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Politicians promised Flint would be a one-time mistake, but similar concerns have appeared in Benton Harbor only a few years later.

The challenges of managing aging infrastructure led, in the words of one journal, to “oversights and missteps combined with inherent chemical conditions” that allowed a “historic water crisis” in Flint. Has government oversight now also failed the people of Benton Harbor?

Editor’s Note: This piece was first published in The Detroit News on Aug. 3, 2022.

Should higher education dollars be given to universities or to students?

Michigan lawmakers are thinking about doing both. It might sound like the kind of strategy that can make college more affordable for Michigan families. Don’t be fooled, though. In reality, student scholarships for higher education will do little good if lawmakers also fail to remedy the nonsensical and muddled way they give universities money.

Editor’s Note: This piece was first published in The Detroit News on June 23, 2022.

Michigan was embroiled in not one, but two emergencies in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic, and the legal controversy over the governor’s use of executive power. Residents were subjected to legally questionable mandates and rules that were unprecedented, contentious and everchanging.

Politicians are sensitive to what people think about them, and they pay attention to what people say. Newspapers remain the place where people talk about state policy the most, and editorialists and columnists have a prominent platform to talk about state policy. I spoke with Ingrid Jacques about it for the Overton Window podcast. Jacques is a columnist at USA Today and a former editorialist at The Detroit News.

The advantage of serving many years in one position is having experience and perspective. One can draw on a reservoir of past events and look for themes. One recurring storyline in my nearly 30-year association with the Mackinac Center is that of tax cuts not delivered.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in one of the most important cases of its latest term, that presidents do not have the authority to address major questions not given to them by Congress. I spoke with Rich Samp, senior litigation counsel of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, about it for the Overton Window podcast. We covered what was going on in the case and how the court ruled. We also talked about what he and his colleagues are doing to reinstate the separation of powers doctrine to American politics.

“What is a recession?” the White House tweeted this week. The Biden administration provided an answer to its own question, but the answer did not include the most widely used definition of a recession: two consecutive quarters of inflation-adjusted (or “real”) negative Gross Domestic Product growth.

“Dying of an incurable attack of market forces.” This diagnosis of the nuclear energy industry comes from environmental activist Amory Lovins. Reuters agrees that nuclear power is financially untenable, claiming that bringing reactors online is “too slow, too expensive” as the market for non-carbon-emitting energy heats up.

“Well that was depressing!”

So said the first commenter after I spoke to a lunchtime gathering of Rotary Club members last week in Grand Ledge, MI. That response wasn’t totally unexpected: my presentation on the Seven Principles of Sound Energy Policy walked club members through the challenges we face as our utilities continue to design an increasingly fragile electric grid.

There has been a lot of recent coverage about unions making a comeback. Organized labor has been trying to organize media companies, Starbucks, Amazon, southern automakers and more.

The New York Times reports, “After decades of declining union membership, organized labor may be on the verge of a resurgence in the U.S.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s newly created Michigan Parents’ Council does not appear to require significant input from parents of schoolchildren in the state. The administration also omits political viewpoints and non-public school attendance from its list of diversity criteria.

Flint Community Schools’ Aug. 25, 2021, board of education meeting heard parents’ push back against a weeklong closure of the schools for “heat days.” This was the third time the district had closed classrooms in the three weeks since summer vacation, effectively exceeding the district’s allotted snow days for the year by Aug. 23.

Policy can be used to serve someone’s private interests under the guise that it provides public benefits. Occupational licensing often appears to protect the public from unprofessional service providers, but is too often actually about protecting some workers or industries from competition. It has been difficult to get lawmakers to agree, however, and there has been a proliferation of new occupational license requirements around the country. John Kay of the Pelican Institute, a free market think tank in Louisiana, recently helped pass an important law to put boundaries on what state licensing requirements can do. I speak with him about it for this week’s Overton Window podcast.

The city of Holland wants to take on $30 million in debt to finance a government-owned and run broadband network. On August 2, voters in the city will decide whether that’s a good idea.

