Legislative Initiative Petition 1: Repeal one of two state emergency powers laws: Passed 20 to 15 in the Senate

To approve an “initiated law” that would repeal one of the two state laws that authorize a governor to assume extraordinary powers during an emergency, including statewide “lockdowns” like those ordered under the 2020 coronavirus epidemic.

The Ford Motor Company recently announced the release of the 2022 F-150 Lightning, its all-electric pickup truck. Unsurprisingly, its announcement was praised for its potential role in helping to reduce vehicle emissions. Although electric vehicles are lauded as a critical component of reducing transportation-related emissions and their impact on the climate, this push to electrify transportation raises at least one question: How much of an impact on air quality will be achieved by the electrification of vehicles?

Consumers Energy’s proposal to ramp up its solar energy production in Michigan raises questions about whether the company will be able to supply reliable energy to its customers. Its plan to rely on solar also raises some key questions about the ethics of Michigan’s future energy supplies. One of the main components of solar energy infrastructure is a processed form of silicon called polysilicon. China produces a huge share of the world’s polysilicon.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on June 23, 2021.

If other states are going to give handouts to big companies, some lawmakers feel like they have to as well — to do otherwise, they say, would be to unilaterally disarm in the war for jobs. While our mothers might mention something about bridges and not following the bad behaviors of your peers, there is also another option.

What was nearly unimaginable during last spring’s first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic came to fruition: Michigan’s school aid budget not only reached record levels — again — but did so by wide margins. Depending on whether you count the windfall of federal money, the funding peak starts either in this fiscal year or the next one.

The state government’s business subsidies are impractical, and lawmakers should stop offering them. They are ineffective at growing the economy, unfair to the businesses that don’t get them, and expensive to the state budget. This is one reason why we maintain a scorecard on how lawmakers vote on business subsidy programs.

This week, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision protecting the privacy of individuals who support nonprofit organizations.

The case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta, challenged a California requirement that any charity seeking to solicit funds must disclose its major donors to the state attorney general. This requirement was imposed by Vice President Kamala Harris when she was California’s attorney general. In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “California’s disclosure requirement is facially invalid because it burdens donors’ First Amendment rights and is not narrowly tailored to an important government interest.”

Getting lawmakers to do something different can be hard. Years of research, marketing and crafting careful arguments can feel wasted when elected officials ignore them. Perhaps no one knows this more than the people at the Institute for Justice, who work on tough issues that often take years, if not decades, to resolve. I spoke with Bob McNamara, a lawyer and advocate who heads up their work in protecting occupational speech under the First Amendment, about how they stay motivated to work on issues that will take a long time to win.

Senate Bill 28: Spend more on auto crash rehab facilities: Passed 33 to 0 in the Senate

To appropriate $25 million for grants to certain rehab clinics said to be aggrieved by fee caps in the 2019 auto insurance reform law. This law eliminated a requirement for all policies to include unlimited lifetime medical and personal care benefits for crash victims, which was said to generate of fraud and abuse, and was cited as a major reason for the state's very high insurance costs.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Senate Bill 437 into law, which allows developers of a particular project in Detroit to stay eligible for business subsidies after their eligibility expires. The law has been added to the business subsidy scorecard, which has tracked the extent to which legislators have voted for and against new business subsidies since 2001.

For decades, the media has long repeated the cry about an alleged teacher shortage in Michigan. Finding teachers in some subjects and in some areas of the state is often a challenge. But for the most part, there are still plenty of educators and plenty of applicants for Michigan school districts. Still, for those concerned that we don’t have enough teachers, one answer is to make it easier to welcome qualified educators instead of pushing them away.

Michigan’s business subsidies are unfair, ineffective and expensive. Lawmakers should stop spending taxpayer dollars on them.

They are unfair because they reward some businesses at others’ expense. The new apartment complex in town gets a favor, while the old ones paying their share of taxes do not. One auto supplier gets money while another doesn’t. They’re all paying taxes, but some collect tax dollars, too, and state policymakers should not be picking winners and losers like this.

In the past year, enacted and proposed changes to state and federal cigarette excise tax laws and federal regulations have grabbed headlines. They should. All of them have or will create greater tax evasion and other troubles for federal and state governments.

