The Michigan Legislature has started its new session by considering bipartisan legislation that would help protect the civil liberties of Michiganders. Civil asset forfeiture occurs when the government takes and keeps the property of an individual it suspects of having committed a crime. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has done much work on this issue, including publishing a study on the practice of civil forfeiture. As a result, it has been cited by several media outlets since the legislation was introduced, including Michigan Radio, The Tri-County Times and The Detroit News.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Detroit News on January 20, 2019. 

In education, “parent power” doesn’t just represent a slogan. Parent power provides a way to improve the educational system, by increasing accountability in every school and classroom. This National School Choice Week, we should celebrate the way in which educational choice has provided parents a powerful tool to partner with educators to change the lives of many Michigan children.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Hill on November 3, 2018.

Americans should pause to consider the value of policies that advance economic freedom. Greater voluntary and peaceful association, protection of property rights, and less burdensome taxes are three such policies that can improve the lives of all.

John Bogle, the founder and long-time leader of The Vanguard Group, passed away this week. His approach to financial investing was market-driven and saved people an untold amount of money.

Bogle entered the financial world right out of college, rose quickly and fell even faster when he was fired for what he called an “unwise merger.” This turned out for the good when he founded the Vanguard Company in 1974. He quickly developed the first index mutual fund available to the general public.

The Snyder administration’s final actions included the approval of new business subsidies. A last-minute spending bill allocated an extra $20 million to the Michigan Business Development Program and the Michigan Community Revitalization Program, both of which give grants or loans of state tax revenue to businesses. Lawmakers also approved a new rural speculation fund. And they authorized a further $300 million to the 21st Century Jobs Fund, which spends tax money on economic development.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Detroit News on January 10, 2019.

Engaged and informed parents are a vital part of the effort to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for children. That's why Lansing lawmakers' adoption of a new school letter grading system should be embraced as a small but critical piece of turning around the languishing performance of Michigan schools.

Employees for the state of Michigan are represented by six main unions. Five of these were affected when the state passed a right-to-work law that went into effect in 2013. (The other is a union for state police officers, who were exempted from the law.)

In a previous article I listed more than $261 million worth of spending cuts and reforms to the state’s corporate welfare complex. Savings could be redirected to better uses — I suggested road funding due to past and coming debates over how to spend more on Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. To that end, I now offer additional budget reform ideas worth up to $291 million in General Fund savings, which are based on fiscal 2019 appropriations.

On this date 25 years ago, then-Gov. John Engler signed Public Act 362, legalizing the creation of public charter schools. Michigan was the eighth state to adopt a charter law — Minnesota pioneered it in 1991. Engler rightly saw greater choice and competition as a way to better bolster the effectiveness of public education and meet the needs of individual students.

Unions and their affiliated political action committees continue to be big players in Michigan elections, spending a lot of money to influence candidate and ballot outcomes. The 2018 elections in Michigan were no exception.

Here are just a few examples of state and national union spending in Michigan during the last election cycle. This data comes from state and federal campaign spending filings.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in The Hill on December 27, 2018.

When a year draws to a close, it is instructive to look back its events — sometimes wistfully, and other times for wisdom. It is the latter purpose to which I draw your attention: new knowledge about old “economic development” programs.

While Michigan has fewer people moving out of the state than it used to, it’s still not performing that well when it comes to migration. A look across the nation shows there are some things that better public policy can do to turn this around.

A new report shows that Michigan has been a leader among the states in reforming occupational licensing laws — but the state is beginning to lag. Licensing regulations are rules that mandate people pay fees, complete certain training and coursework and pass an exam before they can legally work in an occupation. Another recent study shows that these laws reduce the number of workers in a job field by 17 to 27 percent.

There is never a shortage of hype about Detroit’s prospects. Even as people were fleeing the city in record numbers in the 2000s, there were regular proclamations that one major project or other was going to turn the city around. Things have changed for the city since its bankruptcy, but it hasn’t turned into the boomtown that boosters proclaim.

A guest appeared on Michigan Radio this week to claim that the safety of children demands more regulation of families who choose home education. However, the lack of evidence to support these claims should keep Michigan leaders from infringing on parental prerogatives or limiting educational choices.

Among his final actions as governor of Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed 42 bills that were sent to him by the Michigan Legislature. Over the course of the four-week lame duck session, he nixed 60 bills, the vast majority of which were authored by members of his own party.

Stan Brock was an Englishman and an outdoorsman who was most well-known for starring on “Wild Kingdom,” the documentary television series that ran for decades in the United States.

Brock passed away earlier this year. While the 1980s show put him in the public spotlight, it’s what he did over the past few decades that should go down as his legacy.

The new Whitmer administration will work on a new budget shortly after being installed into office. Its staffers should find that it will reap the benefits of the Snyder administration’s insistence that the state pay down its long-term debts. Those benefits ought to be appreciated as the new administration may face temptations to kick the costs of today’s government onto future taxpayers.

Plumbers, electricians, contractors and many other skilled tradespeople can rejoice: Local governments in Michigan can no longer require an individual to get an extra, local occupational license before they can work legally. From now on, a state license will suffice no matter where a licensed worker chooses to do business.

Bills in the state Legislature would eliminate the practice of paid union release time, where taxpayers pay public employees to do work for their private union. It’s a rare and brazen practice in which taxpayer money is used for the primary benefit of a private interest — in this case, unions. This is the exact kind of thing that used to be prohibited in Michigan based on a long-standing legal precedent established by former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Cooley.

Blaming apathetic parents for student struggles is an established pastime in some professional education circles. While this is a real concern in some cases, we shouldn't be content with preserving a system built on assuming parental apathy is widespread. Michigan should work to harness, rather than belittle, parental involvement.

In a recent op-ed, published in The Hill, I pointed out that poorly managed federal lands are the source of many of the fires being widely reported in the media. Fires on public lands are often aggravated by a condition known as the “process predicament,” where land managers are handcuffed by onerous regulations and strident protests from special interest groups, leaving them unable to move forward on necessary land management. That inability to manage ensures that when fires strike, the flames have all the fuel they need to grow into dangerous and destructive conflagrations.

It’s nice to be able to chalk up a win every once in a while. It’s even nicer when that win has the threefold benefit of helping Michigan’s businesses compete, protecting Michigan’s environment and promoting transparency in state government. For nearly 14 years, the Mackinac Center has encouraged the state of Michigan to adopt legislation that would keep state agencies from imposing environmental regulations that are more strict than those already imposed by federal regulators. The House had passed this legislation — House Bill 4205 — in May 2017; the Senate finally caught up and passed the bill yesterday. It’s now Gov. Snyder’s turn.

The supporters of the paid sick leave ballot proposal are upset that the Legislature is considering amendments to it. They argue that the amendments “gut” the proposal. But even with the changes and even with improving the compliance problems the original proposal creates, this remains an expensive mandate on employers that will likely do many employees more harm than good.