Michigan Capitol Confidential reports that similar programs in other Michigan cities have repeatedly missed the mark. In Traverse City, the electric utility running the new broadband network predicted half of residents would sign up. Far fewer actually did, and revenue projections are off by more than 60%. In Marshall, despite the city’s network having an unfair advantage over private companies when it comes to regulations, the city took years to begin repaying the debt for the system and had to raise internet rates to cover operating costs.

Something rare and encouraging happened in the Michigan budget this year: State taxes raised record revenue, but legislators restrained themselves from spending all of it. The budget also included some items that point toward sounder financing in the future.

The Great Lakes are a central part of Michigan’s identity, so when they are threatened by pollution, Michiganders take notice. For decades, pollution and agricultural runoff have impacted the Lake Erie watershed.

The real problem of ag runoff has prompted tighter controls on fertilizer. Michigan restricted the use of phosphorous fertilizer on residential and commercial lawns in 2012. Communities around the country have imposed bans, and calls for federal restrictions are common. Despite the negatives associated with runoff, fertilizers are essential to keep food production up. There are also reasons for optimism about the status of Lake Erie and our other waterways.

Tanya Armitage-Edgeworth’s daughter struggled with her private elementary school’s pandemic transition to remote instruction. Receiving unhelpful pushback from school administration, the family looked elsewhere. Tanya did not see full-time homeschooling as a viable possibility, given her background and professional responsibilities. Regular schooling options didn’t offer what her daughter needed to get back on track.

General Motors is bidding farewell to four-year-degree requirements for some jobs in manufacturing and technology. The move comes courtesy of a recommendation from a diversity task force, which was commissioned to suggest ways to attract more diverse talent to the company.

One way to change the world is to work for a group that is changing the world. These organizations need good people, and their success or failure depends upon the people they hire. So recruiting people for those groups can make a big difference. Claire Kittle Dixon, executive director of Talent Market, talks with me about recruitment for the Overton Window podcast. She specializes in finding people to work in free market groups like the Mackinac Center.

The United States Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to combat carbon dioxide emissions by restructuring America’s energy infrastructure exceeded the power Congress delegated to the agency.

The high court’s 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency could have far-reaching effects across the federal government and the entire country. The ruling was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett.

A word to the wise: Those who say taxpayers must cough up billions more dollars should first count all of the money that’s already available.

In its recent call for a major funding increase, a coalition of business, labor and philanthropic groups known as Launch Michigan made a significant oversight. The group apparently neglected to tally local property tax dollars in its sum of current K-12 education spending. Had Launch Michigan done so, its case for raising taxes would essentially be wiped out.

Nuclear weapons have not been used in anger since 1945, but the fear that nuclear technology would lead to humanity's downfall has had a very long half-life.

Nuclear technology's most significant advantage turned out to be as a tool of peace: a power source with almost no CO2 emissions, safe working conditions, plentiful fuel, compact waste, and massive energy output.

As gas prices for Michiganders continue to skyrocket, it is becoming increasingly apparent that higher energy prices won’t just be a problem at the pump. The Palisades Nuclear Plant, which had supplied seven million megawatt hours of electricity to the state in 2021, shut down ahead of schedule on May 20. The Mackinac Center’s director of environmental policy, Jason Hayes, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal addressing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s energy policy and its consequences for the state.

Michigan’s proponents of expanding the state’s educational options face a new setback, but they should press on, taking heart from their past and some recent developments elsewhere.

Robust state laws afford broad access to public charter schools and district schools outside their assigned area. Families also have wide berth to provide education at home. Together, these advantages have given Michigan a top-10 ranking on the Education Freedom Index. Yet our onerous anti-aid amendment, now over 50 years old, has made private school choice seem like a distant dream.

Most people in Michigan had no idea the Emergency Powers of Governor Act of 1945 existed, let alone that it allowed a governor to control what we could buy at stores or whom we could invite into our own homes. But that’s what Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did in 2020, creating a predictable and substantial amount of controversy. While that law has since been ruled unconstitutional and repealed, there are similar statutes on the books that could also be abused.