On June 14, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy submitted the following letter to the editors of The New Yorker, which they opted not to publish:

I enjoyed reading your story “The Rise of Black Homeschooling,” featuring the families of Engaged Detroit and the move to greater educational empowerment that has found a strong footing in Michigan’s largest city. Bernita Bradley is a true champion for students and parents in her community.

After spending almost half a billion dollars with little to show for it, the Michigan Legislature ended the state’s film subsidy program in 2015. Now, some are calling for these incentives to be brought back.

To bring awareness to these misguided policy efforts, Pat Garofalo, the director of state and local policy at the American Economic Liberties Project, and Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, teamed up to write an op-ed that was recently published in The Wall Street Journal. The piece noted the ineffectiveness of film subsidies, saying:

There are a lot of new drones on the market, and people are creating new businesses that use them. But should there be limits on their use? For instance, if a company flies one over someone’s house, is it trespassing? I spoke with Brent Skorup, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, about what sets the Overton Window for regulating drone activities.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced yesterday that the state would be lifting restrictions currently in place to fight COVID-19. Starting next Tuesday, the state will no longer limit gatherings or impose mask mandates, among other positive changes. More things are going back to normal in Michigan and the state has entered an economic recovery. Lawmakers can help that process by ending special pandemic assistance that provides an extra incentive to stay on unemployment. If the pandemic is over, it’s time to get off special pandemic assistance.

Senate Bill 285: Require ID to vote, authorize exceptions: Passed 19 to 16 in the Senate

To require a person to show an original or a copy of identification when requesting an absentee ballot in person or by mail, with those unable to do so getting a "provisional" ballot. Also passed were Senate Bills 303 and 304 to authorize the provisional ballots, which require a voter to show documents within six days that verify his or her identity and address for the vote to be counted.

For the past few years, Farmington and Farmington Hills have explored ways to expand broadband internet services in their cities. Unfortunately, much of this conversation has centered on starting a government-owned network. Cities do not have a good track record of running financially viable networks, especially those in areas with existing providers.

State legislators have a lot more money to play with this year as they negotiate the budget. If lawmakers cannot use this to improve the state’s long-term financial prospects or improve the quality of public services, they should use the excess to lessen the burdens government places on residents. Unfortunately, lawmakers are under constant pressure to spend more, and they often falsely assume that more money will result in better outcomes.

Michigan is spending more on roads. A lot more. The transportation budget has increased $1.8 billion since 2012, a 32% increase when adjusted for inflation. And yet road conditions have only gotten worse. A broad measure of road quality shows that 66% of roads used to be in good or fair condition in 2012 and 58% are at those levels today.

As of June 1, Consumers Energy has finalized the rollout of their new summer peak rate, which increases electricity rates by 50% during hours of expected peak electricity demand. With this new program, the utility takes another step away from providing reliable, affordable electricity toward an organizational ethic of offering an electricity service that leaves Michigan ratepayers exposed to the whims of weather.

With the state flush in new tax dollars, Michigan’s chief executive has called for a dramatic hike in preschool spending. But the budget request far exceeds the demand for these services.

On June 8, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed spending an extra $405 million over the next three years on the state’s Great Start Readiness Program, “to ensure 22,000 more children can enroll in early education.” The program is geared toward children in households with income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level, which is $66,250 for a family of four. Two-thirds of the 65,000 eligible four-year-olds attend state-subsidized preschool. How many of the rest have parents who want them in?

Senate Bill 393: Give tax break to businesses afflicted by virus lockdowns: 19 to 16 in the Senate

To authorize tax relief for a business that was forced to close for at least six weeks due to an executive or emergency order that cost the business to lose 25% of its gross receipts for the year. The bill would authorize a business income tax credit equal to the business' property tax liability for the year. Businesses that rent would get a comparable credit based on lease costs. This applies to restaurants, taverns, hotels and motels, health clubs, entertainment facilities and other such “public facing” enterprises.

A recent report notes that Michigan is 40th out of the 50 states when it comes to taxpayer support for universities. This has been used to support the idea that the state should give more money to its 15 public universities. But a closer look at the study suggests the opposite.