Blog

There is never a shortage of hype about Detroit’s prospects. Even as people were fleeing the city in record numbers in the 2000s, there were regular proclamations that one major project or other was going to turn the city around. Things have changed for the city since its bankruptcy, but it hasn’t turned into the boomtown that boosters proclaim.

A guest appeared on Michigan Radio this week to claim that the safety of children demands more regulation of families who choose home education. However, the lack of evidence to support these claims should keep Michigan leaders from infringing on parental prerogatives or limiting educational choices.

Among his final actions as governor of Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed 42 bills that were sent to him by the Michigan Legislature. Over the course of the four-week lame duck session, he nixed 60 bills, the vast majority of which were authored by members of his own party.

Stan Brock was an Englishman and an outdoorsman who was most well-known for starring on “Wild Kingdom,” the documentary television series that ran for decades in the United States.

Brock passed away earlier this year. While the 1980s show put him in the public spotlight, it’s what he did over the past few decades that should go down as his legacy.

The new Whitmer administration will work on a new budget shortly after being installed into office. Its staffers should find that it will reap the benefits of the Snyder administration’s insistence that the state pay down its long-term debts. Those benefits ought to be appreciated as the new administration may face temptations to kick the costs of today’s government onto future taxpayers.

Plumbers, electricians, contractors and many other skilled tradespeople can rejoice: Local governments in Michigan can no longer require an individual to get an extra, local occupational license before they can work legally. From now on, a state license will suffice no matter where a licensed worker chooses to do business.

Bills in the state Legislature would eliminate the practice of paid union release time, where taxpayers pay public employees to do work for their private union. It’s a rare and brazen practice in which taxpayer money is used for the primary benefit of a private interest — in this case, unions. This is the exact kind of thing that used to be prohibited in Michigan based on a long-standing legal precedent established by former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Cooley.

Blaming apathetic parents for student struggles is an established pastime in some professional education circles. While this is a real concern in some cases, we shouldn't be content with preserving a system built on assuming parental apathy is widespread. Michigan should work to harness, rather than belittle, parental involvement.

In a recent op-ed, published in The Hill, I pointed out that poorly managed federal lands are the source of many of the fires being widely reported in the media. Fires on public lands are often aggravated by a condition known as the “process predicament,” where land managers are handcuffed by onerous regulations and strident protests from special interest groups, leaving them unable to move forward on necessary land management. That inability to manage ensures that when fires strike, the flames have all the fuel they need to grow into dangerous and destructive conflagrations.

It’s nice to be able to chalk up a win every once in a while. It’s even nicer when that win has the threefold benefit of helping Michigan’s businesses compete, protecting Michigan’s environment and promoting transparency in state government. For nearly 14 years, the Mackinac Center has encouraged the state of Michigan to adopt legislation that would keep state agencies from imposing environmental regulations that are more strict than those already imposed by federal regulators. The House had passed this legislation — House Bill 4205 — in May 2017; the Senate finally caught up and passed the bill yesterday. It’s now Gov. Snyder’s turn.

The supporters of the paid sick leave ballot proposal are upset that the Legislature is considering amendments to it. They argue that the amendments “gut” the proposal. But even with the changes and even with improving the compliance problems the original proposal creates, this remains an expensive mandate on employers that will likely do many employees more harm than good.

Michigan has the unwanted distinction of being a national leader in school bullying, which is one key reason thousands of parents are taking their kids out of traditional districts. But huge obstacles to school choice remain, leaving many in a bad situation.

When I was running for state representative for Birmingham, I knocked on a lot of doors. Some clear top issues emerged: roads, roads and roads. Everyone I talked to agreed that Michigan, the state that built the first concrete paved road in the nation, should be able to maintain its roads to an acceptable standard. Unfortunately, to date, this has not been the case.

The recent elections in Michigan provide an apt opportunity to revisit the Mackinac Center’s 2018 corporate handout scorecard. The scorecard is a tally of business subsidies approved by state lawmakers back to 2001. Each lawmaker is assigned a dollar value of the subsidies he or she voted to approve. It was released last May and will be updated periodically to reflect any new votes by lawmakers in favor of or against corporate welfare subsidies in the Great Lake State.

Supporters of the new paid leave act do not like that legislators are considering repealing the mandate after having voted for it in September. And they may consider it an affront to the thousands of people that signed a petition to put the question on the ballot. Yet the rules of our constitutional democratic system were designed to encourage the Legislature to adopt initiatives so they can amend or repeal them.

Residents of 10 towns in Minnesota will see property tax hikes to cover a shortfall in subscriber revenues to a government-led broadband project. This should serve as a warning to municipalities in Michigan implementing or pursuing their own plans.

Michigan lawmakers are expected to hear testimony soon on an important bill designed to ensure that no more innocent Michiganders are wrongfully convicted and imprisoned on the basis of bad forensic evidence. This bill would be a solid step providing oversight, protecting people who may be innocent from bad science and helping taxpayers who are on the hook when prosecutions go badly. 

After supporters of hiking the minimum wage collected enough signatures to put their issue before voters, state legislators approved the increase. It is generally illegal to pay workers less than $9.25 per hour right now, and this threshold will be raised to $12 per hour over the next four years and adjusted for inflation annually after that.

This edition of the Roll Call Report highlights bills related to issues that may arise in the coming lame duck legislative session.

Senate Bill 1175: Remove employer guilt presumption from employee leave mandate
Introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R), to remove an employer liability provision of the 2018 initiated law that imposed a mandate on employers to grant employees one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a total of 40 hours annually for small businesses, and 72 hours annually for larger employers. The targeted provisions impose extensive record keeping requirements on employers, and potentially create a legal presumption that missing records means an employer has violated the law. The initiated law was enacted by the legislature in September of 2018 and is now Public Act 338 of 2018. The bill does not affect the actual sick leave mandate the initiative imposed on employers.

Business subsidies took a punch after people decried taxpayer support for Amazon’s second headquarters and Foxconn announced that it was scaling back its Wisconsin plant. Both projects were hyped by local politicians, who thumped their chests about bringing jobs to their state.

Both the hard data and the opinions of parents highlight the benefits for Michigan students who exercise educational choice. But critics often say that when families leave a district, the result, especially in urban districts serving a predominantly minority population, is financial harm that adversely affects others. That harm, they say, is a reason to rein in choice and change how schools are funded. A closer look at the numbers, however, strongly suggests that the fears about the fiscal impacts of choice are overblown.

The surprise outcome of the last presidential election threw considerable uncertainty upon yesterday’s midterm elections. But, both in Michigan and across the nation, state criminal justice reform advocates remain confident that next year will bring progress regardless of the party in power.

United Auto Worker officials have been accused of using dues money to personally enrich themselves with condos, vacations, conferences and personal luxuries. A UAW account has also been funding the building of a retirement home for recent president Dennis Williams.