People are worried about how the COVID-19 coronavirus is going to affect their lives, both from the ongoing restrictions on what they can do, but also in the uncertainty it brings to their livelihoods. There are already a number of policy reforms that have been floated to address the pandemic. There are also policies in place that get ramped up without needing to wait for action from lawmakers. Payments from unemployment insurance, in particular, are already increasing as the pandemic shuts down workplaces, and that’s the way that it’s supposed to be.

A March 20 memo from the Michigan Department of Education declared that emergency online education would not count toward a school’s required number of instructional hours. The declaration added confusion and frustration to the state-ordered school building closures prompted by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, American higher education faced major challenges. Fewer students attended colleges in 2019 than in 2010. Public support for higher education had ebbed, a harm partly self-inflicted by high tuition levels, and increasingly by a campus environment alien to ordinary Americans, quite substantially different from life in the "real world." Although colleges derive much revenue from tuition fees, they also rely greatly on third parties — taxpayers and private donors — for support.

What does a company surrendering their First Amendment rights have to do with the health and economic safety of Americans? It doesn’t, yet the current version of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” which is floating around Washington, seems to require it.

It is not hard to look back and believe that the Great Lakes State is in a better, more resilient position today to weather an economic storm than at any time before.

We have today a more rational tax system and a more flexible labor climate than in recent years. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also recently made some temporary reforms changes we can’t help but applaud, and believe others may be offered up by the Legislature too.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi returned to Washington on Monday to release her own version of the third COVID-19 stimulus bill that had been hammered out in the Senate over the weekend. Claiming the Senate version didn’t focus on the American people and was too generous to large business, the Speaker’s bill of more than 1,100 pages stalled ongoing Congressional discussions with its $2.5 billion laundry list of handouts. Potential beneficiaries included labor unions, public broadcasters, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the U.S. Postal Service and many others.

The state’s economic development program administrators have a new report out on their work from October 2018 to September 2019. It is a useful report that tells people about what business subsidies the state has offered and some of what has happened as a result. But the reporting is blended with self promotion by administrators of these programs and demonstrates why the Legislature needs to demand more transparency.

The Michigan Department of Education today issued a memo declaring that efforts taken by public schools to provide remote instruction during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak will not be counted toward state-mandated instruction hours.

In an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has invoked emergency powers granted to her under Michigan law to prohibit individuals from gathering in large groups. She also called for closing schools, restaurants, theaters, coffee shops, gyms, casinos, libraries, museums and more. Some might wonder: Can she even do that? It’s a legitimate question to ask. After all, this appears to be an unprecedented use of executive power.

Having operated in Michigan for more than 25 years, public charter schools regularly have to overcome myths about how they function. That’s even truer of charters that provide classical education, a newer phenomenon that could soon reach more parts of the state.

The U.S. public has embraced a policy of temporary “social distancing” to “buy time” in response to the coronavirus epidemic, and on their own are energetically implementing it. Over the past weekend public officials across the nation began issuing orders and restrictions to implement the policy officially.

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on March 11, 2020.

A new group in Michigan — confusedly named “Fair Tax Michigan” — recently launched an effort to change the state constitution and establish a graduated income tax.

The Legislature approved, last week, a supplemental spending bill sold to help address the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus but which came extra spending for favored constituents. Some type of additional appropriations work was likely for fiscal year 2020, but marrying it to a coronavirus response makes the supplemental seem designed to suppress opposition to wasteful spending. This includes “enhancement grants” (see page 11, here) that may leave many taxpayers scratching their heads.

Many people across the ideological spectrum are deeply troubled by the dramatic increase in political polarization in recent years. It seems some of us have a hard time anymore thinking and speaking in terms of “We Americans.”

It’s been a long time, but I’m feeling some of that “We” today. The signal was my personal reaction to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s initial comments about the state’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, which came after reminding us, “We’re Michiganders. We’re tough.”

Last year, roughly a dozen Michigan lawmakers introduced bills to create perhaps the most stringent regime in the country when it comes to hunting and fishing guide licensure. They have since reworked the bills, but the proposals are still overly restrictive, and proponents have yet to explain exactly how these new regulations will do any good.

New numbers out from the state show that Michigan public schools have continued to receive ever-higher level of funding.

Student enrollment has dropped in recent years, but dollars contributed from key sources keep rising. In 2018-19, per-pupil spending and revenues both reached all-time highs. That remains true even when adjusting for inflation.

States have long had power over how alcohol is distributed and sold within their borders. This is an outgrowth of Prohibition’s repeal in 1933. Alcohol manufacturing and sale was again made legal then but states would impose a wide variety of controls over who makes, distributes and sells different types of alcohol, and often how much of that is done and by whom.

Some Michigan legislators have introduced bills that would take the money the state collects from the sales tax levied on fuel and spend it on roads. This would increase transportation funding without raising taxes. It also would mean we are no longer a rare state that applies the sales tax to fuel but doesn’t spend that revenue on roads.

Senate Bill 716: Require legislative authorization for transportation commission borrowing: Passed 22 to 16 in the Senate

To prohibit a state transportation commission from borrowing more than $100 million in any fiscal year without first giving the legislature at least 30 days' notice. The bill would empower the legislature to halt the borrowing with a majority vote in the House and Senate. If this bill were passed and signed by the Governor (unlikely), it would likely lead to suspension of $3.5 billion in road repair debt that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the commission to approve, which it did on Jan. 30, 2020.

The SEIU is making a huge political investment to defeat President Donald Trump and other Republicans in the 2020 election. Michigan will be a focus state. But workers previously forced to belong to the union are voting with their feet, suggesting many members may not be thrilled with this campaign.

A weekend column in the Detroit Free Press covered the efforts of the Michigan Film Industry Association to reinstitute taxpayer subsidies for movie and other productions. The state wasted more than $400 million before pulling the plug on the last film incentive. Most scholarly research finds state economic development — or, specifically, corporate and industrial welfare incentives — to be ineffective and often very expensive.

Michigan’s lawmakers are considering a bill to authorize $300 million more in economic development spending. The potential success of this spending relies on several assumptions. From what its supporters have claimed, here is the case for it:

The Midwest Economic Policy Institute has been producing papers about prevailing wage in different states, primarily Midwestern ones. The conclusions seem cookie cutter: States that maintain prevailing wage laws should keep them. States that have repealed them have only harmed workers, government budgets and communities. All reports share at least co-authorship by Frank Manzo IV, the director of a different policy institute.

The state House Tax Committee recently heard testimony from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. This was offered in response to a package of bills recently introduced to make the Michigan Strategic Fund and Michigan Economic Development Corporation more transparent and accountable to the public. These agencies oversee the state’s corporate handout programs.