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The surprise outcome of the last presidential election threw considerable uncertainty upon yesterday’s midterm elections. But, both in Michigan and across the nation, state criminal justice reform advocates remain confident that next year will bring progress regardless of the party in power.

United Auto Worker officials have been accused of using dues money to personally enrich themselves with condos, vacations, conferences and personal luxuries. A UAW account has also been funding the building of a retirement home for recent president Dennis Williams.

Whichever candidate wins the governorship will preside over a growing state budget. Michigan’s budget has grown by $10.8 billion over the past eight years, a 9 percent gain when adjusted for inflation. State revenue — not including federal transfers or the small amounts of local and private dollars in the state budget — increased $6.8 billion, an 11 percent boost when adjusted for inflation.

With the Legislature holding intermittent sessions during the general election campaign season, the Roll Call Report completes its review of key votes from the 2017-2018 session.

Senate Bill 897, Impose work requirement on able-bodied Medicaid recipients: Passed 26 to 11 in the Senate on April 19, 2018

In 2015, Michigan lawmakers passed a package of bills that require local law enforcement agencies to report extensive information related to civil asset forfeiture. Police and prosecutors have broad discretion over how they use forfeiture, and the idea was to see if there were issues across the state.

Students struggling to escape an ineffective education often lack a couple of key tools: credible, useful information and safe, reliable transportation. The new Detroit Schools Guide is helping parents learn about what different schools offer, but large-scale solutions to overcome the other barrier have been hard to come by. A little-discussed state proposal to offer transportation scholarships to low-income families could help tackle the other challenge.

Michigan lawmakers are considering reforms to Michigan’s bail system, and the result could mean bolstered public safety, more effective public spending and better lives for taxpayers and criminal defendants alike. The Mackinac Center just published a paper that proposed some important reforms to the system of cash bail, and many of these proposals are reflected in a bipartisan package of bills introduced in mid-October. The goal of these bills is not to eliminate cash bail, but rather to ensure that judges consider nonfinancial options first when making pretrial detention decisions.

With the Legislature holding intermittent sessions during the general election campaign season, the Roll Call Report continues its review of key votes from the 2017-2018 session.

House Bill 4001, Reduce state income tax rate: Failed 52 to 55 in the House on February 23, 2017

While every state has increased the number of college credits required to become a certified public accountant, the evidence suggests this has not led to better results overall. That’s the findings of a new report from the Cato Institute.

Editors Note: This piece first appeared in The Federalist. You can view the original piece here.

It’s a story often told that bears repeating: the Great Depression and World War II were the international crises that invigorated the statist impulse in the 1930s and 1940s. By the time Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election, the United States’ future was assumed to be one of unfettered liberalism. Until, that is, William F. Buckley launched his new periodical intended to stand athwart history, yelling “Stop!” and Dr. Russell Amos Kirk offered his doctoral thesis to the general public.

In Michigan it's not just the season for falling leaves, chilly winds, and warm cider and doughnuts. It's also a time for bold campaign promises to address significant challenges, including the state's dismal academic record.

Both Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette want to preside over a state government that spends $13 billion a year on K-12 education and is slated to implement a law that could hold back thousands of third-graders who read poorly or not at all. State test results have stayed stubbornly low, prompting questions about the magnitude and the effectiveness of the remedies called for in state law.

There are ongoing squabbles between Detroit and the communities around it. When a business or sports team moves downtown, it’s big news, as it is when a company moves from downtown to elsewhere. But regions don’t grow by reshuffling the work locations between cities and suburbs. (And taxpayers should be skeptical when that shuffling happens with their money.) Instead, the regions that do the best grow together.

Perceptions of how energy can or should be used and generated are changing, and that change is making itself felt in Michigan. While this shift is typically viewed as a move toward clean and efficient energy, it also entails an increasing list of limits on how and when energy will be used. These changes are making the work of the Environmental Policy Initiative at the Mackinac Center ever-more important as a strong voice for balanced energy policy and free-market choices is needed, especially when so many would rather use forced restrictions on energy use and government-mandated efficiency measures.

