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A proposed ballot initiative could result in a 150% increase in the state excise tax on cigarettes if approved by voters. Voters should pause and consider the unintended consequences of adopting this tax hike. A $2.00 per-pack increase will do more than raise revenue, it will also raise lawlessness in Oregon and likely without having a strong impact on smoking rates. There is a better solution.

The $600 weekly unemployment bonus Congress offered under the CARES act ended on July 31, and lawmakers must decide whether it’s time to get Americans back to work. If so, they should either not extend the bonus or come up with a plan to phase it out, because continuing it would hinder our efforts toward economic activity. But if they conclude that it’s not time for the whole economy to return to work, they should consider extending existing relief programs.

Governors across the nation appear to be ordering people around, with their decrees backed with the full force of law. But the reality is that these orders are more like suggestions and fall short of determining how ordinary people actually respond to the pandemic.

Most parents of Michigan’s 1.7 million school-age children still don’t know how or where their children will be educated next school year, which is only a month away. They’d like some answers soon, as many may have to substantially flex or change their way of life to make it all work.

On July 28, State Superintendent Michael Rice told a senate committee that students and parents should just grin and bear whatever their local schools have to offer this upcoming school year. “For a single year, we ought to freeze enrollment so that we mitigate the movement of children across districts, which I think is going to be greater than ideal anyway, given the pandemic,” he said.

There is an acrimonious debate between urbanists and anti-urbanists. Some analysts say emphatically that the suburbs are unpopular and that people are fleeing them for the dense city core of metropolitan areas. Others say the opposite. But based on population trends, it seems that neither side is the clear winner.

A dishonest narrative has started to spread in the last 24 hours – in some instances by people who should know better – about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defunding the Michigan State Police and Michigan Department of Corrections. No such defunding occurred.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is making unilateral decisions for how Michigan responds to COVID-19. Her recent decision to reinstitute medical licensing rules makes little sense, especially considering the governor is also warning the public about the dangers of an increasing number of positive coronavirus cases.

The Lansing School District recently became the first in Michigan to announce it will continue full-time remote learning to start the fall term. As schools across the state reconfigure the upcoming academic year, students should also have the ability to make their own adjustments so they can pursue what works best for them.

The commission which oversees state workers in Michigan recently approved a proposal to require unions to get the consent of state workers every year before charging them dues. This action follows the requirement made in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus case, which found that public employers need “clear and compelling” evidence that people want to join and maintain union membership.

Limited government people want to keep state revenue from growing out of control. So, they judge legislation by whether it increases or decreases government income. This tendency gets exploited by some special interests: Requests for tax credits — which seem to reduce government revenue — are met with less resistance than calls for more spending programs.

“I have no doubt suspending these scope-of-practice laws helped save countless lives and ensured our hospitals were fully staffed to care for COVID-19 patients,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “But our battle with COVID-19 is far from over. We owe it to the frontline health care workers, first responders and other essential workers to continue doing our part to slow the spread of the coronavirus — which includes wearing a mask and practicing social distancing — so our hospital systems aren’t overwhelmed with new patients.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Janus v. AFSCME brought an end to mandatory union fees and dues in the public sector. At that time, 28 states were right-to-work states and 22 were not. That is, 28 states had passed legislation stipulating that workers in unionized workplaces have the right to choose not to pay union dues or agency fees. Their right-to-work laws protect the employee from being compelled to pay unions and prohibit employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

This week Michigan signed onto a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Education from sharing emergency federal funds more fairly among K-12 students, including those in this state. Attorney General Dana Nessel, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Superintendent Michael Rice announced the legal action at a July 7 press conference. California and a handful of other states will also join the lawsuit.

We continue our series highlighting the extraordinary measures that private enterprise has taken to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic here in Michigan. As the state continues to reel from the effects that the shutdown has had on individual lives and the economy, Michiganders have banded together to help each other. Whether it’s an NFL receiver who chooses to return to his hometown to personally distribute hand sanitizer or a woman who decorates her yard with handmade free masks that families can take for free, individuals across the state are putting their skills to use caring for their communities’ most pressing needs.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on June 20, 2020. 

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on July 1, 2020. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived here in Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has worked tirelessly to offer up policy insights and expertise to decision-makers in the state and elsewhere. Our work has run the gamut. We have filed lawsuits, produced live video content, published explanatory blog articles on the governor’s emergency powers, suggested budget reform ideas and either led or joined state-focused and national coalition efforts.

The Legislature has adjourned until July 22 at the earliest. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some recent constitutional amendment proposals of general interest.

Senate Joint Resolution O: Permit legislature to meet remotely during declared emergency
Introduced by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D), to place before voters in the next general election a constitutional amendment establishing that an official state of emergency is declared by the governor due to a public health crisis or an extreme weather situation, the legislature and legislative committees hold meetings electronically or over the phone. These hearings and sessions would have to be accessible to the public. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Michigan tax revenues won’t generate as much money for the state budget as expected last year. Lawmakers will have to re-examine their priorities as they won’t have as much revenue to spend. The state budget has increased over the past decade, so when tax revenues turn the other direction they should revisit what they’re spending more money on.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in June 2018 that no public sector worker across the country can be forced to pay dues or fees to a labor union, support for the largest government unions has dropped significantly.

A Bloomberg Law article, “Unions Fend Off Membership Exodus in 2 Years Since Janus Ruling,” implies the opposite. According to the article, Labor Department disclosures (LM-2 reports) reveal that “many unions were able to convert passive fee payers into full-time members, though the results vary by union.” Their article’s findings are summarized in this chart:

With this post, we’ll be halfway through our list of 50 reasons why people can be optimistic about the future of the human race and our environment. Our relative wealth and health, our ability to use new and more efficient and effective technologies, and our access to markets are supplying us with abundance that has never been seen before in human history.

Last week, the Mackinac Center for Public for Public Policy released its latest estimates of cigarette tax evasion and avoidance (what we call “smuggling”) for most U.S. states. We ranked Michigan 15th worst among 47 states for smuggling. Nearly 20% of the state’s cigarette consumption is illegal. That’s down from its all-time high of more than 34%, but still too much.

The administrators of Michigan’s economic development programs are handing out few awards for business expansion in the pandemic. In other words, they have effectively “unilaterally disarmed” the state in the battle for jobs. As the state reopens, they ought to ask for a general cease-fire, and lawmakers around the country ought to agree with each other to stop offering selective deals to companies.