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This article was originally published by the Institute for Justice. To see more Michigan-specific work on forfeiture, please visit www.mackinac.org/forfeiture.

Senate Bill 702, Ban school districts and local governments from discriminating against charter schools: Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate

To expand the definition of “deed restriction” in a 2017 law that prohibits a school district or local government from refusing to sell property to a charter or private school, or from taking other actions designed to keep these potential conventional public school competitors from using property for a lawful educational purpose. The bill would close loopholes that cities and school districts have used to discriminate against charter schools.

The Fraser Institute recently publishedEconomic Freedom of North America 2017,” an annual report that ranks Canadian provinces as well as the states of Mexico and the USA in terms of economic freedom. A state’s place in this index is important because economic liberty is associated with higher personal income and other important measurements of human well-being, and so where Michigan falls in the rankings should be important to policymakers.

The state Senate passed a bill on Nov. 29 to continue a policy that keeps Michigan drivers from renewing their license if they have three or more outstanding parking tickets. Under a law set to expire on Jan. 1, 2018, the Secretary of State does not renew the license belonging to a driver with three or more unpaid tickets until that person pays the tickets — and a $45 “clearance” fee.

Opponents of school choice seem to be working overtime to discredit programs that give students in tough circumstances a better chance to succeed. These critics would be well-advised to ensure their own house is in order first.

One of the latest lines of attack is a dubious Associated Press claim that public charter schools are increasing segregation because they are more “racially isolated.” How richly ironic that school board member Christopher Profeta from Grosse Pointe, a wealthy district that actively works to keep Detroit kids out of its schools, trumpeted the article on social media.

Legislation that creates funding requirements for local government pensions and retiree health insurance benefits recently passed both Michigan chambers. This package is an attempt to address the billions in retirement debt faced by local governments. But the law is problematic because it conflates pension and retiree health care benefits — two things that should not be lumped together — and opens the door to tax hikes in local governments.

Your house is on fire. Worse, your house is located in a drought-stricken area so the fire department’s resources are oversubscribed and undersupplied. You do have a well; it just needs a source of power for the pump.

You ask yourself: Should I pay for the electricity to run the pump or wait until the fire department has replenished its water supply and let them put it out, at no direct cost to me? A rational person would opt to turn the pump on and begin to fight the fire, given the potential catastrophic consequences. And they’d be right.

Senate Bill 544, Create framework for 'enhanced education savings accounts': Passed 23 to 14 in the Senate

To create an enhanced education savings accounts program that would allow individuals to make tax-deductible contributions to an account used to pay for public school extracurricular activities, vocational programs or other services that schools are not required to provide. Note that while the Senate passed this and some related bills, it did not pass a bill authorizing the tax deductions (Senate Bill 549), without which this and the other bills in the package appear to be moot.

Michigan’s new state education plan finally got the green light from D.C. Yet while the approved system ranks schools more fairly, the Legislature will have to act to ensure that information about school performance is made clear and useful to parents and other local decision-makers.

Many advocates of criminal justice reform describe their ideas as ones that would modernize the justice system, or bring it into the 21st century. Nowhere is that description more apt than when considering how to use computers to accomplish things that would normally be done by people. Using technology instead of people can be cheaper and sometimes even more effective. But while it makes sense to automate some interactions, there are others that require the human element – even if that costs more.

From the 16th to the 18th century, the dominant economic theory in Western Europe was mercantilism. Its basic idea was that worldwide wealth was static and for a country to grow rich, it needed to control as much of this wealth as possible. Nation states subsequently hoarded the most valuable thing they could find — mostly gold and silver currencies.

Editor's Note: This op-ed was originally published in the Casper Star Tribune on December 2, 2017.

Public sector union members protested at the state capitol this week because lawmakers are considering reforms to post-employment health insurance benefits promised by local governments to their employees. Union officials loudly proclaim that these benefits should not be cut, and it’s not clear that the recently introduced package would cut them.

Senate Bill 478, Ban drivers license renewal if three unpaid parking tickets: Passed 26 to 12 in the Senate

To repeal the Jan. 1, 2018 sunset on a 2014 law that reduced from six to three the number of unpaid parking tickets a person can have before the Secretary of State will not renew a drivers license until the tickets are paid along with a $45 "clearance" fee. The bill would leave the more stringent regime in place permanently.

Laurence Reuben is a certified nurse in the state of New York who moved to Michigan. He tried to find work as a nurse in his new state, but Michigan’s licensing agency denied him the opportunity because of a low-level criminal conviction in his past. It did so even though a judge specifically endorsed him for gainful employment and he was legally employed as a nurse in his former state for years after that.

It’s a common refrain recently that Michigan is facing a teacher shortage. But is that really true?

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy today signed onto a letter of support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is the latest federal tax reform effort in Washington. While the reform is far from perfect, it will simplify our Byzantine tax code, reduce compliance costs, cut taxes and spur economic growth.

Michigan has a number of programs that try to make housing affordable to people that don’t have a lot of income. But stranger, Michigan has a program that subsidizes high-income housing, as well.

The state transfers money from taxpayers to selected developers to build or renovate buildings in the state’s Community Revitalization Program. This program to deliver taxpayer money to projects that include high-dollar housing is in addition to a new subsidy program for developers enacted by state policymakers earlier this year.

The Michigan Legislature is debating how to regulate vacation rental properties in the state. For as long as the “cottage up north” has existed, property owners have allowed others to rent their property and websites like Homeaway, VRBO and Airbnb have made this process easier than ever. But local governments in some Michigan communities are starting to overregulate and even ban short-term rentals like these.

In 2012, the Michigan branch of the Service Employees International Union representing home health care workers was riding high. It had 55,000 members, brought in $22 million annually and was able to spend nearly $3.5 million on politics.

Then it all came crashing down. Five years later, the union is a shell of its former self. Membership plunged to under 10,000. Revenue is less than one-third what it was at its peak. Political spending bottomed out at less than 5 percent of what it once was. And the union is in an emergency trusteeship to investigate potential financial malpractice.

The Legislature is on Thanksgiving break with no sessions scheduled until Nov. 28. Since there were no votes this week, this and next week’s report describe some of the 39 amendments to the state constitution that lawmakers have formally proposed this year. To become law these require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and approval by voters.

One way to attack an education option that works for families is to be selective about data and your own standards.

In her Labor Voices column in The Detroit News, Paula Herbart, the new Michigan Education Association president, labels the state’s online charter schools a “spectacular failure” and calls for lawmakers to “end the experiment.”

In a previous blog post I reported details of the GOP federal tax reform plan — with some commentary — a few hours after Capitol Hill leaders announced the details. Much has happened since then, including a new analysis by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation. In addition, the big news from yesterday is that the Senate announced it would include a repeal of the Accordable Care Act (Obamacare) individual mandate in its version of the plan.

In 2015, Michigan legislators voted to wrap up the state’s film subsidy program – with the last dollar being paid out recently. This was nearly a decade after the program started and ultimately became the most generous in the nation, spending nearly half a billion dollars over time.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s support of legislation this year to provide taxpayer subsidies to a billionaire real estate developer (and others) and to large corporations has compelled me to ask “Why?” in a very public way.