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When you hear the term “nuclear energy,” what springs to mind? Homer Simpson fishing spent nuclear fuel from his shirt collar? Blinky the mutated, 3-eyed fish and barrels of glowing green sludge? Or does the term evoke thoughts of the accidents at the Chernobyl nuclear facility in Pripyat, Ukraine and the flooding of the Fukushima Daiichi plant near Okuma, Japan?

All college professors have a political bent, but few of them engage in the debate on public policy. One who does, and does it like nobody else, is Richard Vedder, the distinguished professor of economics, emeritus, at Ohio University. I talk with him about his public policy career and how academics can help policy advocates on this week’s Overton Window podcast.

The Michigan House Oversight Committee heard testimony Wednesday from the Mackinac Center’s Michael Van Beek on a package of 31 bills that would reform emergency powers granted to the governor and executive branch agencies. The package includes bills from 19 different sponsors that would amend or repeal various laws that grant emergency powers.

A warming climate will have profound negative effects on both the planet and human society, or at least that’s what we’re told. As media outlets publish increasingly hysterical warnings of the threats of a changing climate, it’s becoming almost impossible to discern between real and embellished risks.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is announcing that the “Welcome to Michigan” sign has been hung out for electric vehicle manufacturers. But missing from the smiles, hand-shaking and fanfare are any specifics on what all this new government “investment” means to taxpayers.

Michigan lawmakers this month look to finalize the next school aid budget, wrangling over how much to increase this year’s $17 billion outlay for 2023. Differences on total spending and specific line items remain. Whatever agreement is reached, though, will represent more of the same for the state’s 56 intermediate school districts.

Michigan’s southern neighbor, Ohio, is on the verge of passing a nearly universal licensing law. Companion bills that recently passed both the Ohio House and Senate would have Ohio recognize occupational licenses from other states for nearly all of Ohio’s licensed occupations, lessening the regulatory burdens on someone moving into the state who already possesses a license for a given occupation.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy demonstrated the advantages of right-to-work laws in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Michael LaFaive, senior director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative, and Todd Nesbit, assistant professor of economics at Ball State University, worked together on a study analyzing the benefits for states that have enacted right to work laws. To try and determine the differences between right to work and non-right to work states, the duo looked at differences in the share of employment in union-heavy industries between border counties. They summarized their findings in an April op-ed:

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial cites a study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in support of Michigan’s stalled proposal for student opportunity scholarships.

Michigan’s Legislature last October passed the Student Opportunity Scholarship Program, which would have provided up to $500 million in funding to help students pay for tutoring, private tuition, additional courses, and other education expenses. The program would be funded through dollar-for-dollar state income tax credits and would primarily benefit students from lower- and middle-income families. But the bill was vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A friend was visiting a small local garden shop recently, and the owner had a bin of flowers she was forced to give away free of charge. Why? One of Michigan’s many inane licensing laws.

“I’ve had some health issues recently and I can’t afford to pay the state license fee, so I’m legally not able to sell them,” the roadside shop owner said.

There is an understandable challenge in writing about Michigan’s attempt to expand parental choice in education. Until recently, journalists who cover state issues and debates have had little reason to investigate the larger movement, even as Michigan remains surrounded by states that have adopted private education choice programs.

Voters often look at their list of candidates for office and are disappointed to see that there’s no one who represents their views, and they feel forced to settle for the least bad choice. Activists look at this problem and see an opportunity.

Jeremy Baker is the political director of Commonwealth Partners, the chamber of entrepreneurs in Pennsylvania, and works to recruit people to run for office. I spoke with him about it for the Overton Window podcast.

Activists have done an excellent job of marketing solar energy. So much so, that you might think there are no environmental downsides to it. But there are.

The potential impacts of solar photovoltaic electricity begin with the materials used to make solar panels and continue through their full life cycle — from manufacture to disposal.

After news that the state is going to collect even more in tax revenue than the increases that were already expected, Michigan legislators voted again to cut taxes. A bill reducing the income tax rate to 4% passed the House with some bipartisan support and the Senate with Republican support.

