Blog

The United Auto Workers is on strike, shutting down plants across Michigan and elsewhere. In the decade since the union last called a strike, four states with a heavy UAW presence – Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Kentucky – have all become right-to-work states.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that she intends to ban flavored vaping products in Michigan. Her argument is that these products are attractive to children and may get them started on a dangerous habit.

While that may be true, prohibiting flavored vaping products (with or without nicotine) would bring negative consequences that might offset any good she was trying to accomplish. There are better ways to prevent children (and adults) from starting a vaping or smoking habit than an outright ban.

Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced a bill to eliminate the state’s business subsidy deals signed between 1995 and 2012. These agreements are estimated to cost taxpayers $6.4 billion beyond what the companies have already collected. This program was unquestionably bad policy, and it is good that lawmakers want to stop the expense. But there is a question about whether they can put an end to these deals.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles featuring the perspectives of current and recent Michigan public school teachers’ experiences with school choice. See the first article here.

Michigan’s corporate handout programs are ineffective, unfair and expensive. Lawmakers should end them.

They are ineffective because they are just not up to the scale necessary to develop the economy. A massive churn of jobs goes on in the economy, and politicians don’t have much of a say about it. Over the last three months of 2018, Michigan added 212,000 jobs and lost 196,000 jobs — adding one job for every 18 jobs in existence, and losing one out of every 19 jobs.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Hill on August 21, 2019.

This summer marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which ruled that public employees have a constitutional right to quit their union and stop paying dues. This week is National Employee Freedom Week, a time to celebrate workers’ rights such as these. Yet in many states, governors, attorneys general and lawmakers are undermining public employees, making it harder for them to exercise their constitutional rights. That’s why, even a year after the monumental Janus decision, many public employees are still forced to fight for their freedom in the courts.

Senate Bill 23, Authorize prison for “porch pirates”: Passed 106 to 3 in the House

To make stealing or intercepting mail or packages left in or near a person’s mailbox a crime, with penalties of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, and for a second and subsequent offense, up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine. The Senate has since concurred with the House changes and sent the bill to the governor for approval.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 17, 2019.

Political polarization in the U.S. reportedly has attained levels comparable to just before the Civil War. Whether as a cause or an effect, standards of behavior in the public and political spheres also have plummeted. Calls to restore “civility” are a frequent response, but there’s a great deal of confusion on what this important concept actually entails. It’s easy to imagine it means something like, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Lobbying groups representing the American Music Therapy Association and its sister organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists, have pushed for state licensing laws all across the nation. These new occupational licenses would force music therapists to obtain a degree from programs approved by the therapy association, force people to pay to take tests offered by the certification board and use regulations to lock out competition from those who want to practice.

Corporate handouts are ineffective, unfair and also transfer money from taxpayers to wealthy business owners. But they get also strong bipartisan support. They are also the subject of a scorecard the Mackinac Center compiles, which shows how state politicians vote on business subsidies and how much they have voted for. There have been no additions to the scorecard so far in the first eight months of the Whitmer administration. But there may be by year’s end as lawmakers consider extending one subsidy program before it expires.

The lobbyist for Michigan’s 15 public universities says taxpayers are to blame for tuition hikes, an insufficient number of poor kids attending college, a lack of a talented workforce and the state missing out on the Amazon headquarters. But there’s little evidence for this.

Laws that provide special tax incentives to promote farmland preservation already skew land use decisions. We shouldn’t obscure market signals even further by subsidizing people who build renewable energy facilities on that same land.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development recently tweaked the Farmland and Open Space Preservation Program to expand solar development in Michigan. The program, established by Public Act 116 of 1975, currently covers approximately one-third of the state’s 10 million acres of farmland. Through it, the state hands out special tax incentives and exemptions in ten-year blocks to landowners who enroll in the program and then commit to preserve their farmland for agricultural purposes.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 9, 2019.

Here they go again, attempting to take away the secret ballot in union elections.

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles featuring the perspectives of current and recent Michigan public school teachers’ experiences with school choice.

Having worked in different kinds of public schools, one Michigan teacher has found a charter school advantage.

A Mackinac Center Legal Foundation lawsuit filed on behalf of attorney Lucille Taylor has received wide media attention.

Approximately 40,000 lawyers are forced by law to pay $315 every year to the State Bar of Michigan. The bar association uses the money, in part, to take stances on controversial political issues, such as the regulation of money in politics, the death penalty, spending on judicial campaigns, proposed criminal justice laws and more.

There is at least one major area of agreement between the Obama administration and the Trump administration: Occupational licensing laws are mostly ineffective. These laws that mandate workers complete hours of training and educational coursework, pay fees and pass tests cost the economy billions and rarely provide a benefit to public safety.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 2, 2019.

The challenge of regenerating impoverished communities in a way that their existing residents benefit long has vexed policymakers. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that influxes of capital investment tend to push out the people who live there. They get replaced by residents who have more education and higher incomes. Gentrification doesn’t solve poverty so much as move it around, goes the thinking.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers are at a budget impasse. Most of the focus has been on transportation spending; the governor wants a massive fuel tax increase while lawmakers do not. But the heart of the fight is over other budget issues.

If you want to live a long, healthy life, you shouldn’t wait until your 80s to take up jogging and add vegetables to your diet. Rather, you have to make decisions daily that put your long-term health above short-term pleasures, like that one extra slice of cake. Municipalities hold a similar responsibility when it comes to the health of their pension systems. If they defer paying for them too long, they can get out of control, and then it might be too late.

The governor and legislative leadership want to make a road funding deal part of the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. If they are unable to pass a budget by October, the state government shuts down and only the “essential” state operations continue until they approve a new budget. That is a good reason to pass a budget before the deadline. But there is no good reason to shut down the government if they can’t find a consensus about road funding.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a line item in a bill that would have provided $10 million to compensate individuals wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. The action raised eyebrows, as political support for the compensation is all but universal. But the governor was actually taking a stand in defense of one of the three provisions of the Michigan Constitution that provides for direct democracy.

The number of school librarians in Michigan has declined as of late and some state lawmakers want to mandate every school to hire one, with the hope that this will improve literacy rates. This would be expensive and probably ineffective. But if lawmakers want more librarians, there is a way to get them with minimal costs – reform state licensing laws.

As part of a compromise to get a business subsidy program approved in 2017, lawmakers agreed to limit it to $200 million. They also agreed to stop awarding new deals in 2020, but as that deadline nears, lawmakers will be tempted to extend the program. They should resist.

Is the quality of the air getting worse? Changes in government standards — and a focus on the most distressing points in the data — may give that impression. But that data, when viewed from a long-term perspective, shows that air pollution has decreased over the past few decades.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Detroit News on Aug. 5, 2019. 

In 2017, lawmakers adopted a new corporate subsidy giveaway that supporters called the "Good Jobs for Michigan" program. It provides tax incentives to lure big, sometimes multinational, corporations into relocating to or expanding in Michigan.