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Company managers know that they can get states to give them taxpayer money when they’re looking to place a business project. They give state politicians an ultimatum when they start a subsidy bidding war for their next project: Pony up or miss out. While economists have looked at the numbers and showed that missing out is actually the right move, one truth is obvious: The politician who refuses to play may be sending the message “I don’t care about jobs.” The political incentives to pay are strong. It’s not like that person’s own money is at stake, and maybe things will work out after all.

The state of Michigan has recommended that its citizens do not travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Key officials themselves, however, have been busted for traveling to southern states like Florida and Alabama. In addition, our government is spending money to encourage people to travel. So, which is it? One easy way to eliminate the mixed-messaging is for the state to stop subsidizing the tourism industry with its Pure Michigan advertising campaign.

In the late 1960s, the U.S. Supreme Court developed a doctrine called qualified immunity. With a few exceptions, it prevents state actors like police officers from civil lawsuits that allege they violated the rights of others. While this doctrine has been maintained at the federal level, there have been recent pushbacks in the states. We spoke with Jay Schweikert of the Cato Institute, a national free-market think tank, about a recent law passed in New Mexico to end qualified immunity.

Michigan has made a major move toward funding its public colleges fairly. For too long, the amount any particular university received from the state depended on considerations of political power rather than on its performance or need. But a legislative appropriations subcommittee has unanimously approved a bill that would do away with the current arbitrary spending method. Instead, it would set a standard per-pupil allotment, and colleges would receive funding based on how many students they enroll. This is a much more equitable system, and a long-time Mackinac Center recommendation.

Senate Bill 134: Authorize penalties for defrauding drug tests: Passed 33 to 1 in the Senate

To make the manufacture, advertisement, sale, or distribution of synthetic urine or another adulterant for purposes of defrauding a drug test a crime subject to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in National Review on April 11, 2021. 

What's a city official to do when a pandemic slams tax revenue? In our home states of Michigan and Ohio, state and local leaders have an odd — and unconstitutional — answer. They want cities to tax people who neither live nor work within their limits.

While COVID-19 has brought its share of challenges to Michigan’s public schools, it has also given them an unprecedented windfall.

Conventional districts and charter schools are absorbing an unprecedented amount of federal funds – over $6 billion identified in a new Mackinac Center report. The way these dollars are handed out tips the scales in certain districts’ favor, wildly in some cases, in ways that clearly don’t match current needs.

On this, Earth Day 2021, we offer the following as a helpful reminder to our readers and supporters.

Humanity’s future is bright. Contrary to what you’re hearing in the media and from environmental groups, there’s no need for fear.

In a group of blog posts last year, we recounted 50 different ways that human ingenuity is cleaning our planet and improving human health and well-being. We discussed how new and more efficient technologies are improving agricultural yields and decreasing hunger, reducing the impacts of wildfires, slowing and stopping wildlife extinctions and improving sanitation. We explained how extreme poverty and hunger levels have been drastically reduced across the planet, how vaccine use is growing and childhood fatalities are dropping. We also noted how, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, treatments for many other diseases, like HIV and malaria are improving human health and lives.

When asked on April 9 why she was not imposing new COVID-19 restrictions during Michigan’s third wave of the pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said, “Policy change alone won’t change the tide.” She’s probably right. But one week later, her health department introduced a policy change anyway, modifying its orders to require children between the ages of two and four to wear masks.

As the ongoing conflict over the future of Line 5 enters its latest phase, it is likely that the pipeline will need to continue to operate beyond Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s rapidly approaching May 12 closure deadline. That’s because it’s highly unlikely that the ongoing court battles over the fate of the pipeline will be decided until we are well into or past the summer. Therefore, the governor’s still legally questionable attempts to mandate the pipeline’s closure should be paused to help ensure recently begun mediation efforts can be successful.

Due to the federal coronavirus response, Michigan’s budget last fiscal year was the largest it’s ever been. This year may break that record as lawmakers discuss how to spend recent federal transfers and further proposed spending bills. People ought to be concerned about whether this is going to ratchet up federal spending permanently. It’s happened before.

Federal officials recently upset Michigan’s education chief by turning down a request to skip standardized tests for a second straight year. Students in grades three through eight throughout the state have begun taking the M-STEP and 11th graders are taking the Michigan Merit Examination again after last year’s hiatus, contrary to State Superintendent Michael Rice’s hopes.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just extended emergency COVID-19 rules that all Michigan employers must follow. Among other things, they require businesses to conduct daily health screenings of employees, require masks to be worn whenever anyone could be within six feet of someone else and isolate employees who have a suspected case of COVID. Unless rescinded, these rules will continue until October. But they could last even longer, because the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to transform these emergency rules into permanent ones.

House Bill 4029: Legalize “stun guns”: Passed 78 to 32 in the House

To repeal a ban on the sale, possession or use of "stun devices" by adults, defined as a “device that is capable of creating an electro-muscular disruption…capable of temporarily incapacitating or immobilizing an individual by the direction or emission of conducted energy." This does not include a launchable device, which means Tasers would still be prohibited.

Technological innovations benefit consumers, but often come at the expense of existing businesses profiting from the status quo. That is, unless those businesses are artificially protected by law. That’s the case now with electric vehicles: EV producers and would-be consumers are running up against legal barriers instituted decades ago for the benefit of car dealers. And no matter your opinion of EVs, this type of crony capitalism should be disconcerting.

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

Earth Day 2021