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The Legislature had limited sessions this week with no roll call votes of general interest. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some recent constitutional amendment proposals of general interest.

Senate Joint Resolution Q: Ban banning state employees from communicating with a legislator

Michigan residents might be confused about why the state spends less on road funding, even though it elected a governor whose primary campaign promise was to fix roads.

Lawmakers had regularly increased road funding prior to her governorship. Spending on road funding, excluding federal transfers, increased from $2.0 billion to $3.6 billion between fiscal years 2010-11 and 2018-19, a 62% increase when adjusted for inflation. Part of the increase came from a $600 million tax hike in 2015.

A new report on local government financing in Michigan recommends giving local governments more money from taxpayers. But it is misleading, incomplete and never gets around to addressing the most important problems facing local governments.

In addition to being married to someone who must be transient, military spouses face major employment challenges. More than one-third work in fields that require a state-mandated license, many of which do not transfer across state lines.

Senate Bill 1185: Restrict epidemic-related lawsuits against medical service providers: Passed 21 to 13 in the Senate

To establish in law that, “a health care provider or facility that provides health care services in support of this state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is not liable for an injury (or) death sustained by reason of those services, regardless of how, under what circumstances, or by what cause those injuries are sustained, unless it is established that the provision of the services constituted willful misconduct, gross negligence, intentional and willful criminal misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm by the health care provider or health care facility.” This liability exemption would apply only after March 9, 2020 and before July 15, 2020.

There’s a problem with public pensions in this country, but it’s not the one people think of. The political right criticizes generous rules that allow public servants to retire early and collect big checks. The left is more sympathetic to public workers, but it tends to wave away the major problem: It disregards the debts that taxpayers have racked up in pension systems. This has been bad for everyone involved. Fortunately, lawmakers have been making progress at fixing this situation.

The following seems to perfectly describe the state of COVID-19 in Michigan: “The number of daily new cases increases by a constant rate every day, which leads to an increasingly accelerating case curve. If a community remains in this phase for an extended period of time, healthcare facilities could quickly be overwhelmed.”

Since the Legislature did not meet in session this week, here are some key votes by the 2019-2020 Michigan Legislature

Senate Bill 1: Reform auto insurance: Passed 34 to 4 in the Senate on May 24, 2019; Passed 94 to 15 in the House on May 24, 2019

In August, the Mackinac Center released a study on the effectiveness of economic development programs in Michigan. While doing research for it, I was reminded of how often business “winners” turn out to be losers in the marketplace. I was also reminded of the odd choices state bureaucrats sometimes make.

The state offers taxpayers’ money to select businesses in an attempt to create jobs. It’s an ineffective way to generate broad economic growth, and it’s unfair to the business that don’t get special favors. Thankfully, lawmakers are spending much less than they used to, though it’s still part of the state budget. They’ve approved $79.8 million worth of additional business subsidies for the current fiscal year.

During an election year in which politicians are in full campaign mode, I would not normally look twice at one of their high-profile pronouncements. After all, we are now in the “silly season” for dramatic politics. Last week, however, the White House got my attention, as it marked the one-year anniversary of the Governors’ Initiative on Regulatory Innovation, a year-old initiative to encourage state and local regulatory reforms broadly similar to those adopted by the Trump administration.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on October 21, 2020. 

Editor's Note: This article was first published in Bridge Michigan on October 23, 2020. 

Nearly every American owns a cellphone that can track their every movement and store sensitive information. But this convenience doesn’t mean Michiganders give up their expectation of privacy. On Nov. 3, voters have a chance to ensure that our right to privacy in digital matters is respected by law enforcement when they vote on Proposal 2.

When it comes to assessing the job that teachers are doing, a supervisor’s discretion should mean something, but it shouldn’t mean everything.

Michigan has struggled for years to get an effective educator evaluation system off the ground, but a misguided package of bills in Lansing would take a step backwards. Senate Bills 1176 and 1177 would completely eliminate student academic growth as a factor in rating teachers and principals, leaving supervisors with almost-exclusive discretion to rate them. The bills will be up for consideration during the lame-duck session that follows the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

What’s it called if you bail someone out who’s not in trouble?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the federal government to give states more money as part of an additional pandemic relief spending deal. Yet the state budget has increased — both despite the pandemic and because of it. Spending is up despite the pandemic because revenue has recovered. And it’s up because of the pandemic, since federal relief efforts have put much more into the state budget than the state lost in tax revenue.

In this pandemic year, more Michigan parents are seeking alternatives to their children’s schooling routines than could have been imagined a year ago. Though it’s not yet clear just how many parents have voted with their feet, new evidence suggests that thousands fewer are sending their children to the local district to start their K-12 careers.

On Sept. 30 the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report designed to highlight and address the unfair distribution of educational opportunities. “An adequate education is a civil right and it belongs to every child among us,” the report declares, before ironically advocating that some lesser-funded schools serving more black and brown children should be further shortchanged.

Previously, I wrote to address the practical effects of the newly adopted Michigan Civil Service Commission rules, as well as unions’ failed attempt to challenge those rules. Now that the rules are effective, we can examine their impact.

State lawmakers routinely joust over scarce state resources. There always seems to be high priority public goods in which the state wishes to invest. The administrations of Gov. Rick Snyder and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, for example, advanced tax hike plans to spend more on state roads and bridges. The Mackinac Center has an idea to raise tax revenues that both Republicans and Democrats should love.

Four days after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against her use of emergency powers, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared at a press conference that she did nothing wrong.

California, long known as the Golden State, has had an unfortunate method of reinforcing that moniker during the 2020 wildfire season. Ash and smoke from massive wildfires have often tinted the state’s skies an apocalyptic gold-red, leaving residents and wildlife longing for an end to the blazes. A new report from Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and the Mackinac Center shows us the way forward. But the solution offered in “Extinguishing the Wildfire Threat: Lessons from Arizona” isn’t what you’ll typically hear from any of the governors commenting on this issue, or from the media.