A new report by the advocacy group Education Trust-Midwest omits important recent information that fails to support its thesis about Michigan’s highly “regressive” school funding system.

Ed Trust-Midwest, a Royal Oak-based affiliate of The Education Trust in Washington, D.C., recognizes that literacy among younger Michigan students is stagnating. The group projects that, if trends continue, the state’s fourth graders will fall from 32nd to 39th in reading on national tests by 2030. A pillar of the report’s plan to improve student achievement is a call to fund schools more fairly. Yet in making that call, the report critically leaves out some funding sources and some schools.

The story is hard to believe: A mayor and police chief conducted a “fire inspection” of a building where medical marijuana was being grown and seized the property for a year and a half without charging anyone with a crime. They then tried to get the property owners to buy two new vehicles for the police department in exchange for returning the property.

Michigan has lost half its auto jobs since the beginning of this century. But it has not lost anything close to half its overall total jobs. This is because the state economy is much more complex than its reputation.

Auto manufacturing has not been a great industry for job growth. Michigan has a declining share of a diminishing market. The state’s share of the auto industry is down, as is its total number of auto jobs. Michigan had 27% of the nation’s auto and auto parts manufacturing jobs in 1990. Today that share is 18%. The peak number of auto jobs in Michigan did not come in a mythical post-war golden age some old timers may be thinking of. The peak occurred in 2000.

Some people think that citizens ought to be told about anyone who donates to policy and political organizations. Others think that the only use for this information is to harass political opponents. Heather Lauer is the executive director of People United for Privacy and firmly thinks that disclosure rules are being abused to silence opponents. She’s gotten a dozen states to adopt donor privacy laws. I spoke with her for the Overton Window podcast.

Supply chain problems are causing a shortage in many auto parts, making fewer cars available and pushing up prices for the vehicles that are out there. This in turn is prompting a “rental car apocalypse” – a scarcity of vehicles to rent and higher prices for the rental cars that are available.

State governments are taking what seems to be a practical step toward understanding the actual value of a college education: websites that purport to quantify the worth of a diploma in dollars and cents. But Michigan shouldn’t feel the need to follow suit.

One cliché from the political class is that candidates will go anywhere and do anything for jobs. Anything, it seems, except finding out whether their methods are actually creating jobs.

Politicians seem genuinely to believe that they are practical people and that giving private companies special deals for subsidies, tax breaks, loans and other favors is necessary to help the state. Except that giving taxpayer money to favored companies is not practical, and the numbers clearly bear out that negative assessment. You need heavy ideological blinders to believe that corporate handouts are a good thing.

“What am I paying my taxes for?”

That’s the question that occurs to a homeowner wondering why their street is littered with potholes. Or a mother wondering why her child’s school was closed but others were not. Or a taxpayer wondering why a government employee won’t get back about a basic tax or licensing question.

Eight years ago, a bipartisan bill repealed the requirement for Michigan dietitians and nutritionists to get a state occupational license. The law was unwieldy and ineffective, and lawmakers were right to strike it down. But a bill currently in the legislature brings back this misguided state regulation.

Nuclear energy has come back into the headlines in recent weeks, which means naysayers are already appearing with stories of impending apocalypse.

Renewed interest in nuclear energy – typified by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s very late effort to get federal funding to keep open the Palisades Nuclear Generating Station – comes as global warming fears run headlong into the inability of wind and solar power to provide reliable, affordable electricity. Like the politically popular so-called green energies, nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide. Unlike those, it produces a large amount of reliable energy, accounting for more than a quarter of Michigan energy consumption as of 2018.

An abundance of extra COVID cash doesn’t guarantee schools will set the right priorities. Even when they focus on helping students make up for lost time learning, districts may not adopt effective approaches.

In 2020 and 2021, the federal government approved a combined total of $6 billion in additional K-12 funding in response to the pandemic. Sizable increases in state aid have ensured record funding to Michigan schools. Yet as of April, about 80% of the extra dollars Congress kicked in remain on the table. The slow rollout follows a national trend.