with developing alcohol control reform proposals. Some critics, however, have cautioned that the state’s present alcohol laws are necessary to protect public health. This Policy Brief examines the health and safety effects of alcohol regulations like Michigan’s. … more
CS2012-01

Oxford Community Schools: The Great Recession — and the 'Greatest Gift'

Michigan’s Schools of Innovation

In this first installment of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's new "Schools of Innovation" series, we begin with Oxford Community Schools' experiment with virtual learning. This study examines the district's adoption of Web-based learning to deliver and enhance student instruction. The effectiveness of virtual learning and the resulting increase in district enrollment have fueled the expansion of other school programs — a marked contrast to the many Michigan school districts that have struggled to maintain their offerings during the state's economic slump. … more
S2012-01

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. … more
Michigan Privatization Survey Cover 2011

Michigan School Privatization Survey 2011

Majority of Michigan school districts currently contract food, custodial or transportation services
Despite increased spending in Michigan public schools, districts regularly face tough choices allocating their resources. This study surveys the privatization of the three major noninstructional services: food, custodial and transportation services. The findings are that over half of public schools have privatized at least one of these services; what is more, about 93 percent report satisfaction with the private-sector services they receive, which spells progress towards improving services while spending less. … more

Estimated Savings From Michigan’s 1997 State Employees Pension Plan Reform

Since March 31, 1997, new state employees who qualify for the Michigan State Employees’ Retirement System have been placed in a 401(k)-style “defined-contribution” retirement plan, rather than MSERS’ traditional “defined-benefit” pension plan. Under the new arrangement, state government makes mandatory contributions to employees’ individual retirement savings accounts, but does not guarantee employees a defined retirement income, as it did under the traditional plan.
In this Policy Brief, the author analyzes state pension data to determine whether state taxpayers have saved money as a result of the switch. … more
Locale Education Funding cover

Revenues and Spending of Michigan's Urban, Suburban, Town and Rural School Districts

In the passionate debates over providing equal educational opportunity for all children, it’s frequently argued that large financial inequities create challenges for many public schools, particularly those in lower-income urban areas. This study compares the revenues and operating expenditures of Michigan’s urban, suburban, town and rural school districts. The study’s findings provide a new and unique perspective on Michigan’s school districts. … more

Reconsidering Michigan's Public Employment Relations Act

Restoring Balance to Public-Sector Labor Relations

Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act requires local governments and school districts throughout Michigan to bargain collectively with unions representing their employees. The collective bargaining process is a creation of the state Legislature, which also has the power to repeal or amend it.

No area of public policy in Michigan is more in need of fresh thinking than the relationship between government and its employees. With Michigan’s recurring government budget struggles, and with a new Legislature and governor espousing a commitment to performance, efficiency and accountability in government, a new labor law for government employees is imperative.

This report outlines a variety of ways the Michigan Legislature can address the damaging impact of PERA. … more
Cover

Virtual Learning in Michigan's Schools

Virtual learning doesn’t just involve using computers at school; it involves a new method of instructing students. Virtual instruction is provided by teachers working remotely or by specially designed software — or both — and delivered to students through computers or the Internet. In some cases, supplementary instruction might be provided by a local teacher, but the essence of virtual learning is that students no longer need to share a classroom with a teacher to learn.
Virtual learning is not for every student, but it’s not science fiction, either. Right now in Michigan, it’s being used by thousands of students in hundreds of virtual courses in urban, rural and suburban school districts. In fact, Michigan has been seen as a national leader in virtual learning.
This study analyzes the financial costs and academic benefits of virtual learning, and it explores how this innovation could further benefit Michigan public school students. … more
101 Recommendations

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. … more
S2010-10

School Funding in Michigan: Common Myths

Michigan’s state-run school system is the largest and most expensive government service taxpayers support. It employs more than 350,000 people who work in one of the more than 4,100 different entities. The total amount this system expends each year adds up to more than $20 billion. Given the enormity and complexity of the system, it’s no surprise that a number of myths exist about how public schools are funded. … more
S2010-09

Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling 2010

An Update of Earlier Research

Authors Michael LaFaive and Todd Nesbit update their 2008 cigarette taxes and smuggling study titled “Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A Statistical and Historical Review.” The update includes new statistical data to reflect the 27 state-level tax increases that occurred between January 2007 and the end of 2009 in Michigan’s 48 contiguous states. … more
S2010-06

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. … more
S2010-05

Michigan’s Public-Employee Retirement Benefits: Benchmarking and Managing Benefits and Costs

The state of Michigan manages two major statewide defined-benefit pension plans.* The largest plan provides benefits for public school employees through the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System, known as “MPSERS.” The second defined-benefit plan is provided through the Michigan State Employees’ Retirement System, which covers employees of state government and is known as “MSERS.” The MSERS defined-benefit plan was closed to state employees hired after March 1997; these employees were enrolled in MSERS’ new defined-contribution plan.*
This paper reviews MPSERS and MSERS pension and retiree medical benefits and confirms many of the published concerns* related to the level of benefits provided and the associated fiscal challenges facing Michigan taxpayers in both the short and long term.
*Citations provided in the study’s main text. … more

Reforming Michigan’s Auto Insurance Industry

Some Concrete and Practical Proposals

Michigan auto insurance premiums are among the highest in the nation. The American Association of Retired Persons, in a recent survey, found that Michigan’s premiums were the second highest in the nation, behind only Louisiana. This, combined with a statutory requirement to purchase insurance, has led to legislative attempts to keep premiums down. Unfortunately, state lawmakers have pursued an approach that includes price controls, regulation of how premiums may be set, and requirements for insurance companies to provide specific types of coverage. As the famous Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out decades ago, this kind of government intervention, while well-intended, leads to unintended consequences that then lead to further government interventions, further unintended consequences, in a lengthy cycle with results that no legislator would have expected at the beginning.
Rather than attempting to regulate insurance company and individual behavior, Michigan legislators would much better serve the people they represent by examining why insurance premiums are so high in the first place, in order to address the problem at its source. A careful study of Michigan’s insurance market and the regulations governing it indicates that no-fault insurance and the legislative requirement for individuals to purchase unlimited personal injury protection are two important reasons for the increased costs of providing insurance coverage in Michigan. The good news is that it is possible to reduce these costs and reduce the number of drivers who take the risk of violating the law and do not purchase insurance. … more

Chetly Zarko v. Howell Education Association

(now Eric Rothoff v. Howell Education Association)

(Editor's note: This case resulted in a disastrous Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that held that the emails sought under a Freedom of Information Act request were essentially personal records, not public records, and therefore beyond the reach of FOIA. The decision severely weakened the state’s FOIA law and thwarted disclosure of improper activity by public employees. Because the Michigan Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of the decision, the ruling can be corrected now only by the Legislature or by the Michigan Supreme Court in a future case.)
A lower court's interpretation of what constitutes a "public record" under Michigan's Freedom of Information Act would shield criminal and other improper government activities from public scrutiny, according to this "friend of the court" brief jointly submitted to the Michigan Supreme Court by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Press Association.
Click here to download the PDF of this amicus brief. This news release explains the context of the case.
Following the filing of this brief, the Mackinac Center and MPA have submitted two supplemental briefs to the Court. The first alerted the Court to a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling that is relevant to this case. The second supplemental brief brings up recent examples of how the Appeals Court’s disastrous ruling has been used by school districts to deny FOIA requests and potentially hide improper activities. Read the news release for more information.
The Mackinac Center's original amicus brief for the Appeals Court hearing of this case, then named Howell Education Association v. Howell Board of Education, is available here… more
Amicus cover

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. … more
S2009-10

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. … more

Guarantee of
Quality Scholarship

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is committed to delivering the highest quality and most reliable research on Michigan issues. The Center guarantees that all original factual data are true and correct and that information attributed to other sources is accurately represented.

The Center encourages rigorous critique of its research. If the accuracy of any material fact or reference to an independent source is questioned and brought to the Center’s attention with supporting evidence, the Center will respond in writing. If an error exists, it will be noted in a correction that will accompany all subsequent distribution of the publication. This constitutes the complete and final remedy under this guarantee.