Blog

Last year, 66.1% of students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10% of the school year’s days. The number of chronically absent students went down slightly compared to the prior year, but it remains 22.2% higher than in the 2019-20 school year.

They do things different in other places. But they also do many things the same. Nepalese policy advocate Basanta Adhikari joins the Overton Window podcast to talk about how he got into advocacy and how his organization, Bikalpa-an Alternative, is changing minds and policy in his country. Many of the problems and tools for policy success ought to be familiar.

“Supreme Court Decision Threatens Clean Air and Clean Water for All,” said the Environmental Defense Fund in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28 decision in the Loper Bright v. Raimondo case.

The Sierra Club decried the Loper Bright ruling for “gutting federal environmental protections,” predicting it “could send a ‘convulsive shock’ to decades of federal environmental, financial, and health-care regulations.”

Cutting hair, doing nails and working in skin care is about to get a lot more difficult in Michigan. A newly signed state law massively increases mandatory training hours for those going into these fields.

Cosmetology instructors are currently required to have 500 hours of training — this will increase by 20% to 600 hours. Manicurists now do 400 hours — this will increase by 50% to 600 hours. And estheticians will go from 400 hours of mandatory training to 750 hours; a nearly 90% increase.

The new state budget underfunds pensions and hands out pork. It reduces contributions into the pension system by $670 million and spends at least $702 million on district grants. Neither benefits the public.

Elected officials accidentally made school employees the state’s largest creditors. Lawmakers required teachers to participate in a state retirement system, but they didn’t set aside enough money to pay for their pensions. That’s unfair to teachers and taxpayers alike. It’s not like school workers volunteered to lend the state money. The state now owes teachers $29.9 billion more than has been saved. That’s more than the state owes the bondholders who willingly lent the state money.

A proposal to have taxpayers subsidize film companies to shoot in Michigan is in pre-production. House Bills 4907 and 4908 passed out of committee in the spring and are now on the House floor ready for deliberations. The bills would allow producers to pass 30% of their costs onto the public.

A bill to turn balloon releases into infractions is floating in the ether above the Michigan legislature. House Bill 4466, introduced in 2023, would classify “knowingly” releasing a balloon as littering and thus punishable as a civil infraction.

The legislation would serve as “an educational dissuasion tool,” Sen. Mallory McMorrow, D-Royal Oak, said in 2023. McMorrow has supported similar legislation in the past.

Certificate of Need laws correlate with higher costs and “do not achieve their purpose,” according to a comprehensive new survey.

These laws, which require medical providers to get approval from the state in order to expand certain services, decreased access to medical care in 80% of case studies. Though supporters claim CON laws ensure access to medical care, only 7% of studies suggested a positive link.

Massive federal spending on internet construction will be delayed at least another year, Federal Communication Commissioner Brendan Carr recently announced.

“In 2021, the Biden Administration got $42.45 billion from Congress to deploy high-speed Internet to millions of Americans,” Carr tweeted in June. “Years later, it has not connected even 1 person with those funds.”

“Are we making available to parents and families a wide range of educational options to students or restricting them to the government schools,” asks Mike Reitz, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center. “Since Covid, 20 states have expanded or created school choice programs, and Michigan is dragging at the back of the pack.”

“Activist, far-right justices have once again abandoned the Supreme Court’s bedrock commitment to precedent,” Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., announced after the Supreme Court’s June 28 decision in Loper Bright v. Raimondo. “With this ill-advised decision, judges must no longer defer to the decisions about Americans’ health, safety, and welfare made by agencies with technical and scientific expertise in their fields. MAGA extremist Republicans and their big business cronies are rejoicing as they look forward to creating a regulatory black hole that destroys fundamental protections for every American in this country.”

Michigan’s record $23.4 billion education budget will widen the per-pupil funding gap between poor and wealthier districts while costing taxpayers more to pay down pension debt.

For the first time in over a decade, the school aid budget for fiscal year 2025 neglects to include an increase to the per-pupil foundation allowance. This is the state’s minimum funding guarantee for each student enrolled in conventional districts and charter schools. It’s the primary source of revenue for the districts’ operating expenses.