Big changes are underway in Ottawa County’s criminal justice system. The county is poised to approve a pilot program that will test a new fee structure for jail inmates, and it is also about to launch a public defender office.

Like many counties in Michigan, Ottawa County bills inmates for their jail stays. State law limits these fees to $60 per night. The county charges inmates $25 per night, so inmates serving 90 days end up with a $2,250 bill from the jail – on top of whatever restitution, fines, and administrative fees they may have incurred in court. And like many counties with an inmate housing fee, Ottawa County collects only a tiny fraction of what it charges. In 2017, it billed inmates over $3 million but collected only about $100,000. Offenders are frequently indigent, meaning that attempting to collect revenue from inmates is rarely successful, and many leave jail facing the daunting challenge of paying off thousands of dollars in debt to the county.

In response to a question of whether there’s money in the budget to both cut the state income tax rate (from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent) and devote more money to roads, state budget director Al Pscholka’s views were summarized like this: “It’s impossible to reduce the state budget by 10 percent – $1 billion – without making cuts to services.” Except the proposed reduction in taxes is affordable.

House Bill 6064, Authorize new corporate subsidy program: Passed 81 to 25 in the House

To authorize a new program to give up to $50 million in state taxpayer subsidies to some private business owners through a device the bill would create called a “rural development fund.”

The Detroit News recently offered an extensive look at the size of Michigan public school classrooms. A reader could be excused for coming away from the article with the mistaken impression that class sizes have an enormous effect on student achievement.

Senate Bill 919, Clarify that the operator is liable for drone crimes: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate

To define unmanned aerial drones as “an extension of the person” for purposes of assigning responsibility for criminal misuse. Bills have been introduced to essentially add "it's also illegal if done with a drone" provisions to various criminal statutes, and this bill would make that presumption automatic.

Ideally, states should not be taxing or subsidizing businesses. If they do, every company should pay the same flat rate.

A review of the academic literature from the nonpartisan Tax Foundation finds that it is almost universally agreed that taxes affect growth. After looking at 26 studies going back to 1983, the foundation concluded, “Of those studies that distinguish between types of taxes, corporate income taxes are found to be most harmful, followed by personal income taxes, consumption taxes and property taxes.”

John Gallagher at the Detroit Free Press reports that United Shore, a mortgage wholesaling business, renovated a 600,000 square foot office building in Pontiac without government subsidies. The company was approved to receive funding from property tax revenues that would otherwise have gone to the local school district and local government, but decided to rescind the assistance. "It was disingenuous to take money that we were going to spend anyway," United Shore president and CEO Mat Ishbia said. "It wasn't our place to spend it."

Editor’s Note: Jason Hayes, the director of environmental policy for the Mackinac Center, testified on Sept. 25, 2018 to a Department of Transportation/Environmental Protection Agency hearing on proposed updates (SAFE Vehicle Rule) to federal CAFE standards. Hayes gave an abridged version of this document as his three-minute testimony at the hearing.

A new legislative proposal could let officials at certain school districts use greater discretion to devise creative strategies for their students rather than wait for permission from state bureaucrats.

House bills 6314 and 6315, sponsored by Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, would create the legal framework for a “public innovation district.” Any school district could apply to the state superintendent to obtain this status. The designation, good for five years at a time, would give district leaders more freedom to operate year-round or outside the traditional school setting and craft different ways to measure student learning. To get this freedom now, districts typically have to wait for the Michigan Department of Education to approve a waiver request.

After having gone through a one-state recession and then a prolonged national recession, Michigan’s economy went through a lot in the 2000s. The state has recovered since, but a comparison of the private and public sectors shows that the public sector’s recovery has been stronger.

Lyndon Township is a rural community of fewer than 3,000 people in Washtenaw County. Its municipal budget is around $500,000. Residents went to the polls last year and approved borrowing $7 million to build a new high-speed internet connection.

Now that Michigan has repealed its prevailing wage law, the big question is how much it will save, either for taxpayers or to be spent elsewhere. The law mandated using union contracts to set the pay of workers on public construction projects — those done primarily for schools, roads, universities, city halls, prisons, and so forth.