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When asked why they stay in a union, some teachers cite a fear of losing pay, benefits, or tenure.

But for teachers and other public employees who may want to opt out of the union at their workplace, dropping membership does not have any effect on seniority, tenure, or pay, or benefits such as health insurance or a retirement plan.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on August 22, 2020. 

Joe Biden's selection of Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate could mean the end to the affordable energy that makes modern American life possible.

Housing costs have boomed in various places throughout the nation, but not so much here in Michigan. In San Francisco, by contrast, rent for a one-bedroom apartment is now nearly $3,400 a month. That’s extreme, of course, but still more than double the average rent for a one-bedroom in Ann Arbor — Michigan’s most expensive city. The median rent statewide is just $681 a month.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in Crain's Detroit Business on August 30, 2020.

Each year, the state of Michigan's economic development programs had to offer hand-selected companies almost $594,000 for each job these programs created. That's one finding in a new study from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

In 2007, the Michigan Department of Community Health participated in a program run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Social Distancing Law Project. The endeavor was to “assist selected states with assessing their legal preparedness to implement social distancing measures in … public health emergencies.” As a result, a group of legal experts, from the state health department and Michigan Department of Attorney General, produced a report that “provides an assessment of Michigan’s legal readiness to address pandemic influenza.”

This week, the Mackinac Center signed onto a letter to the Michigan House of Representatives, encouraging legislators to support a series of bills to implement two key recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Jails and Pre-Trial Incarceration. Other signatories included Americans for Prosperity-Michigan and Reps. Steve Johnson, Bronna Kahle, Beau LaFave, and Luke Meerman.

A recent story from Crain’s Detroit Business on the “arithmetic of inequality” in Michigan K-12 funding erred in boosting a broad solution based on a narrow comparison. Correcting its omission of key schools and funding sources highlights where the true disparities lie.

The number of jobs in Michigan that now require a state license has skyrocketed from around 5% in the 1950s to more than 20% today. The vast majority of these licenses restrict people with a criminal background from working legally, and they include roofers, cosmetologists, barbers, nurses, security guards and others in high-demand fields.

History is full of wonderful lessons that people can learn from to avoid condemning themselves to repeated failures. Take Michigan’s corporate welfare apparatus, for instance. Years of bad programs and poor choices have not prevented politicians from returning to ineffective economic development strategies.

The return to school has been anything but usual this year. Pandemic-related concerns have left some Michigan parents scrambling to find a suitable in-person or virtual learning option that their home district doesn’t offer. A recent legislative deal, unfortunately, shut the door on many families seeking to transfer to other districts or online charters, as most of the state’s per-pupil funding for their children would no longer follow them to their new school.

We’ve maintained a scorecard of legislator votes on business subsidies that shows how each lawmaker voted on bills authorizing new corporate welfare and how much each member voted for and against. Previously, these bills received overwhelming bipartisan support, but are now getting regular bipartisan opposition. And laws that authorize new spending are rarer, too.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy joined with media leaders and groups across the state to call for increased transparency from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In an open letter spearheaded by the Michigan Press Association, the coalition expressed the need for timely and consistent information on information about COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently said she would not be bullied into making decisions about when to reopen gyms, bowling alleys, ice rinks, theaters and other places where people gather. The governor continues to insist, as she has since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, that her decisions are based on science and data. But a look back at which businesses the governor has allowed to reopen and when suggests that data and evidence had little to do with it.

It turns out large school districts can keep their doors open this fall without kowtowing to union demands. Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti deserves praise for holding his ground to forge an agreement that respects the choices of parents and teachers.

The Mackinac Center recently released a rigorous study of state economic development programs. It uses two unique datasets to measure employment impacts at organizations incentivized by the state going back to the 1980s. We found significant and meaningful employment impacts in 4 of 9 incentive categories, the largest of which involved programs for the state’s 21st Century Jobs Fund.

Editor's Note: This article first ran in The Hill on August 8, 2020.

Would anyone have guessed that COVID-19 would bring greater liberty to drinkers? During the pandemic, state lawmakers across the country are saying “cheers” to alcohol reform and loosening restrictions on how and where adults acquire and consume their favorite alcoholic beverages.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on July 27, 2020.

In the national debate on police reform, many proposals to date have focused on additional training for law enforcement officers and bans on particular restraint techniques and weapons, such as rubber bullets and tear gas.

The Mackinac Center has recently released a comprehensive study of state economic development incentives that found that corporate handouts did create employment at some recipient firms but at a huge cost of incentive offered per job created per year.

Since 2008, the Mackinac Center and others have pushed for online financial transparency when it comes to public schools, and there have been many victories over the years in this effort. But one important victory has yet to be achieved.

In 2008, Michigan lawmakers expanded the financial transparency requirements of schools. One key provision of state law requires districts to publicly disclose the salaries and benefits of their superintendents and other employees making more than $100,000.

State analysts now expect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a smaller effect on state revenue than previously estimated. The state now expects to collect 97% of what it collected last year. And it also expects to receive 93% of that amount in the year after.

Michigan law typically allows the bulk of state funding to follow students to whichever public school district they choose. This encourages competition, and research shows parents are likely to choose a better school for their kids.

But that changed this year. In response to the disruption COVID-19 has caused, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature recently enacted a law that bases 75% of school funding on how many students a district had last year and only 25% based on student counts this year.

Michigan parents are wrestling with trying to remain financially solvent and deal with schooling options for their children in the midst of restrictions and uncertainty due to COVID-19. Many families are opting for in-person instruction, but some are experimenting with new, creative alternatives. Other parents, unfortunately, lack options and are being forced into online programs they do not believe serve their children well.