A new law is set to take effect in Michigan that would prohibit homeowners associations from limiting installation of solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, energy efficient windows and other energy-saving improvements. It would also prevent associations from banning clotheslines.

Does global warming make young people lose their minds? Climate activists say despair over climate and environmental issues is producing a pandemic of “eco-anxiety.” More than 70% of people aged 15 to 25 “experience a feeling of hopelessness” when they think about climate change, according to the London-based organization Force of Nature. A majority of young people believe “humanity is doomed,” the British Natural History Museum reports. In a 2021 survey of 10,000 16-to-25-year-olds in ten countries, The Lancet found that more than half experienced climate-related sadness, anxiety, anger, powerlessness, helplessness, and guilt. Nearly half reported that “their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made a national name for herself in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic by issuing some of the strictest lockdown policies in the country. She forced a larger share of businesses to close than any other state. Her edicts were shocking in scope but also a shocking display of unilateral and centralized executive power.

Happy Janusversary! Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the free speech rights of public employees with its Janus v. AFSCME ruling. In this landmark decision, the high court ruled that government employees have the right to decide whether to join and pay a union.

This article originally appeared in the Detroit News June 5 2024

A proposal to drastically raise the minimum wage will not be on Michigan’s November ballot. The Michigan Supreme Court decided last week to let stand a decision by the Board of State Canvassers not to certify the proposal.

The Michigan Court of Appeals’ recent ruling in a Mackinaw City tax case turned on the distinction between a tax and a fee for service, but it raises a bigger question for Michigan residents. Should cities that provide public services be able to call what they do government actions in some cases and business actions in others, depending on which is more advantageous at the time?

Legislators are considering two packages that would reauthorize film subsidies and earmark money from the corporate income tax to select companies. Because both packages would authorize selective business subsidies, they meet the criteria for inclusion on the Mackinac Center’s Business Subsidy Scorecard.

This article originally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business May 28, 2024.

Lawmakers have authorized $4.4 billion in selective business subsidies this legislative session, and billions more are making their way through the legislative process. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made road funding a major campaign plank, but roads are a lower spending priority than writing big checks to big companies.

An upcoming Mackinac Center report will explore the danger posed to Michigan’s energy grid by the state’s rushed transition to weak alternative power sources. But we can already see a looming disaster in projections from the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a budget that could put hundreds of child care providers out of business. And it would jeopardize access to quality preschool for many disadvantaged families who need it most. This is despite the state’s claim that parents need greater access to pre-K.

What happens when repressed people living under socialist rule finally gain their independence? Do they pursue policies that lead to their own destruction? Do they have the skills to practice self-governance? Will their transition become a model for other developing countries to follow? Michael Van Beek speaks with economist and Fraser Institute Senior Fellow Matt Mitchell to help answer these questions for the Overton Window podcast. Mitchell is the co-author of two books on the transition from socialism to capitalism in Poland and Estonia, which we discuss in this week's episode. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that her office is seeking proposals from private law firms to prosecute the fossil fuel industry for weather events she claims result from the Earth’s changing climate. According to Nessel:

Warmer temperatures are shrinking ski seasons in the UP and disrupting the wonderful blooms of Holland’s Tulip Time Festival. Severe weather events are on the rise. These impacts threaten not only our way of life but also our economy and pose long-term risks to Michigan’s thriving agribusiness. The fossil fuel industry, despite knowing about these consequences, prioritized profits over people and the environment. Pursuing this litigation will allow us to recoup our costs and hold those responsible for jeopardizing Michigan’s economic future and way of life accountable.

Should parents be required to pass a background check to teach their kids at home? According to the editors of Scientific American, the answer is “yes.”

In a recent article, the editors of the celebrated 178-year-old magazine heavily imply that homeschoolers are being left behind. But they provide no evidence that homeschoolers are worse off educationally, socially or physically. And none of their suggestions for improvement make much sense.