Divided government — such as we have in Michigan for the next four years — means that no policy moves unless there is a meaningful measure of support from members of both parties. Without Republicans as sponsors on a bill, legislative leadership is not going to schedule it; without Democrats as “ayes” on the vote, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is not going to sign it.
This dynamic requires groups like the Mackinac Center to be more creative about finding policy angles that bring elements of the Right and Left together to move good ideas forward. I am pleased to report we are doing just that, with two significant victories in the first half of 2019 and more possible in the second half.
In 1989, the Mackinac Center published its first study on Michigan’s horrific auto insurance system. After three decades of research, outreach, and exasperation on our part, Gov. Whitmer signed reform legislation in late May. It includes the two changes we have advocated for consistently: consumer choice in Personal Injury Protection and a fee schedule for accident-related medical services.
The law is not perfect, as the negotiated text contains internal contradictions and definitional gaps that will need to be resolved over the next year. But once it’s implemented, Michigan motorists should see substantial savings on what have been America’s most costly auto insurance premiums.
Another long-standing research priority came to fruition earlier in May with the signing of asset forfeiture reform legislation. The new law protects Michiganders’ property and due process rights by requiring a criminal conviction before law enforcement can permanently forfeit their property.
A few years ago, Michigan had the worst rated forfeiture laws in America; today, Michigan stands among the states with the best legal protections.
We are working with legislators and organizational partners across the spectrum on other policy advances for the second half of the year, such as:
- Identifying additional funding for road construction and maintenance in lieu of a 45-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase;
- Extending Michigan’s open records law to cover the governor’s office and the Legislature;
- Restraining and pruning Michigan’s overly expansive occupational licensing regime;
- Improving the Healthy Michigan program’s work requirements rather than weakening or repealing them;
- Repealing excessive, inappropriate, and unused criminal statutes; and
- Promoting greater transparency and accountability in Michigan’s corporate welfare programs.
There will come a time between now and November 2020 when both parties need to go to their corners and come out fighting to show their electoral bases that they’re faithful to their principles and priorities. It has already started in Wisconsin, where the governor and lawmakers have been in a death match from day one. And to be sure, there have been some skirmishes here over the governor’s move to eliminate three environmental advisory committees, the proposed tunnel for Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, and legal opinions challenging recently adopted legislation.
But thankfully, Michigan’s elected leaders have recognized that this year is a time to find a few areas of common ground, get those things done, and have some accomplishments to show for their time in Lansing. And when the story of 2019 is written, the Mackinac Center will have been in the middle of many of those accomplishments.