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Lawmakers and the governor have many different ideas and opinions when it comes to the state budget, including education spending, labor rules and COVID-related policies. But there’s been one important area of agreement between Republicans and Democrats, the business community and the ACLU, the Trump administration and the Obama and Biden administrations, and employers and consumers: occupational licensing reform.

When I first started in policy analysis back in 2002, I assumed there was current, up-to-date, easy-to-use statistical information available on the issues of the day.

Why did I think that? Because it seemed that professional news commentators drew from a wealth of evidence that let them come to definitive conclusions.

I want the Overton Window podcast to cover topics that people care about. So, I asked a friend what topics interest her. At her request, we dug into mosquito control policy and its Overton Window with Mark Clifton of the North Shore Mosquito Abatement District, located in northern Illinois.

The Legislature is on spring break until April 13. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some newly introduced bills of interest.

Senate Bill 150: Restrict governor’s commitment of National Guard

Introduced by Sen. Tom Barrett (R), to prohibit a governor from ordering a member of the Michigan National Guard to active state service for longer than 28 days, unless a request by the governor for a specific number of days is approved by a resolution passed by the state House and Senate. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Michigan local governments will collect $4.4 billion from Congress’s latest spending bill. Many local leaders will ponder hard about how best to use the money to best serve their residents, and they should look to use the funds to increase the long-term financial health of the local government. But they may have to wait for guidance from the federal government first.

On April 1, the Indiana House Committee on Employment, Labor and Pensions heard testimony on legislation endorsed by Workers for Opportunity, Senate Bill 251. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the Mackinac Center and representative of its Workers for Opportunity initiative, testified in favor of the bill.

The Michigan House of Representatives recently passed several straightforward reforms that would increase access to health care providers and services across the state and promote price transparency in hospital services.

Traditionally, health professionals treated patients almost exclusively in person. The COVID-19 pandemic changed that. Telehealth use exploded as regulations preventing its full value were suspended. Michiganders embraced the opportunity, which allowed them more convenient access to and choices of health professionals, both in Michigan and from other states.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on March 27, 2021. 

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Hill on March 13, 2021. 

For years, governments and their citizens have tussled over the information to which the latter should have access. Despite laws that mandate disclosure of public records, governments across the United States have found ways to limit access to important information. These can include explicit carve-outs from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements, foot-dragging, the wide use of redactions and more.

The Legislature is on spring break until April 13. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some newly introduced bills of interest.

Senate Bill 62: Criminalize race-based false crime report

A school customer of the utility monopoly Consumers Energy received a take-it-or-leave-it offer this month in response to a dispute over a surprisingly high energy bill accrued after the state issued a pandemic-related order to close its doors. The Morey Education Center, home to Morey FlexTech High School, is supported by the Morey Foundation, a charitable nonprofit in Mt. Pleasant.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Hill on March 6, 2021.

Americans are good at breaking down seemingly insurmountable barriers. We’ve broken down barriers to travel with airplanes, self-driving cars and space exploration. We’ve eliminated barriers to communication with the smartphone and the internet. Where we struggle is with eliminating bureaucratic barriers — which we create ourselves.

Senate Bill 257: Limit epidemic emergency order intrusions into family gatherings and spectating: Passed 20 to 15 in the Senate

To prohibit the state health department from imposing restrictions on members of a family or household observing another member in a sporting event, dining out together at a single table, or otherwise gathering together. Also, to prohibit orders that bar an individual from traveling to another property he or she owns, or ban high school graduation ceremonies, or ban an individual from buying a product in a store.

There was corruption. There was mismanagement. And legislators passed a law to fix it. It got vetoed because political power doesn’t always care whether something is corrupt and mismanaged, so long as the right people want it. But one group set the expectation that things needed to change and won an important reform.

The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether to take a case brought by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation on behalf of St. Clair Shores resident Michael Dorr. This case has the chance to clarify questions about zoning and short-term rentals, an issue that has come up again and again in Michigan in recent years.

Propane supply has been high on the to-do list for Gov. Whitmer’s administration over the past few weeks. The state government recently published its MI Propane Security Plan, and the governor’s Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force wrapped up its meetings with a commitment to release its final report by March 31. But no matter how hard Michigan residents scour the propane security plan or the minutes of task force meetings, they won’t find a recognition that concerns about limited propane supplies in Michigan are entirely self-inflicted and very easily avoidable.

An unprecedented volume of education dollars from Washington is flooding into Michigan schools. While most of the money is set aside to prop up the status quo, Lansing lawmakers should push forward bold strategies to help families directly.

Pushed across the finish line by President Biden and Democrats in Congress, the American Rescue Plan Act adds to the national debt while providing the third, and largest, dose of extra federal aid since the onset of the pandemic. The first two bills, both passed in 2020, brought a combined $2.1 billion to Michigan public schools. This amount represents extra dollars above and beyond those provided to preserve schools’ primary formula funding levels, as their total revenues reached record levels last year.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been opposed to federal bailouts for many years and has weighed in against them during the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Joseph Biden. On Monday, we signed on to a coalition letter sent to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over our concern with state and local bailout dollars and the strings attached to them.

For more than a year now, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has wielded more control over the lives of Michiganders than any other governor in history. She has regulated everything from when we may leave our homes, what we can purchase and from which businesses, where we may do our work, where we may exercise and with whom we may associate. While some of these restrictions have been relaxed, Michigan residents still do not know when the governor plans to give up her unilateral control over the state.

Are regulations good or bad? Or somewhere in between?

It shouldn’t be a hard question. The answer depends on what the government is trying to accomplish by issuing regulations and whether those regulations meet that end. But, in general, regulations should achieve a specific purpose without unnecessarily standing in the way of individuals, businesses and consumers. Officials should consider trade-offs and eliminate harmful and eliminate ineffective government.

House Bill 4386: Expand open records law to governor’s office: Passed 109 to 0 in the House

To repeal the exemption in the state Freedom of Information Act for records held by the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices and staff, subject to a broad range of exceptions. These exceptions include records related to gubernatorial appointments; sanctions on judges; pardons, reprieves and commutations; executive budget preparations; deficit-related spending cuts; the annual state-of-the-state address; records subject to executive privilege; communications with constituents; and information related to security, employee personal information and more.

Earlier today, the Michigan Attorney General’s office announced the arrest of Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, Mich. Her crime? Operating her restaurant in defiance of the state’s COVID-19 orders.

Last December, during the state’s second COVID-19 wave, the Michigan Department of Health and Humans Services quietly published a new pandemic response plan. The timing is curious, as it gives the impression that state officials are literally making things up as they go. But more concerning is that this latest plan appears to endorse the historically unprecedented, controversial and legally questionable lockdown orders Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed on Michigan society in response to the coronavirus.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared on March 15 as part of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s Restoring Accountability essay series on government transparency to commemorate Sunshine Week. The essay series highlights how different organizations are approaching the need for more government transparency. You can view the complete series here.

Michigan lawmakers have $5.7 billion more to spend now that Congress approved its latest spending plans. But the federal government restricted the money from being used for some of the state’s highest priorities, and lawmakers will be challenged to find ways to spend the extra money. While some legislators may be tempted to make one-time payments to favored groups, they should rather use it to put the state government in a better financial position over the long term.