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The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Janus v. AFSCME brought an end to mandatory union fees and dues in the public sector. At that time, 28 states were right-to-work states and 22 were not. That is, 28 states had passed legislation stipulating that workers in unionized workplaces have the right to choose not to pay union dues or agency fees. Their right-to-work laws protect the employee from being compelled to pay unions and prohibit employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

This week Michigan signed onto a lawsuit to stop the U.S. Department of Education from sharing emergency federal funds more fairly among K-12 students, including those in this state. Attorney General Dana Nessel, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Superintendent Michael Rice announced the legal action at a July 7 press conference. California and a handful of other states will also join the lawsuit.

We continue our series highlighting the extraordinary measures that private enterprise has taken to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic here in Michigan. As the state continues to reel from the effects that the shutdown has had on individual lives and the economy, Michiganders have banded together to help each other. Whether it’s an NFL receiver who chooses to return to his hometown to personally distribute hand sanitizer or a woman who decorates her yard with handmade free masks that families can take for free, individuals across the state are putting their skills to use caring for their communities’ most pressing needs.

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on June 20, 2020. 

Editor's Note: This article was first published in The Detroit News on July 1, 2020. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived here in Michigan, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has worked tirelessly to offer up policy insights and expertise to decision-makers in the state and elsewhere. Our work has run the gamut. We have filed lawsuits, produced live video content, published explanatory blog articles on the governor’s emergency powers, suggested budget reform ideas and either led or joined state-focused and national coalition efforts.

The Legislature has adjourned until July 22 at the earliest. Rather than votes, this Roll Call Report describes some recent constitutional amendment proposals of general interest.

Senate Joint Resolution O: Permit legislature to meet remotely during declared emergency
Introduced by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D), to place before voters in the next general election a constitutional amendment establishing that an official state of emergency is declared by the governor due to a public health crisis or an extreme weather situation, the legislature and legislative committees hold meetings electronically or over the phone. These hearings and sessions would have to be accessible to the public. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Michigan tax revenues won’t generate as much money for the state budget as expected last year. Lawmakers will have to re-examine their priorities as they won’t have as much revenue to spend. The state budget has increased over the past decade, so when tax revenues turn the other direction they should revisit what they’re spending more money on.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in June 2018 that no public sector worker across the country can be forced to pay dues or fees to a labor union, support for the largest government unions has dropped significantly.

A Bloomberg Law article, “Unions Fend Off Membership Exodus in 2 Years Since Janus Ruling,” implies the opposite. According to the article, Labor Department disclosures (LM-2 reports) reveal that “many unions were able to convert passive fee payers into full-time members, though the results vary by union.” Their article’s findings are summarized in this chart:

With this post, we’ll be halfway through our list of 50 reasons why people can be optimistic about the future of the human race and our environment. Our relative wealth and health, our ability to use new and more efficient and effective technologies, and our access to markets are supplying us with abundance that has never been seen before in human history.

Last week, the Mackinac Center for Public for Public Policy released its latest estimates of cigarette tax evasion and avoidance (what we call “smuggling”) for most U.S. states. We ranked Michigan 15th worst among 47 states for smuggling. Nearly 20% of the state’s cigarette consumption is illegal. That’s down from its all-time high of more than 34%, but still too much.

The administrators of Michigan’s economic development programs are handing out few awards for business expansion in the pandemic. In other words, they have effectively “unilaterally disarmed” the state in the battle for jobs. As the state reopens, they ought to ask for a general cease-fire, and lawmakers around the country ought to agree with each other to stop offering selective deals to companies.

House Resolution 277: Discourage local police defunding: Passed 79 to 29 in the House

To discourage local units of government from defunding or abolishing their local police departments.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan schools face the twin difficulties of adapting to deliver instruction in different ways while budgets squeeze tighter. Unfortunately, exaggerated talking points that are circulating in the media distort the real challenges now facing the state’s educators.

Last Thursday’s unanimous ruling from a three-judge, appeals-court panel dealt another blow to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s prolonged campaign against the existence of the Line 5 pipeline. But, as she considers continuing the campaign in the state’s Supreme Court, the people of Michigan remain stuck in a holding pattern on the cost and supply of energy they need to heat their homes and run their businesses.

On June 5, the Michigan Civil Service Commission announced proposed amendments to MCSC Rule 6-7, which governs how Michigan public employers deduct dues and agency fees from their employees. These changes are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and will work to protect worker’s First Amendment rights.

Editor's Note: This piece first appeared in The Hill on May 24, 2020.

The House recently passed a plan for the federal government to spend another $3 trillion to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress should stop this proposal in its tracks — particularly its elements that are unrelated to the pandemic.

On May 25, George Floyd was killed by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. This came less than two weeks after Louisville police officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor during a no-knock raid on her apartment.

The circumstances surrounding these two deaths involving police officers — and too many others across the country in recent years — appear to have created a tipping point in public attitudes toward police reform. The American public is clearly upset by these abuses of police authority and demands that such incidents not happen again. And they expect their political leaders to take action.

Last month, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and DJ’s Landscape Management. This case received significant attention and was featured across the state and nation, including in an article that appeared in USA Today.

Senate Joint Resolution G: Protect "electronic data and communications" from unreasonable search and seizure: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate

To place before voters in the next general election a constitutional amendment to add “electronic data and communications” to the Article I provision that recognizes the right of the people to be secure from unreasonable government searches and seizures of their “person, houses, papers, and possessions." The constitution states that no warrant to search or seize any person, place or things may be issued without describing them, or without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.

Smuggling is an old activity. History informs us that where high prices — and high price differences — exist, ordinary people and dedicated lawbreakers often work to save or make money. Cigarettes have long made for a great product to smuggle. They are typically expensive due to many state and local units of government imposing high taxes on them. They also are small and lightweight, which makes them easier to smuggle.

In a typical June, most Michigan students would be cleaning out their desks or lockers, in-person graduation ceremonies would be held, and almost no one would be asking what the coming school year would look like.

But the uncertainties of the current pandemic have unsettled familiar routines and raised new questions. School leaders are left to navigate a diverse assortment of parent expectations and student needs, while continuing to wait for guidance from state leaders. Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she had appointed 25 people to the Return to School Advisory Council, an entity created on May 15 by one of her numerous executive orders.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order on June 1, moving the state to the fourth phase of the “MI Safe Start Plan.” On June 5, she announced that regions six and eight, which cover the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City, would advance to phase five of the plan. The MI Safe Start plan is the governor’s six-phase framework for gradually lifting the restrictions she imposed on social and economic activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. She announced that phase four would occur in stages.

(This post is a highly abridged version of a more in-depth report on the events that led to the failure of the Edenville Dam. Watch the Mackinac Center website for more details on this soon-to-be-published report.)

An extended struggle between government regulators and executives at Boyce Hydro, the owner of the Edenville Dam in Midland County, likely contributed to extensive flooding in Mid-Michigan. Today the evidence appears to show that both the dam’s owner and the state agency charged with regulating the dam set the conditions that allowed a recent flood to push it to rupture.

Michigan has the second highest unemployment rate among the states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state’s rate increased from just 4.0% in March to 23.8% in April, the highest level on these records that go back to 1976.

Unemployment is up across the country, but Michigan has been hit harder than most other states. The unemployment rate for the U.S. increased from 4.5% to 14.4%.